“Hurry,” cried Mum, “you’ll make it if you run.”
So I ran, plaits flapping, satchel banging into my side, bounding over the uneven paving, dodging the dog mess, heading for the main road.
I’d been at the girls’ grammar school for a week, and we hadn’t got the morning routine right yet.
A kid dressed in an oversized boys’ blazer hurtled from his driveway. His prefab was older than ours, and it had a bigger hedge, so I didn’t see him. When we’d untangled ourselves, I said,
“You got to get the 34?”
So we ran together. As we rounded the corner onto the boulevard, the bus was just pulling away.
But it didn’t. Then it did. There was a traffic jam.
“Come on, we might make it to the next stop.”
“Don’t… think I… can,” I gasped.
“You can… here, let’s pretend we’re… Robin Hood and Maid Marion, and the Sheriff has captured Alan a-Dale, and we have to get ahead of their horses to ambush them… come on…”
“Maid Marion… Okay.”
Maid Marion, running through the green wood, brave and strong, helping noble Robin to save their friend from wickedness and certain horrible death. Past the shops we ran, and past the bus, past the cause of the jam, a dog entangled in a bicycle; obviously a friendly peasant, pretending to be dumb and dim, getting in the Sheriff’s way for us.
Made it! We clung to the post, heaving for breath.
“Here… I’ll be a decoy… a pretty girl in distress, the wicked Sheriff will stop to take advantage of me, and you can jump him!”
So I held out my hand to stop the bus.
After that we ran on purpose.
“Hurry, we have to save the stagecoach!”
“Have you your revolver, Watson?”, “Certainly, Holmes.”
“Quick, ze Gestapo, zey are close behind us…”
As we got older, we grew more cultured.
“Macbeth, stand still, blast your heath!”
“Macduff, I shall yet escape.”
And we had other problems than catching a bus.
“Oh, it’s that Susan: she’s told lies about me. No one speaks to me now.”
“Yeah, that Mr MacDonald, he marks me down because my name’s Campbell. Life’s rotten… the shadow of the Dark Lord is spreading. Okay, Frodo, I, Gandalf, charge you to carry the Ring through the dark halls of Winbury Grammar School for Girls.”
I stooped a bit, and tried to grow hairy feet.
“Where I shall meet dread Susans and defy them. Meanwhile, Gandalf, you must strive mightily with the terrible MacDonald.”
He was not my best friend; that was impossible since we went to different schools, but it was my best friendship. He was always there, always a reliable companion, never demanding, never a rival. And then we grew up.
It was our last week. He wouldn’t know if he’d got his place at London University until August, but I already had my job in the Inland Revenue confirmed. Since we’d known that, we’d alternated ‘wicked oppressive tax gatherer defied by hero peasant’ with ‘clever revenue girl, gathering evidence to send a gangster down for tax evasion, when the police couldn’t get him for murder’. And then it was our last day.
On our last day we were going down with the Titanic. Naturally, as an English Gentleman, he gave up his place in the lifeboat to an emigrant’s child, and naturally, I refused to leave him.
“We’ve been happy, haven’t we?”
“No woman could have made me happier, Georgiana darling.”
“Oh Cuthbert, it’s been heaven. Shall we pray together?”
“My only prayer is that you shan’t suffer long, and that we shall be together always.”
“Oh, Cuthbert! Oh, hold me, hold me tight, I hear the ship breaking up, and the deck is sliding.”
“Georgiana, let us commend our souls to God.”
“Oh, Cuthbert, my darling… glug, glug, glug…”
It was goodbye: the bus had arrived.
I don’t know why people thought the Beatles were rebels; they wore ties, for goodness sake! How conventional can you get? Real rebels didn’t twist and shake, they went barn dancing. The lawless frontier was the place to be, and if you couldn’t actually throw your worldly goods into a saddle bag and set off into the sunset, you could enjoy the music and pretend.
“Salute your partners, and dosey-doh, hands across and — ”
I jumped as my hands were firmly grasped.
“What… oh… Ethelbert… I mean Cuthbert, is it really you?”
“Figure of eight…”
“This… isn’t… what I thought Heaven would be like,” I gasped as the dance ended.
He looked around. Peeling paint, fire safety notices, a cracked window.
“Do you think it might be Purgatory? Georgiana, my own, is there something you haven’t told me?”
We caught up. He had taken his degree; I had been promoted in the office. Then we noticed the time.
“The last bus!”
“Quick! We tough but honest pioneers building a nation…”
“…have many trials to overcome: drought, disease, locusts, greedy land-grabbing neighbours and bandit attacks.”
“Where are we running to?”
“Our adobe house, where my fine marksmanship will naturally see them off.”
On this one occasion we missed the bus.
“Our home has been burnt before our eyes, our cattle driven off! We have no option but to walk to California and take our chance in the Gold Rush.”
So we went home, hand in hand.
“Granny, who’s driving you to the hotel for the reception?”
“What, dear? My hearing aid’s fallen out.”
“Who… Is… Driving… You?”
“Oh, we’re going by bus.”
“Bus? You can’t go to your Golden Wedding party on a bus! Why on earth?”
Of course we don’t run. We hobble briskly, as befits retired detectives called from their vegetable marrows and beehives to solve a fifty-year-old murder…
Jennifer Foster is a Wiltshire (England) homemaker, currently writing for pleasure and to take her mind off the housework she hasn’t done!