Jamie slid quietly down the too narrow aisle. “Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me,” was her mantra as she went. The bus was packed and for a moment she feared she would not find a seat at all. Tears sprang to her eyes at the possibility of having to take the next one. She wanted out of this place now. No, she needed out of here. Desperation ate at her gut. A lifetime of trying to please everyone hung over her shoulders like the world settling on Atlas’s broad shoulders.

Just when she was about to give up, she saw it. A window seat near the rear of the bus. But the old woman there had placed her huge bag of knitting on the seat. Jamie inhaled and stiffened her spine. A lifetime of training told her, ‘respect your elders,’ but desperation drove her forward. “Excuse me, but is this seat taken?” she smiled, trying her best to straddle the line and accomplish both things.

The old woman looked up at her and she froze. That thinning crown of almost white curls. Those dull, but piercing blue eyes. The wrinkled and paper thin skin that hung loosely from frail bones. This woman reminded her so very much of Nanny. But she had been dead for close to two years now. Two long and confusing years. The woman’s only answer was t lift the bag of yarn onto her lap.

A skein of pink thread rolled under the seat next to her. Jamie bent to retrieve it. When she rose, Jamie stared into the leering face of a man in his middle years. He was unkempt and held a brown paper bag wrapped tightly around a glass bottle. She shuddered with revulsion as his alcohol drugged eyes undressed her.

Jamie clutched the yarn tightly and held it out for the older woman. She took it with knurled fingers, twisted with arthritis. Jamie scooted past her into the seat. She did not have a bag to store overhead. She had left much too quickly for that. Jamie was a runaway.

At twenty-five though, she was anything but your typical one. She had a bank card that would give her access to a couple of thousand dollars that she had been saving up. She even had one credit card that she could use in an emergency. And she knew that her skills as a waitress/hostess would land her a job. Wherever she landed.

But that was the biggest question…where was she going? She had purchased a ticket for the end of line. The big city. But Jamie doubted that she would like it. Her few visits to major cities had taught her that they were not for her. She figured that there would be dozens of little towns between here and there. She was certain that one of those would appeal to her, maybe even have a ‘Help Wanted’ sign hung in the window of the local dinner. That was what she was looking for. A fresh start. It was what all runaways were looking for, she supposed.

Just that her reason was so very different from others. She was running away not because her life was so horrible but because it was too good. A solid family with loving parents that had been married for thirty-five years. Two older brothers that adored her and had protected her her entire life. Aunts, uncles and cousins galore. A boring but decent job that she had had since high school. And a fiancée that would wonder where she was when she did not show up at the church tomorrow.

Jason would be devastated. Hell, he might already be frantic with worry. If any of her drunk cousins and girl friends from high school had noticed that she had snuck off from the group that is. But as drunk as they were that was probably unlikely. She had only been gone a little more than an hour.

She sighed as the darkness outside seemed to sneak into the bus itself. What was she doing here? Why was she running away? Why really?

So while all her cousins and friends were tossing back shot after after of tequila and talking loudly about past lovers, Jamie had realized that Jason was her only lover. Her boyfriend since junior high school. She had always thought that was a good thing. Until she heard story after story of sexual exploits from these women that both sickened her and made her more than a bit envious.

Her life had paled in comparison. Same town. Same job. Same boyfriend. It had all seemed to be closing in around her. In panic she had realized that when she walked down that aisle tomorrow she was committing herself to a lifetime of the…same. Her heart had started to beat double time. Her mouth went dry. The room spun around her. Her ears barely registered the din of noise that continued all about her. Suddenly she could not breathe. She had to get out of there.

She had mouthed ‘excuse me,’ and run from the bar. The town’s only bus stop was just two doors down and in her morose wanderings that was where she wound up. The only bus that still stopped here was due in fifteen minutes. It seemed like fate. She had purchased a hasty ticket from the automatic machine out front. And with just her purse slung over her shoulder she had waited in the crisp autumn night air.

The wait had not been long. Honestly, the wait for the bus to leave was taking longer. Would this thing never get out of here? What was it waiting for anyway?

What was she looking for? What was she doing on this bus? Tomorrow was her wedding day. The day that she had been waiting for and planning since she was thirteen years old…almost half her life. She was to walk down the aisle to the one man that she knew loved her above all else. The best friend that had been at her side since his family moved to this tiny hell hole of nowhere. The man she loved. Right?

Jamie looked around the bus with new eyes. The drunks. The prostitutes…ladies of the evening. The destitute. Even the old woman beside her. They all seemed so sad. So lonely. What was she doing here?

“Excuse me,” she said suddenly as she stood up. The old woman was just drifting off to sleep opened her eyes and stared at her. “I’m sorry but I don’t belong here,” she whispered as she tried to squeeze past.

The old woman reached out her arthritic hand and squeezed Jamie’s as she turned to go. “I’m glad you realized that sweetie before it was too late,” she smiled. And through her tears Jamie could have sworn it Nanny’s face that she saw there. She smiled down at the woman as she heard the driver start the engine and the door close. She ran down the aisle screaming, “Excuse me, I need to get off the bus.” The driver looked at her like she had multiple heads. But he opened the door and let Jamie off just seconds before he closed the door again and pulled out of tiny station.

Jamie smiled as she watched that bus to nowhere disappear down the dark lonely country roads. She would never know what might have awaited her out there. But she knew what would be waiting for her tomorrow morning…her future. Her past and her present. A family and a man that loved her. It was so much more than most of those lonely souls on that bus might ever know. And she had a new appreciation for just how precious it was.

Less than an hour had passed since she left her cousins and friends babbling drunkenly in the bar about loves lost and won, but in that moment it seemed like the most important hour of Jamie’s life. Because come what may in the future, she would always know she had a choice. She could have stayed on that bus to nowhere and who knows what her life might have been…good or bad. Or she could accept and embrace the life that she had always known and taken for granted.

She smiled as she turned back towards the bar. She had bridesmaids to put to bed. She hoped Mama had enough Tylenol and black coffee. They were going to need it tomorrow morning. Because Jamie had a wedding to go to. One she had been waiting her whole life for.


The dark specter of death smiled wryly as he watched the young woman walk back towards the shabby dive. His job was rarely good but this was one time that he was more than happy to let someone slip from his grasp. He turned back towards that lonely country road as the lights of the bus dimmed in the distance. He wished this one the best as he followed after the bus and his new prey.