That night, the rain came down hard and heavy, like a continuous black curtain that was determined to drench anything in its way, and she was in its way. Her Victorian costume felt like it had weighed a tonne as she dragged it to the bus stop. She held her wig in her hand, the grisly fake hairs between her fingers, reminding her of the dish scourer that she was using nearly twelve hours ago. Her white Victorian make-up ran down her face against the black mascara and eye-liner. She knew that she looked like a horror, worse than when she had arrived at the Halloween party earlier. As she thought about the party, she smiled to herself – despite the rain – thinking about the handsome vampire whom she had allowed under her many layers of lace.
As she dragged herself to the bus stop, she stared as far as she could on both sides of the road, trying to get a glimpse of any vehicles. She could see nothing and resigned herself to the uncomfortable red bench that was at least shading some of the rain. She cursed herself for not leaving the party earlier, waiting until she was the last one standing – though she needed support standing by that time – before she let herself out of her friend’s flat. Knowing that she’ll probably be at the bus stop for a while, she started to inspect the damage the rain had done.
She balanced her wig and purse on the tilted bench before she stood up and attempted to wring dry her dress, bit by bit. Still feeling drunk but happy, she swayed as she worked through the many layers of her dress, her back to the road. She smiled, staring at her own reflection on the glass panel before letting her eyes drop back to the bench.
“Fuck!” she shouted out, her voice shocked her more than anything else. She reached for her purse as she had spotted that it was open and checked its contents. Everything was in there except for her Oyster card. “Crap,” she said out loud again, this time, she was more prepared to hear herself. “Oh fuck, I can’t even take the bloody bus, can I? They don’t accept fucking money anymore, bloody TFL.” She happily chattered to herself, feeling secluded by the wall of rain around her.
“May I be of service, milady?” she heard a male voice rasp as she jumped around to face a shrivelled old man with hardly any teeth, smiling at her.
“Oh, fuck, sorry, fuck.” She shook her head to sober up a little more as she composed herself. “So sorry, I didn’t see you.”
“You seem to be in a spot of bother,” he said, every ’s’ coming out as a whistle between the gaps in his mouth.
“Huh? Oh, yeah. I’ve dropped my bloody Oyster card, haven’t I?” she said, realising that she was still somewhat drunk.
He continued smiling at her as he nodded in understanding and walked over to a red telephone box that only tourists used as a photo prop, before reaching in a plucking out a card out of the many that lined its glassed walls.
She watched as he moved slowly through the rain back into the bus stop, still smiling.
“Do you have something that I may write with?” he asked her.
“Erm… hang on,” she said as she reached into her purse, digging around to have a look. She found her eye-liner, which had cost her a bomb, but she wasn’t in any state to argue with herself, so she handed it over to the old man.
“Thank you,” he wheezed.
She could see that he was holding a card with a picture of a scantily clad woman on the front and a mobile number printed in bold across it. She smiled as it reminded her of her earlier encounter. She struggled to remember the vampire’s name and decided that he would be Bram in her memory now, as she gave herself a little chuckle.
He broke her reverie as he placed the card into her hand. His skin was so cold to touch that it gave her goose pimples. She looked at him in confusion as he smiled and gave her a bow, before walking out into the rain. Her gaze followed his path as he walked past the telephone box and into the blackness that seemed to have vanished him.
She looked down to her hand that was grasping the card. On the front, where the woman was posed seductively, he had scribbled across it with her eye-liner, ‘Oyster’. She turned the card around and on the white back, there were words written with her eye-liner, mostly smudged. She stared closer and could make out the start of the first two lines, which said, “The issue and use of this Oyster car…” and “copies of which are available at tfl.g…”
At that moment, she could hear a vehicle approaching and she turned to see a red bus trundle along. She waved hysterically as the driver pulled the bus to a stop, leaving her standing right in front of the door. She turned to gather her things from the bench and stepped into the brightly lit bus, as she smiled at the bus driver, who was clearly used to seeing all sorts on the night route.
She started spurting out excuses at the bus driver, pleading for him to let her ride for free because she had lost her card in the rain, and telling him that he could have the fare in cash, when the bus driver stopped her in mid-flow and said, “But you’re holding your Oyster card in your hand”.
Time seemed to have slowed for her as she moved her hand up, card between her thumb and index, and wig hanging off the other fingers. She held the dodgy card up to the driver and asked, “This?”
He said, “That’s your Oyster card, in it?”
She just stood there with her mouth agape.
“Look lady, it’s been a long night. Stop pissing about and just put the card up to the reader.”
Not knowing what else to do, she moved the card towards the Oyster card reader, staring, as the woman sprawled across the card seemed to be smiling at her. As it reached the reader, it beeped, and she jumped. She looked up to the display and saw it say, “Taken: £1.40, Balance: £999,998.60”.
The bus jerked start as she asked the driver, “Did you see that?”
“What?” he asked, clearly annoyed with her.
They both glanced at the machine again, but the display had cleared.
“Go sit down, please,” the driver said, exasperated.
Defeated and confused, she moved through the empty bus and took a seat right at the back. She moved to keep the card in her purse when she saw that it was blue and made of plastic. The woman in the skimpy lingerie was no longer there, instead, a brand new Oyster card sat between her fingers, that were still stained with black kohl.