This is Part 2 of "Callback." Find Part 1 here. Parts 3 and 4 to come.
Of course, the book shop was long since closed for the night. Sara descended the stairs, turned right past Rachel’s Psychic Readings and headed for the main road, heels snapping on the cobblestones, faint echoes behind her in the narrow alleyway.
She reached the main road as the night bus rolled up. With a hiss of escaping air pressure, its doors folded open; Sara stepped on, swiped her Oyster Card, and found a seat. A forty-minute ride, a ten-minute walk, and she’d be safe at home, in her tiny suburban flat, just before 3.00 – fairly early. Some nights she staggered home, bone-weary, at 5.00 or 6.00. She dragged herself in as the sun rose over the shingled roofs and church spire of Harrington, dragged herself back out four hours later for an audition. No wonder she hadn’t had a callback in months.
Only when the bus doors closed with a snap and the bus jumped forwards did Sara notice among the passengers the young man from the bar. Clearly he had climbed into the bus behind her, since he was just sitting down among the shadows at the back, though staring forwards – in fact, Sara realized with a shock, staring at her. She quickly glanced away, fixing her eyes on the grimy bus windows and the dazzling lights of London passing by outside.
Within minutes the bus had passed into the darkened streets of the suburbs. As they rolled past quiet houses, Sara’s thoughts turned to Ivy, likely at a party somewhere in Piccadilly. By now her friend was probably half-drunk, just enough to be sociable, celebrating her upcoming play. Sullivan would be there too of course, not drinking, ever watchful. His hand on the small of her back, he would guide her from theater director to stage manager to seasoned actor, making sure that Ivy met all the right people to advance her career. Together, Sara was sure, they would go far.
Unexpectedly, the picture of Ivy and Sullivan made Sara think of Brandon. In Atlanta Brandon was probably just arriving home after a long day at the clinic. Sara imagined him laying aside his medical notes and charts, washing up, eating a sandwich and drinking a beer with his reading (a physicians’ journal, maybe, or a three-day-old newspaper) propped against a stack of napkins. Later, perhaps, he would check his email. Maybe even send her an email.
With a jerk the bus stopped and its doors swung open. She shook herself in the sudden blast of cold air, gulped back the lump in her throat. Restlessly she shifted in the red vinyl seat, trying to ease the pressure on her aching legs and forget her growling stomach. Only two more stops, then she’d be home.