The lights flickered on.
Edna had never cared for the color purple, yet here it was, everywhere: splattered indelicately over every surface of the employee break room like a penitent party popper, draped purple doilies and purple pleather fighting with purple sponge in the sink containing dirty purple dishes. Edna sniffed, and flipped the switch again. She would find another spot to eat, even if she had to leave the building.
It was a brisk December evening. The streets were bustling as those clocking off scrambled to finish their last-minute Christmas shopping.
Her lettuce was soggy. With disgust, she threw the homemade sandwich in the trash. Nothing tastes good when it sits in a fridge too long, she mused. She touched her necklace as she stepped back inside the building.
She needed coffee so she poured a cup from the employee well, sipping from a lavender mug with barely concealed disdain. The brown liquid tasted papery, like an old Bible left out in the rain.
Her shift seemed to extend past the horizon. Edna could not see beyond the limits of her pay grade, though she desperately wanted a raise. More than a raise, she wanted recognition. She wanted the world to acknowledge the hours she’d sacrificed, wanted some goddamn recompense.
She slugged her coffee through pursed lips and scowled her mug into the sink. It was finally time to clock out.
The air was cold as she walked to the bus. Everyone else seemed to have someone to walk with. Edna stopped on the sidewalk beside an abandoned store front and looked at her reflection in the dark glass. The window was warped and gave a funhouse effect to her visage, making it appear as though her reflection had blue eyes. Blue eyes! Edna thought. God, how different my life would have been if I’d been born with blue eyes!
Edna was by no means an attractive woman. She had thick brows which nearly wove together, a strong nose and jaw, a downy upper lip true to her Mediterranean lineage, and a mole on her chin which was beginning to sprout long, black hairs. With one last look at her reflection, she pulled herself away from the window. If only…
The bus arrived late in typical fashion, Edna thought. The doors hissed open to the frigid street and Edna was struck by an unmistakable warmth issuing from their folds. The bus was illuminated in a blue light, and as she mounted the steps she felt as though she were stepping into Atlantis. The doors hissed shut behind her.
She looked around for a seat. A woman was reading the newspaper in the middle of the bus. Even though she never looked up from the print, Edna got the distinct impression the woman had sized her up. Defiantly, she walked to the center of the bus and sat opposite her, plotting to read the outside of her paper as she waited to be carried home.
“Long day?” came a friendly voice from behind the print. It swelled out of the black and white pages like a hot spring, gurgling with measured joy as if it were on the cusp of saying something very funny.
Edna snapped to attention. “Yeah,” she sighed at length. “I guess you could say that.”
“And it just got longer,” the woman said, pointedly folding her newspaper in two and looking down the road ahead. Edna followed her gaze to see a long line of cars backed up, red brake lights reflecting off her dark pupils.
“Darn,” Edna growled. “I wonder if there was an accident.”
“’Tis the season, eh?” The woman smiled, light eyes gazing over glasses at Edna.
“I’m Edna.” She did not know where the extroversion was coming from, but she found herself extending her hand. “Who are you?”
“My name’s Felicity.” She shook her hand with gusto. “It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Edna. I don’t say this to surprise you, but it seems we are kindred spirits.”
Edna was shocked into releasing a small chuckle. Her laugh grumbled out of her throat and sounded like rust. “What makes you say that?”
“Your necklace,” Felicity smiled. “I have one just like it at home.”
The two sat in silence for a moment. With a start, Edna realized a gentle warmth had crept over her and began to fill the vehicle. The gaudy pattern on the fabric seats looked extra vibrant as she became aware, again, that she was one of three souls trying to get home.
“Can you believe that missionary who was killed by that indigenous tribe off the coast in southeast Asia?” Felicity asked. “Can you imagine anything so offensive?”
“It’s a shame,” Edna agreed, feeling her cheeks flush. “A pointless waste.”
Felicity nodded slowly, lost to the world outside the bus.
“Is it far to your house?” Edna suddenly felt like interviewing Felicity. A hundred questions squeezed up from somewhere deep inside and demanded to burst forth.
“No,” Felicity said with a click of her tongue, “we’re nearly there already.”
Their bodies swayed in the stop and go motion of the bus and Edna swallowed her curiosity, and was silent.
Felicity folded her newspaper into eighths and flung it across the aisle.
Edna’s right hand snatched through the air and made purchase. She was surprised at her own dexterity.
“Took a chance there, did you?” She laughed like a runner who had just chosen to sprint without stretching. “I can’t believe I caught that.”
“Me neither,” Felicity rolled the words slowly, ponderously out of her mouth. “But then again I’m not that surprised.” She winked at Edna playfully, then said, “There’s an article on the back page with a really killer recipe for a traditional blueberry tart. I’m a baker,” she added with another smile.
“Oh,” Edna said. “Where do you work?”
“Chez moi!” Felicity laughed again, and the vehicle rang with excitement. “I’m not a professional!”
The bus lurched to a stop and Felicity stood up.
“This is me. It was nice to meet you, Edna!” She tucked her short, grey-brown hair behind her ear and gathered her belongings.
“Th-thank you,” Edna stammered. “The recipe looks delicious.”
“It is delicious, dear,” Felicity said emphatically. “It’s the reason to get out of bed in the morning.”
With that, she alighted the bus steps and stepped into the cloak of the street. Edna held the newspaper all the way home, touching her necklace as she did so.
“Jesus Christ,” she said aloud. “What a lady.”