It was snowing heavily and traffic was moving slow. I was on a city bus headed to the other side of town to visit with my father. The windows inside the bus were fogging up due to the weather and all the passengers. Everyone looked cramped and damp. It was a wet snow but a signal that spring was coming. I usually never ride the bus but on this particular afternoon I opted to let someone else do the driving in this snowy mess. The person next to me coughed and I cringed. The bus was so packed that people were standing squashed next to one another and I had to wonder if people who rode the bus regularly ever got used to this. Probably not. I could hear little snippets of conversations all around me.
“His parents are leaving after dinner and then we can go . Did someone text Dewayne?” some teenagers, I assumed, behind me.
“…If the market stays where it is at than it might be worth a look.” Stockbroker? Real estate agent? Actually this was starting to become fun. Suddenly the bus horn blared and braked hard. The bus became louder as people inquired what had happened.
“Everything is alright!” The bus driver shouted over the buzzing. “Nothing to worry about ladies and gentlemen.” Everyone settled in and I resumed my eavesdropping.
“…I think he wants to do it but he’s scared. Oh, Grace! I am so in love!” a breathless voice said in front of me.
“Girl! You need to be careful. But yes, he is cute!” another voice said in response.
“Do you think she knows?”
“Do you know her?”
“I have seen her a few times in the bars and once at Taylor’s party.”
“Taylor Washington? I haven’t seen her in years!” My ears pricked up even more. I knew Taylor! We had met in high school and remained friends ever since. Not best friends but more of an in-the-moment, gossip-over-coffee, invite-to-your-birthday-party-but-not-be-upset-if-they-don’t-show-up kind of friends. My curiosity was piqued and I continued to listen.
“Yeah, yeah. Anyways do you? Think she knows I mean?”
“Listen Zoe one day she is going to find out about you guys. You need to be prepared that he won’t leave her for you. It happens in the movies like that. You know where the man is cheating on his wife and the mistress pressures him to leave her. He never does and in the end the mistress loses—”
“Okay shut up! I am not pressuring him to leave her. He wants to break up with her, he has for months.” Damn, I thought, the plot thickens. I looked out the window and saw that we had only progressed about five city blocks in the last fifteen minutes. Great.
“So he says!” some snorting laughter.
“No really he told me that she was trying to talk with him about marriage and kids and stuff. He is not down for that!” I felt a pang as I remembered bringing up that very conversation with my own boyfriend awhile ago and it had not gone well. Oh my goodness! A thought came to me that maybe Dmitri was cheating on me! No, not every man who is afraid to talk about marriage and families is a cheater! I looked around in embarrassment at my moment of panic. Nobody seemed to be paying attention to me.
“How long have they been together?”
“Umm, I think maybe around four years?” she sounded really unsure.
“Anyways thanks for coming with me Grace, you’re so sweet! I just wanted to get something special for him. How much longer are we going to be on this bus?” I felt the same way. I wiped some fog away with my mitten. The bus was driving agonizingly slow. I think I could probably walk faster but the snow was really coming down now. My father had better be grateful for this, I thought. I was going to see him because he wanted to talk to me about something important. My parents had separated when I was younger and I was raised by my mother. I hadn’t seen nor spoken to him in awhile when he called a week ago to arrange dinner at his house. I was a little nervous as to what he wanted to tell me.
“Hello?” the girl’s voice interrupted my thoughts.
“Hey! I was just thinking about you!” she paused. It sounded like that scandalous guy had called her. The girl’s voice got louder as she talked.
“Yeah. So what about tonight?” Remembering my own plans, I pulled my cell phone out of my bag and sped-dialled Dmitri. It rang and rang and went to voicemail. I sent him a text instead and told him to call me later. I looked out the window again and saw that we were, slowly but surely, getting closer to my stop. At least my father lived extremely close to the bus stop and I wouldn’t have to trudge through the wet snow.
“Yes babe I’ll see you soon.” The girl purred.
“So you’re having a sleepover tonight?” The friend asked.
“Yes! He’s free all night.”
“Well, here is our stop.” I could see the girl as she rose and pulled the bell to signal the bus driver.
“Dmitri I hope you like what you see tonight!” The second girl laughed and rose as my heart froze. She was a beautiful girl with a flashy smile. Also, Dmitri is not that common of a name and in conjunction with the Taylor Washington connection this was no mistake. The bus stopped and the doors opened. I could see her tucking her long black hair behind her ear in a cute, girlish way and obviously out of habit and smiled at the person who had moved out of her way. Without thinking, I stood up and slid through the back doors just as they were closing. I breathed the cold fresh air deeply and slowed and walked behind the girls as if I were going in the same direction. My head was spinning and I felt slightly sick.
“…is so sweet. He will do little things like bring me chocolates to work and introduce me to his friends. Grace, if he didn’t really like me, why would he introduce me to his brother?” the friend, who had a short Rihanna-style haircut shrugged.
“Because his brother and friends are not going to spill the beans to her Zoe. I’m not trying to be so negative but you should make him choose. It would be more legitimate than just being the mistress right?” Thankfully there was a bit of a crowd walking by a plaza and I blended in with them. My heart was pounding fiercely and I was feeling really sick to my stomach now.
“Yes. It is just that she is so nice and successful. He feels guilty about dumping her.” I couldn’t help but take in this girl’s appearance. She was tall with a perfect figure. Clearly she worked out and had good genes.
“What are you guys up to tonight?” the friend asked.
“Well now that we have the whole night, I’m thinking we may go out to eat…and then to my place probably although he did mention something about hanging with his friend Keenan.” I bit back a sob. Dmitri’s best friend was named Keenan. I still followed them not really knowing what I was doing. So many thoughts were in my head: should I confront her? Should I call him? Should I just go home? Why? How long?
“Okay girl this is me. ” They had stopped in front of a blue house. “Have fun tonight! Call me tomorrow.” The one called Grace hugged Zoe and started to walk up the path to the front door. Zoe continued to walk but was searching her bag for something. After a few moments of cursing she started to talk.
“Hey dad…um I’m not going to be able to stay for dinner tonight. I forgot that I had plans.” She mumbled and then was silent as she listened into her cell phone. She was walking much faster now that she was alone.
“I know I said I would.” A pause. “But dad I can meet her anytime! Give me her number—”. She stopped talking. I was still feeling sick but unsure about my next move. We were moving more into a residential area and I didn’t think I should be following her much longer.
“Dad! My plans are important! I’ve forgiven you for lying to me haven’t I?” She said this last bit a little hotly. Then she burst into an angry rant, “No! You listen to me! You left your other family and other daughter and never told me! And mom she knew? You guys are all liars! No I am not coming to meet her. So I can watch you crumble someone else’s world? You are so selfish! This poor, what’s her name…Ariana?, yes this poor Ariana that you are going to hurt. You don’t even care!” The girl was yelling into her phone and I was sobbing into my mittens. My heart was broken, actually beyond broken because my name is Ariana.