'She’s The One' by Alison Wassell
For weeks he’s been taking the same bus, at the same time, watching them and selecting the one he likes the best, the way you might choose fruit in the supermarket. He rejects any of them with an obvious blemish; an ugly birth mark, a crooked tooth, an outbreak of acne, a couple of excess pounds of flesh overhanging a waistband.
His favourite wears the top button of her shirt undone. When she moves he glimpses the lace edge of her bra. She’s not trashy though. The bra is a girlish cotton one, almost certainly the first she’s ever owned. She barely fills it. He likes this.
He listens to her gossiping with her friends about some girl in their year who claims to have gone all the way with a sixth former. They all agree that she’s lying. His Chosen One doesn’t say ‘lying’ though. She says ‘fibbing’. He finds her choice of words endearing. His fingers close around the cards in his pocket and he smiles.
‘Excuse me,’ he will say, as he pulls one out and offers it to her. He will ask if she’s ever considered modelling. She will blush, stammer and start fiddling with her hair. Like an obedient puppy she will follow him to his ‘studio’ around the corner. He will even encourage her to ‘phone her parents and get their permission. She won’t. They never do.
His mouth fills with saliva as he thinks of how it will be. He will smile as she babbles. Her skin will turn pink beneath her freckles. Her negligible cleavage will be damp with perspiration and her bluntly cut fringe will rise as she exhales her anxiety. The best moment is the one where excitement turns to fear. Her lips will twitch as she wonders whether to laugh or scream. He imagines how comfortably his hands will fit around her throat. That’s how it has been with all the others.
She is the only one to get off at this stop. He waits a few seconds before following her. She blows kisses to her friends as the bus pulls away, then rummages in her bag and pulls out a packet of cigarettes. Noticing him for the first time she smiles.
‘Got a light, mate?’ she asks. His stomach lurches. If there’s one thing he can’t stand it’s a woman who smokes. Looking down, he sees that her fingers are stained with nicotine. He shakes his head, swivels on his heels and strides away, unable to believe how badly he has misjudged things. She shrugs and reluctantly returns the cigarettes to her pocket.
‘Stupid old fart,’ she mutters.
As she flings her bag and coat over the bannister her mum calls from the kitchen, asking if she’s had a good day.
‘Same old same old,’ she says, as she flops onto the sofa and switches on the TV.