Not for the first time, she wonders if maybe, just maybe,she reads too much vampire fiction, wonders if it just tilts her view of the world from quirky, the desireable default setting, into something a little darker, a little more difficult to live with, a little nearer the back wards that her Gran always swears she will end up in.
But, this kid is freaky, he’s doing that kid thing, kneeling up on the seat in front of her, facing her and that would be ok, if, if, it wasnt 3am on the Kentish Town night bus and the kid was less weird looking and the person, she wants to say thing, but senses that this is not a healthy path to go down, with him, a body shaped blob wrapped in black although oddly, the kid doesnt look exactly muslim is giving out a vibe of great weirdness.
The kid is pale, but pale doesn’t really do it,doesnt describe skin so white, so translucent that you can almost see every vein. This kid looks like he has never been outdoors in daylight in his life, but hey, she knows about allergies, kids who live in bubbles, stuff.
It’s not the paleness really, it’s the make up, it must be make up, no-body has lips that red or eyebrows that dark. She’s a goth, she’s used to make up on boys, but this is something else, it’s not face paint, it’s just not playful enough.
She fiddles with her I-pod, struggles to find something up-beat, settles for REM, at least she can hum along under her breath and it gives her an excuse to look away, get away from his eyes.
This kid is not kicking the seat, he is not shouting or screaming or wiping chocolate or worse into the bell push next to him. He is doing absoloutely nothing, is completely still, silent and somehow that is somehow far more unsettling.
He is simply staring at her, his face blank, eyes unmoving and then his lips part and slowly his tongue lingers first over the bottom lip and then the top and all the time he never breaks eye contact with her.
She is used to children on buses, used to their parents, a constant flutter of
dont touch that
But the person [ push away that thought] with this kid is simply a huddle of black fabric, face invisible, body curled away from the child.
She wonder how she woud phrase it
“Please can you stop your kid staring at me – it’s freaking me out”
and then shakes her head, mutters
“get a grip”.
Slowly and carefully , she picks up her bag, Sesame Street – Cookie Monster shaped back pack and starts rooting in it, using the bag to shield her face from his unmoving stare. She manages to ignore the fact of her shaking hands.
This is the night-bus – the one she always catches, she recognises some of the other passengers, waiters, washer uppers, club bunnies calling it a night. The night-bus has it’s own madness, it’s own potential dangers, but this is just mental.
She gets a grip.
Poor Kid, probabaly got some weird learning disability thing. She takes a deep breath with her head still safely buried against the soft blue fur of the back pack and then she lifts her head and smiles directly at the child.
Seconds later, she is off the bus and she’s running, her bag bumping on one shoulder. She risks a look behind.
She can’t really remember how she got off the bus, must have jumped from the moving platform and now she pauses, realises that her ankle is gently throbbing as if from a bad landing.
She starts walking, looks around and breathes a sigh of relief, she recognises the area, a row of terraced houses that lead to the main drag, where there will still be take aways open, taxis, other people.
Suddenly it seems very important to be near other people, even the middle of the night people, the drunks, the cat calling late night boys, the slightly mad, the slightly odd.
After all, she is part of that world, black spikey hair, white make up, pierced chin, tonight she is channeling Robert Smith, feeling that Cure moment. She can’t help smiling, she is many peoples’ worst visual nightmare, the kind of girl that pensioners cross the road to avoid and somehow she has allowed a small child, a kid with some disability to spook her and now she has an extra mile to walk at the end of a busy shift at the club.
She lights a cigarette, notices that it takes 3, 4 goes to get her fingers to operate the lighter, it’s the cold she thinks, my hands are definitely not shaking and she starts the walk towards the flat.
And nothing happens, just that corner of the eye thing, that thing when you find yourself almost seeing something that isn’t there, but she’s lived in London for 3 years now, she’s used to the big city paranoia, that certainty that someone is following you, that walk that’s almost a run until you turn and see that your stalker is a urban fox off to hunt down Maryland chicken, discarded pizza crusts.
Onto the main drag, Brixton at night, a couple of clubs kicking out, a line of dancers, drooping now at the taxi rank, boys buying kebabs and throwing the salad onto the pavement. It’s all reassuringly normal.
She starts calculating the rest of the walk, past the prison, down the dog leg, cross into the estate and then home.
She wonders if the boys will be back late and then remembers that they are doing a gig somewhere up north – Nottingham or somewhere. This morning when they told her, she was pleased, house to herself, have a long bath after work, no nasty surprise of a sink full of dirty dishes or random boys sleeping on the sofa. Now, she wishes that the flat was full of people, even skanky indie boys and their snake hipped girlfriends, failing to hide their disdainful glances at her Rockport boots.
Past the prison now and then she hears them, the steady pace of an adult and the trotting to keep up of a small child and she realises that she is not surprised, not really.
She feels them gaining, getting closer and then there is a little hand in hers, an icy cold little hand.
And then they stop, the Goth girl, suddenly aware that her skin tight jeans are two sizes too small and doing her no favours at all, the black clad other, standing to one side, covered face averted and the kid.
There is a silence and then the child smiles again and speaks
” Now you have to invite me in”.
She nods and her hand, the free one, not the one he is holding tightly, suddenly very, very tightly, reaches up to touch the vial of blood that she bought for a joke at Spitafields market last week end.