The red polish on her toes was named Firehouse, and that was the reason she’d picked it up at the dollar store. She wanted to feel alive, wanted to feel like her energy was on fire. The morning she left for her new life she had folded herself into a pretzel to carefully apply the lacquer to all ten toes before leaning back against the wall to admire her handiwork.

When the polish was dry, she slipped on the first pair of pants she grabbed from the closet, those baggy white and navy print things that were so comfortable to lounge around in. She laughed aloud, because if only one thing was going to change, it was the amount of lounging around the house she was going to do from here on out. Still, those pants were comfy. And they happened to match the white tank top she was already wearing, sans bra, so she went with it.

Today was a day of fate, and fate might as well control her wardrobe choices as well.

Except for the shoes. She already knew she was going to wear her strappy red sandals, because they’d lain neglected and alone in the back of the closet for far too long. Those were coming on this trip, like it or not. She checked to make sure her toenails were completely dry and then struggled to stretch those straps just the tiniest bit that was necessary for a proper fit.

Buckles done and duffel bag over her shoulder, she didn’t even bother to say goodbye to the place she’d lived with her boyfriend for the past six years. Why should she? It wasn’t like she had a chance to say goodbye when he was in that accident.

She didn’t lock the door behind her as she put her best foot forward on her way to the bus stop and the beginning of her new life.

When the bus arrived, she showed her ticket to the driver and found a spot among the rows of empty seats. They weren’t empty for long; it looked as if nearly every seat would be taken with the mass of people waiting for this very bus.

Within minutes she found herself pressed against the window by an old woman with a shockingly large purse. She absentmindedly wondered how the small woman managed to carry such a monstrous bag.before turning to stare out the window, blocking out the present and focusing on the future.

She wiggled her Firehouse toes in her firehouse sandals and smiled at the thought of better days to come. Endless numbers of better days.

The Kindness of Strangers

She never once turned to face him, but he knew she was beautiful.

Every day he sat on his regular seat on the Number 8 bus, just behind the passenger side rear wheel, riding and waiting for her stop.

The driver slowed to a stop and slid open the door, and she wasn’t there.

He was so distracted he forget to get off the bus at his stop.

The jumble of thoughts that ran through his mind all shared the same common thread of confusion. Where was she? Was she okay? Would he ever see her again?

He called the office to say that he wasn’t feeling well and would be working from home today and rode the bus to the station, where he hopped the Number 14 to get back home as quickly as possible.

He doubted himself; was this the right decision? What if she was simply running late? Should he have stayed on the 8 to see if she caught the next pickup? Where was she?

He shook his head to try to clear the thoughts of concern plaguing him.

He nearly forgot his briefcase on the 14. No matter if he had; it contained nothing irreplaceable.

He dropped his keys in the bowl by the door and headed straight for his home office. He woke up his laptop and logged on to his workstation, but his mind still wandered.

What about the girl of his dreams?

He pushed back from his desk and closed his eyes, taking deep breaths. Slightly refreshed, he pulled himself back to his computer screen and typed craigslist into the search box.

He scrolled through the missed connections for a few minutes before reaffirming his decision. He typed furiously for nearly half an hour, typing and deleting, typing and deleting. This couldn’t be one of those generic still on my mind garbage ads. It had to be real and heartfelt. And completely unembarrassing, just in case she actually read it.

The young lady who ride the 8

The love of my life

I hope you’re okay

Where did you go?

To the woman with flowing chestnut hair and a khaki jacket: I’m sure you’ve never seen me, but I see you every day. You ride the 8 downtown every morning with me. Today, you weren’t at your stop, and I’m worried. I hope nothing untoward has happened, and that you are in good health and good spirits, wherever you are. I’m sure you’ll never see this, but just in case you do, know that someone cares.

He submitted the ad, and tried to push her from his mind while going about his workday from home. He was never successful, and he never received a response.

The next morning, he was an anxious bundle of nerves on the bus. Would she or wouldn’t she?

He never saw her again.