The same routine, Rose was thinking one Monday morning as she waited at the bus stop, it was raining and all the chivalrous males were hogging the bus shelter as usual, taking twice as much room up as necessary and not one offering to make room, standing there playing on their phones or reading a newspaper. The bus arrived to take her once again to Hendriks department store and hopefully it would have stopped raining by the time she got there though the store was only across the road from the bus stop. She let down her folding umbrella and shook it, sticking it in an empty carrier bag she kept in her pocket, a trick she had learned from Mickey's old gran and got on and went upstairs, spotting a few empty outside seats.
Same again, all the men hogging the seats, some taking all the room up and she didn't fancy trying to hang on for twenty minutes or so every time the bus jerked or went around a corner. She spied a tall skinny bloke who was looking at his phone and sticking some earphones in his ears and thought at least there was plenty of room. He didn't even look up until she sat next to him, after the rain from the umbrella had soaked through to the outside of the carrier bag and it brushed up against his leg.
Rose smiled at him and muttered a 'sorry' and moved it.
He took one earphone out and grinned back at her. "It's ok, my granny used to do the same, used to annoy the hell out of my Grandad Wilf. Would you like to sit on the inside?"
"No, mmm fine here thanks, don't want to wet your other leg, do you?"
He smiled again. "No, suppose not but I might have to disturb you when I get off unless you get off before me that is, then I wouldn't be disturbing you then, would I?"
He told himself to shut up, his cousin Donna was always telling him he had a big gob and talked far too much. The young woman next to him didn't seem to mind.
"I'm getting off at Hendriks."
"Oh, well I get off after you then, science museum, that's two stops after you so no need to worry about me disturbing you."
He wondered whether to mention his cousin worked there but it was a big store, recently refurbished after a big fire nearly totalled it a few years back. He put his earphone back in and carried on listening to his Beatles collection. He was a massive Beatles fan, well recently after his last girlfriend introduced him to them and now he had practically downloaded every song they had ever produced though he didn't care much for the band members' individual performances or their later work after Sgt. Pepper.
He took a sideways glance at the young woman, her coat looked wet, poor girl had probably not been able to get into the bus shelter. He had only just caught the bus so that hadn't been a problem with him. He had only just started using public transport again after the museum withdrew it's staff parking facilities and it now cost you to even take your car into the centre of London – bloomin' cheek of it and he hated the underground, it reminded him of journeys before his parents had died.
He had been brought up by his Aunt Sylvia and Uncle Geoff from the age of twelve and his rebellious cousin had kept him in check and stopped him falling apart as had his grandad and he still went round every Sunday afternoon to see them though his uncle had died a few years ago and his grandad had moved in but Donna still lived at home. Now Donna was dating some poor bloke called Shaun and good luck to him as well.
John himself had a string of failed so-called 'relationships' his last serious one went off to work in an art gallery in New York without even saying goodbye except for a text from the airport and now, this French exchange program woman was trying to seduce him into taking her to bed but so far he had managed to keep out of her clutches and had got rather good at avoiding her, burying himself setting up the various exhibits.
When he thought back, there had only really been one woman he was really interested in, the rest had been replacements and never got into his bedroom or he theirs despite what everyone at the museum said about him having notches on his bedpost, there was only one. Rose meanwhile was daydreaming as usual, thinking of bettering herself and getting out of the store and do something exciting for a change. She longed to travel and although she had a passport, there were very few stamps on it.
She almost missed her stop when she realised where she was. She smiled at the man in the blue pinstriped suit next to her. "Sorry about the umbrella earlier."
"That's ok, maybe it will be sunny tomorrow and you won't need it?"
"Yeah maybe, it's rotten weather for May."
John chuckled. "Well you can come and sit next to me tomorrow morning if you catch the same bus, then I won't have someone sitting next to me who takes up half of my seat."
Rose was gathering her wet carrier bag and her shoulderbag. "Maybe, I passed all those seats back there because there was little room. Bye."
"Bye, maybe see you tomorrow then?" he asked hopefully.
Then she was gone and he didn't even know her name. Rose never mentioned to anyone about her brief encounter with a tall handsome and very fit bloke she had met on the bus that morning. She always got in early, to catch up on the latest gossip, get a coffee before she started but the next morning, she missed the bus by two minutes and cursed herself that she wouldn't get her coffee and wouldn't be able to sit next to that bloke again but hey, at least it was dry and she got a seat in the bus shelter but as luck would have it, she had only missed the one before that had been late.
John had got the bus as usual that morning, last one on, as usual and gone to sit more or less where he had been the previous morning, hoping the blonde would get on further down again but she didn't. He thought she must have missed it and maybe get on tomorrow but the bus before had been late, John missed it but Rose had made the effort not to be late and since it was slightly early, she hoped the man had managed to catch it but he hadn't. Wednesday was Rose's day off and John was left wondering again where she was.
Thursday morning, John made a conscious effort to get to the bus stop in time but of course Donna had to call him and almost made him miss it again though he knew it couldn't be the one before being late again, that was a rare occurrence but what did he know? He only usually made this one but he had known by how many people had been waiting the other morning one must have been late. Rose had got delayed by the postman so she missed it again and she thought she was never destined to see the man again which she thought was a shame.
On the bus she did catch, she was daydreaming about getting on the bus and them sitting talking and holding hands until she reached her stop. She had never once thought that he might be sitting upstairs on the return journey home for the last few nights when she had sat downstairs reading a magazine and John had never thought to ask Donna what time the store closed either.
So Friday morning, he ignored a call from Donna, knowing he would have to explain why but at least he would catch the bus, Rose had avoided the postman by going the opposite way and letting him put the mail through the letterbox like he was supposed to do and it wasn't raining, thankfully. The bus arrived and Rose hoped the stranger would be sitting upstairs and really hoped no-one would beat her to it if he was.
A man in front of her went up the steps and Rose followed, trying to spot a blue suit and saw one and what looked like the man from the other morning but the man in front had to go and choose that seat, didn't he? John thought the blonde had missed the bus again or she had been early but Rose had sat two seats behind him next to a woman with two shopping bags. John just happened to turn around wishing he had at least got her name so he could ask Donna about her when he thought he caught sight of someone with blonde hair.
The woman next to Rose excused herself a few stops later and Rose moved to the inside seat, wishing she dare to let the man in front know there was a seat next to her and hoping no other moron would get on and sit next to her but John couldn't see the blonde again and sat there. She couldn't even shout, 'hey, come and sit next to me' as there was a large woman sitting directly in front of her now and so by the time she got to her stop, someone had sat next to her and she got off, disappointed again but so was John.
Hell, when had he got so upset a strange woman had sat next to him with a wet umbrella and had not got on since? He was going to mention her to Donna on Sunday, there couldn't be all that many blondes working at the store, could there? The day went slow for both of them, John successfully avoided Reinette again by hiding most of the day and since he didn't work weekends, he could recover.
Sunday afternoon, John pulled up outside his aunt's house, well on the corner as Donna would only tell him off for parking in front of the driveway and let himself in.
"Well if it's not the skinny spaceman!" Donna declared, giving him a bearhug.
"Let go Donna before you break something. I've got a question for you."
"Well it had better not be some freaky science one, what's up, going on the Star Trek quiz show again?"
"Nope, nothing to do with science."
"Well that makes a change skinny arse. Mum's almost got lunch ready, told her to give you an extra Yorkshire pudding or two to fatten you up though why I waste my time trying to put some more meat on you, I don't know. Go on, ask away."
"Promise you won't laugh?"
"No, tell me first then see if I laugh. Not girl trouble again? That French tart got you in her sights again?"
"No and no, it's not about her, I think she's getting the message. There was this woman, last Monday morning who sat next to me on the bus."
"Aw, spaceman's lovestruck!"
"Shut up Donna, I'm being serious here. She said she was getting off at Hendriks."
"So, just because she gets off there doesn't mean to say she works there, does it?"
"Well no but why would she say that then?"
"Because that's the name of the bus stop – duh. What's up with you all of a sudden?" She saw the look on his face. "Go on then, what did she look like? You know how many women work there?"
"No, anyway, she was blonde."
"And? That's hardly enough to go on, come on, most of them come in with a different hair colour every day, she's probably gone pink or blue since then."
"Yeah, well, never mind, forget it if you can't help me."
"Sorry John but there isn't much chance she even works there. If you have an hour to spare tomorrow, come in and have a look around, you might spot her, you never know. She'll have a name badge on, well a first name."
"Thanks cus, where's granddad?"
"He'll be back in a minute but he can't help you with you problem - spaceman."
John had his Sunday lunch, a family tradition he hated to miss since his aunt was a decent cook and even when he had been with Sophia, they had gone round most Sundays but his aunt didn't like the woman, saying she was too stuck up and that Christina he'd gone out with for a month or so, well Sylvia always counted the silver when she'd been around, Lady or no. She'd had less airs and graces than that Sophia.
Rose was poking at her Sunday lunch, Jackie was eyeing her and so was her friend and one-time boyfriend Mickey, who was now having to be content with having Rose as his friend, only because he had done something really stupid and asked her to marry him. She had told him in not so many words he had to be joking and said she'd be his friend if he wanted. Mainly it was to keep the peace with Jackie Tyler, notorious face slapper extraordinaire and champion of the estate.
"Come on Rose, you've hardly eaten, what's wrong?" her mother asked, hating to see good food go to waste.
"I'm twenty seven and still at home."
"So what? You want to fork out for room and board somewhere with a stranger?"
"No, suppose not. I met this bloke, Monday morning on the bus and I've not seen him since."
"So? You met a bloke, big deal," Mickey commented.
"Shut up Mickey. He was nice and we talked a bit, my wet umbrella caught his leg and he didn't seem to mind and I saw him again on Friday morning but someone else sat next to him and I couldn't get his attention to come and sit next to me when someone got off."
"Rose, it's no use pining if you only met the bloke once," her mother told her. "Maybe he'll be on tomorrow morning. If you want to sit next to him, get to the bus stop early and don't let anyone get on in front of you."
Rose got up and gave her mother a hug. "Thanks Mum, you're a star."
Back in the Noble household, Donna was giving her hapless cousin similar advice.
"So if she gets on a few stops after you, sit on the side the bus stop is and when it gets to her stop, tap on the window to get her attention then she'll know you're on there and sprawl out on the seat so if someone else is heading your way, they'll pass you and don't offer to move then when you see her, wave to her again."
"Hey thanks Donna, you're a star."
So John made it to the bus stop with a minute to spare after telling Donna before he'd left he wouldn't answer her call and Rose got to the bus stop a few minutes early and got a seat in the bus shelter and when the bus pulled up, she didn't see a bleary-eyed John waving at her furiously like a madman but as she got upstairs, she saw him peering out of the window and just as a man was about to sit next to him she nudged him and said, "Excuse me, that's my seat."
John turned back and said "Hi, wondered where you'd got to" that the man huffed and moved on.
"Hi again, I thought you'd stopped getting on this bus," Rose smiled. "Look, no wet umbrella today!"
"Yep, definitely not umbrella weather today though it said it might rain a bit later on. I thought it was you who had stopped getting this bus. Did you know that from the weekend, they're taking these buses off and putting the front entrance ones on, can you believe it?"
"No, I'd not heard though we must have the only route in London that still uses them but I love them. It's a shame really."
"Still, they've outlived their purpose really, modern age takes over. I'd use the Tube but I hate it, all packed in like sardines, it reminds me of something."
"Oh. No Tube station near me, would have to get the bus to it, might as well stay on!"
John smiled. They talked all the way until they got to central London and it was the stop before Rose got off.
"So, see you tomorrow then, I'll try not to miss the bus."
"Yeah, me too unless the postman catches me, he's prone to using me as a letterbox," Rose laughed.
"Well that's just rude," John declared, smiling. "See you tomorrow then?"
Rose got off, a smile on her face and held it there all day. John was so caught up thinking about the beautiful stranger he'd had a twenty minute bus ride with that morning, he forgot about hiding from a certain Frenchwoman.
"John, you've been hiding from me you naughty boy," Reinette chastised him and put her arm in his.
When had he ever encouraged her? Just because he was a fit bloke in a tight suit. "Ah Reinette, I haven't been hiding anywhere, been busy, you know, with the exhibits. This museum doesn't run on it's own you know."
"Ah but you have been doing it deliberately. Why don't you take me out to lunch today? I can re-arrange my lunch break and swap with Claire."
"Yes, well, about that, well I already have a lunch date."
"Oh, well another time then. How about dinner?"
"Blimey," he thought, "How am I going to get out of this one?" Then to Reinette, who he thought spoke excellent English with hardly an accent, he added, "Sorry, pub quiz with my cousin Donna tonight, can't miss it, my favourite subject, Sci-Fi series, I've been swotting up on the questions they may ask. Donna would kill me if she missed it, we're on the same team, me, her and her bloke. We won last week."
"Oh well, there's always tomorrow."
"Ah, got a full diary sorry, have to go see Donna at work tomorrow and well, I'm all full up, sorry."
"John, if I didn't know better, I would think you're a little scared of me."
"Me? Scared, nah!" He was terrified and besides, talking to his new friend this morning had made his day, hell, she had made his week. Then he had an idea. "Besides, I don't think my girlfriend would approve."
"Really John, you don't have to invent a girlfriend to get out of taking me to lunch or dinner. Ok, I'll let you off the hook – for now on one condition."
"Really?" he managed to say, quite relieved she had given up so easily.
"Yes, if you bring her in to meet me."
"Right, yes, well, she works so it'll have to be on her day off but maybe not until next week then." He had no idea when her day off was. Then he remembered what Donna had said, go into the store and find her, she had to be there somewhere, didn't she?
Reinette looked like she wasn't going to give up until he produced his invisible girlfriend and even if he managed to find her, he had then to convince her to pay a visit to the museum then pretend she was his girlfriend. Yeah, nice one John, you put your big feet in it again.