Guilty. Jo saw it. The single word in the centre of an otherwise blank screen. Jo looked at the small hand pressing the card to the reader, ran her eyes up the bare, golden arm to bowed head. The woman’s hair fell over her face but she could see one green eye and the smooth skin at its corner. As the woman withdrew her card and shuffled onto the packed bus, Jo had no choice but to pull away from the kerb. For the rest of the day she watched her ticket machine, close, attentive as a new lover. Yes? Yes? Is there something you need to say?
It was the penultimate passenger of the day that caused it to happen again. As he slapped his card to the pad the screen flashed the word – desperate. She flicked her eyes from the screen to the man’s face. Mid forties suit-man with a faint scent of sweat and a crease between his eyebrows. But calm. More weary than desperate she’d have said.
“Sorry, can you try again please?”
He shrugged back to the machine and pressed his card down. Desperate. She nodded him past.
She reached the depot three minutes ahead of schedule. She’d seen him get off at Hythe Road. She should’ve stopped there to keep to the timetable. But she’d accelerated away – the only way to remove her gaze from his desperate back as he opened the front gate of number fifty-four.