The man in the long tan trench coat seemed oblivious he was about to step in front of the 5:40 commuter bus to
East Hartford. Everyone at the bus stop was doing their own thing – reading books, texting, staring into space. If I hadn’t looked up from my Kindle just as he was about to step off the curb, he would have been roadkill.
I grabbed his arm and jerked him back. His head swiveled around in shock. Idiot. Lost in his own little world. I guess I couldn’t blame him. It was Friday night and everyone was tired from the work week grind and looking forward to the weekend. But still, was he really that introspective he hadn’t noticed the bus?
“You should wait until it stops before you try to get on,” I said. He was absolutely gorgeous. Eyes so dark they were nearly black and a sensuous mouth that on a woman would be called pouty but on a guy it was just pure lust.
“I’ll remember that,” he said gravely. I smiled and let go of his arm. Beneath the trench coat, he had muscles. Did he work out in a gym nearby? I’d been meaning to get a membership, he could be just the incentive I’d been waiting for.
The bus chuffed to a stop and the doors squeaked open. I waited for him to get in line behind the rest of the tired commuters, but he simply stood there and stared at me. As if he waited for something.
“Well, here’s the bus.” Real smooth, Miranda, next you can point out it’s grey with blue stripes.
“Can you tell me something?” The man asked as I turned. I cast a look at the shuffling line. Six people to go, I had time for a quick question. Maybe he was going to ask me to Happy Hour. It was Friday night and I had saved his life.
“Where am I?”
For a moment I could only stand there. Then I thought, Great. The most gorgeous guy I’ve seen in ten years and he’s fucked in the head. So typical.
“You all right?” Maybe he’d hit his head or something and that’s why he’d nearly blundered into traffic. Maybe he wasn’t crazy, but concussed.
“What language are we speaking? If I knew that, I would know what planet this is.” He spoke so rationally as if he made perfect sense. Probably he did. To himself.
“Listen, is there someone I can call to help you?” Two people left to get on the bus, but I’d pretty much resigned myself to waiting for the 6:03. People like him shouldn’t be out wandering alone. Maybe he’d escaped from a halfway house or something. Or a psychiatric ward. The hospital was just two blocks over, that probably was it.
“You’re the only one who can help me,” he said and if this had been a romance book, the look he gave me would have been termed “smoldering” or maybe “intense”. If I’d been the heroine in a book I would have understood, possibly been flattered, but all I felt was resentment. I would miss my bus so I could get some crazy guy back to his bed on the psych ward. By the time I got home, Friday night would half over.
But what the hell was I doing with it anyway? It’s not like I had a husband or even a boyfriend. Hell, not even a date. At my age pickings were slim to none even if I was still pretty with a decent figure and had no kids. That just made the married men who wanted something on the side more disgustingly determined. All the great guys were taken.
“Okay,” I said as the last commuter hauled himself onto the bus. “You were in the hospital, weren’t you? I know where it is. I’ll show you.” I took his arm to guide him and he looked at my hand on his sleeve, his brow furrowed.
“I wasn’t in this hospital. I am not ill. I am here because I displeased my superiors. If I wish to go home, you are the only one who can assist me. Will you?” Another one of those stares. God, why did the crazy guys have to be so compelling?
“How am I supposed to do that?” I asked. Humor him until I got him to the hospital. It seemed the best route. I walked away from him, and, sure enough, he followed. He fell into step beside me.
“I don’t know,” he said and gave the sidewalk, or maybe his shoes, one of his heart flipping stares. He looked back up at me. “I thought you might.”
Well, you’re shit out of luck, buddy. I don’t even know what the hell you are talking about.
“Where are you from? And no bullshit, okay? I mean here on Earth. Where are you from?
? Manchester ? Glastonbury ?” Vernon
“Earth.” He sounded shocked and his already pale cheeks went two shades whiter. “This is worse than I thought. Humans are among the most close minded, ignorant and shallow beings in the universe.”
“Way to get me to help you, dude,” I said. My damn bus drove by and splashed up a wave of dirty rain water from a curbside puddle. I danced out of the way, but the jerk beside me didn’t falter. His trench coat must have been really waterproofed because the water slid off like magic.
“You’re my only resource,” he said.
“Help me Obi wan Kenobi,” I teased, but I was a little pissed too. Where did he get off calling me close minded, ignorant and shallow? He didn’t know me.
“What?” He looked so pathetically confused I rolled my eyes. He was my age or maybe a couple years younger, there’s no way he wouldn’t get the reference. Unless he really was a frigging alien which was about as likely as Obi wan himself materializing and saving the day through the Force.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“It’s unpronounceable in English,” he said.
“What are you? French? Polish?” I guessed.
“I am not of this planet. I thought I had established that but perhaps you need further explanation. Humans are not known for their intelligence either.”
“Okay, buddy. These are the rules. You shut up and follow me. Conversation over. I’m not about to spend my Friday night being insulted by a psycho.” I snapped. Immediate remorse swept over me. Miranda, he’s sick. Have some compassion.
“I’m not a psycho I’m an Andoruvian,” he said.
Oh, Jesus. “How come you can pronounce your planet’s name in English but not your damn name?” I bit my tongue again. Miranda.
A thoughtful expression crossed his gorgeous face. “I never thought about that before. It does seem contradictory, doesn’t it?”
“It’s all right. Not a hell of a lot makes sense here anyway,” I said. Half a block and we’d reach the hospital. “At least you can take meds and make it better. I’ve got half a bottle of red wine and four episodes of Supernatural on Netflix.”
“You speak English words, but I don’t understand half of them,” he said. He was adorable when confused. Hell, he’d be adorable no matter what. Why did everyone I meet have to be damaged in some crucial way? It wasn’t fair.
“The meds will help that too,” I assured him. I slowed my steps as we approached the brick walkway that led to the hospital’s door.
He looked at the hospital and then at me. An errant lock of black hair fell across one of his eyes and I wanted to brush it back in the worst way. “I told you I didn’t come from the hospital. Why are we here?”
“Look, you need help and I’m not the one who can give it to you. I’m an admin not a psychiatrist, okay? Let’s go.” I took three steps up the pathway, but he didn’t follow.
“You’ll leave me here?” His eyes were nearly black as he stared at me. His trench coat billowed around his ankles and the wind brushed the hair back from his face. For a moment he looked otherworldly and not quite real, but of course that was bullshit. I was tired, my boss had been a pig all week long and all I wanted was to go home. I didn’t need this crap.
“Yes,” I said.
“I wish you wouldn’t. I really want to go home.”
“Don’t we all,” I muttered. “Come on, Andy.”
“Andy?” He quirked an eyebrow.
“You’re Andoruvian, right? And I can’t pronounce your real name, so Andy it is.” It was a mistake to name him. Now he meant something. He wasn’t just that crazy guy who needed his meds. I’m so stupid sometimes.
“Andy,” he repeated. He followed me up the pathway into the antiseptic desolation of the emergency room waiting area. The nurse behind the desk looked mean and tired.
“This is a mistake,” he told me, his breath a gentle warning in my ear as I approached the desk.
“What’s the problem?” The nurse barked. God, why did people have to be so frigging awful? Always with the goddamn attitudes. Couldn’t anyone be nice just for the hell of it?
“I think this guy got out of the psych ward somehow. Anyway, he needs help,” I said. The nurse screwed up her face and gave me a death glare. What the hell had I done?
“Lady, either you’re drunk or you need the psych ward. You got ten seconds to disappear or I’ll call the orderlies. Your choice.”
“Wait a minute? What the hell is that supposed to mean?” I tried not to shout, but goddamn, people were so rude.
“She can’t see me,” Andy said.
“What?” I swung around to confront him and his expression was so sad and patient it tore at my heart. “What are you talking about?”
“I told you. You’re the only one who can help me because you’re the only one who can see me.”
“Oh, God.” I staggered to one of the puke green waiting room chairs and sank into it. The bitch nurse’s phone rang and she answered it, thankfully sidetracked for the moment. I had to get out of the hospital before I was strapped down in the rubber room, but I couldn’t make my stupid legs support me.
Was I crazy? Was I the one?
Andy took the snot yellow chair beside me. “Will you help me?”
“How?” His face blurred because of the tears in my eyes. I was losing it. I was losing my shit. Maybe I’d already lost it. Goddamn.
“I don’t know. I’ve told you that before. You really need to sharpen your listening skills. I don’t think I should have to repeat myself more than once.”
“Fuck you. You’re not even real and you tell me you don’t want to repeat yourself? You shut the hell up.”
The nurse banged the phone down and lumbered to her feet, gesturing to two tall, brutish looking orderlies and I bolted for the exit. I’d figure this shit out myself. If I ended up in a psych ward, my boss would kill me. Fire my ass. I needed my job. It was all I had between me and the street. I didn’t want to be a homeless person digging food out of the garbage and washing myself in public restroom sinks for the rest of my life. I was only 40, I had years left before I died.
Andy dogged my footsteps. Three blocks later when I was sure no one from the hospital was after me, I clenched my fists and snarled, “Stop following me. I’m not insane. If no one else can see you, you aren’t really there.”
“Well, that’s actually not true because I am. Simply because you are the only one who can see me, doesn’t invalidate the fact I’m here.”
“On what planet?” I squeezed my eyes shut. “Oh, yeah, right. On Andoruvia.”
“Andoruvi,” he corrected.
“Shut up!” I yelled. “I don’t care if it’s Andoruvia or Andoruvi. The point is, it doesn’t exist and neither do you. I want to go home. I want to go home and watch Supernatural. I’m gonna pour the wine down the sink and take four Advil and pretend this shit never happened.”
I glanced at my watch. The 6:03 was due in ten minutes. I could wait ten minutes. Sure.
“I can see this is going to take a while,” Andy remarked grimly. He sat next to me on the bus stop bench.
When the 6:03 arrived, I made Andy go to the inside seat. Just before the bus door pulled closed, I made a mad dash and jumped out onto the sidewalk. The door shut in Andy’s face and I saw him press his hands to the clear panes in the door panel. Shock and fear made his eyes wide.
I turned and ran as fast as my heels would allow me. The bus driver couldn't see Andy, so he wouldn't open the doors. He'd have to wait until the next stop to get off. I’d have at least a block’s head start. I knew the city. Andy didn’t. If I could ditch the bastard, I would be okay. I wouldn’t be insane, I’d just be a lonely woman on a Friday night again.
I ran until the stitch in my side forced me to stop. Sweat trickled down my face as I leaned against a building and caught my breath. No sign of Andy.
As I walked in search of another bus stop, I was surprised to feel a pang of regret. When a person outran her fears and outfoxed her problems, shouldn’t she feel victorious?
But what if his story was true? I’d ditched a man who had no clue and who was more alone than me. At least I had friends and belonged here. He had no one.
“Oh, hell.” I took a deep breath and began to retrace my steps. He couldn’t be far behind me. He’d be searching.
But I looked for three hours until well after dark and I never found him.
I went home and drank the wine and watched Supernatural. I tried to push away the thought I’d been given a chance and blown it. No. This was just another Friday night.