Hyswith wasn’t too far. She could get the 44 bus straight there from outside the doctor’s surgery. It was no Merc, but it would have to do for now. V, stood impatiently at the bus stop, alternating her stringent stares between the road stretching into the distance and the electronic sign updating the bus times. 2 mins, 1 min…the lonely wait allowed her to notice that her limbs were shivering and her teeth were chattering. Yet, before she could succumb to her limbic system’s urge for shelter, headlights loomed from the far end of the road bend. Here was the 44 in all its small town glory. Warm relief enveloped V in recognition of its arrival.
She stuck out a handful of flickering fingers, and then, for a strange moment, for some inexplicable reason, she felt invisible, as though the driver could not see her. It was getting dark, but the bus shelter was lit up and she was standing under its harsh white bulb. In a moment of panic she waved her arms ferociously and shouted “STOP! She saw the driver’s eyes lift in sudden recognition and screeched to a halt beside her. Had he seen her before he heard her? Was she fading away? She felt like she was disappearing. She needed it soon: the baby, the blood, the life.
She jumped on as the doors hissed open. “Return to Hyswith please”, she told the bespectacled yet solidly built male driver and pointed a £5 note at the plastic shield between them. Despite her dramatic entrance, he remained unstirred. With his eyes fixed on the road ahead, he took the note, and mechanically issued the change with a few heavy fingered button pushes. It fell down like a tragic win at an end-of-pier casino hall.
V scooped up the change and scrambled to the back of a bus, groping for the poles to steady her sparrow-like gait as the bus took off with an ungainly thrust. There was no one else on the bus, just an empty crisp packet scratching its way around the floor and a fly buzzing steadily above a sticky spillage underneath the fold-up seats. How is it not effected by the momentum? She thought, envious of the fly’s individually volitioned velocity. She flopped down onto the threadbare seat and scooched over to the window side. She was glad no one else was on the bus: no witnesses.
She stared through the condensation on the window and caught sight of her feathery reflection amongst the dark spiky shapes of trees and bushes lining the country roads that were taking them further away from the town centre. Her sunken saucer-like eyes stared back at her through the worn surface of the perspex glass. Jennifer would never have got this piece-of-shit machine to her high-end Hyswith home, she sulked.
The bus hurtled ahead with the numskull driver at the head-end. Sure, he was the brain of this dire contraption yet the whole entity was on autopilot. V had another sudden wave of panic: had she been overlooked? Forgotten about? She saw a sign for Hyswith hurtle past, illuminated by the headlights, and pulled herself up from the corner shadows as though emerging from a reedy swamp. She staggered down the crumb encrusted aisle, finding a bell to press on the way down. “Ting”, it went and the bus obediently halted to another sudden stop. The driver kept looking dead ahead and V glanced at him to check he was actually a living, breathing being. Inconclusive, she decided. The doors hissed open and she hopped off. The bus rattled off without her like a bat out of Hyswith hell.
Relieved to be on firm footing once again, V felt her hernia settle back down in her stomach. She got out her iPhone and opened up google maps. She’d saved the address and now all she had to do was follow the blue dot. There was a stillness in the air that she hadn’t experienced in the long time she’d been living in the city and for a magical moment the smell of damp leaves and dew lifted her attention from the little blue locus. She heard rustlings of unseen species in the bushes and despite her twitchy reactions, something sweet and long forgotten stirred in her sternum. Oh that anxiety, she assumed, it doesn’t half pull on the heartstrings. For a while now, anxiety was all she could remember feeling. Her head promptly hung back down in its familiar position above the iPhone.
A few steps along the road, a fairy-lit gravelled path rolled out in front of her like a terracotta carpet. She saw the calligraphic and ivy-entwined sign for “The Grove” welcome her from the right. No, she thought, I mustn’t go directly down here. They’ll see, or hear me. She saw the house at the end of the gravel drive and followed the hedge row to the left until it led her to the side of the house. She screwed up her eyes, held up her scrawny arms and plunged into the bushes…
…her twig-like limbs fought their way through the dense hedgerow and the dense hedgerow fought back. Eventually, V rolled out the other side into some sort of geometrically aligned herb garden. The delicate moonlit beauty of the silver rosemary and invigorating perfume of oregano was lost on someone who only consumed herbs in tablet form, rarely tasting flavours as the encapsulated dried and powdered plant material bypassed the tongue and headed straight into the stomach and bloodstream. Furthermore, her tainted intentions for being amongst the charming chives kept her eyes on the nearing prize. Crouching behind an aromatic shrub just large enough to conceal her tiny twiggy body V peeped through its pretty plump leaves to a well-lit window a few yards in front. Watching the framed glass like a TV screen, V saw a dramatic scene commence.
There she was, Jennifer Gintub. She was almost too real in front of V’s eyes. She was walking into her kitchen, baby bump abruptly leading the way. Yet there was something different about her energy, the way she was moving. It wasn’t the light-hearted gallop that V witnessed parading her around the doctor’s surgery. No, it was a limp-legged foot-drag that brought her into V’s view. Her head was hung low, weighted by a very heavy brow and bottom lip. Following her closely was a man, her husband, the man who had brought her into the Gintub with him. He was right up her backside, and as she moved away from him he grabbed her arm and spun her round to face him.
Even through the double-glazed glass meters in front of her, V could hear the man’s bellows binaurally beat his wife in the face. Trouble in paradise? V smirked, with a hint of guilty glee. Jennifer’s eyes were screwed up and her head pressed back in a vain attempt to escape the vocal blows. He had her held by the collar of her silk shirt and as he finished shouting he shook her away from him and she fell onto a chair and burst into tears. V hadn’t been able to hear exactly what the severe expression of wrath was about, but it was as extreme a telling off as any she had witnessed on any of her beloved soap operas. She was thrilled.
In the next moment the front door to the left wall of V was swung open and the harrowed husband stormed out and down the gravel path. Although V’s body may have been in full view if Mr. Gintub had looked to his right, this time V knew for sure that she was invisible to him. The husband got to his overly sized Range Rover parked in the driveway, started the engine and sped off recklessly down and around the hairpin bends. V looked back to the tele-esque screen. Jennifer was in pieces on the kitchen table, her bulbous belly stuffed underneath it as she held her head in her hands and sobbed. After a few moments she got up and went to the larder, into the fridge, and yanked out a bottle of Pinot Grigio. She unscrewed the lid, grabbed a glass the size of her currently inflated uterus and poured in half the bottle of wine. She sat back down at the table, stared at the wall with eyes clad in mascara-clumped eyelids, and began gulping.
Disgusting, thought V. What a bloody waste, and how irresponsible! Suddenly the once mouth-wateringly delicious foetal blood tased like pickled gerkin brine in V’s imagined taste-buds. That can’t be good for anyone, the baby, me or even her. V sniffed in disappointed contempt. She should stop her. This was surely the time to act before too much damage was done. It was why she was here after all, wasn’t it? Yes, the time was now or never. The adrenal driving force of desperation shook off V’s invisibility and she scrambled to the front door. In mere moments a plan had formed in her mind and she was ready.
Another button, another bell to get her through to the next level of her Nutmeg mission. “Bringgg!”