Chapter Two: The Sound of Silence
Ginny tugged open the teal green curtain to see the sun glistening over neatly farmed fields of deep forest green and dusty gold. They drove towards the sun as they left the city center and wound their way through the countryside. She leaned back in her chair and stared at the blue and green paisley seat in front her. Relax, she told herself. You made it. It’s going to be a lovely trip. Nothing more is going to go wrong.
She fidgeted, trying to get comfortable. Then she decided she needed music. She rifled through her handbag and pulled out her slim iPod and waited for it to turn on. Nothing. She slid the little power button back and forth a couple of times trying to force it on, hoping it just needed a little nudge. Still nothing. She frowned at the little machine. She was certain she had charged it on her Macbook at the hotel the last night. What happened to it? Ginny fought the urge to pull out her Macbook and try it there. She didn’t want to disturb the gentleman next to her while she pulled down her bag and futzed with electronics. It was only an hour until they were due to arrive in Liege. Surely, she could sit without music for an hour.
The bus ambled down the highway and Ginny settled into her seat, listening to the murmured conversations, some in German, some in French, some Dutch. But it was not long before she noticed a familiar voice. She looked up and saw the dirty, hippie backpacker speaking in German to the couple across the way from her. They laughed at something he had said, and nodding and smiling vigorously, allowed him their seat and moved to the back of the bus. What was going on?
“Hey there,” he said to her, across the lap of the French gentleman.
“What are you doing?” she hissed back at him. “Did you just make them give up their seats?”
He laughed and stretched out his legs. “I know. Really kind of them, wasn’t it?”
“What did you say to them?”
“Oh,” he scratched at his beard. “I just told them my girlfriend and I had gotten into a little lovers’ spat, and that she didn’t want to sit with me. But, I said, what is a diligent boyfriend to do? I had to try to talk to her, right? So, of course they agreed.”
“What are you talking about?” Ginny demanded. “Did you say that I was your girlfriend? Did you just lie to them?” She didn’t know what to be more offended over.
The elderly French gentleman between them looked mildly bewildered at the exchange, though he tried to pretend he was ignoring it.
“You need to go right on back there and apologize and give them back their seats,” Ginny huffed.
“What? No way. They’d be so disappointed I gave up so easily on the love of my life.”
“I am not the love of your life.”
“How would you know?” The tall blond man chuckled. “For all you know this is destiny.” He looked at her edgewise and saw the color in her face begin to match her russet-colored hair. “Besides,” he said, “then they’d just have to move all over again, and making them move like that, well that’s just rude, isn’t it?”
Ginny was flabbergasted and rendered speechless. What does one say to such a preposterous man? She resolved the best thing to do was just ignore him and go back to staring at the blue-green seat in front of her. She checked her watch. Twenty-two minutes left until they’d get to Liege.
“So what’s your name, Red?”
Ginny couldn’t help snapping back, “Don’t call me that.”
“All right then, what’s your name?”
She pressed her lips together.
“Well if you don’t want me to call you Red, then give me something else to call you, Red.”
“How about you don’t call me anything?”
The elderly gentleman made a gesture to her that looked like he was offering to switch seats so they didn’t have to talk over him, but she shook her head vigorously. “Non, merci. We’re done here.” She had no idea why she was so riled up over this impertinent man. She was normally so good at keeping her cool, and he… well, he was just ridiculous. She took a couple of calming breaths.
But the dirty hippie backpacker didn’t take her no for an answer. “Actually, oui, s’il vous plait,” he said to the older man. And they began to exchange seats.
“What are you doing?” Ginny demanded, practically getting up from her own seat. “No, stop it. What are you doing?” She was painfully aware the other passengers on the bus were beginning to look around at her. She was mortified. The bus rumbled along, bumping them around as the two men swapped places. The men were conversing jovially in French, ignoring her protests, and she got ever more frustrated. Why was everyone making friends with this man and joyfully doing as he asked, while ignoring her entirely? It wasn’t fair.
“Stop,” she demanded furiously. “What are you doing?” Her voice trembled with the bumping of the bus over the road. “Why do you keep pestering me?” she yelled over the din.
The men stopped their chatting to look in surprise at her blatant over-reaction. She barely had a moment to feel embarrassed when there was suddenly a loud, ear-splitting bang. Their bodies lifted into the air for one long, surreal second, landed with a loud thump, the bus screeched to a halt, with air squealing through the brakes, and then – silence.(to be continued…)
Bus Ride to Bucharest, Part I here.
Bus Ride to Bucharest, Part III here.