• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 12
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Nights when she couldn’t sleep, when the air was hot and sticky and breathless, Darcie took to catching the late bus that drove her out to the furthest edge of the city. The bus driver knew her by name, even though she always went upstairs. She sat at the front and she sang songs she’d learned as a child, skipping-songs and songs for throwing balls against walls.

Some nights there was a man on the top deck, too. Not young and not old but something in between. He said he couldn’t sleep either and he was on his way home from his job in a city centre bar. He smelled of smoke and beer and old sweat. He traveled beyond his stop sometimes, just so he could hear the end of a song Darcie was singing, and soon enough his lips gave shape and whisper to the words of her songs.

Once, a child sat beside her, so close she could feel his milk-breath warmth against her. He was maybe ten or eleven and he said he was running away from home though when pressed, he couldn’t remember why. He had a small rucksack packed with apples and crisps and a bottle of milk that was soon not cold. He listened to Darcie’s singing and he smiled to himself. And when she paused for breath, he said she sounded just like his mum, and he missed his mum then and so Darcie helped him back to where he had started.

But in the end she was always the last to leave the bus – if you didn’t count the driver. The driver swung the bus into the terminus, brought it to a gentle hissing stop, rang the bell twice and said, ‘Here and no further, my dear’. She answered in song that ‘Here is far enough, kind sir’. Then she descended the stairs on light skipping feet and danced away from the dipped headlights of the bus and away from the last of the yellow street lights.



On the edge of the city the air was clean as shop-bought goods, and the dark was really dark, and Darcie could smell the hot breath of sleeping cows and the sweet scent of uncut grass. She walked forward, into fields that were soft under her feet, and her long skirts caught the unseen torn lace of spiders’ webs on their hems. And Darcie felt all care leave her.

Then, her back to the city lights, Darcie looked up and she could see stars winking in the sky, a hundred thousand silver pinpricks of light. She lay down in the middle of the dark and was soon dizzy with the slow spinning movement of the heavens (or was it the movement of the earth beneath her?) never noticed till then. And maybe she slept, or felt as though she did, there in the warm dark night.