“May I sit next to you?” Sarala had been gazing out of the window as the bus trundled along.
She saw a young man wearing a backpack standing next to the seat, his hand holding on to the overhead rail.
“Of course.” Sarala smiled and nodded.
The youngster settled down into the seat keeping a careful distance from Sarala. She smiled to herself. A well brought up child she mused. A few years earlier she would have shrunk back into her seat than come into contact with a man but now in her late fifties, she had gained the confidence of sharing a seat with anyone. Years of commuting by public transport had taught her valuable lessons on how to deal with the opposite gender if they did misbehave.
“Hi, I am John. Are you from this city?”
“Yes, I live here, what about you? Visiting?”
“Yes, I am here on a short holiday. Tomorrow, I fly back home.”
“So, do you like my city?”
“Yes, it’s nice, I am on a solo trip so don’t know anyone here but it’s been fun.” He was smiling now his eyes creasing up.
They continued to chat. It was only a little later that Sarala became aware that he was now sitting uncomfortably close. Sarala shifted a little to indicate to him that he should move away but he didn’t take the hint.
“John, could you please move a little, I am uncomfortable sitting this close to anyone.” Sarala was polite because she assumed he wasn’t doing it on purpose. They had been so engaged in conversation that perhaps he had moved closer unconsciously.
John, however, made no attempt to move. Instead, he put an arm around the back of the seat and caressed her arm.
“Relax Sarala, you looked lonely and I thought I would cheer you up.”
Sarala stood up and gave him a resounding slap.
“You creep, get up this instant.”
His expression mocked her outrage and he stood up slowly and started to move away.
“Driver, stop this bus. This man must be taught a lesson.” As she spoke Sarala grabbed John by his shirt sleeve to prevent him from jumping out.
The fracas had caught the attention of the handful of passengers on the bus and all of them just gazed at the two of them like they were enacting a skit for their benefit. No one made an attempt to help her. The bus slowed down, with a sudden jerk, John freed himself and jumped down. Sarala watched him run and disappear into the crowd leaving her shaken to the core.
“Look ma, he has left his phone on the seat, I am sure you can find him. Take him to the police.” It was the driver looking at her with empathetic eyes.
When she thanked him, he said “I have a daughter.”
Her mind in a whirl, she picked up the phone and alighted from the bus.
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