When the bus arrived a couple of minutes early, Kevin was already on his feet, pacing in anticipation. He walked across to the raised bus stand and stood back, watching as the passengers got off. Someone as tiny as Alice would be easy to spot, he was certain of that. There were surprisingly few passengers though, and in less than three minutes they were all off the coach, and collecting bigger bags or suitcases from the storage boxes at the sides that the driver had opened. Some student types with rucksacks, and four couples who looked like they were a group returning from a holiday abroad.
No woman on her own, and no sign of Alice. As the driver locked the storage areas, Kevin asked him if this was the right coach. The man smiled as he replied. “That’s the one. We made good time today, no hold-ups on the M25”. Kevin nodded. “Did you see a young woman? She is very small and thin. Short dark hair, big round eyes.” The man didn’t hesitate. “No mate, I didn’t have any passenger like that, sorry”. He turned his back on Kevin and walked up the steps to his driving seat. The door closed with a whooshing sound.
Alice watched from her spot as Kevin headed for the small ticket office in the centre of the bus station. He was going to check. Good man, Kevin.
The woman in the ticket office was on her own, and looked fed up. When he asked her to check if the ticket had been used, she screwed up her face, and turned her computer screen away from him. After typing furiously for a few seconds, and clicking away at the mouse with her long false fingernails, she spoke without looking up. “No, that ticket wasn’t scanned by the driver, either at Gloucester, or in London”. She carried on with something, and when he spoke again, she seemed irritated by him. “Excuse me, but what time does the next coach from London arrive please?” Without even speaking, she raised one of those claw-like fingers, and pointed across the waiting room. He turned, and noticed it was electronic arrivals and destinations board that she was showing him.
The board was changing, as it reflected the most recent coach movements. When it settled down, Kevin could see that the next coach from London didn’t arrive until just before 4. He checked his phone. No missed calls, and no text messages. He walked back outside, and used the mobile to ring home. “Mum, she must have missed the coach. The next one is due at four, so I’m sure she will be on that one. You had better go ahead and have dinner, and we can get something when she turns up”. Before his Mum could start on at him, he added, “Better go, in case she’s trying to call me”. Then he sat back down on the bench. He was slumped now, and had stopped bothering about whether or not he creased up his clothes.
Alice was impressed. He had tackled the fierce-looking hag at the ticket office, and then sat back down to wait for the next coach. Most of the others had been long gone by now, as soon as she hadn’t appeared on the scheduled train or coach. It really did seem that he was a decent young man after all. She was intrigued, and decided to see how long he would sit there. Seeing him check his phone amused her. She didn’t even have a phone to call him on, but of course he didn’t know that.
By 3:30, he still hadn’t moved. And he had given up on the phone, putting it back into his shirt pocket. At 3:50, Kevin stood up, and walked over to where the coach would stop. He checked his watch a few times, trying to relax his face, ready to smile at Alice when she got off the coach. It finally arrived at 4:08, and quite a few people got off. He was closer to the coach this time, and some of the passengers had to squeeze past him, as he stared anxiously at the door.
Alice didn’t get off though, and this time Kevin didn’t even bother to ask the driver any questions. He pulled the phone from his pocket, and gave it one last check. Then with shoulders slumped, he turned away, and started walking out of the coach station.
She was still watching as he crossed the main road. He had been there for over four hours. Bravo. That took him to the top of the list, and greatly increased her estimation of him. Alice decided to follow him, wondering what he would do. He didn’t amble, or walk aimlessly. He seemed fixed on his destination, walking fast. Turning into the respectable road with the neat houses, she guessed that was where he lived. Just like she might have imagined. When he opened the door, a scruffy old dog squeezed through the opening, tail wagging. That must be Wilbur. The door closed quietly. He had kept his temper.
She knew that he had got off lightly. He might be upset, even a little heartbroken. But he had learned a valuable lesson about trust, and had certainly been treated much better than all the others. Most of them had felt her full wrath. Time to move on. More sites to explore, more profiles to consider.
She would leave Kevin to his fate.
Kevin was fighting back tears, and managing not to look too upset. His Mum and Dad knew enough not to say very much, and guessed he wouldn’t want to eat anything just yet.
Upstairs in his room, he decided to send a message to her, still sure she might be ill, and unable to contact him. When he logged on, her profile was gone. The messages they had exchanged no longer existed, as he wasn’t ‘Connected’ to her, under the rules of the site. He had copied the photos she had sent, so at least had those saved on the laptop. Then he remembered her email address, so sent her a friendly email showing concern that she hadn’t arrived, and was worried about her health.
The email sent okay, but he had a bad feeling that he would never get a reply to it.