Staff Shortlisted Entry
The bus crept north through huddles of darkness. Inside, he reached up and snapped on the light.
“Do you want to talk about it?” She shook her head.
“Your Mam wants to know how it went. Do you want to text her?”
He handed over the warm weight and watched as she tapped the oval buttons. Sliding her shoes off, she rubbed her toes and hunched into the glowing screen.
Slowing, scowling, her fingers stabbed. Muttered words were bitten out: poem, bloody jeans…
He glanced down when the clicking grew unsteady and heard a wobbling breath. The heel of her hand scrubbed her eye socket and left a smudge on the sleeve. Her skin whitened as she thumbed the words away.
Careful, he lifted his arm up and over her. Her bent head settled against the familiar brownness of his coat and she spoke into the fabric.
“Some of them were wearing jeans, Dad. I was the only one in a suit.”
His eyes met those of his reflection and held them for a moment.
“It was all right until the last one. He asked me about a line in a poem, who the narrator was. We’d done it at school.” She sniffed.
“I gave him so many different ideas about who was talking and he waited. Didn’t say anything. Then he told me to keep going.”
She exhaled and he felt something leave her.
“I just ran out of things to say.”