Watching Life Go By. Short Story.

Erica took a sip of her coffee and watched the woman sitting outside. Erica had seen her every day for the past two week and her curiosity was getting the better of her. She had already decided the woman looked like a Lucy. She had long red hair, almost impossibly red, the hung down the length of her back. Her hair was well groomed, clean and shiny, despite the state of her clothes. She always wore a heavy overcoat that had tears and stains on it and a pair of blue jeans with a few holes. Her shoes where black boots with thick soles. Lucy never did much, she just sat in the sun. Sometimes she would strike up a conversation with someone sitting outside. Erica had been tempted to find a nice table on a nice day and see what happened, but she didn’t want her own creation shattered by the truth. She preferred not knowing. She didn’t know how many children Lucy had, but she guessed two. A boy and a girl, the boy was a successful pasty chef, the girl was a free spirit, a little odd like her mother and with the same bright red hair. They didn’t talk to her that often, but when they did call it was like no time had passed. She had three husbands through her life, one died and the other two ended in divorce. The last two were possessive of her and the wealth that she had hidden away. She didn’t like to make it apparent that she was well off, she thought displays of wealth were vulgar.

Lucy took a sip of her drink, a mocha, coffee was too strong for her by itself, and she had never been a fan of tea, she thought it was too watery. Erica glanced at her watch then quickly finished off the rest of her coffee, she hadn’t realised the time and lunch was almost up. She gathered her things and left, passing Lucy by without a glance. As she walked back to work she tried to place the scent she had smelled. It was like a mix of vanilla and cinnamon, but with something more to it, something that made it a heady scent. She had never heard Lucy speak, but she knew what she sounded like. A light voice, with a faraway tinge to it, like she was thinking of something else, but could be whip sharp if people were not respecting her. She would seem soft to an outside observer, but beneath the softness was a tough core. A woman you really wouldn’t want to mess with.

When she arrived at work Erica pushed the thoughts of Lucy from her mind. The rest of the day passed by as it usually did, in bursts of boredom and frenzied activity. She wouldn’t think of Lucy until she saw her in the coffee shop again, but others filled her thoughts on her journey home. There was Frank and Joey on the bus, always sitting just a bit too close together and having muttered conversations. Erica couldn’t decide if they were scheming together, or just gay lovers who didn’t feel quite comfortable being open about it. There was also Denise, the bus driver, who took on the job when she was younger as a way to help out around the house with her ailing mother, but fell in love with it. There were a few others that sometimes occupied her bus, though today none of them were there. She liked it when one or two were missing, it allowed her time to focus more fully on the others. She would study them over the pages of her book or phone, trying to glean another titbit of information from them.

She always sat across from, and behind, whoever she was most interested in. It was less likely they would spot her, which had happened before. A young man she named Tom, real name Jeffrey, a terrible name in Erica’s opinion, had hit on her. He had sat down beside her and started idle chit chat, destroying the image she had of him in her mind. He blathered on and on about his life, systematically dismantling her guesses and assumptions until finally her stop came and she could flee. Thankfully she hadn’t seen him on that bus again. She always figured her rejection had driven him away, but then she was sure she would find out what made him change busses if she ever saw him again. He was definitely one of those people who liked to over share.

When her stop came she stood from her seat, bid Denise farewell and got off. The walk home was a pleasant one, it was only a short walk but she enjoyed the fresh air. It gave her time to examine her thoughts and to decide if she was happy with the bits and pieces she had added to their lives.

She stood outside her front door for a second, breathing deeply and gathering courage. Her roommate, Becky, was a people person, Erica was not. She just wanted to unwind after her day of work, watch some TV, maybe read, Becky however would want to talk. She opened the door and fixed a smile firmly on her face.

Half an hour later and she had escaped to her room, Becky wasn’t as talkative tonight which suited Erica just fine. She changed out of her work clothes and went back into the kitchen for a cup of tea. Coffee at this time of night was too much for her. She sipped at her fruit tea and, deciding it was perfect, went back to her room. Becky was in the sitting room, watching some chat show at a volume that was just a smidge above normal, but not loud enough to complain about.

Erica turned on her own TV and flicked around until she found something mindless to enjoy. As it played in the background she dug out her journal and added a few notes about the people she had watched today. This notebook was about half full, there were several others that she had finished. Cramming them full of her tiny, neat writing. Occasionally she wondered why she bothered with it, she never reread anything in the journals but nor could she bear the thought of throwing them out. She finished off her entries for the night then closed the journal carefully. She turned her attention to the TV, one of her shows was starting soon. She turned it on and settled in, one hand resting on the journal and a small smile on her lips.


About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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