by Emily Craven
Molly wasn't certain at what point she sensed someone hovering over her in the bus aisle. Initially she'd ignored it as some sort of mind trick, thoughts crowding to fill the morning. But when a clearing of the throat shifted Molly's hair across her face, she reluctantly cracked the mottled dark of her eyelids and raised her brown eyes.
An old woman loomed, her face a map of wrinkles, hills and valleys of folded skin that both filled her face and made it sag. Wisps of hair escaped from under a quilted hat that half-shadowed eyes locked on Molly's own. The bus jerked and the old woman stumbled into the yellow pole, her hand sliding down the metal in an uncertain grip.
"Are you going to move for an old woman or make her stand?" Her voice was raspy, and loud, too loud.
Eyes flicked to Molly from several directions and she flinched. Why her? Why now? "I... I'm sorry?" she managed, glancing across the aisle and back.
"I need a seat."
Molly's forehead crinkled and she blinked, taking in the empty seats for the elderly near the front of the bus, then flicking her gaze across the aisle again. Trying to keep her voice neutral, and pleasant like she did every day at work, Molly said, "There is an empty seat right next to you, just across the aisle. Why don't you sit there." Not a question, a statement, a dismissal.
Never turning, the old woman replied, "The only place I'm parking this truck is right where you're sitting, Missy." She stabbed a finger at Molly's chest for emphasis, the skin so tight around the joints it almost looked skeletal. "Always."
Other passengers were looking up now, taking proper notice, assessing, judging.
"Molly, not Missy," she replied sharply.
The old woman stumbled again, clinging doggedly to the pole. Why all the fuss? It was a pretty flimsy "always" if Molly had never seen her on her regular commute.
"Do I look like I'm made of legs?"