I've made the trip to Toronto every two weeks since the divorce. It's become commonplace, every Friday mom drives me to the station, kisses me goodbye and leaves, I get on the bus and sit down. I can't sleep on the bus or read or anything because I get carsick, so I just stare out the window and think about things and life. Its boring, but I don't really mind, it's just part of divorced life. When I get to Toronto, my dad picks me up and we go to his place. We visit, I ride the horses, then on Sunday dad drives me back to the station, checks that I have my ticket, and drives away, while I climb onto the bus for the trip home. I spend a lot of time on the bus, so I have a lot of time to think and a lot of time to remember.

I remember one Christmas Eve being trapped at the bus station. It was a few years ago, about six I think, dad had dropped me off, making sure I had my ticket before he drove away. I got into the station and stepped out of the stream of travellers, crossing over to the waiting lounge. Dad always made sure I was at the station early so I wouldn't miss my bus. I sat on a chair, watching the people go by. The clock was right in front of me, I had learned a long time before to sit in front of it, so I wouldn't forget and miss my bus.

Sitting in the bus station was like being at home, everything was familiar, the sounds of parents and kids trying to stay together, the busboys who always smiled when they saw me, the smell of food drifting in from the cafeteria, and under it all the hint of exhaust fumes. I was independent when I was in the station, I had my own ticket, a pass which made me somebody special, nothing could happen to a girl who had a ticket. I sat for about twenty minutes, listening to the carols on the load speaker, waiting to go out to the bus.

It was almost time to get onto the bus, I dug into my knapsack, searching for the big square of cardboard I had stowed there. The ticket wasn't there! I checked my pockets, a little panicked. No ticket. Very panicked.

I was not going to be a crybaby I thought to myself, I'm a big girl, big girls know what to do when they lose something, they go to the lost and found. I wiped a few unbidden tears from my eyes, and grabbed my knapsack.

Unfortunately, I didn't know where the lost and found was, so I went to the manager. I knocked on his door, a big metal one painted blue, which seemed all the bigger for my lack of height. He answered after a little while, opening the door halfway to see who was there.

He was a big man, nice looking, but tired. He knelt down so he could hear me, and listened while I told him about losing my ticket and how I couldn't get home, and how I didn't have any money so I could phone my dad. He put his hand on my shoulder.

"Do you know what happens when you lose something?" he asked.

"No." I replied, after thinking about it, I always thought that the manager would make everything alright, I didn't know anything else.

"No-one gives it back." he said, standing up quickly and letting the door swing shut.

I stood in front of the door, staring at the place he had been, I didn't care about being a big girl any more. I sat down on one of the benches outside the office, not bothering to control the tears. I was trapped, and no-one cared, or almost no-one.

A man in a funny uniform came over and knelt in front of me a few minutes later. I looked at him through the tears, then wiped them away, remembering that I was a big girl. I looked back at him.

He was holding something out to me. I stared at it, and started to cry again. I threw myself onto him, giving him a huge hug.

"Thankyou, thankyou" I kept repeating.

He blushed a little "Just don't tell anyone okay? And merry Christmas" He dislodged himself from my grip, and went back to work.

I stared at the ticket. It wasn't mine. Mine was one of the cardboard ones, crisp, pristine, and this one was only tissue, black with messy carbon.

But it was a ticket. I ran to the bus, and got on.

I sat still in my seat the entire trip home, terrified about what had almost happened. `I might have been stuck all alone in the station, forever.' was all I could think.

I still occasionally see that busboy around the station, but I've never found out his name, or thanked him for that present.

[ From a story by Simone Vanlimbeek ]

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This work is Copyright (c) Mike Fletcher 1992