It’s five-thirty on a grey, dismal October evening and Cerianne is waiting for the bus. She hasn’t dressed for rain, not even a coat, and the leaky brolly she took from Reception drips rainwater miserably down her back. The soft canvas of her black pumps is soaked through and her toes are frozen.
The road in front of her streams with cars and buses - none of them hers - that fart and belch and groan. She is surrounded by looming office high-rises and pollution-stained shop fronts. It is exactly the same as it was this morning, and yesterday and every day that she can remember.
Cerianne looks at her watch. The five-thirty bus is not coming. She tries to share an ‘oh well’ sort of smile with the old man beside her, but he just scowls and reasserts his place ahead of her in the queue.
Then a big, grey dirty van that has been parked in front of them revs its engine and drives away and suddenly it’s like the sun has come out from behind a cloud. There, nestled among the weathered grimy, featureless fronts is a burst of vibrant colour that seems wildly out of place among its dreary fellows.
The window is big and bright, glowing golden and framed in freshly painted red wood. The walls are freshly scrubbed and gleaming, but it’s the goods inside that really draw Cerianne in. A sweetshop - not like the grubby Happy Shopper near her flat that sells cheap fags and dirty magazines - but a colourful paradise of brightly wrapped confectionary that makes Cerianne’s mouth water.
She looks at her watch. Five-forty-five.Could she manage it before the six o’clock bus? The next one isn’t until seven, if she misses it, it will mean a long wait in the rain. She glances behind her to the trail of grey, dispirited people behind her.
She’d be at the back of the queue.
Her heart is racing.
Cerianne turns back. She can see giant silver pennies, wrapped in foil nestling in the corner of the window. Chocolate mermaids and seahorses and starfish dangle among blue cardboard bubbles in a nautical display. Rows and rows of gaudy, delicious chocolate reaching back into the depths of the shop.
The watch says five-fifty now. She has forgotten her wet shoes and leaky brolly, her head is filled with praline and sugar and caramel, her mouth is watering. She lifts one foot to step out of the queue and cross the road.
If she’s going she has to go now.
But what if the bus comes?
She puts the foot back, but lifts it immediately up again. No, she can get a Peppermint Cream at the Happy Shopper.
But, she’ll be dreaming of those chocolate starfish all night, imagining how they’d melt on her tongue.
It will still be here tomorrow.
But she wants it all in her mouth now.
Five-fifty-five. The six o’clock bus will almost certainly be late, won’t it? She can do it, she can make it. There’s a gap in the traffic, if she just runs now then maybe -