My shift was uneventful but long. Ten hours didn’t feel that long since my first years underground. Every noise I heard caused me to jump. Until I heard at last the bell announcing the shift change. I swallowed hard and walked to the checkout booth. It took all I had to keep my face as impassive as possible.
I went to my locker and threw in my underground gear and shut it. My goal was to get to the bus first and get on it and close my eyes. No sunset watching for me tonight.
Unfortunately, I was not the first one to the bus and had to wait in line to board.
The suit woman was there at the door and watched each of us climb on. I met her gaze but tried to keep relaxed. Except, maybe, that’s what she was looking for? Maybe looking too passive was the flag. Too late to decide otherwise I climbed on the bus and sat in my seat. I held my breath hoping nothing betrayed me.
I tried to will the driver to close the door and get moving. Just close the door and let us leave. The door didn’t close. No one else needed to board but the door remained opened. Something wasn’t right. I ducked my head behind the seat in front of me and tried to slow my breathing. This wasn’t over yet. Whatever Elliot started I had no interest in finishing for his cause.
The door didn’t close but I heard someone else get on the bus and I slowly looked over the seat. Sure enough, it was suit woman. She tried to smile but it looked out of place on her tight face.
“We think not everyone has been honest. We think we need to help another person. Don’t we?” She started walking slowly down the aisle but kept her eyes focused on the miners in the back. In fact, she appeared to be looking straight at me.
“Don’t be afraid,” she said as smooth as her croak would allow. “We only want to help,” she walked past the chemists and then the clerical and stopped in front of my row. “Anyone?”
I forced myself to sit straight and meet her stare but I didn’t move or bat an eye.
She held up her hand and the two men from the morning joined her. “I think this person needs our help,” she looked at the woman sitting in front of me who started crying. “Let’s help her out,” she stepped aside so that the two men could escort the woman out.
Suit woman walked to the front of the bus and turned around to face us. She didn’t say anything but just searched the bus one last time then got off.
I felt like my heart was going to pound right out of my chest and I wiped my palms on my pants. There was no way I could make eye contact with anyone not that anyone was trying. I closed my eyes and waited for the bus to move. I made it another day at the HUB.