The message

“Man admits to string of rapes in Manchester area.. “

Colin looks away from the newsfeed on the wall of the bus and down at his phone. He swipes at the pop-ups, just in case any messages have been smothered. Nothing.

A flashing ad on the back of the seat forces his gaze.

“Protect your family’s future with life insur..”

He shuts his eyes and tries to imagine positive energy radiating out of him and passing over to the hospital where James and Daisy are.

When he opens his eyes again, the bus is passing under the bridge. Discount offers reflecting on the river from its underside look strangely beautiful.

The bus joins onto the main road. Projections and billboards light it up.

“Trump orders airstrike on…”

“Twenty one dead as fire rampages…”

“40% off our range of carpets…”

Colin checks his phone again and banishes the pop-ups. Still nothing.

He turns his phone face down and looks at the back of his hand. Veins are popping. His knuckles are red. Perhaps he’s getting too old for these early starts.

As he steps off the bus in the centre, a message arrives. Colin opens it.

“It’s a girl! We are over the moon. All is well. Daisy is resting now. Lots of love xx”.

Colin looks up and for a moment the billboards blur, their vivid colours only serving to elevate this happiest of occasions.

Flammable materials

Her little arms flop around my sides while I push her up and down with big breaths. I try to  imagine how it must feel; the heartbeat, the airway, the warmth, as womb like as possible since exiting the real thing.

In this moment, I know exactly what I’m doing. No doubts, no distractions, just the purity of looking after a helpless being that needs my care and protection.

Then you come in and I feel tension stab at my bubble. At least you can’t shout at me for not helping, but still it’s there; a flame waiting to spark.

It’s source is tiredness, the deep and withering kind. This is added to by frustration at being denied a life in order to care for another. Additional combustion comes from a sense of guilt about daring to feel that way.

All that’s needed are a few words.

What’s the matter?

Nothing!

And we’re off.