The bus rattled away through leafy suburbia, carrying only three passengers, not uncommon for a late Wednesday evening. A mother and her infant child sat four rows from the front, while the third passenger, an unkempt looking man with a kind expression, sat further toward the back. He had been stealing glances at the young mother since she boarded the bus fifteen minutes earlier. A pretty thing she was, provocatively dressed for summer, with a dark, bobbed hairdo and sporting a generous tan. If there had been anyone else on the bus, he would have kept his seat for fear of being seen as some dirty old perv. She was clearly a lot younger than him and certainly out of his league - They would have been grossly mismatched.
It took him a further five minutes to gather up the nerve before he finally stood and made his way down the aisle, seating himself directly across from mother and child.
“Beautiful,” he said with an air of sincerity. “Boy or girl?” The woman turned to him with a glare, which softened instantly as she saw the kind look in his eyes.
“Thank you,” she replied with a smile. “Her name is Natalie.”
“She looks positively delicious,” the man replied.
“Delicious?” Her brow creased at the apparent compliment, but only for a moment. Surely, he meant nothing by it; just a strange way to remark on the appearance of her precious child. She turned her gaze to Natalie, who slept comfortably in her arms, lulled to sleep by the drone of the bus engine. She smiled. “Delicious…well, I guess you could say that,” she replied with a laugh in her voice. “Thank you.” She looked back to the man, the smile still showing.
“You’re welcome,” said the man. “Do you have any more, or is Natalie your first? A pretty young thing like yourself, you don’t look old enough to have a litter of the little darlings…if you don’t mind me saying?”
“Oh, no. She’s my only one. My little pride and joy. Thank you again. You are too kind.” Her smile grew into a proud beam as she looked back down at her daughter.
“Not at all,” he said. “The name’s Joe.” He extended a hand across the aisle in greeting. The woman carefully slid a hand from beneath the baby and returned the gesture, surprised by the roughness of his skin.
“Deborah,” she replied. “It’s nice to meet you.”
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