Zelda yanked at her shirt, cursing her poor packing efforts. Tight tops were all the rage back home and she had stocked up at the winter sales. The only flowy garments she owned were either long sleeved or too outdated to be considered “retro”. It seemed sensible to load her suitcase with nothing but summer clothing.
She couldn’t wait to escape the cold, wet days for sleeveless Mediterranean nights.
Zelda pulled her collar until the familiar sound of stretched elastic pinged. Dressing had become a strategic exercise and an unwelcome education. The deplorable worship of women here seemed limitless and a foreign unquenchable fetish for the female form – inescapable. An unseasonal heat wave didn’t help her mission to go unnoticed. She could down play her cleavage, but it was impossible to hide her frame without sweating profusely and risking heatstroke.
As the bus floated across a narrow bend comfort over consequence was proving costly. Zelda had been failing the art of transparency for some time, but now innocent people were in danger because of it. She murmured the mantra a German tourist had shared with her.
– Never let their gaze linger too long. Be invisible… quickly. –
Not the most empowering sentence and it could have used a few specifics.
She steadied herself pointlessly, watching pebbles crash into the rocky terrain below. The occasional tourist screamed “overload” as the vehicle veered towards what felt like their impending doom.
Zelda glared at the driver’s mirror. For an hour she tried distracting herself from him, a vile man old enough to be her father gawking lewdly, rarely bothering to cast an eye on the dusty road. She clawed at her clothing, but with every touch the driver became erratic and the passengers more panicked.
Zelda shunted her chest into the backpack and slumped in defeat. A sympathetic tourist offered his seat and gently patted her shoulder. He too struggled to balance himself against the violently jerking vehicle.
“Bumpy ride! I am Akashinga. Where are you from?”
“Zelda from Australia,” she answered, instantly warming to his welcoming smile.
“Ah, this is good people. I have many friends who have move there. Good, good. I thought you might be from here.”
“But they think you are, no?”
“I think so, yes. But I doubt it matters to them.”
“Mmm,” he patted her shoulder again and held tightly to the railing, knuckles ready to burst through his skin. Zelda sighed. She didn’t have the heart to tell him his kindness had created a bird’s eye view for the perpetrator. Shoving her ear buds deep she pushed manically at the volume until her cheeks vibrated. Her long hair draped chaotically, but with the Zimbabwean guard close Zelda finally felt something resembling safety.
She closed her eyes. It seemed an age since they boarded the bus by the ocean side. Her mouth gaped as the boat disembarked on the shore of the mountain. She paused a moment, taking in the commanding landscape as the crew eagerly offered their hands, nudging one another to earn her favour. One twirled Zelda theatrically pulling her tightly against him.
“Just go with it,” he ordered hotly in her ear. The older tourists cheered. Zelda feigned a smile, wrangled her fingers from his grip and flicked the backpack over her shoulder. Pouting, he flapped his arms theatrically for the jovial group then slyly stroked her breast. They applauded obliviously as Zelda pushed at his hand.
“Fuck you,” she hissed.
“Yes please,” said the crewman, licking his lips and returning to his duties. Zelda glared at him, stretching her shirt.
“Think he liked you,” a passenger called out. “Oh to be young again.”
Zelda ignored the comment, cradling her waist.
“You should be so lucky, dear,” said another tourist.
“What? Lucky for being touched up against my will?”
“What a pessimist. People pay money for that type of attention,” another woman chortled.
“I’m not one of them,” said Zelda.
“What a sour one you are…”
“It’s just a laugh,” called another.
Zelda shook her head and pushed further back in the line. The women took the last remaining seats and flirted loudly with the middle aged bus driver.
“Ticket,” he grunted provocatively. Zelda shoved the paper into his large calloused hand that suddenly grappled at her wrist.
“Don’t bother with that one! She’s a prude,” one of the women called once more.
Zelda swung the backpack abruptly across her shoulder and ignoring the cackling women made her way down the aisle.
The bus swerved and shunted along the narrow road and Zelda knew every jolt, every violence was meant for her. The air was stifling. She tied her hair in an unflattering style and looked up. The driver stared furiously. The backpack blocked his view. Zelda smirked contently. Until patrons began to scream.
… Continues in So You Are… An Anxious Avocado! The second book in the So You Are… Series! Coming soon.