An Encounter: Daily Prompt – Odd Trio Redux

Today I’m taking up The Daily Post challenge, Odd Trio Redux, with a piece of short fiction:

“This is just what I need it!” I said to myself as I reached the shelter of the bus stop. My clothes were all wet and water was dripping down my legs. A few minutes ago and already late for the party, I’d run out of the bakery with a cake in one hand when the skies literally opened up and unleashed a torrential rain. Thank goodness the cake was in a box inside a bag, but it was hard to maneuver my umbrella with the other hand so that it could shield me and the cake from the pouring rain. And the wind—oh, how I hated the combination of rain and wind—it kept turning the umbrella inside out. As my feet sank into many puddles, the Y-shaped strap of my left flip-flop snapped and broke. “Oh, crap!” The bus stop was just three feet away. Slipping out of my one good flip-flop, I ran barefooted to it. I dumped the cake, my handbag, the umbrella and myself on the bench. Never mind that I was sitting on a wet bench. I was a dripping mess. And no shoes. The rain continued falling unabated. There was no bus coming in sight and the party would probably be over by the time I got there.

The woman, like an apparition, came out of the rain. She was pushing her shopping cart, loaded with flattened cardboard boxes, a dirty suitcase, and bundles of all shapes and sizes, wrapped up in plastic shopping bags. Hanging from the sides of the cart, there were plastic buckets, a broken umbrella, and a bag filled with empty soda cans. As she got closer, I noticed the clumps of gray hair that escaped from the sun visor she wore under the hood of a stained and soiled rain coat.

Oh no, don’t come here.

But come she did, and she slowly lowered herself onto the other side of bench. Clutching my handbag, the cake and my umbrella, I moved toward my edge of the bench and as far as I could from her, afraid of what she might smell like and of her intentions.
The storm continued to rage around us. Although I avoided looking at the woman, I could feel her eyes on me.

“Wet day,” she finally said.

I gave her a little smile and looked the other way, pretending I was searching the horizon for the bus. When I returned my eyes to her, she was rearranging her bundles, putting some of them aside on the ground, fishing out a few from the bottom of the cart, untying their knots and checking out their contents. I slid a few inches more away and gave her my back.

“Here,” I heard her say. “They’re not new, but they’re good.” I turned around. She had a sheepish smile on her face and in her hands, a pair of flip-flops.

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