Ashley dashed across the street. She'd been outside for two minutes and already she was freezing. She hadn't dressed for November in Ontario; she had dressed for her boyfriend Justin, who was supposed to pick her up after class, only he had texted to say that he had "something to do."
Ashley dug into her pocket for change. Two dollars and thirty cents. That was not going to be enough. Dammit. And damn Justin for not picking her up.
There was an older woman in a blue wool coat sitting on the bench at the bus stop. Maybe she would spare Ashley a quarter or twenty cents.
The woman didn't answer, and didn't turn her head.
"I'm sorry to bother you," said Ashley louder.
From behind her she heard "Ai-ee!"
Ashley turned around to see a tiny elderly Asian woman about fifteen feet away. She was holding on to a sign post with one gloved hand, trying to hide behind it from the looks of it, and she was waving frantically at Ashley with the other. Ashley glanced back at the woman on the bench, who still had not moved, and went to see what this little old lady wanted.
"No talk to her."
"No talk to her!" insisted the tiny woman. She leaned forward, peering up at Ashley with wide-open eyes. "Ghost!"
Ashley almost laughed, but she had been raised to be respectful of old people.
The squeal of airbrakes announced the arrival of the Crosstown 2. Ashley turned toward the sound. The bench was empty.
A month later, dressed for the weather in a lavender ski jacket and matching hat and mitts, Ashley headed to the bus stop. She had broken up with Justin when her friend Caitlyn told her that the day he had "something to do" the something was their fiend Michaela. Good riddens to bad rubbish, her grandmother had said. She took the bus all the time now.
She hadn't seen the ghost woman since then, but today there she was, sitting on the bench, looking quite solid and real in her sensible shoes.
It was ridiculous, of course. There were no such things as ghosts. Ashley went and stood beside the bench. "Looks like snow," she remarked.
"Isn't that bench cold?" she shouted, leaning in a little.
Ashley had the overwhelming desire to poke the woman. Just to see. Was she as solid as she looked? Would she respond?
Ashley walked around to the other side of the bench. Maybe her other ear was her good ear.
And that's when she saw he blood.
This side of the woman's coat was drenched in blood. The shoulder of her coat and the side of her head were caved in; her face was a mess of meat and bone and her eyeball was hanging on her cheek by a thread.
Ashley felt her lunch coming back up.
There was the squeal of airbrakes, and as the Crosstown 2 pulled up, the woman vanished. The bus passed the bus stop to come to a halt at just beyond it, by the No Parking sign.
Ashley felt light-headed. She was going to be sick. She stumbled into the street to get back to the college across the road. There were no ghosts in the college. She could sit down, collect herself, and throw up in the bathroom if she needed to. She didn't hear the 1A pulling up behind the Crosstown.
Ruby Chan stood fifteen feet from the bus stop, beside the No Parking sign post. She would flag down the bus when it approached, and it would either pull up to where she stood, or wait for her to toddle over to it. She was an old woman, and besides, most of the drivers knew her. She tried not to look at the woman in the blue coat on the bench, or the girl sitting beside her in the bloody lavender ski jacket.