Please don’t sit here, Judy thought as a disheveled young woman stepped onto the bus.
Her hair was mussed, her makeup obviously thrown on quickly. She looked exhausted, with slumped shoulders and huge bags under her eyes. The woman paused by the door and looked around. Spotting the empty seat next to Judy, she started towards it. Judy almost put her purse on the seat but didn’t. She didn’t want to appear rude.
As the woman sank into the seat, Judy noticed her eyes and nose were slightly red, as if she’d been crying. She sagged in the seat, sniffling, and swiped at her eyes.
“That’s enough,” she muttered. “It’ll work out somehow. He has to see her eventually.” She shook her head, hard. “But it’s been six months already. We can’t wait another six months. She’s running out of time.”
Noticing Judy’s attention, the woman stopped and turned away, brushing at her eyes again.
I can’t just sit here and watch her cry, Judy thought. I still have five stops to go. I need to say something. “Are you okay?” she asked aloud.
The woman looked at her over her shoulder. “I’m fine.”
“No, I don’t think so,” Judy said. “What’s wrong? Maybe talking about it will help.”
“Maybe,” the woman said, turning towards Judy, and she began to talk.
Her name was Debra, she said, and her eight-year-old daughter was dying. She only had a few weeks left, unless they could get an appointment with a specialist. They’d been trying to contact a doctor in that specialization for six months but hadn’t gotten past his secretary.
“I’m so sorry,” Judy said. “My husband is a doctor in that field. He’s always saying he never has enough time for his patients.”
Debra perked up a little. “Really? But there’s only one of those doctors in the area. What’s his name?”
Judy told her and Debra’s eyes widened. “That’s who we’ve been trying to see! He’s your husband?”
“Yes,” Judy said, thinking, What are the chances of that? Maybe I can offer more help than just talking with her.
“I can talk to him, if you want, tell him about your daughter’s situation and ask him to help.”
“Can you do that?” Debra exclaimed, looking happy for the first time since she got on the bus. “That would be wonderful!”
“Of course,” Judy said, smiling at Debra’s expression. “I’ll talk to him today and make sure he calls you by tomorrow.”
“Thank you so much!” Debra said. Tears fell again, but she didn’t wipe them away. Instead, she dug in her purse and pulled out a business card. “Here’s my number.”
Judy glanced out the window as the bus slowed down. “This is my stop,” she said, standing. “I’ll talk to my husband as soon as he gets home.”
“Thank you!” Debra said.
“You’re welcome,” Judy replied, and stepped off the bus smiling.
Cover image by Ant Rozetsky on Unsplash.