by Jenny Edgerley
Mabel opened her eyes and found herself enveloped in swirling white mist, which smelt faintly of pear drops. She coughed, wafting at mist in front of her face. It slowly cleared to reveal a bus stop. Mabel was confused. She had no idea where she was. In the distance, she heard the rumbling of a large vehicle approaching. A vintage red bus came to a standstill in front of her. The doors slowly creaked open to reveal a liveried driver behind the wheel.
“Morning love, you getting on then?” he asked cheerfully.
Mabel paused for a moment, then climbed aboard.
“I don’t have any money for a ticket,” she said, feeling embarrassed. “I seem to have lost my handbag.”
“No matter, madam. You don’t need a ticket for my bus,” the driver replied kindly.
Mabel thanked him and made her way to an empty seat towards the rear. As she passed them, the other passengers smiled at her, which was surprising. It had been years since she’d travelled by bus and it had never been this friendly back then. She sat down and gazed out of the window. She noticed a young face staring back at her. It took a moment to realise it was her own reflection. This didn’t make any sense. Mabel knew she was an old woman. She had memories of living in a care home, she could remember losing her beloved husband Doug and the heartbreak she had felt so how was it possible that she was a young woman again.
Before she had a chance to question it further, the bus juddered to a halt. The doors protested noisily once again as they opened to allow a young woman to climb aboard. She didn’t have a handbag either, Mabel thought to herself. She didn’t buy a ticket and she looked bewildered at the other smiling passengers, which made Mabel smile too.
As the bus continued its journey, a flamboyantly dressed man appeared. He was wearing a white shirt with a ruffled collar, beneath a purple velvet suit and a pair of black patent Cuban heels.
“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to welcome you aboard the number 21 bus to the Pearly hotel. My name is St Peter but you can call me Pete. I know you will have many questions but hopefully the welcome brochure will answer all of them for you.”
“Excuse me sir,” interrupted a young man sitting a few seats ahead of Mabel. “I didn’t receive one?” Neither did I, she thought.
“It’s in your hand, dear and please, call me Pete.”
Mabel looked down and sure enough in her hands was a bright and glossy brochure. Her heart raced as she read the front cover. Welcome to the Pearly Hotel - Your guide to heaven. “What?!” Mabel whispered, disbelievingly.
“Now, I appreciate that this may come as a shock to you” said Pete sympathetically, “but please be assured that you are in very safe hands. We will be arriving at our destination, the Pearly hotel in an hour so please have a read and try to relax.”
Mabel was dumbstruck, but as she read, she began to feel calmer, especially when she came to the page about the hotel’s fantastic facilities.
Mabel sat back and relaxed. Out of the window, she saw occasional glimpses of the sea glistening in the sunshine,beyond the rolling green fields. It reminded Mabel of the first holiday she and Doug had spent together. She must have fallen asleep, because the next thing she knew, the bus had stopped. She opened her eyes and saw the most beautiful building set in glorious gardens.
She made her way to the front of the bus where Pete helped her down the steps. “There’s someone waiting for you over there,” Pete whispered in her ear. Mabel saw a young man sitting on a bench holding a bunch of carnations. She gasped and ran to him. He smiled and stood up to greet his beloved wife.
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