Andie arrived at the bus station at 6am carrying everything she needed from her old life in one large rucksack and a laptop bag. She’d treated herself to a taxi from her flat, feeling a sharp tug in her chest and a warm sting behind her eyes as she watched the tenements of Rosetree Street vanish out of sight for the last time.
The city had not yet woken up and it would be a couple of hours before traffic became busy, before cars and buses started fighting for space on congested roads as pedestrians rushed along the pavements in a manic flow of bodies driven by distracted minds. The taxi driver seemed to understand that Andie wasn’t in the mood for conversation. Perhaps he noticed the tears in her eyes and had enough experience with the emotions of people in his cab to know when it was best to keep his mouth shut. Maybe he was just glad of a quiet trip. Whatever his reasons, Andie appreciated not being forced to make polite small-talk.
After loading her rucksack into the baggage compartment of the bus to Inverness, Andie climbed aboard and went straight to the back, curling up next to the window with her feet tucked beneath her, her boots removed and tucked next to her laptop bag on the floor in front of her. She took her new phone out of her pocket and plugged in her headphones, settling on an album that was released when she was four years old. As soon as the first song started, she remembered Hugh singing along to it in the van while Jamie prayed to his hollow God on the way to Fort August. It seemed like a lifetime ago, even though it was only two months. She wondered briefly how long her old phone would last in the charity shop window before it was snapped up by a new owner. She hoped whoever it ended up with would enjoy it. She hadn’t strictly needed to get a new phone to change her number, but she wanted to leave as much behind as she could.
This bus journey would take just over five hours and it would be followed by another six hours on another bus to Kinlochmore, where Morag would come to pick her up. With less than a day until she arrived at her new home, her new job and her new life, Andie felt something shift in her mind as the miles disappeared behind her. For the first time that she could remember, she had chosen her own path and summoned the courage to put herself on it. For everything that tied her heart in knots, there were more things, bigger things, that beckoned her onward and reminded her that her choice was the right one.
The bus started to move. Andie leaned her head back and closed her eyes.