Serena bends to pick up the contents of her handbag. Her face burns with shame as a furry breath mint sticks to a tampon. She reaches to collect them in her hand.
‘Can I help you, miss?’ It’s a girl’s voice. Young, probably a teenager.
Serena looks up. ‘Thank you, but no. I’m OK.’ She gathers the last few things: a purse-pack of tissues, lipstick, the tampon box—from which the stray had escaped—and her purse.
‘I saw what the man did. He should have apologised.’
‘He should have, but he didn’t. We’re not exactly living in an enchanted wonderland though, are we?’ Serena drily notes. She stands and throws her bag over her shoulder. She pulls on the cord, and says, ‘This is my stop. Thanks for offering to help. You’ve restored my faith in humanity.’
The tram slows to a stop. The doors clunk open and Serena steps off. A car speeds past, narrowly avoiding knocking her over.
‘Oh my God!’ It’s the young girl again. ‘Miss, you’re having a bad morning.’ She’s standing right behind Serena.
Serena is speechless, gasping. Her heart is beating hard, bursting against her ribs. Her fingertips feel thick and hot.
‘Miss, this is my stop too. Let me help you.’ She guides Serena to the kerb and helps her to sit. The tram edges away. ‘I’m Clara. Here have my water bottle.’ She offers an unopened bottle of Mount Franklin sparkling water to Serena.
‘Thank you.’ Serena gulps gratefully.
‘Can I call someone for you?’ Clara asks.
Serena shakes her head. ‘I’m just heading to work. But I’ll stop at this coffee shop here first, I think. I need caffeine after the damage inflicted by a bad morning.’ She giggles, hopes Clara sees the humour.
Clara grins. ‘OK, well…if you’re sure you are alright, I’m going to head to school now.’
‘Yes, thank you Clara. I’m fine. Appreciate your kindness.’
‘It’s nothing,’ she mumbles, shrugs. ‘Have a nice day.’
Serena smiles as she rises from the wooden seat. They turn from each other, and walk in opposite directions. Serena smooths the front of her dress, and moves inside the cafe.