It wasn’t that Felix had never been touched up, because he had. He was attractive enough, right? But first, it had been a long time since anyone had bothered. Second, it happened in the small hours of a Friday morning, and lastly—and perhaps most importantly—it was on an all-night London bus where he appeared to be the only conscious passenger.
It was a bloody fierce pinch of his arse, too, gripping a good sized part of his buttock and making an impression right through his jeans. Felix gave a shout of surprise and jerked upright in his seat, peering around for the culprit. The only other person in the back of the bus with him was a very old man with his eyes shut, snoring fitfully on the other side of the aisle. His cheek was squashed up against the window and he clutched a half-filled cup of muddy-looking liquid to his chest. A ragged dog slept equally as soundly at his feet, its front paws stretched out from under the seat. As Felix glared suspiciously at the pair of them, the old man slumped down even farther and snored even more loudly. His cup tipped forward and a trail of cold tea dribbled onto the floor. Felix wrinkled his nose. The old guy smelt dreadful—a mixture of stale urine and the fuel-and-filth smell of living on the streets. What’s more, he didn’t look like he’d be conscious any time soon, let alone try groping anyone.
Felix frowned and leaned back again. The bus shuddered to a halt at a stop about a mile before his flat. No one else got on. He wouldn’t normally be travelling at this early hour—his night shift at the care home usually ran through to seven thirty—but Mrs. Edwards had let him leave early as he’d pulled a double shift twice during the week. So who else would be on the bus at two in the morning? He remembered a group of snickering teenagers on their way home from a club, but they’d left at the last stop. There’d been a couple of pretty young women, too, but they’d gone just before the snickerers, and besides, he knew without a doubt the pinch had come from a male hand. He couldn’t have explained how he knew, but he did. And so did his buttock, which still throbbed from the attack. But there was no one else he could see within pinching distance.
“Oi!” he said aloud, then felt idiotic talking into the silence.
If the driver heard him, he’d be turned off the bus as a drunk. Opposite him, the old man snorted into the worn seat cover and the dregs of his tea plopped onto the floor of the bus. There was no other sound apart from the hissing squeal of the bus’s brakes as it pulled away again from the stop.
Felix tried another low “Hello?”, then glanced around quickly. Nothing moved. No sheepish kid stuck out his tongue, no passing party-goer waved hands at him that had been way too free on his arse already. “Well…just watch out,” he said gruffly, self-consciously, hardly believing he was talking to himself on the bus like one of the nutters who sat next to him so often.
::You felt it! Didn’t you?::
Felix opened his mouth to reply, then closed it again, not sure whether he’d really heard something. What or who was he replying to? He couldn’t see where any voice had come from. A shiver ran down his back.
::You heard me, see? Say something, boy. Tell me you heard me. Come on! Hell’s bells, man, do you know how important this is?::
Felix grimaced and glanced back over at the old man. He was still doing a better impression of a corpse than a ventriloquist. The driver had his back to Felix and was right at the other end of the bus. And there was no one else in sight.
But he could still hear The Voice. A bold cadence to the words, a Welsh lilt of an accent. In his head…