There were too many people in the world and a painful shortage of buses. That was all Ishaana could think as she stood on the pavement beneath a sign that advertised a bus stop along with twenty other students who had just finished their final lectures and seminars before reading week commenced, clustered around the bus stop as they waited for a vehicle that would invariable have a chronic lack of seats. Before the bus had even arrived, already seven minutes late, she had resigned herself to standing for the twenty minute journey hone. As much as she loved the student flat she shared with her two best friends, she hated that its location necessitated a twenty minute trundle into the city centre.
Nine minutes after it was due, the heaving bus creaked to a halt just outside the yellow box assigned to its stop and Ishaana let out a sigh of defeat. The bus was already crammed, packed with students who lived too far from university to walk, and there was no way another twenty could be shoehorned on, but she wanted to get home and she inched closer to the door as a couple of people squeezed off, her bus pass at the ready as she slipped through the doors and flashed it at the driver, wrapping one arm around the pole to hold on for dear life. She was used to the bumbling country buses she had grown up on back home, but the drivers in Manchester seemed to drive with a death wish.
Ten people got on. The rest were forced to wait for the next bus and she watched them as the bus pulled away, too tightly packed with bodies for her to fall if the driver jerked to a stop. She wrinkled her nose against the vague stench of body odour, pressing her face into her sleeve to lessen the blow of the offensive smell. Although being packed like a sardine onto an overcrowded, stinking bus was almost a daily occurrence, Ishaana would never be ok with it and the journey could not pass quickly enough, blaring a seventies playlist a little louder than she was comfortable with in order to drown out the coughing and sniffing and mumbled conversations that always irritated her even more on a Friday afternoon.
She had made it to the end of the week, and a disgusting bus journey was the last way she wanted to begin a couple of days of freedom, but it was unavoidable. Taxis were extortionate, especially with the pathetic remains of her student loan once she paid her rent and her bills each week. Three hundred and sixty pounds a month was a slap in the face for what was easily a below-average student house, with hot water that wasn't quite hot enough and cheap walls that were far too thin, but it was home. It had been for a year and a half, and she hated to think that she only had that amount of time again before she would have to move out, with no clue where to go next.
After twenty-one minutes, sixty seconds longer than average but twelve minutes faster than the slowest journey, Ishaana forced her way off the bus, shoving through the tight throng, and she gasped a lungful of fresh air as she rearranged her bag on her back. Her laptop thudded against the base of her spine as she strode down the road to her house, turning down a slightly dodgy mews that led to a short row of four terraced houses. The final door was the one to which her key belonged and she twisted it in the lock before kicking off her shoes in the hallway, letting her bag drop to her elbow.