I had a temporary contract working at the local university, helping one of the professors put together a series of reports for the Department of Education. Twelve years later, all I remember about the job was the professor (a lovely man with an unfortunate stutter on the letter 'F', which was particularly unfortunate when his name was Frank Fishwick), and the girl on the bus that I used to take to get to work.
The university was at the end of a long-ish bus route which used to take in several villages. The kids would take this bus to get to one of the local high-schools. Since I got on at the bus station, I was there for the whole route, and got a seat that allowed me to see the whole bus.
I noticed the girl as soon as she got on. She was around fifteen or sixteen and she was lovely. Now most girls of that age are fairly attractive but this one was something really special.
She was tall, noticeably so, maybe 5'10", with a willowy kind of slimness, not skinny, obviously a girl.
Her hair was dark brown, shiny, and cut in a sleek bob that curled into a long neck.
Her skin was clear, slightly olive and luminous, the kind of look you normally only get with make-up and photographic retouching.
Her eyes were deep, chocolatey brown, and shone, her lips, full without being thick, her nose, straight and not too long.
She moved, her head up, with unconscious grace.
This girl was more than pretty, she was utterly, utterly beautiful. And she was completely unaware of it.
She sat with her girlfriends, talking about music and TV, and other standard teenage subjects, while in the seat in front, a boy of about her own age, obviously smitten, clowned around constantly in an attempt to impress her. Occasionally she would giggle at his antics. She also used to cast surreptitious glances at one of the older boys, and blush if he caught her doing it, but she didn't flirt, and never mentioned a boyfriend.
I saw her every day for a month and wondered every day at her perfection. After the contract ended, I never saw her again.
Every so often, I wonder what happened to her, when I catch a glimpse of that grace in somebody else. I wonder if the perfection faded as she grew up, did her beauty bring her happiness, or pain? It never brought her fame, certainly -- I would have recognised that face if I ever saw it again.
But for a month, every morning, it made me smile.