My entry for the Yeah Write Super Challenge #2. The prompt was envy and a funeral. I made it to Round 2!
The bus shrugs to the curb as Evan dives for an oil-slick rainbow oozing on the asphalt.
â€œGet up from there.â€ I tug his wrist and we shuffle up the trio of steps onto the bus. I fuss with the Ventra.
â€œCan I do it, Mommy?â€
I let him. The driver frowns as he lurches back into traffic.
Evan finds a seat behind a girl about his age, her pretty auburn hair done in braids twisted into buns. The man sheâ€™s with could be either her father or her grandfather. Heâ€™s got silver hair, a crisp white beard, and a black three-piece suit. I sink into the plastic seat behind him.
Evan leans forward between them and cranks right up.
â€œIâ€™m five,â€ he tells her. â€œItâ€™s my birthday.â€ The girl turns and I see sheâ€™s been crying; twin streaks run down her face. Evan doesnâ€™t notice. â€œWeâ€™re going to the aquarium to see the sharks.â€
â€œHappy birthday,â€ she says.
The gentleman aims his granite glare at Evan.
â€œIâ€™m going to a funeral.â€ Sheâ€™s almost whispering.
The gentleman lays a hand on her shoulder. â€œQuiet, Sophia.â€
I make my voice oil-slick bright. â€œEvan, sit back please.â€ He wails when I yank his bony wrist. Then, softer, to the gentleman. â€œIâ€™m so sorry.â€
Our window is splattered with grime.
Across the aisle, a young man shoots daggers at me through his shaggy hair.
Evan fidgets with the broken emergency release lever dangling from our windowsill. The sky is a sack of rocks.
â€œSit still.â€ My fingers leave rosy prints on his arm. I can feel the young manâ€™s hot eyes on my hand.
â€œMommy, whatâ€™s a funeral?â€
I watch the girl, graceful and still as a Degas. Did the gentleman braid her hair? Her part looks cut with a cleaver. I imagine him spiraling her buns, pinning them into place, all the while sheâ€™s weeping. Not because it hurts. Evan wonâ€™t let me get a comb through his unruly curls.
I wonder who died.
The gentleman reaches over her perfect head and draws the sagging cord to signal a stop, and they rise, his fingers gently intertwined with hers. She looks back longingly at Evan as she trudges to the exit, the hem of a black dress sticking out beneath her pink coat. The gentleman takes the angelâ€™s elbow as they descend the three steps to the street.
The driver lurches into motion and the two of them vanish.
The young man across the aisle pulls my sleeve.
â€œMaâ€™am. Your son.â€ His voice trails off as he leans forward. Evanâ€™s seat is empty. The man holds Evanâ€™s wrist lightly as he helps him off the floor and back to me.
â€œEvanâ€”â€ I donâ€™t recognize my voice. â€œYouâ€™ve gotten yourself all dirty.â€ His knees are filthy and heâ€™s clutching a manâ€™s leather satchel. Black.
â€œLook what I found.â€ He hands it to me, the leather creamy soft and worn, much older than it looks. He climbs over me into his seat. â€œItâ€™s my birthday,â€ he announces to the young man.
â€œHappy birthday, then.â€ The man grins and reaches over to ruffle Evanâ€™s curls.
I turn the gold latch on the bag.
â€œWeâ€™re gonna see the sharks.â€
â€œThat sounds great. I wish I could come with you.â€
â€œYou can!â€ Evan nearly leaps over me, but I press him back down with my palm on his chest.
â€œStay in your seat.â€
The young man shakes his head, more at me than at Evan. â€œI have to get to work. Have fun, though.â€ He retreats into his phone.
â€œLook, Mommy. He has a phone.â€ Evan kneels on the seat, rocking back and forth.
â€œYouâ€™ll have one too, when youâ€™re an adult.â€
â€œHow long will it be til Iâ€™m an adult?â€
â€œA long time.â€
I lift the flap on the satchel as the driverâ€™s bass travels the cavern of the bus. â€œMuseum campus, next stop.â€
Evan is smiling again. â€œThatâ€™s our stop, Mommy.â€
â€œGo ahead and ring the bell.â€
Inside the bag, nestled among a ream of files and slips of paper, is a girlâ€™s diary. The sort with a padlock and a bit of poetry on the cover. I tuck it back in and close the satchel. It fits perfectly under my arm.
The bus driver nods at us as Evan drags me by two fingers to the exit.
â€œWeâ€™re gonna see the sharks!â€ Evan beams up at the driver.
â€œHave fun now, you hear?â€ His chocolate brown eyes have an unmistakable glister.
â€œThank you, sir.â€ My smile is sudden and wide. Evanâ€™s wrist bones jut into my fingers as we descend. Outside, the sky has brightened. I give his hand a little squeeze as we wait for the light to change. â€œHappy birthday, Ev.â€ The bag under my arm has a comforting weight.