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.
“Get up from there.” I tug his wrist and we shuffle up the trio of steps onto the bus. I fuss with the Ventra.
“Can I do it, Mommy?”
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 she’s with could be either her father or her grandfather. He’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.
“I’m five,” he tells her. “It’s my birthday.” The girl turns and I see she’s been crying; twin streaks run down her face. Evan doesn’t notice. “We’re going to the aquarium to see the sharks.”
“Happy birthday,” she says.
The gentleman aims his granite glare at Evan.
“I’m going to a funeral.” She’s almost whispering.
The gentleman lays a hand on her shoulder. “Quiet, Sophia.”
I make my voice oil-slick bright. “Evan, sit back please.” He wails when I yank his bony wrist. Then, softer, to the gentleman. “I’m so sorry.”
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.
“Sit still.” My fingers leave rosy prints on his arm. I can feel the young man’s hot eyes on my hand.
“Mommy, what’s a funeral?”
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 she’s weeping. Not because it hurts. Evan won’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 angel’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.
“Ma’am. Your son.” His voice trails off as he leans forward. Evan’s seat is empty. The man holds Evan’s wrist lightly as he helps him off the floor and back to me.
“Evan—” I don’t recognize my voice. “You’ve gotten yourself all dirty.” His knees are filthy and he’s clutching a man’s leather satchel. Black.
“Look what I found.” He hands it to me, the leather creamy soft and worn, much older than it looks. He climbs over me into his seat. “It’s my birthday,” he announces to the young man.
“Happy birthday, then.” The man grins and reaches over to ruffle Evan’s curls.
I turn the gold latch on the bag.
“We’re gonna see the sharks.”
“That sounds great. I wish I could come with you.”
“You can!” Evan nearly leaps over me, but I press him back down with my palm on his chest.
“Stay in your seat.”
The young man shakes his head, more at me than at Evan. “I have to get to work. Have fun, though.” He retreats into his phone.
“Look, Mommy. He has a phone.” Evan kneels on the seat, rocking back and forth.
“You’ll have one too, when you’re an adult.”
“How long will it be til I’m an adult?”
“A long time.”
I lift the flap on the satchel as the driver’s bass travels the cavern of the bus. “Museum campus, next stop.”
Evan is smiling again. “That’s our stop, Mommy.”
“Go ahead and ring the bell.”
Inside the bag, nestled among a ream of files and slips of paper, is a girl’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.
“We’re gonna see the sharks!” Evan beams up at the driver.
“Have fun now, you hear?” His chocolate brown eyes have an unmistakable glister.
“Thank you, sir.” My smile is sudden and wide. Evan’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. “Happy birthday, Ev.” The bag under my arm has a comforting weight.