*Possible Trigger Warning*: Death
The rain trickles down the window, gathering in small pools on the window ledge. The dandelion gold school bus pulls to a stop. The breaks screech loudly, roaring over the chatter of the students. More children rush onto the bus, puddles of water in tow.
I shift my backpack to cover the seat beside me.
Sometimes, I just want to be alone. It’s not that I don’t like people, in reality, I'm quite extroverted. However, some days, the only company you need are your thoughts.
I sure do have plenty of those.
My brain tends to wander. I always have to tug it back to where it’s supposed to be, like a dog on a leash. But often, the leash breaks. My imagination runs wild.
I focus on the hum of the engine, the way the trees bend as the wind picks up outside. I focus on the shifting shadows of the grey clouds that dominate the sky.
There is something magical about this dreary Monday morning.
Although the sun is tucked away, I still know it’s there. It’s not gone, only hiding.
“Dahlia?” A girl, in her teens, stood hunched over where I'm sitting. Her short, pink hair falls just past her shoulders as she leans further forward to see my face more clearly.
“Yes?” I respond, my eyebrows raising. If I've met this girl, I don’t remember her. Although, she seems pretty remarkable. Her piercing grey eyes stare intensely into mine; I doubt I would be able to forget them.
She stands up smiling, “It is you!” While she shoves my backpack onto the grimy school bus floor, she says, “I was hoping you’d be here.”
“I’m afraid I don't know what you’re talking about,” I straighten my back and move closer to the window. I’m not sure why she frightens me, maybe it’s the familiar feeling I get when she talks. It’s almost like I know her, almost.
The girl frowns. “I guess I should have expected this,” She bites her lip, “I’m Lane Trivett.”
I shift nervously in my seat, “Trivett? As in Baily Trivett?” I think of my cousin on my mom’s side of the family. I have only met her once or twice, but the confident way Lane moves reminds me of her.
“Yes! Well, no,” Lane’s shoulder slump. “She’s my mom.”
I stare blankly, “Mom? That’s not possible. Bailey is my age, fifteen. There’s no way she’s had a kid. Especially a daughter who’s... what? Thirteen, tops?”
“I’m fourteen,” Lane crosses her arms in defense.
“Exactly!” I say while standing up, “You're crazy.” I grab my backpack from the floor and hug it close to my chest. I look at the girl and pause.
“You see it, don’t you?”
I purse my lips, “no.”
“You’re a terrible liar, just like Uncle Elmer,” Lane cracks a smile and I cringe at my brother’s name.
I ball my hand into a fist, “I’m not sure how you know all of this, but you need to stop. Besides, Elmer wouldn’t be your Uncle, he’d be your first cousin once removed.”
Lane gasps, “So you do believe me!” The bus lurches forward and I tumble back into my seat.
“No,” I insist. She raises an eyebrow, and I bit the corner of my lip. “You haven't given me any reason to believe you.”
Lane sighs and reaches into the pocket of her corduroy jacket. I tap my foot impatiently as she fumbles through the contents in her coat. Then, she pulls out a surprisingly large wad of newspaper and hands it to me.
“What’s this?” I say, inspecting the papers.
“It’s the newspaper,” She replies matter of factly.
I roll my eyes. “Well, obviously. But, why is this evidence?”
“Look at the date,” Lane commands, and I unfold the bundle of papers.
October 21, 2021.
My eyes go as wide as saucers. It’s dated for tomorrow, but that’s impossible. Lane snorts as I open my mouth and close it again; I’m unable to get any words out.
“This is fake,” I assume.
She sighs deeply, “What is it going to take for you to believe me?”
“I- I don’t know,” I look at her and frown, “Why are you here, anyways? How did you get here?”
“I’m here to save you. And, I guess it’s a bit complicated how I got here, I don't know if I can tell you.”
“You can’t tell me? You're only making me doubt you more. Besides, what do you have to save me from” I laugh. The kids on the bus aren’t exactly dangerous.
Lane glances nervously out the window, and I pull my purple windbreaker closer around me. “It’s not anyone on the bus,” she pauses, “Read the article.”
I give her a questioning glance but reluctantly scan the rest of the article.
12 teens found dead! The title read.
Terrible crash on Mulberry Avenue causes a Wakeford Highschool bus to flip, killing twelve teens in the process. Police say it was caused by inclimate weather; wet roads can often cause vehicles to turn over…
I skim through the rest of the article. Sure, Wakeford High is where I go to school, but what does that have to do with me? But, something at the bottom of the news clipping catches my attention. Under the list of victims I see my name: Dahlia Chasey. My mouth goes dry and I look back up at Lane.
“Are you going to trust me?” She asks. I bit my lip in worry. She could be lying, and I don't want to fall for whatever trick this girl is playing. But, I don’t know if I should take that chance. She could be right, and I could be dead. I slowly nod my head.
“Good, because we only have about two minutes,” She maintains a steady voice but I notice the way her eyes glance nervously around the bus, never resting on something for more than a moment. “Follow me, but be careful.” I stand up and follow the pink-haired teen as she walks down the aisle of the bus.
“What are we going to do?” I whisper. The other kids on the bus watch us as we walk past.
“We need to go left at the next light, that way we avoid the flooded road,” I think back to the article; I don’t remember it saying that Mulberry Avenue was flooded, but I guess it would make sense.
Lane and I approach the bus driver as he looks in the rearview mirror. “You kids! Sit down!” He shouts in his heavy, southern accent. Lane pulls me into a seat, only two rows away from the front.
“On the count of three,” She whispers, “I need you to grab the steering wheel and pull it to the left. You got that?”
Doubt begins to creep into my thoughts, “I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”
“Do you want to die?” she snaps and I jump at the sudden change of tone.
“Obviously not,” I say cautiously, “but I don't think yanking the steering wheel is the best way to go about this.”
Lane’s cheeks go red with frustration, “I’m trying to save you. Why can’t you just do what I say; I have better things to do.’’
“I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you had a schedule to keep to,” I say sourly.
She rolls her eyes, “That’s not what I meant,” She says quickly, and I follow her glance out the front window. We are stopped at an intersection, the light is red. “Count of three,” She whispers.
I notice that the windshield is speckled with rain drops. In a way, it’s kind of beautiful, almost like they’re suspended in mid air.
“One,” Lane whispers.
My eyes are drawn to the cars across the intersection. The bright orange of a truck stands out the most. Maybe it’s the boldness that attracts me, or maybe it’s the fact that it’s taller than the rest of the low, black-and-grey cars.
I look at Lane, admiring the seriousness of her stare. Her attention is on the road ahead of us, and the dangers of what we are about to do.
But something seems off.
I search her face until I finally notice the small smile creeping into her face.
I quickly look out the window and toward the street sign. Resting above the road we are about to veer onto, the skinny, green sign reads Mulberry Avenue. I freeze.
“No!” I shout. Lane’s smile drops and the stop light turns green. The bus slowly pulls forward, driving across the street.
“What are you doing?” Lane crys, jumping up from her seat.
“You were tricking me!” Her cheeks turn bright red.
She stammers, “N-no I wasn’t. We are about to head into a flooded road! You have to do something! Do you want to die?” she pauses, her mouth gaping, as I shake my head. Suddenly, she squares her shoulders and stands up straight.
“Then I’ll have to do it,” She says and she saunters towards the front seat.
I surge out of my seat and grab her arm, but she shakes my hand off. “Don’t do it,” I warn.
“It was nice meeting you,” She smirks and rests her hand on the wheel. The driver looks at her with confusion.
Lane slowly turns to face me, her grey eyes on me, and yanks the steering wheel.