The bus snaked its way through the country roads and then to the lavish development that backed up to the woods behind his house. Upperclassmen from this neighborhood had their own cars. This bus collected the underclassmen: those few who weren’t chauffeured, as minions of the privileged.
Jake leaned back in his seat and folded his arms across his chest, not looking at the kids coming down the aisle. None dared to ask if they could sit in the empty space next to him. They’d sit three to a seat rather than make that request. Just the way he wanted it.
The over-filled bus pulled to a stop midway down Belmont Circle. New stop? Jake looked out his window at the estate with a circular drive. Huh. It finally sold. He watched as a single figure headed toward the bus. What, so now they get door-to-door service? He rolled his eyes.
Seconds later, she stood in the aisle waiting. From his seat, his eyes skimmed up passed her faded jeans and plain, loose sweater, and his breath caught in his throat. Her long blond hair was pulled to the side in a loose braid. Her face? Ethereal. But then, his flustered gaze became an annoyed glare.
Her bleak gray eyes seemed to look right through him before they darted to the space next to him. Did she even register his indignation? She must have. Yet, she stood there in the aisle twisting the loose adjustment strap on her backpack tightly around her fingers.
“May I sit here?” her meek voice broke the silence that had fallen around them.
Noticing the hush of conversation, Jake’s eyes skimmed the crowded bus. There was no doubt he and this new girl had an audience. Not something he relished.
His eyes swept back to her. He could tell she was nervous. He heard it in her quavering voice and saw it in the way she avoided his eyes. He could just say no. But, as long as she was standing, the bus wouldn’t budge. Becca looked at him from her seat across the aisle then whipped her phone out and started her eager texting. He narrowed his eyes at her, and then with a smirk, he stood.
“Really?” he bit out at her under his breath, leaning close so only she could hear. He grabbed his backpack from the seat and football bag off the wheel well and then moved his six-foot-one frame into the aisle. With a jerk of his head, he directed her to the space by the window.
She slipped by him with lithesome poise, maneuvering in the small space without so much as brushing against him. He watched her settle into the seat with perfect posture, even though her feet were raised up on the wheel well. Her vacant eyes never returned to his. So, why was his heart suddenly beating faster? Was it because of his rudeness and the fact that she ignored it? Could it be remorse? She didn’t seem to have that presumptuous, stuck-up attitude that so annoyed him. She looked almost . . . empty.