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By Beth Neff
“Sunday, May 13
She needs to be the first one off, can’t stand the waiting one second longer.
Even as the bus slows to make its wide turn into the gravel driveway, Jenna is scooting to the edge of the worn seat, her seen-better-days backpack strap looped over her elbow. The others are stirring in their seats as well but she doesn’t care. She will push them out of the way if she has to.
She stands almost before the bus has come to a complete stop. She doesn’t even look out the dirty windows as she moves forward, leaves the dark hank of hair that curls under her chin in place, obscuring both her view and the view of her. No one else has gotten up yet so the way is clear. She has to wait for the door to open, ignores the driver who wishes her cheery ‘good luck,’ and moves out toward the light.
Jenna pauses briefly on the last step, her piercing blue eyes appraising – the white house with its wraparound porch, the neat flower beds just beginning to color with blossom, the fields and fences beyond. Her gaze lands on the two women standing at the edge of the driveway. Though they are apparently here to greet the bus, they are not facing it, have turned to focus instead on a figure moving across the fields in their direction.
Though the women don’t actually speak to each other when the absentee arrives, no words are necessary to reveal the crackle of tension produced by her lateness. The slim blondish one sighs deeply, her features collapsed in disappointment, her head shaking slightly, and the short dark one is staring fixedly, almost maliciously, at the new arrival. Suddenly, they all turn toward the bus as if surprised to see Jenna descending from it. The taller thin one actually places her hand over her heart as if she has just received a shock or her dearest wish has suddenly come true.
But the latecomer plunges right on past and approaches Jenna, her smile forced, as if she is more interested in getting this over with than in welcoming the girls to the farm. Jenna makes the final leap to the ground, deliberately takes a few steps away from the woman, turns just enough in the opposite direction that the snub is felt. She stands with her back to the women, and stares at the house as if it is a granite peak she is gathering her wits and energy to climb.”