Little brothers are so annoying.
Sure, you usually care about them when they’re hurt or crying or something like that. But in my opinion, they’re just crazy little things that claim to be related to us. I never knew that I could be so worried about my brother.
* * *
The smiling sun shone brightly down on my back as I walked happily down the sidewalk. My friend Audrey strolled along beside me, chatting cheerily. The sunny sky was a beautiful, brilliant blue. We reached some tall, black steps and climbed them. But I wasn’t fully ready for the scene inside.
Sounds of laughter and loud voices filled my ears as I stepped into the vehicle of madness. Feet were stuck out as Audrey and I hurried to our seats in the back. Someone grabbed my backpack, and I shook him off. I ignored a shout of “Hey Ruby!” that was quickly lost in the tumultuous land of chaos surrounding me.
This place is also known as the bus.
Kids lounged on seats, talking and laughing. Windows were opened wide, and arms hung out of them. KISS FM blared from the speakers.
I reached my assigned seat, following close at Audrey’s heels. I couldn’t stay in the front of the bus any longer. I plopped my backpack and water bottle on the floor at my feet with a clunk and collapsed. There was always a wait of about two or three minutes before the bus started moving.
Audrey and I sit in the second-to-last seat on the bus. My other friend, Ulan, usually sits across the aisle from us with a fourth-grader named Katherine.
“Is everybody on the bus?” our driver, Ms. Toni, yelled in her low, scratchy voice over the hubbub.
“Yes!” several kids yelled back.
I decided to do my duty as an older sister. “Abraham!! Are you on the bus?” I hollered.
There was no answer. The other kids kept talking.
“Abraham!” I shouted again, my voice softer and more worried than before. He still didn’t respond. I sat on my knees and scoured the rows of kids. There was no sign of my brother’s curly black-haired head.
Panic surged through my veins. “Abraham isn’t on the bus,” I told Ulan and Audrey. They looked almost as panicked as I felt.
“We have to tell the bus driver,” Ulan insisted. I rose from my seat, but Ulan was ahead of me. She had already taken three steps toward the front of the bus. “Excuse m…” she shouted, but was immediately cut off. There was a loud roar of the engine and a hiss of exhaust. The bus lurched forward, almost making Ulan lose her balance. We had started moving.
“No!” I half yelled. I looked frantically out of the back window at my school getting farther and farther away each second and leaving my brother behind.
“Oh. My. Gosh. I can’t believe that she left,” I said, partly to myself and partly to my friends.
“I know!” exclaimed Audrey, trying to be supportive.
The bus rounded a corner just then, and even though my school was out of sight I looked out of the back window again like a girl in some sappy romance movie, waiting for her soldier to come home.
The whole bus ride my friends tried to convince me that Abraham would be OK. I tried to convince myself, too.
Abraham will be all right, I thought. People have talked about what to do if you miss the bus. He knows to go to the office and call our parents. He’ll be fine. But that didn’t make me feel any better. I was still worried.
Audrey and Ulan gently urged the topic of conversation away from my brother missing the bus until we were talking about something completely different. I knew that they were trying to distract me, make me forget about the problem at hand, and for that I was grateful. How could the beautiful day have gone so wrong?
The sun, which was usually smiling, seemed to frown upon me. The clear blue skies showing through an open window mocked me as I slumped down in my seat. “You lost your bro-ther, you lost your bro-ther.” My stomach felt hollow and my heart felt heavy. Anxiety possessed me like a hidden devil. For some odd reason, everything around me seemed silent, like I was in my own personal underworld of anxiety.
It’s OK, Ruby, I told myself. It wasn’t your fault. You didn’t know that Abraham would miss the bus. That was his responsibility. But criticizing my brother just made me feel worse. Even though I was eleven and Abraham ten, and I usually act like I don’t like him very much (and sometimes I actually don’t), I can be very protective of him, even if I’m the one doing the criticizing.
Every now and then I would glance out the back window of the bus without really realizing I was doing it, as if my brother would magically appear behind it, yelling for the bus to slow down so he could climb in. But the logical part inside me knew that would never happen.
Finally, the bus lurched to a head-spinning stop on King Street. This was where Audrey and I got off. I gathered up my stuff, hurriedly hugged Ulan, and rushed down the aisle. Some kids said goodbye, but I ignored them. I jumped down the last few steps of the bus and ran to my mom, who was waiting for me.
“Mom!” I said urgently. “Abraham didn’t get on the bus!”
My mother’s expression changed into one that she used when I was kidding about something.
“Oh really?” she asked, her eyes bright and smiling like they always were when someone joked.
The anxiety and worry I had recently felt inside me quickly turned to anger and frustration. Why didn’t she believe me?
“I’m not kidding!” I said hotly.
“I know,” my mom replied. “He went to a friend’s house with some other boys. He wasn’t supposed to get on the bus.”
For a moment I was surprised. My mouth hung half open. Then all the worries I had cooped up inside me were let out as if I had just exhaled after a deep breath. The hollow pit in my stomach disappeared. Every particle of my being felt light and cheerful.
* * *
Later, I found it hard to believe that I was really so worried about my brother. But I have to admit, that day the world did seem a little happier after I found out where he really was. I stared up into the clear blue skies, and the sun smiled and greeted me like an old friend.