About an hour later I stood and worked my way down the aisle, to the restroom in the back. I could feel the eyes of Mr. Gisborne following me. (I’d seen him whirl and stare at other kids—and even adults—who’d felt Nature’s Call and could not wait until our arrival at the Falls, our next scheduled stop). I knew he was checking to make sure I didn’t stop somewhere to socialize along the way. A no-no on the Gisborne Bus.
But when I reached the back, I saw the Occupied sign on the door, so I leaned against one of the unoccupied seats, swaying to and fro a bit whenever the bus deviated from its path.
“How’s Gil doing?” It was the voice of his mother, not five feet away from me.
“Oh,” I said. “He’s okay … resting a lot.”
I looked across the aisle and saw Mr. Leon there, too. His eyes were fixed on me—so much so that I nervously said, “Hi, Mr. Leon.”
He smiled, did not speak.
“I appreciate the way you’re caring for him,” said Mrs. Bysshe. “He thinks the world of you, you know.”
“I know,” I said, suddenly feeling as if I were going to erupt into tears. “I think the world of—”
And then I did erupt into tears, slumping down into the seat beside Mrs. Bysshe.
“No sitting down back there!” Mr. Gisborne’s voice crackled through the PA system.
“She’s with us!” barked Mr. Leon in a voice that needed no amplification. I looked up, surprised at its intensity—surprised, too, that he hadn’t shattered the windshield.
“Oh,” came Mr. Gisborne’s reply, sounding somehow both tiny and tinny.
All this back-and-forth had the effect of reducing my breakdown into a kind of a sniffling whimper. I felt Mrs. Bysshe’s arm around me and realized I hadn’t felt it arrive there.
“You know how sick he is, don’t you, Vickie?”
“I do,” I shuddered.
“His father and I really debated about this trip,” she said. “We knew it might be impossible for him.”
“But we also knew that”—and here she began to shudder a little herself—“we knew that we would regret it for the rest of our lives if we didn’t try to help him get to the Falls. He’s been so obsessed with them—ever since I can remember. A little kid. Library books spread out on his bed. But it’s gotten even more intense lately—especially since he learned … you know …?”
“So anyway,” she said, “I’ve noticed all you’ve done—and all you’re doing. I won’t ever forget.”
Just then the door to the restroom snapped open, and out stepped at shy sixth grader who looked “green in the gills,” as Father often said. Nauseated is a fancier term.
“Motion sickness,” she said, as if she needed to explain anything to us.
“That’s an awful feeling,” said Mr. Leon, who stood and helped the child move along the aisle to her seat.
“And I miss my mommy,” I heard the little girl whimper. So I was not the only one, I realized, away from home for the first time.
I rose, stepped inside the restroom, closed the door, sat and sobbed until I heard a knock.
“You all right?” asked Mrs. Bysshe.
I wasn’t—but said I was.