The rain was falling. Dark clouds overhead were promising an endless supply of fall moisture that would soon turn to snow. Bernadette stood close to her grandma as they waited for the Greyhound bus.
An elderly couple eyed them over the brims of their coffee cups. Bernadette stared them down then looked away. She was used to the looks. She had reddish hair, was tall with light brown skin and green eyes. Her Cree Heritage was always fighting with her Irish mix. In the summer it was worse. The sun made her hair turn bright red, and freckles appeared on her face and arms of their own accord.
On the reservation she stood out. A baked potato they called her, brown on the outside and white on the inside—the least hurtful insult they threw at her.
Bernadette stamped her feet to relieve the tension she felt at being sent away. She was going to Aunt Mary’s in Edmonton, the largest city in the north, over 600 kilometres to the south. There had been a bad argument between her mother and Aunt Mary many years ago. She had no idea what it was, but when Grandma Moses told Mary she was taking Bernadette in, there was no argument.
The bus arrived. She hugged her grandma fiercely and then grabbed her pack to get ready to get on the bus.
Her grandma held onto her arm. “I had a dream about you last night.”
“What kind of dream?” Bernadette asked.
“I saw you standing tall. There was a big leaf behind you—it was red, and you were wearing red,” Grandma Moses said.
“What do you think it meant?” Bernadette said.
“I’m not sure,” Grandma Moses said, “but I want you to promise me you’ll finish high school. It’s what your mother asked me to do for you before she died.”
“I promise,” Bernadette said. She didn’t want to say it. She was hoping to bolt from Aunt Mary’s soon after she arrived there. Now a promise was made. She couldn’t break it, not to her grandma, not to her dead mother.
Bernadette climbed on the bus, choosing a seat by the window, dropping her backpack on the aisle seat beside her. She wanted no company on the ten-hour trip south. Anyone attempting to take the seat would get a fierce look.
The bus’s big engine whined, the pneumatic brakes blew, and it pulled onto the highway gaining speed. Bernadette watched the trees go by faster and faster until they were a blur. She slouched down in her seat, pulling her Sony Walkman from her pack and putting on her headphones. She debated whether to start with something from Stone Temple Pilots or Alanis Morissette and her song, “Ironic.” She grabbed a cassette and shoved it in. She chose “Ironic.”
Looking out the window, she saw Tommy, Stephen, and Peter. They stood beside the road. Bandages covered their heads like white turbans. They raised their fists and pointed to her in the bus.
She sunk down in her seat. Hiding from their view. She’d wanted to laugh at them, sneer and make faces as the bus drove by, but it would only make the situation worse. This would never be over between them.
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