I pressed my head against the cool glass of the bus window. Outside the houses were moving in a blur, disappearing behind a grey curtain of rain. It had only been three days since I’d been back home for Spring Break but I was already missing California. There was just nothing for me in Camden, New Jersey. I could completely, honestly say that if it weren’t for my mom, I’d have happily never set foot here again.
We paused at a red light and the excited squeals of teenage girls pierced their way to us over the low rumbling of the motor. I observed them for a second. If I hadn’t known better, I could have believed them to be sisters, or clones even. They sported the same sweatpants and wore identical low cut tee-shirts. They were alike down to the colorful flip flops which completely disregarded the wet forecast; and perhaps more importantly, they all had the same long black hair, made even longer by the addition of scraggy extensions. I sighed despite myself. Tonight was Friday night but I had no friends to catch up with cheerfully. If it weren’t for the neighbors, I would have had nothing better to do than watch TV in my PJs, waiting for Mom to come home from her night out with her friends. They had felt bad for asking me to babysit the girls on such short notice - what college student didn't have any plan on a Friday night, right?
We began to move again and I quickly wiped the distinctive oily mark my forehead had made on the window, catching a glimpse of my blue eyes and the hay blond wisps which framed my face however they pleased. Mom always said I could have looked as pretty as her if only I’d just tried; but although I had her looks, it was where the resemblance stopped. I was no cheerleader and I was fully aware of that fact. It was almost funny now, the way people flocked to me at the start of the school year, only to see the interest die slowly in their eyes as they chatted with me. The confused look on the girls' faces as they tried to swiftly end the conversation, or how boys shook their heads when they walked back to their friends. My personality disappointed. In fact a decisive factor when I'd chosen my pre-med program in California was that I wouldn't stick out so much amongst a million other blond pre-med students - invisible at last. I guess I was happy.
The bus turned the corner and I snapped out of my wallowing when I recognized the low-rise building of the middle-school. The driver hit the brakes and the doors opened with a tired sound. The smell of damp grass, dirty rain and wet tarmac lazily wafted through the bus. I stood up and waved to the two little girls in the yellow and pink raincoats who were climbing in.
“Ellie! It’s true you’re back!” Lucy shouted, running down the aisle to my seat, Emily on her heels.
“See I told you she would! Look what I drew for you!” Emily squeaked without a pause, waving a damp albeit colorful piece of paper.
“Shh! girls, we’re on a bus, don’t scream like that!” I protested with a big smile. I had been their official baby-sitter for almost 3 years before going to college, and it was nice to know I’d been missed.
Lucy squeezed behind me to take my seat by the window and I sat Emily on my knees, her pink coat dripping all over my jeans.
“You look just the same!” Lucy suddenly spurted and I laughed.
“What did you expect? I’ve only been gone for 6 months!”
“Well, you know… I thought you’d look like an adult now you’re a student and all.”
Her big doll eyes looked wistfully at the drops creeping down the window.
“I am sorry to disappoint you,” I apologized jokingly but she turned around, a serious frown on her pearly face.
“I am in 6th grade now Eleanor.” I suppressed a smile when she used my full name; no one ever called me Eleanor. She continued, undisturbed – “and I don’t think I need a babysitter, but since Emily is just a baby, Mom and Dad said that you still needed to come over.”
“I am not a baby! I am in 1st grade now!” Emily protested, almost giving herself whiplash.
I pulled a strand of damp black hair out of Lucy’s mouth.
“Let me see… I’m not sure… I think, maybe… you do indeed look more grown up Lucy!”
She beamed at the verdict, her dark hazel eyes glowing with pride.
“Me too, do me next!”
Emily was just like a mini version of her sister, same brown hair, round face, and adorable smile. I kissed the top of her head.
“No, not you, you’re my baby forever.”
I squeezed her exaggeratedly and she tried to fight me off, giggling too hard to stand a chance.
“We’re almost home girls, so let’s start thinking about what we are going to do tonight”.
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