The bus smells.
It smells bad every day, but today the boys in the back made it worse.
I can’t tell, but it smells just like dad when he comes back from standing behind the shed. It burns my nose and my throat when he walks by.
Mom hates when he smells like that.
I swing my feet, writing my name in the fog on the window. The bus goes over bumps and makes my writing messy. I wipe all the broken letters away and wait for it to fog up again.
A boy comes up the center aisle and sits across from me. He’s a lot older than me and he’s looking at me like my Dad does. He’s looking at me like there’s something evil in his brain.
“Hey there.” He says.
He leans across the seat, and I can hear his friends laughing in the back. I move closer to the window, not looking at him.
“Oh, c’mon sweetheat. I’m just trying to be friendly.”
He reaches across the aisle, but the bus slams to a stop.
“Connor!” Our driver yells.
“This is your stop.”
He stares at me for a second and then leaves, smirking his way off the bus.
His friends are still laughing.
I write my name on the window again. It looks better since we’re not moving this time. I breathe on the glass to make the letters show better.
The bus lurches forward and we’re almost to my house. Another boy comes up the aisle. He’s a year older and he lives in the house next to mine.
His name is Kyle.
“Hi, Katie.” He says. He sits down across from me.
“Don’t let those kids bother you. They’re all jerks.” He says, and I smile before I can stop it.
“I wish they would just leave me alone,” I say. I look down at my hands. One of the bruises on my wrists is showing. It’s ugly and yellow and I pull my sleeve back over it.
Kyle is watching me.
My throat gets tight.
The bus stops again, and we’re on my street.
Kyle stands up with me. He lets me get off before him and walks down the sidewalk next to me.
It’s raining a little, so I don’t worry when I feel tears on my face.
I can see my house. I reach up and wipe my cheeks.
Dad will be more mad if he sees me crying.
I feel Kyle grab my hand and I stop. He’s not hurting me, so I don’t pull away. I turn around, and he looks sad.
He reaches up and pushes more tears away.
“Katie. I’m gonna make things okay.”
I look at him. He’s older than me, but 12 isn’t scary to someone as old as 40.
“It’s okay.” I say. “I don’t feel it anymore.”