Confessions and a Big Yellow Bus

October 26, 2011
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A young woman, maybe mid-twenties, is sitting in a dark room that smells like oranges. She doesn’t realize that the grimy window facing her is a two-way. Every fidget, every blink of the eyes, all of her movements are being scrutinized by two men sitting behind that mirror. They don’t speak to each other each other about the unattractive, mousy looking girl. They just sip their coffee and scribble notes.

A clean looking woman in a grey power suit sits down across from the young woman. She flips quickly through her papers. Swish, swish, swish. She does this quite fast and one of the men behind the mirror, the taller one, wonders how she accomplishes anything at all from this. Just as this though flits through the man’s head, the woman stops flipping, and stares pointedly at the young woman across from her.

“All this evidence, it’s astronomical,” the woman closes her eyes in emphasis on the word “astronomical.” “There is just no way that you could explain this.”

The young woman’s eyes flit around before steading them on her reflection in the mirror, “What if, I don’t care that I’m guilty?” She pauses before continuing, “What if I confess?”

“Well, that would save me a whole lot of time,”

“Okay, well – hmm,” the young woman pauses, “It’s just I don’t know where to start.” The clean looking woman sighed.

“How about the beginning,” the woman opens her notebook.

“Okay well, I guess it all started in high school, at St. Mary’s, the one right here in town. Ted played football and we all loved him. His hair was dark and stuck out in all the right places, he was effortlessly handsome. He only went out with a couple of girls before Rachel, and then none of us stood a chance. Of course maybe I shouldn’t say “us” as I didn’t count myself in with the population of dateable girls. I still don’t, really.

Anyway, it was Rachel Carter that stole his heart. She’d just moved here from Georgia. Everyone just died at hearing that accent, they all thought it was so charming. I have to admit, I did too. I even was sort of friends with her. She was nice to me. We were partners in chemistry. I’m good at chemistry so I didn’t mind doing the acid titrations while she sat and talked about Ted to me.

Shortly after it became clear to the girls in the school that Ted was serious about Rachel Carter, they didn’t seem to find anything too charming about her. I used to overhear them calling her the “suh-thun bell.” I became Rachel’s only friend, though I wouldn’t say we were really close. I didn’t mind that Ted was in love with her, I knew it could never be me anyway.

Once we all graduated, most people went off to college. My parents couldn’t afford it though so I got a job in town. I began to drive the school bus for the elementary school. It was a great job for me. I loved all the kids, they liked me too. Some of them would bring me presents before a holiday,

As for Ted, he married Rachel as soon as he could. His Dad owned the big construction company in town, so Ted had a good job there. Almost a year later, Rachel gave birth to a daughter. Whenever I saw them strolling their baby around, Ted just looked so happy. I’d never seen a Dad so keen on holding a screaming, smelly baby. Rachel looked tired though. Her blonde hair had lost its shine, and once she lost the weight from the pregnancy she just kept going, she ended up looking like the walking dead. “

“I’m sorry, is this going somewhere?” the suit woman looked annoyed.

“There’s a point, I’m getting to it,” the young woman says this very slowly. “Well see one day skin and bones Rachel Carter just up and left poor Ted and that baby girl. No one quite knows where she went, there were rumors about post-partum depression. I didn’t listen to it much, though. All that concerned me was that a mother could leave her baby behind.

Well pretty soon Ted started looking around for someone to watch Maggie, that was the baby’s name. He was working full time at Grap’s Construction, no place for a baby. I had heard about Ted and what happened. I went to talk to him about the job. The hours fit perfectly between bus pickup and drop-off, and I just loved babies. Ted remembered me from high school, he told me I looked exactly as I had in the eleventh grade. Ted didn’t look the same though. Something about how his eyes were hollow and always kind of glassy. I believed that when Rachel left, it had nearly killed him.

I became determined to help Ted just as I helped the baby. Maggie took to me quickly, she hardly ever wanted to leave my hip. She had Rachel’s curly blonde hair and Ted’s dark eyes. On her first birthday I made a pink frosted cake with little princess tiaras all over it. It was exactly the kind of cake a little baby girl should have.

Pretty soon, Ted was starting to need me to come back after I picked up the kids from school in the yellow bus. He had to work late often, but I liked the extra time with Maggie. One night, I was putting Maggie to sleep and I was singing her a lullaby. I always sang to her as she fell asleep, some song I remember my mother used to sing. I finished the whole song before I realized that Ted had been standing in the doorway. His eyes looked dreamy and far off.

‘You’re so good with her,’ he told me, like he was reasoning something out with himself. I told Ted that his daughter was a beautiful little baby. Then he said to me, ‘You probably just want to get home, but would you want to have a beer before you go?’ I knew if I had been any Rachel Carter he would’ve offered me wine instead, but I liked beer better anyways.

We went downstairs and sat at the small circular table in the corner of the kitchen. We talked some about high school, always careful avoiding Rachel’s presence. I began to talk about a trip I took a few years ago to Wyoming, and it turned out that he’d been there too. His eyes lit up and he said, ‘I was driving down the street and I had to stop to let a herd of buffalo cross in front of me, Buffalo!’ he yelled, he said he could hardly believe it. He told me another story about getting lost on a trail in Yellowstone Park saying, ‘I guess I fell behind the group. I kept stopping to look at those mountains through my binoculars. I turned one way and came smack face to face with a huge black bear.’ I asked him how he got away and he said to me, ‘Honestly… I fought it off with my bare hands,’ he smiled at me. We both laughed. Laughter looked so out of place on that somber face of his. It was nice.

I went home that night and I couldn’t help but think of Ted and those square white teeth, and that dark messy hair. The next day, I found that when he got home and I saw him, I got a pang of butterflies in my stomach. I knew I was being foolish, acting like a teenager. Maggie and I had been finger painting that day, I made sure to clean it up well before Ted got home. That night he asked me to have a beer again. This continued for a few days until I said, ‘Ted, I’ve just realized this, but I’m pretty sure all you ever have for dinner is a beer.” He grinned at that and I told him, no arguments, I would be making his dinners.

The next night I cooked him some spaghetti, and he laughed and told me spaghetti was his absolute favorite. We still talked nightly, but usually I was making dinner while he sat at the table watching me. He told me about growing up and how his dad died when he was three. In high school I always believed Ted to be the kind of person who never had any problems. He asked me about driving the bus and I felt bad for Ted because my life wasn’t all that interesting to hear about. Ted began to look much better, that glassy look from his eyes was gone. I had a firmed belief that to get better Ted needed some good food and someone to talk to. One night after I made him a chicken pot pie and was on my way out, he squeezed my hand and told me how thankful he was that I was there, for Maggie, and for him too. I went home and the butterfly feeling in my stomach was stronger than ever.

The next day as I was in the kitchen, trying to get Maggie to eat something, Ted came down stairs and told me that he would be out for dinner tonight. ‘Is it something for work?’ I asked hopefully but no.

‘Actually, no, I have a date tonight.’ I felt the butterflies turn into rocks and drop into the pit of my stomach. Well that’s what I got for thinking I stood a chance. I also was going to have to stay late to watch Maggie.

That night, after I put Maggie to bed, I laid down on the couch and started a book. I must’ve fallen asleep because the next thing I knew, I heard a shaky hand trying to put in the key. I sat up and turned the lamp on. Ted walked in, squinting at the light. He seemed to have forgotten I was going to be there because there were tears in his eyes and a flash of embarrassment flew across his face. It wasn’t until this moment that I realized that this was his first date since Rachel left. ‘Oh, Ted,’ I told him, ‘it’s alright.’ One moment I was looking up into his sad, dark eyes and the next thing I knew he was kissing me. He was kissing me and then I was kissing him back. It was quite wonderful and terrible at the same time.

I went home that night feeling strange. Whenever I imagined a man kissing me, he never had tears in his eyes. I played through a thousand different things he could say tomorrow, but I never guessed what it would be: nothing. He didn’t say anything to me at all. There was an air of awkwardness and I felt like crying. That night I called over one of my good friends and asked her to come put Maggie to sleep and make Ted’s dinner. I told her I was feeling sick. I went home and laid in my bed for a while. I just kind of watched the ceiling until I really did feel sick and vomited in my trashcan. Then I was fine.

The next day I drove all the kids to school, they sang the song ‘John Jacob Jinglehiemer Schmidt’ on the way there. When I got to Ted’s house he was rushing out the door for some big meeting. That day Maggie and I played ‘mommy’ with her baby doll that she named Becca, but when she said it, it sounded more like Bahka. I made Ted lasagna for his dinner. When he came home he sat at the table like he normally did. We talked cordially about our day. I cut out a big hunk for Ted and put it on his plate. I was about to leave when Ted grabbed my hand and said, ‘I am serious when I say that I am not going to eat another meal unless you stay to eat with me.’ And that night Ted kissed me without tears in his eyes.

It was about two months before I moved in. I had some nice artwork from my old house that I used to spruce up Ted and I’s room. Being with Ted, it was the best thing in the world. I loved him and he kissed me like I was beautiful. Maggie was like my own daughter. She loved clothes and we would go shopping, she wanted anything pink. Ted and I even started planning a trip to Wyoming for all three of us. We both wanted Maggie to see the mountains.

We couldn’t get married because legally Ted was still married to Rachel. I’m sure we could’ve tracked her down, but I was scared what might’ve happened if we did. Ted had given me everything I ever wanted. I guess that was why when Ted started coming home later I didn’t ask questions. I loved Ted and I didn’t want to admit my suspicions to myself. Every night, even the late ones, I had a nice dinner ready for Ted when he came home.

One day during the winter, the roads were icy and school was cancelled. No one had informed me of the snow day until I got to the first bus stop and no kids were there. I went home but there was a bright red sedan in the driveway. I felt my heart drop to my stomach. Nervously, I went around to the back window and peeked in. Rachel. She was holding Ted’s hand and he was kissing her on the cheek. That was bad but then she went over and picked up my baby girl and rocked her with those bony arms.

Nothing about me changed, I was not pulsing with anger nor babbling with tears, instead I felt numb. I slowly walked away from the house and into the woods in back. I just kept walking and still I felt nothing. I came out on the side walk an hour later and found myself heading back to the house. The red car was gone by then. I went inside and saw Ted. ‘You’re late,’ he said to me, ‘I needed to be at work an hour ago.’ The only thing that I said was, “Sorry.’ Sorry is what I said.

Ted came home and I had dinner ready like always. We went to bed and I laid next to him. I didn’t move all night, I felt like Maggie’s plastic baby doll. In the morning I got up and took Maggie to daycare. Then, I got in the bus and drove. I came to the stop sign at the intersection of Main and Mock St. There was one pedestrian crossing in front of me, all tall man with messy dark hair. Before I knew what I was doing my foot had pushed the pedal to the ground and I drove over Ted in my big yellow bus.”

The woman looks up from her notebook. She knows the young woman is going to jail for a long time. For maybe one of the first times in her career she wishes this wasn’t so. She has never been a doormat, in fact her whole life she’s gone to feminist rallies and even burned her bra on occasion. Her thoughts are making her feel sick. She thinks she is going to vomit or maybe go to h*ll because of the joy she feels that the man, Ted, is dead. The two men behind the glass think of how sick this young woman is. Running over a man with a bus! The two men who have not spoken this whole time just look at each other and shake their heads.

Once the young woman has gone through her trial and received her life sentence, the story lingers on in the woman’s mind. In the office she finds the notes from the two men she knew had been sitting behind the screen. She takes them home and types them up with a few adjustments.

The “Big Yellow Bus” story, as it is commonly known around town, draws the same gender line across town that it did in that interrogation room. While the men eat their dinners and think how unhappy they are, the women sit and say something along the lines of, “John, If you ever cheat on me, I’ll run you over with a bus.” The men have taken Ted’s death seriously, and this threat seems to be an effective measure. The young woman, now in jail, receives “fan mail” on a daily basis, from all the women who proclaim that their husbands and boyfriends treat them like s*** too and it is nice that they can’t all get away with it. Pretty soon the women have learned how to keep their husbands in line and pretty soon the women stop getting trampled on and take over the world. Well, it probably would happen if a few more women ran over a few more men in a big yellow bus.

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