He sat on the steps. One by one, they called out. “Bye!” “See you tomorrow!” “Don’t forget to bring my stuff”…the voices floated as they went their way.
He looked straight ahead. His eyes were searching for the familiar figure. He waited.
The minutes sped by. He got up and tugged up his shorts. He looked towards the gate. He sat down again and retied his laces. He peered at the front of the building. He opened his bag and rummaged. The break box tumbled out. He opened it and his fingers pounced on the sliver of a biscuit that lurked in its depths. He stuffed it into his mouth as his eyes turned left and right, searching.
“Why has he not come? Has he forgotten me again?” the frown on his forehead deepened. Slowly, slowly his eyes teared up.
He could feel a sob coming up.
“Why are you still here?” the authoritarian voice asked him. “Have you not been picked up?”
He got up slowly and quickly wiped his tears and turned to face her. He shook his head as his hands clung desperately to the straps of his back pack. Panic gripped him because he had never spoken to this lady ever. She was a remote figure who stood on the stage at assembly time and made announcements or delivered speeches.
“Do you know the number of your father?” the Principal asked.
He nodded his head as there was a frog in his throat. She opened up her mobile and said, “Hmmmm….What is the number?”
He mumbled it, fear gripping him. She sharply pulled him up, “Speak clearly….don’t mumble.”
His voice gradually gained strength as he repeated the number.
Suddenly he heard a honk and turned around. “He has come….my father has come” he shouted with joy.
They both stood at the door and the Conductor checked their tickets. He took his time looking at the piece of paper and at their faces by turn. He gestured with his head and grunted giving way for them to climb in.
The girl got into the bus first with her duffle bag clutched to her body like an armour. He followed her and they made their way to the back of the bus searching for the seat number mentioned in the ticket.
They found their seats and he said, “You sit near the window!” She slithered in and gave her bag to him before sitting down. She clung on to her crossbody bag that contained her precious bits and pieces. He placed the bags…his and hers….above in the rack and sat down in the aisle seat.
She tried to open the gathered curtain on the window. He chided her, “Shhhh…let it be closed…no need to open it…safer!”
She looked with fear at his face and stuffed her fist into her mouth trying to stifle the sob that rose to engulf her like a huge tsunami wave. The bus shuddered as the driver switched on the engine and revved it to a crescendo.
“Rights!” said the conductor as he climbed in and shut the door with a bang. The bus was nearly full and all the passengers rustled and bustled as they settled down. The bus jerked forward and came out of the bus station to leave the small town and reach the highway to the big city.
The couple sighed with relief. The bus turned the corner and the Police Station came into view. Both of them ducked automatically. The bus raced out of the town and hit the highway. “We did it,” she said.
“Not yet” he cautioned. “They can come after us even now”.
Her face showed fear and her eyes became moist. “I wish we didn’t have to do it this way. If only they had been more reasonable……” her voice dragged into despair.
The bus sped on the ribbon of the highway with villages flashing by. The day passed by, minute by minute, hour by hour. Lunchtime…the bus stopped at an eatery. “No eating on the bus…please get down to have your meals”.
“I’m not hungry” she whispered. “I don’t want to get off the bus…I don’t think it is safe”.
“Ok! I will quickly have a bite and be back”, he said. She nodded her head and rested it on the back of the seat.
The bus emptied with only a couple of passengers staying behind. Ten minutes later, the passengers began to troop in. She kept an eye on the door looking for his familiar face. The minutes ticked by.
The conductor stood at the door counting heads. “All aboard?” he shouted. Her panic began to mount as all the seats filled up.
“Yes” said the passengers.
“No” she said with the slowly mounting panic in her voice….”No, No, No” …..and they waited.
She tossed and turned in her bed trying to find a comfortable spot on the pile of pillows that supported her back and head.
“Why don’t you try and sleep”, the girl said.
She turned her back on her and tried to stay in that position.
She had to get up….she just had to. She was missing a breath.
“What are you doing?” the girl asked. “Shall I help you?”
She shook her head and sat up, her hand groping for the breath giving inhaler.
She could feel the gasp rising up…it was a desperate search for a breath.She was hyperventilating.
She missed it and she got up.
“Madam! Don’t get up suddenly like that….you will fall” said the girl as she hurriedly rose up from her palette and came to hold on to her.
She shrank from the touch that was engulfing, squeezing, grappling….she needed to breath, just breath.
“Don’t panic” the girl said as she observed the agitation.
She shook her head and raised her head looking above….one breath was still missing.
“Oh my God! Is this it….” And her eyes rolled, her mouth opened, her hands fluttered wildly trying to hold on to something.
“Where is it? Where is it?” she muttered as her hands desperately searched under the pillow, on the side table, pushing and pulling at the bedlinen.
“What are you searching for Madam? Your glasses? Your teeth”?
She shook her head desperately…searching, searching.
The girl looked too and then she spotted it…she pointed to it.
“Give it, give it to me now…. please” she cried.
The girl bent down and picked up the blue container nestled inside her slippers.
She put the inhaler into her mouth. She pressed it and took a deep breath.
She sighed! She calmed down. Her lost breath was back!
This topic was chosen by Sanjana for this week’s Friday Four-Now Five On One blog post topic. The other bloggers who write on the same topic are Rummuser, Shackman and Sanjana. We are joined by our dear friend Conrad and our ranks are on the rise.
Please go over to Rummuser’s and Shackman, Jconmem, and Sanjanaaah to see what they have to say about Panic that is gradually gripping all our minds!