The weather was mild for a late February morning. I checked my peach dress for the third time: everything was fastened and the matching belt’s buckle was in line with the pearl buttons.
Chuck strolled along the driveway towards the road. He looked sharp in his new shirt and Levi’s that Deryl and Mom had bought him. Chuck received the same as Bronco and I. He was treated just like one of the family.
I was concerned how to explain our relationship when we entered the new high school.
“Just say that you are brother and sister, “Mom had said.
“But, what will people think about us having different last names?”
“Don’t worry, everything will work out fine,” Mom answered optimistically.
I still had concerns. It wouldn’t be hard to say that Chuck was my brother. I was beginning to believe our own propaganda. He was becoming more a part of our family. I felt a growing loyalty and fondness towards him, but I wasn’t sure what he felt towards me.
Loneliness was my feeling these days, so I hung around Chuck. I would chatter like a magpie or try to tease him, but I could see in his eyes that I was butting up against his wall of his seclusion. His invisible sign read, “No Entrance”. Perhaps he felt awkward having a sister his own age. Or was he afraid I would discover who he really was behind his wall? Whatever the reason, it didn’t matter, Chuck had been accepted.
“Can you see it coming?” Bronco yelled as he ran from the house.
“No, not yet,” Chuck answered.
I wondered if either of them was as nervous as I was. But they didn’t have newly permed hair and a couple of blemishes they were self conscious of. I pulled my bangs down over my forehead but the curls stubbornly sprung back to their original shape.
I walked to the end of the driveway to take my turn as sentry.
“Here it comes,” I yelled as the yellow roof topped the crest of the hill.
Mom waved and three hands returned the gesture (without enthusiasm). She and Deryl were busy working on the house. The moving van, with our belongings, would be arriving today. The decision had been made and carried though: the house on Childers Drive was for sale and we were now buyers, with installments, of a farmhouse and ten acres.
The long, yellow bus drove into the driveway. The hinged doors opened, the driver smiled pleasantly, and we entered single file up the black steps. I was the first to board and I sat in the third seat from the front. I had assumed that Bronco and Chuck would sit with me. Chuck headed for the back and Bronco sat across the aisle. I felt abandoned.
The driver backed onto the road and the vibrating ride began. The bus made its stops at farmhouses along the countryside. Everyone boarding stared in my direction, but no one spoke. I could feel the blood rushing to my cheeks. I was very aware of the empty space next to me. Finally, a grade school girl, with long blond braids, sat down beside me. Neither of us said a word.
I turned my flushed face toward the window and fastened my attention on the fields, orchards, cattle and houses passing by. The driver downshifted and the bus curved the steep hill leading into town.
To a normal observer the scene would have been one of pleasant nostalgia...the corner Phillips Service Station was servicing one pickup at the gas pumps, and two men, dressed in overhauls and caps strolled up the sidewalk and entered the small cafe for their morning coffee.
However, as I viewed this community I was tense with dread. What would this little town hold for my life? Would I be accepted or rejected? That was my ultimate concern. My stomach knotted as the bus rounded the last street corners and stopped in front of the school in Hotchkiss Colorado.