The driver kept pointing to his watch-less wrist as Molly, Tracey, and Millie filed onto the bus. “Thirty more seconds and you’d be walking.” The gruff older man with graying hair and beard announced at 6:01 AM according to the digital clock above the door at the rear of the bus. Without response, they’d walked the aisle and returned to their seats.
After returning to the bus station, the three had gone to the Ladies room. Millie had closed herself in a private stall and lingered. And, lingered. She’d taken another Depakote and hoped for a bowel movement. Molly and Tracey had done their business and waited outside in the lobby. After five minutes Molly had returned and retrieved Millie after considerable prodding.
As the bus rolled forward, Molly and Millie exchanged seats, at the younger’s insistence. She wanted to continue talking to Tracey. For three reasons. She wasn’t sleepy nor did she want to listen to music. Second, it was Saturday and therefore too early to text with Alisha. Third, she was intrigued with what Tracey had said at breakfast. Something like, “I’m amazed and disappointed that schools don’t teach young people anything remotely related to mindfulness.”
Before Molly could think of a way to reignite her and Tracey’s conversation, Millie gently elbowed her arm and pointed to the half-page flyer the ticket clerk had given them in Toledo. “I’m impressed with Greyhound. They’re sticking to the schedule like glue. It looks like we should be in New York right around 7:30.”
Molly turned and looked at the digital clock. “That’s thirteen and a half hours. A lifetime.” One thing was certain, she had done everything she could to change her mother’s mind about fleeing to New York City. “Why not go to the DA and tell him the truth?” “Why not just move and get one of those restraining orders you’ve talked about?” “Why don’t we borrow one of Colton’s guns, go on a picnic, and kill the bastard?” Molly had only thought the latter idea and dared not say it aloud, although she was convinced she could pull the trigger.
“We’ll make it.” Millie said it because that’s what any good mother would say, though, right now, there was an energy inside her itching to explode. “Why don’t you listen to some music? Matt wants me to call him.” Millie removed her phone from her purse and dialed.
Molly kept staring across the aisle to a closed-eyed Tracey who had leaned her seat back and was clutching a small leather-looking journal in her hands. The bus hit a pot hole and Molly kept staring. Tracey’s pose didn’t change. So peaceful and content, not a worry in the world, Molly thought now noticing for the first time a beautiful necklace around Tracey’s neck. The beads looked like pearls except they were brown, maybe made from wood. At the end of the long thread-looking chain, was a lighter-colored tassel.
“If you’re mother doesn’t mind, come sit by me. We can continue our chat.” Tracey said, opening her eyes ever so slight. Molly was embarrassed, her face turning a pinkish red.
Millie was talking with Matt and looking away, through the window at a landscape of passing houses, what Molly figured were similar to theirs on S. Princeton Avenue. She unbuckled her seat belt and eased across the aisle and in front of Tracey who inclined her seat. “Thanks for inviting me.” Millie had always stressed good manners.
Molly followed Tracey’s lead in reclining her seat. Not knowing what to do, Molly sat and pondered. Finally, she decided Tracey wouldn’t have asked her over unless she was willing to talk. “I’m sorry for being so dumb and asking a stupid question.”
Tracey turned her head toward Molly and smiled. “You’re as far from dumb as Albert Einstein, and there’s no stupid questions. How else are we to learn?”
Molly, relieved, returned the smile. “Thanks, so, why are you so skinny?” The twelve year old was certainly uninhibited.
Tracey leaned her head back and snorted, “wow, I asked for that. You go girl.”
“If that’s too personal.”
Tracey interrupted. “No, I’m not anorexic. It’s my metabolism. I eat constantly but have trouble gaining weight.” Molly thought it would be great to be able to eat all she wanted but knew that wasn’t herself. During the second part of fourth grade and all of fifth she’d overeaten and become rather pudgy. She eventually learned it was a response to her mother letting Colton move in, and his subsequent abuse of the two of them. “Anyway, looks are not everything.”
Easy for her to say, Molly thought. In her eyes, Tracey was a beautiful woman. Silky Auburn hair, penetrating green eyes, a perfect oval face, and symmetrical lower and upper lips. Plus, to be so skinny, models would kill to have her height and body shape.
“You said you were headed home. To New York City. Where do you live?” Molly felt free to change the subject.
“At The Stratford. It’s an apartment house on the Upper East Side.” Tracey inclined her chair and opened her journal. “What about you guys?”
Molly hesitated and recalled her mother’s words, ‘we have to be careful who we talk to and what we say.’ “Well, uh, I’m not sure of the address. Somewhere in Manhattan and it’s a studio apartment, but we haven’t seen it yet.”
Tracey closed her journal without writing anything. “No problem.” She paused, and then asked, “do you know where you’ll be going to school?” Again, Molly paused, but this time told herself Tracey was safe, there was no way she was or could be connected to Colton, and now, glancing across the aisle, saw her mother was sleeping.
“It’s Robert Wagner, Robert Wagner Middle School. I’ve already been accepted and start January the 6th.”
“That’s a great school. Matter of fact, it’s only a ten minute walk from my apartment.” Tracey leaned forward and removed a large leather bag from beneath her seat. “Would you like a snack?” She removed two large red Delicious apples.
Molly smiled, still full from breakfast. “No, I’m good thanks.”
Tracey continued, “I’m trying to persuade Mr. Waldeck, the 6th grade principal, to let me teach a class. Meditation for Children is what I call it.”
Molly knew very little about meditation. “What would that do for the students?” That seemed like a logical question.
“Whether we are young or old, our minds are where we live, where we experience everything. My goal for my clients and likewise for the students is to show them how meditation can initiate moments of calm, bring about self-awareness, and to begin connecting their mind and body.”
“Oh,” is all Molly said.
Tracey laughed and took a bite of her apple. “Let me be clear, I’m not into religion or anything metaphysical. But, I am all in for learning more about how our minds work.”
Molly was a little confused. “What do you mean by megaphysical?”
“Metaphysical.” Sorry, I spoke with a mouth full. “As you know, physical refers to the natural world, metaphysical goes beyond that, beyond the physical world. It attempts to transcend the laws of nature, which, to me, makes it wholly abstract and overly theoretical. I think it’s pure woo-woo. But, get this, my brother’s position is 180 degrees the opposite.”
Molly pondered what she believed. Ever since her and her mother started attending St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, she’d felt loved, appreciated, safe, but was troubled over what she heard from the teachers and pastor. Now, with Tracey’s definition, Molly concluded what St. Paul taught was, at a minimum, difficult to understand. Maybe it was woo-woo, but she wasn’t sure.
During the remainder of the ride to King of Prussia, Tracey responded to Molly’s question about her personal life: where she’d grown up, whether she had siblings, where she’d gone to school, whether she was married (or had been).
As the bus rolled to a stop, Molly felt encouraged by Tracey’s story, how someone could survive heartache and traumatic events, and still go on to live a satisfying and rewarding life.
Tracey had grown up in Harrison, Arkansas in a happy family of five: mother, father, brother, and a twin sister. The happiness evaporated when mother and sister were killed when the twins were twelve. What had made the tragedy even more tragic was the mother was killed in a head-on collision while she was driving home to meet the school bus delivering her daughters. Tracey’s sister had been killed thirty minutes later when she stepped into the path of an oncoming car. The tragedy had nearly destroyed Tracey, her brother, and her father. Two years later, the three had moved to New York City.
Tragedy again revisited their lives the night Tracey graduated from high school. Her father was shot and killed at a convenience store after attending the school ceremony.
Tracey, 33, and Aaron, 35, had stayed in New York City, graduated college but had taken opposite paths with their lives. Tracey had become a Zen master, and established a meditation center. Aaron had become a Southern Baptist preacher and founded Faith Haven Church. The siblings relationship had deteriorated over the years to the point they now rarely spoke. However, Tracey’s life, at least as it sounded to Molly, was rich and rewarding.
The bus driver’s gruff voice interrupted Molly’s thoughts. “Folks, just a reminder this is a quick stop. Keep your seats. No exiting. You’ll have a forty minute rest stop in Philadelphia, and that’s only fifty minutes away.”
Tracey stood and removed a bag from the overhead rack. “This is my stop.” She noticed Molly staring at her with a ‘deer in the headlights’ look. “I have a client here and will be taking the 5:30 bus. You take care.”
Molly was disappointed but didn’t want to seem rude. “Okay. It was nice to meet you.”
“Oh, here.” Tracey removed a card from her small bag. “This is my contact information. Feel free to call me anytime.” Tracey turned to leave and glanced at Millie, who was waving but talking on her phone.