I sit in the front seat, phone out, directing Caden to the nearest schools.
We all agreed that this would become a sort of bus and we would begin dropping everyone off where they live. But then the problem of siblings came up. So now, after figuring out every single destination we have to make, we have an order in which we will make the drop offs and hope that the gas holds out.
No one else acted capable enough to say “Take this next right” so I took the job.
“Take this next right,” I tell him. He slows a little before pulling in when we get to that point. We park right in front of the entrance of the elementary school. Rippy and another go in. Only Rippy comes back. We know they have chosen to stay with their sibling. We drive away without looking back.
The drive is quiet to the next school (dropping off another student and her two sisters inbetween). We all wish we could be the next ones. The ones to get off next and be within our family's warm embrace and never have a worry. Wish we could be the young and innocent teenagers we once were. Not even two hours ago. Two hours! All of this has happened in two hours! So much death and destruction! The world has turned upside down on its head and it took less time than most major motion pictures!
"Crap," I mutter after Caden asks about where we're going, "We missed the turn," I carefully reroute us to our destination and get us back on track. Kicking myself for losing focus.
"Thanks for getting us out of there," A voice says behind me. I turn in my seat and look up at Jiavanni.
"I, uh.." I wonder what I have done the past two hours. Two hours! "Yeah, sure." Her eyes are red and her face puffy. Her shoulders shake and I can see that she's going to begin crying again. Her shirt is all crumpled and dirty. Covered in ash and blood. I feel like puking. She steps forward and collapses into my arms. I hold her awekwardly and wonder at what it is she expects of me. In need of a distraction I look at the road ahead and recognize it.
"Make this left up here, then the school will be on our right."
Caden pulls into the parking lot then drives straight up to the front doors as we have done with every other school.
"Come on," I tell Jiavanni lifting her slightly. Victoria, her older sister, appears behind her. Her face is white and shocked. I'm instantly puzzled to where she came from and why Jia was not with her. I shrug it off.
I lead the two girls through the front doors and find the second set of these locked. I bang on the window facing the front office and peek in.
"Mrs. Bain!" I yell. "Mrs. Bain!" A head pops out from behind a door frame at the far side of the room. Her worried face changes to relief when she recognizes me, then to confusion. She rushes out of the office and into the main hallway where she lets us in.
"Thanks," I mutter as the two sisters embrace their mother.
"We need to go," I state looking at them braking through the questions Mrs. Bain is shooting rapid-fire at her daughters. "I'm here for my sister and you and let's go home, now," I think back to our school and what we had seen on the drive up. Something I blocked from my brain then and am only allowing it in now to convince her we need to leave. So I can get my sister.
"They're coming for the schools, all of them. We've been stopping at schools like this one and..." I bite back tears as I recall the scene, "And... When we... We pulled up but there wasn't a school... The bombs..." We sit in a confused silence for a minute. Such a precious minute. For any minute now they may drop more bombs and devestate the very ground we're standing on as they have done to others. Mrs. Bain nods.
"I'll get your sister, you can get in my car and we can go. Have you contacted your parents?" I shake my head and she gives me a look of concern before hurrying off. I step outside and take a deep breath of air. I pull out my phone and check it for the umpeenth time. Hoping one of my parents would respond to my many texts. Still nothing. My battery is at 70%. I shut it down.
Mrs. Bain comes back with my sister. I cannot explain the joy I felt. The deep sadness I experienced. I could write a book about my feelings, but it would be so full and repetitive it would be poiontless. We hugged for far too long.
"Kevin, you can ride with me home, they can get where they need to go," Mrs. Bain tells me. I can see Rippy taking long strides as he makes his way toward us. I shake my head, slowly at first.
"No, take my sister-" I can see her snap her head around to look at me with her tear-filled eyes. "-and I'll be back with those that are left. They need somewhere to stay, they can stay with me if they must. But would you be willing to take some in?" She looks at the ambulance and takes in Rippy with unease as he stops next to us. His cold black eyes looking us over. I try to remember the boy I knew two hours ago.
"Of course," She sighs, "Make it back..." I tear myself from my sister and leave with Rippy.