Eleanor & Park(2)By: Rainbow Rowell
‘But what’s the fucking point?’ Mikey asked.
‘Dude, would you want to fight a drunk monkey? They’re fucking huge. Like Every Which Way But Loose, man. Imagine that bastard losing his shit on you.’
Park noticed the new girl at about the same time everybody else did. She was standing at the front of the bus, next to the first available seat.
There was a kid sitting there by himself, a freshman. He put his bag down on the seat beside him, then looked the other way. All down the aisle, anybody who was sitting alone moved to the edge of their seat. Park heard Tina snicker; she lived for this stuff.
The new girl took a deep breath and stepped farther down the aisle. Nobody would look at her. Park tried not to, but it was kind of a train wreck/eclipse situation.
The girl just looked like exactly the sort of person this would happen to.
Not just new – but big and awkward. With crazy hair, bright red on top of curly. And she was dressed like … like she wanted people to look at her. Or maybe like she didn’t get what a mess she was. She had on a plaid shirt, a man’s shirt, with half a dozen weird necklaces hanging around her neck and scarves wrapped around her wrists. She reminded Park of a scarecrow or one of the trouble dolls his mom kept on her dresser. Like something that wouldn’t survive in the wild.
The bus stopped again, and a bunch more kids got on. They pushed past the girl, knocking into her, and dropped into their own seats.
That was the thing – everybody on the bus already had a seat. They’d all claimed one on the first day of school. People like Park who were lucky enough to have a whole seat to themselves weren’t going to give that up now. Especially not for someone like this.
Park looked back up at the girl. She was just standing there.
‘Hey, you,’ the bus driver yelled, ‘sit down.’
The girl started moving toward the back of the bus. Right into the belly of the beast. God, Park thought, stop. Turn around. He could feel Steve and Mikey licking their chops as she got closer. He tried again to look away.
Then the girl spotted an empty seat just across from Park. Her face lit with relief, and she hurried toward it.
‘Hey,’ Tina said sharply.
The girl kept moving.
‘Hey,’ Tina said, ‘Bozo.’
Steve started laughing. His friends fell in a few seconds behind him.
‘You can’t sit there,’ Tina said. ‘That’s Mikayla’s seat.’
The girl stopped and looked up at Tina, then looked back at the empty seat.
‘Sit down,’ the driver bellowed from the front.
‘I have to sit somewhere,’ the girl said to Tina in a firm, calm voice.
‘Not my problem,’ Tina snapped. The bus lurched, and the girl rocked back to keep from falling. Park tried to turn the volume up on his Walkman, but it was already all the way up. He looked back at the girl; it looked like she was starting to cry.
Before he’d even decided to do it, Park scooted toward the window.
‘Sit down,’ he said. It came out angrily. The girl turned to him, like she couldn’t tell whether he was another jerk or what. ‘Jesus-fuck,’ Park said softly, nodding to the space next to him, ‘just sit down.’
The girl sat down. She didn’t say anything – thank God, she didn’t thank him – and she left six inches of space on the seat between them.
Park turned toward the Plexiglas window and waited for a world of suck to hit the fan.
Eleanor considered her options:
1. She could walk home from school. Pros: Exercise, color in her cheeks, time to herself. Cons: She didn’t know her new address yet, or even the general direction to start walking.
2. She could call her mom and ask for a ride. Pros: Lots. Cons: Her mom didn’t have a phone. Or a car.
3. She could call her dad. Ha.
4. She could call her grandma. Just to say hi.
She was sitting on the concrete steps at the front of the school, staring out at the row of yellow buses. Her bus was right there. No. 666.
Even if Eleanor could avoid the bus today, even if her fairy godmother showed up with a pumpkin carriage, she’d still have to find a way to get back to school tomorrow morning.
And it’s not like the devil-kids on the bus were going to wake up on the other side of their beds tomorrow. Seriously. It wouldn’t surprise Eleanor if they unhinged their jaws the next time she saw them. That girl in the back with the blond hair and the acid-washed jacket? You could practically see the horns hidden in her bangs. And her boyfriend was possibly a member of the Nephilim.
That girl – all of them – hated Eleanor before they’d even laid eyes on her. Like they’d been hired to kill her in a past life.