“The Bus Part III”

by Anna Harberger 

The deep chime of the 8 am bell at Sacred Heart High School reminded Frances of the mahogany grandfather clock her father brought home on a whim from some trade show in Long Beach. At the time, her mother despised the sulking beast for its incompetence. Much like Frances’ father, the clock was lazy, almost entirely incapable of alerting the members of the home of noontime except for when the small and large hands indicated 3:14. Nonetheless, Frances hurried to advanced geometry.

Mr. Danson was a man of few words. In both lecture and conversation, his voice spilled from his razor thin lips in the same hushed drone. Whether he felt joy or pain was unknown. His classroom looked similar to others of the Catholic high school. The cartoonish poster of the Last Supper, the lime green card stock scribed with Romans 15:7 in a shameless Comic Sans, and the ceramic Jesus in crucified above Mr. Danson’s white drooping face left the students and Son of God in a state of perpetual agony.

Unlike most other things, school came easy to Frances. She never had to spend much time taking arduous notes like the girls at the front of the class, nor did she study much for exams. School, though painfully dull, made sense in a way she did not. Frances was given a couple hours a day to escape whatever chaos was brewing inside of her, and shift her focus elsewhere.

Frances, having completed last night’s math homework in a whopping ten minutes, allowed herself to tune out the light hymn of the beige mass and began to think about anything other than the Transitive Property. The subject of her Friday mediation: mousy and kind best friend of five years, Cleo Kline.

‘What does she have right now? Oh. English, makes sense. Ugh, I wish I were in that section. No one has anything interesting to say in Period 5, ever. These girls take every lifeless word from Ms. Leyland’s mouth, parrot them back to her, and get A’s because of it. God forbid anyone says anything challenging. Heaven forbid the discussion doesn’t affirm with Leyland’s (or administrations?) god fearing agenda. Ms. Leyland was too young to be brainwashed and too young to be brainwashing us. One day I want to ask her if it’s all just been an act. Wouldn’t that be nice,’

Frances’ train of thought was interrupted by a bzzzzz of her cherry red Motorola Razr v3i. On the 3 cm by 3 cm inch screen, an alert reading: INCOMING TXT FROM HEATHER!

hey, dawg! m1ss you so much <3 come w me 2 this punk show 2night in midcity. bf is playing, going 2 be off the h00k. ya down? meet @ noho red line 8:30

Frances flipped open the device under the desk, careful as to not to tarnish the phone’s pristine body with fading rainbow splotches of chewing gum. Squinting, Frances read the message veraciously before looking up, her eyes drifting to the left and right corners of the room, and then back down again.

‘Holy shit. Heather hasn’t texted me in maybe, I don’t know, three months. I thought she wouldn’t reach out after last time. I still cannot believe Dad made me cancel last minute like that. I don’t think she was dating Steve then. She’s been going to a bunch of these shows in the city. Everything feels so much more glamorous over there, in the scariest, most gorgeously surreal way. How did she become friends with those people? Probably through school.

Imagine having parent(s) who didn’t force you to go to the most vanilla institution of the universe. It’s not like I can even think about transferring to Pine at this point. It’s already junior year. Also, we definitely couldn’t afford $30,000 tuition. North Hollywood is too far. And Heather is graduating. But, god. What I’d give to be surrounded by the colored hair and Demonia’s, a place where I would be seen, heard, appreciated even for my sensitivity. I think the more east you go, the more interesting and informed people become. Ha. Whatever fixation I have developed toward East Valley is becoming more and more ironic, given the fact that I just scarfed down Said’s Orientalism.

Ok, enough of that. Do I go? Do I bring Cleo? Is she going to make it weird? She’s only met Heather a couple of times. I think they got along. I don’t really remember. All we did was sit in the lice-ridden AMC seats and fall asleep during Pirates of the Caribbean. It’s been months. Do they remember each other? Is it going to awkward between them? Is going to be even more awkward between Heather and me?

I’m already spiraling. Maybe it’s not worth it. Maybe it is? Is this not exactly what I’ve been wanting? Yes. Now is not the time to freak out out. You’re going. It is final. And Cleo is coming too.’

Another chime echoed through the interior of the halls directing those inside to their next obligation. Filing in and out of the classroom, the bell seemed to seep into each classroom, as if through a cracked window or door. Its cadence was somewhat milder than the morning, though equally ever present.