The Bus, by Justine Jilla

They say that in all sets of twins there is a dominant twin and a passive twin.   The dominant twin tends to overpower the so-called passive twin, and I did. Being the dominant twin of the pair, I was also more aggressive and outgoing and made friends easily. Ashley, on the other hand, was the introvert.  She was shy and quiet, and always seemed to have her head in the clouds.  She was a dreamer, always deep in her own world, distant from everyone else’s.

Even as young children, I clearly remember worrying about my sister constantly, to an almost ridiculous extent.  I always felt that she couldn’t take care of herself, and so I made her my responsibility.  When she hopped on her hot pink bicycle with the white and pink basket in front, I followed right behind her on my matching one.  She might go with a stranger if I wasn’t there to protect her.

My mother and I strolled beside the park to Clement Avenue Elementary School as we had every weekday of that summer. The massive maples shaded us from the scorching summer sun as I skipped barefoot along the cool sidewalk.  I was 8 years old.  Each afternoon my mother and I met my sister when she got off the school bus from Humboldt Elementary, where she was attending summer school.  School came easily to me; I excelled in all that I tried and had no need for summer school.  Ashley, on the other hand, always struggled academically and needed extra help. 

As we neared the school, Ashley’s bus pulled up alongside us.  The sounds of children’s laughter and high-pitched screams poured out of every window as the bus screeched to a stop.  “Ashley’s not on the bus!” the children yelled out to my mother and me.  What they were saying didn’t register immediately.  Of course she was on the bus. Where else would she be? One by one the kids straggled off the school bus, skipping down the steps in the carefree way that kids do.  And then the bus pulled away from the curb. Ashley never got off.

My brain was a haze of worry and confusion. I couldn’t put together a complete thought, just random flashes. Would I ever see her again? My palms immediately moistened at the thought, and I could see my heart beating through my faded blue tank top.  The overwhelming feeling of absolute panic began to strangle me with its crushing grip. The air became thick like a humid blanket, and my lungs couldn’t seem to draw in enough breath to fill them.  My throat tightened, and it was difficult to swallow.  It felt as if a hot coal was smoldering in the pit of my stomach.

I didn’t exactly know what strangers did, but from what my mom said, once they took you, you never came back.

The next hour consisted of numerous frantic phone calls made by my mother as I sat in the kitchen listening.  My hands felt numb and my legs were trembling helplessly under the table.  After what seemed like a lifetime, but in reality was less than an hour, my sister was found.  She had mistakenly got on the wrong bus and was dropped off at a different school. Probably she was daydreaming as she cheerfully boarded the wrong bus.  I exhaled a deep sigh of relief and a feeling of calm swept over my quivering body. She wasn’t crying when we picked her up.  She was her normal lighthearted self.  It was then that I realized being the dominant twin did not make me stronger, it made me weaker.

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