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19 August 2015 @ 05:06 pm
Medina, NY (April, 1982)  
“How old are you, anyway?” The driver looked down at her from the top of the steps, dark eyes peering over too small frames.

“Nineteen,” she lied easily. She knew that he wasn’t about to let a minor on—not without a parent—but she had 20 months to go, and she couldn’t wait that long.

“I’m sure,” he replied, his expression telling her that he was entirely unconvinced. At 16, Arianna wasn’t just young, she looked young, cursed with a soft, heart-shaped face and eyes the color of ginger tea that appeared almost too large for her face. She shifted her weight from her toes to her heels, grounding herself. She watched him quietly, not sure whether to continue to indignantly appear older or expose a fraction of her desperation to leave this town.

This town was slowly killing her, and she needed out. Two years was a long time, and her sister was leaving for an out of state college at the end of the summer. Arianna was positive that without Lily, she didn’t have a prayer. Together, home was manageable. Alone?

She didn’t want to think about it.

The driver pressed his lips together in a firm, disapproving line and ran his tongue along the back of his bottom teeth. “Either way, you can’t have a dog on here. Not unless it’s one of them service dogs—which it obviously ain’t.” He noted the dog’s lack of brightly colored vest as confirmation of his suspicion. In fact, the only thing tethering the dog to her owner was a bright red collar and a brown leash.

Gemma let out a low whine, and Aria patted her softly behind the ears. Squaring her shoulders, Arianna held out two tickets in front of her. “Come on, I bought her her own ticket and everything. She’s very, very well behaved. She won’t be a bother. I promise,” she insisted, mustering up the most pathetic, desperate expression she could manage.
She’d walk if she had to—but she wasn’t very keen on the idea as she watched the dark clouds crawl across the sky closer and closer to her reminding her that there was nothing back there for her. Raindrops bounced off the concrete, dampening the back of her bare calves, her socks, and the canvas of her shoes. She mentally scolded herself for not better preparing herself for this trip very well at all. Her backpack only held a change of clothes, toiletries, a half-empty jar of peanut butter, a box of dog biscuits, and all of the cash her father had in the box under his bed (roughly three hundred dollars he thought she didn’t know about). No umbrella. No raincoat.

“Please,” she pleaded.

The old man looked out at the rain, then back down at the two of them just as Gemma plopped down in an almost regal sitting position. She angled her muzzle upward, the top half of her body looking dignified, but the bottom half betraying her true feelings as her tail wagged ferociously back and forth across the pavement. His expression softened imperceptibly. He let out a sigh.

“Fine, but one whisker out of line, and you’re both out at the next stop. No second chances.” His voice was stern, but there was an unmistakable amusement in his tone. Arianna’s eyes brightened.

“Thank you!” She sang, handing her tickets to him as she adjusted her grip on Gemma’s harness. “Gemma, come,” she commanded, ushering her up the steps ahead of her. The driver maneuvered out of their way and plopped down on his seat. He watched through the rear view mirror as they made their way down the aisle, before choosing a seat in the far back. He pretended not to see the yellowing bruise on the back of her thigh. “Gemma—up,” he heard her say. The dog climbed into the seat closest to the window and settled into the seat, head still held high. Arianna slid in beside her and rubbed the fur around her neck. “Good girl, Gemma.”

The driver shook his head softly, trying not to think of the piles of fur he’d inevitably have to clean up later. He told himself what he was doing was a good thing as the rest of the passengers began pouring in, a deafening chatter of complaints and disgruntled sighs filling his bus in the wake of the sudden weather.

Gemma did a short turn in the seat before curling up, her paws tucked under her, and rested her head on Arianna’s lap. “Good girl, Gemma,” Arianna repeated, brushing her fingers through Gemma’s rust-colored fur. “Good girl.”