“Mina! Thank heavens!” Mrs. Crandall exclaimed when Wil approached and opened the sliding door. “Your mom’s at the hospital. Lynette took her this morning and I only just got the text.”
Wil was too worried by this sudden announcement to think of tactlessly correcting her neighbor. She knew that her mother would have texted Mrs. Crandall immediately, so she suspected that her lazy neighbor had been lost, as usual, in the wastes of sleeping in and perusing social media.
“Are you taking me to the hospital?” Wil asked, instead. She ignored the sullen disapproval of the car’s other occupants -at least, the ones paying attention to something non-electronic.
In this case, that was Mrs. Crandall’s son, Eric, and their mutual neighbor, Vic. Reagan and Jorge, who lived near their apartment complex, continued finger-swiping their phones as their eyes and ear buds attended the screens.
“I’m afraid I can’t, Mina,” Mrs. Crandall said, making an effort to sound apologetic. She spoke as she eased the old minivan away from the curb, glancing at Wil as she didn’t actually check her blind spot.
Another driver honked, but the effort was wasted on one so immune to courteous driving practices like turn signals or proper traffic queuing.
“I’ve got to get back home,” Mrs. Crandall continued. “I mean, I’ve got to get you all home. I think Jakob’s planning on taking you.”
Wil bit her tongue as she buckled up in the moving vehicle. If she could have gotten home faster without this self-centered neighbor, she would have spoken her mind and walked. Retorts like, “lazy,” “selfish,” and “you know that we don’t have a car…” swirled in her thoughts and quite near to her voice box.
Even if they had an extra car, Jakob wouldn’t be home yet. Plus, he didn’t have driving capabilities. He’d passed the test, of course, but they had all decided that he and Wil couldn’t be added to the insurance yet. So, Jakob had nobly avoided all extra costs and not gotten his license.
Wil gripped at her knees. She hated forced inactivity. She needed to get to her mother as soon as possible, but faced too many barriers. She closed her eyes and tried the deep breathing exercises Cynthia had learned when her troubles starting becoming unbearable again.
Wil’s heart rate and anxiety only increased. She realized the exercises reminded her of the whole problem, and certainly did not calm her or take her mind off her mom.
Luckily, Mrs. Crandall was also a fast driver. They were home in minutes, though seconds felt forever for Wil.
Wil, Reagan, Vic, and Jorge clambered out the sliding door once they pulled into an empty stall. They all headed to their living spaces, Wil in a definite lead. She headed around a building, past a naked tree stuck in the dead, empty soil, then pulled out her key at door 2 of Building 4.
As she scratched a bit at the lock to insert her key, the door was pulled open to reveal Jakob. His harried look was replaced by one of relief, even though Wil’s short scream of surprise also surprised him.
“Let’s go, Wil!” He said earnestly. He grabbed her arm and turned her back toward the way she’d just come. Her backpack swung an erratic arc as she spun, nearly costing Wil her balance. She was so surprised at his intent manner and use of her preferred name, that she stumbled outside again before her mind caught up.
Jakob pulled the door closed and checked the lock. Then, he said, “Hurry!” He ran, hastily following his own advice.
Jakob was heading to the bus stop. She realized this finally, just as she recognized the sound of the bus approaching. This would be a close race!
Galvanized to action, Wil sprang after her step-brother.