Jakob reached the stop just as the bus did, though the unusual exertion made him barely able to wave a hand to the driver. Luckily, another apartment tenant was getting off. Wil was able to catch up as her step-brother was paying. They were both puffing slightly.
“I guess it’s worth tuition to ride the public bus at a discount,” Jakob muttered sarcastically to Wil as they climbed aboard. Wil also got a student discount, although junior high school fees were much lower.
Wil felt too on edge from too many surprises in too little time. She merely nodded absentmindedly and followed him to a pair of seats. The driver lurched back into the light afternoon traffic and they lurched into the row they’d just reached.
“See?” Jakob joked again, to Wil, “Worth every penny to ride in style.” He looked at her to get validation for his wit. He instead saw worry and distraction.
“Sorry, Meanie,” he said. The twist on the name her father used for her caught Wil’s attention. She looked at Jakob, finally focused on him and this moment.
“I forgot to fill you in, because I was worried you’d get home too late for us to catch the bus.” He smiled at her to reassure the anxious look she bore.
They rocked slightly in the rhythm of the bus’ movement, as wintry sunlight wanly shone and shadowed them in turn. Their breathing returned to normal, though Wil’s heart rate continued its rapid pace at his news. She waited for him to continue.
“I was in class, and got a text from Cynthia,” Jakob began. “She said she was at the hospital and to let Dad know.” He leaned back against the seat and his large coat made a puffing, rustling sound. “I just got a text from Rob that she’s stable but still at the hospital. He wanted us to meet him there.”
Wil let her breath out, realizing she’d been holding it while staring at Jakob’s face. It was times like these that she felt the difference between them. Perhaps his use of her parents’ first names exacerbated the discomfort, but Wil also liked to blame any oddity in Jakob’s characteristics on their lack of mutual parents.
He was really her cousin, adopted by her mother when he was a young boy. The story she’d heard was that his mother felt too overwhelmed by a second unexpected pregnancy and knew Cynthia really wanted a child.
Jakob’s real mother, Wil’s aunt, had then been able to move away and pursue a career in performance. Wil’s father, Rob, always accented the word “performance” in an odd way when he spoke about it, but Wil didn’t understand why.
“Well,” Wil finally returned -but that seemed all she was able to get out.
Jakob laughed. “The great chatterbox silenced!” He looked at her almost fondly, and Wil realized his friendly jokes were from relief. Jakob had been just as worried as she’d been. He’d also thought today was Goodbye.
Continued from Seventeen.