“Number?” asked Brekkyn, not understanding. “It’s not a cab.”
“I know, but--”
“Do you wanna take a cab? I do sometimes.”
Tanissa had never ridden in a taxi before, and she was tempted, but she had little money, and she knew it had to cost more than a busride. “No, I meant, do you know what number of bus to take to the mall?”
“Oh. Just the green or blue lines. You’ll see. Every once in a while a yellow comes along, and they go uptown.”
Tanissa didn’t ask what that meant, whether north was up and south was down. They walked to the end of Center Street, and waited for the bus to come along.
Her dad’s neighborhood wasn’t a run-down one, but it wasn’t like the house in the suburbs where her mother lived. She wondered if Dad missed having a lawn and a garage and a backyard of his own. And a wife and daughter, she mentally added.
Ten minutes later, a bus pulled up with Downtown above the windshield. It stopped and a couple of people got off. The bus driver was a big man with beard growth and a chunk missing from his eyebrow. Tanissa was hesitant, but her friend patted her back and she went up the steps, approaching the man. “Hi, I . . .”
“How far you goin’?” the bus driver all but barked, and Tanissa froze. She didn’t even know the mall’s name. “I was . . .”
Brekkyn started up the step, giving Tanissa something not unlike a shove. “Go sit down.”
She was stuck between a rock and a hard place. “I only have a twent--” she started to tell the man.
And then Brekkyn started to sing. It was a high, lullaby-like tune that didn’t sound like something you’d hear on TV or the radio. There were words, but they weren’t English, or any language familiar to a twelve year old American girl.
Brekkyn glanced at her, raising her eyebrows at her friend. Tanissa opened her mouth to say . . . something, but didn’t get anything out. The song ended with more nonsense syllables, and Brekkyn patted the bus driver on the back.
“Hey there,” he said to Tanissa, indicating behind him with his head. “Just sit wherever you like.”
“I don’t . . .” Tanissa began, but Brekkyn grabbed her and practically dragged her away from the driver. An old woman gave them a questioning look as the girls went back three rows to the first available seats. Brekkyn insisted on getting the window seat, but that was fine, since Tanissa was still confused about the little performance.
“Do you know him?” she asked as the vehicle started moving again.
“I have a way with people,” the girl boasted, and Tanissa got the feeling she’d planned to say this all day.