If you haven’t read the beginning of this story and would like to, you’ll find it here> Once Upon a Time
Adelaide had to admit, her life changed on that April morning when Rusty sat beside her on the bus. Still, every morning at exactly seven-ten, she said goodbye to her mother and began the long walk down the large hill. She waited beside the mailbox. The bus was never early, and hardly ever late. At exactly seven-twenty-five, Mr. Augustus stopped to pick her up.
Five rows back on the left, she sat next to the window. She and Paul left room for Rusty. Paul liked Rusty and often whispered to Adelaide, “He’s going to be our best friend.”
The other kids on the bus still giggled and whispered. Adelaide still heard herself referred to as, “Crazy Addy.” But it didn’t break her heart the way it used to, because now she had a friend.
And one day, Rusty made a stand.
It was the last week of school, which was always sad for Adelaide. School was the only time she was allowed around other children. Her mother would not allow Adelaide to go anywhere on her own because of danger lurking … everywhere. Adelaide understood that her mother feared losing the only child left to her, so she waited and hoped that when she was old enough, things would change.
On the first day of the last week of school, the other children on the bus cheered as Rusty climbed on and walked to his seat.
Adelaide watched and wondered, why were they cheering?
Rusty mussed his hair and gave her a sideways glance, like he was embarrassed.
Paul whispered in her ear, “Ask him.”
Adelaide took a breath, but before she could ask the question, Mason, the guy sitting behind Rusty, gripped Rusty’s shoulder.
“You’re a wonder, man. Just a wonder.”
Now Adelaide wondered, more than ever. “What did you do?”
Rusty shrugged. He turned to look at her. “Nothin’ much.”
“Nothin’ much,” Mason repeated in a loud voice. “Nothin’ but won the game, that’s all!”
Adelaide turned big eyes on Rusty. “You won the game?” She had known he played baseball on the school team, but of course, she was not allowed to attend. It was far too dangerous.
Rusty shrugged again. “I just hit a homer, that’s all.”
Mason laughed. “That’s all. Hit a homer with bases loaded. Won the game.” He threw his cap down like an exclamation point at the end of his proclamation.
Adelaide had watched baseball games on television with Paul and her father, so she understood what a good thing that was.
Rusty bent to pick up Mason’s cap. He handed it over his shoulder and Mason took it. Then Rusty eyed Adelaide. “It was a great game. We’re playing again on Saturday morning. You should come.”
Everyone hushed. There was not a sound to be heard on the bus while they all waited for Adelaide’s answer.
Adelaide noticed Mr. Augustus, eyeing her in the rearview mirror.
Mason laughed again. “She can’t go. Crazy Addy can’t do anything. Her momma is too scared.”
Then everyone laughed along with Mason.
Everyone except Rusty, that is. And Mr. Augustus—he didn’t laugh.
Rusty wouldn’t look at Adelaide. He just stared at his hands and held onto his books.
Adelaide’s stomach hurt, just like in the old days, before Rusty came.
Paul whispered, “At least he’s not laughing.”
Adelaide looked out the window and watched as Mr. Augustus pulled the bus into their spot in front of school.
When everyone stood, Rusty moved into the aisle and blocked the whole back of the bus. “Come on, Adelaide. Let’s go inside.”
No one said a word. They all stood and watched, as Adelaide, followed closely by Paul and Rusty, walked to the front.
Mr. Augustus grinned and nodded.
Adelaide smiled so big, her cheeks hurt.
Rusty had just hit another home run with bases loaded.