by Tara Bell
I let my forehead bump on the bus window, as I stared out at the grey-brown landscape. Christmas was ruined and it was my fault, all my fault. If only I hadn’t promised my mother I would spend the holidays with Grandma Nichols, then I wouldn’t be on this crummy bus going nowhere with some sniffly kid next to me. It would be the first time in my fourteen years I’d be spending Christmas away.

To make it worse, I was pretty sure Grandma didn’t like me. Sure, I got the presents from her. I even got a couple of short letters written out in her spidery handwriting, and she wasn’t one for hugging and kissing either. When she would come to visit Mom and me, she was so quiet . She would sit for hours and knit, a whispery smile glued to her soft face. She didn’t pay much attention to me, except for the time she decided to teach me to knit. I was actually glad to try it out, because what she did with those skinny rods was amazing. She was pretty patient while I stretched and pulled at her nice yarn, but I finally got the hang of it. It was Mom, though, not grandma, who “ooed and ahhed” over my lumpy scarves and crooked hats. Grandma didn’t seem impressed at all. “Oh, you’ll get better, dear,” she said to me, “just give it time.”

After a while I finally knit a scarf that was pretty nice. It was nothing to compare to her knitting for sure, but nice enough that Mom thought it would be a good idea to send it to Grandma Nichols for her birthday present. That was a big mistake, because I was sure that she would hate it. She probably did, because all she told Mom was, “thank Lucy for the scarf” and that it had “personality”, whatever that meant. She probably pitched it.

It was stuffy on the bus and I kept pulling at my turtleneck. The kid with the cold was really getting on my nerves because he kept snorting. In his lap he clutched a pile of packages wrapped in holly paper. It made me feel lonely to look at them. One of the tags was labeled in big bold letters, “To Dad, From Jeremy.” I wanted holly paper gifts, and someone to meet that I knew better than Grandma Nichols.

The bus must have hit a pothole because it made my forehead bump especially hard on the icy window. I leaned back on my seat. The Jeremy-kid looked over at me. I think he wanted to talk, but I wasn’t in the mood.

“I have to work most of the holidays, honey,” my mother had told me. She had looked sad. “We’ll have our Christmas after the new year.” My mother wanted me to go, and then she didn’t want me to go, so it made the last few days miserable. It was especially horrible when I waved goodbye to her at the bus station--her wool mitten clutching a tissue.

“Ripley,” the green sign read. It wouldn’t be long now. I had dozed a bit and hoped the kid hadn’t seen me drool. Finally the bus rumbled and shuddered as it pulled into a small station. I remembered to pull out the gift I had wrapped ten minutes before I left the apartment. The recycled bow Mom had stuck on it was smashed. I tried to fluff it up, but it still looked pathetic.

I had to stretch to reach my suitcase above the seats. It landed with a thump on the arm rest and nearly clobbered a man who glared at me in a very unchristmas-like way. I gritted my teeth and thought of the long hours ahead of me with grandma silently knitting and me wondering if she really wanted me there.

With my suitcase now aimed in the right direction, I shuffled down the aisle. I heard the kid’s nasal voice behind me, “Merry Christmas,” he said. I pretended like I didn’t hear him.

I let the wheels of my suitcase clatter down the steps and onto the platform.
“Lucy!” somebody called out in a creaky voice.

When I turned around I spotted a small woman waving a thin arm. I made my way towards her soft smile. There was a touch of mist in her eyes. Tears? To spite myself, I felt my face flush. Then I noticed it...the familiar color of the scarf. It was the one I knitted long ago, well worn and proudly draped over her shoulders.

“Grandma,” I said as I stood before her. I felt like I towered over her. My eyes went from her eyes to my scarf and back again. She could knit one ten times better. Her coat, with little turquoise fuzz-balls, matched it. Then for the first time in ages, Grandma hugged me and I laid my cheek on the familiar wool of my scarf. Just then the Jeremy-kid walked by, holding hands with a grinning man, who now carried the gifts the boy had held onto during our trip.

“Hey,” I called out to him, “Merry Christmas to you, too.”

The boy smiled at me. My grandmother took my hand and we nearly flew through the station.
Tara is a free-lance writer and artist who lives in the beautiful hills of West Virginia. Visit her website to learn more about her art at