Rider

September

Owww.

Ouch.

Gosh, she hates that stupid white ceiling. And the stupid First Aid kit stuck to it. Every year without fail. Stupid autumn rain. Stupid campus shuttle. Stupid slick floors. Stupid—

He's laughing at her. The stupid bus driver is laughing at her. But she grudgingly admits it's not mean laughter. Good-natured laughter at an amusing joke. Still, it's at her expense.

She hates him too. She's so embarrassed. She struggles to her feet, pleading with them not to slip on the wet steps and send her flying onto her back again. She's already got an enormous wet spot on her rear. What a way to start the school year. Could her degree come any slower?

Stupid degree. This is all its fault!

She collapses into the last empty seat. Which happens to be ridiculously close to that horrible driver. She drops her head so she can ignore the little snorts and snickers from the other passengers. Normally she would laugh this off, but that kind of thing is easier when there's a friend around, and she's riding alone today. She stares at her hands. The palms are a little red and scraped-up from trying to stop her fall.

They sting. Maybe she needs to borrow that stupid First Aid kit.

She can't stand staring down at her hands anymore. Her neck is starting to ache. Rubbing it, she glances up to the front and catches that—boy—unashamedly gazing at her through his rear-view mirror! Even when she narrows her eyes at him, he still doesn't stop. Except when he has to check the road.

It's her stop. She can see her apartment.

Finally.

She leaps to her feet and shuffles behind everyone else to the front exit. The rear exit is too far away and there are too many students. And the spaces between the students are filled with their backpacks and purses. Crap. She pointedly looks away as she cautiously starts down the steps.

Someone catches her elbow. She whirls around to see that driver with his hand on her arm. There is still laughter in his blue eyes. He tells her to be careful tomorrow. Because it's supposed to rain. Even harder than today. He tells her all of this.

He smiles at her.

The nerve.

She tosses a glare over her shoulder as she steps onto the curb.

Jerk.

The bus pulls away from the curb. The exhaust billowing from behind it matches the sky and her mood.

Thunder rumbles and shakes the air.

It sounds like his laughter. Stupid thunder.

Please God. Don't let him be in the same classes.