Romantic School-Bus Barfing

You know that feeling you get when you're about to take a major barf? The quivering of the stomach, the metallic sensation in the throat, the don't-stand-in-front-of-me-if-you-want-to-live kind of feeling?

I was feeling it. On the school bus home. This is not a drill.

I hugged the bookbag on my lap close to my chest and tried to think non-barfing thoughts, but each bump in the road had me thinking I was going to lose it. I cannot blow chunks on this bus, I thought to myself. That's the kind of stuff that manages to end up in the yearbook. Or on YouTube. Or both. Could this be any worse?

I got off at the seventh stop out of 12. We were stopped at the third. I can make it, I can make it, I can make it. I felt like the Little Engine That Really Didn't Want To Barf On The Bus.

It didn't help that I was majorly nervous. I'd done something crazy today, something a shy girl like me usually would rather eat limestone than do. It was Valentine's Day, and I'd put homebaked cookies and a card on my crush's desk before he got to homeroom. Sure, I'd signed the card "Secret Admirer," but I'd thought it was a good first step. Marriage is, after all, only a few steps down the road from "Secret Admirer."

Oh no, here comes Kelly (a.k.a. Smelly) Myers, switching seats while the bus was stopped. I think we made I contact. Awww man.

She slid into the seat beside me (so did her signature oranges-and-tuna odor). If I wasn't already feeling nauseous, I would've been heading down that road now.

"Hey, Kate!" she said in her super-high, sing-songy voice. I winced.

"I was sitting with Joe," she pointed to the red-headed boy a few seats in front of me, "but he kind of smells." She whispered the last part.

I nodded and tried not to smile. Which was hard, because I was already trying not to breathe.

"You alright?" she asked, looking concerned. "You look kind of...greenish."

I nodded again and tried to prevent my eyes from going cross-eyed. The barfy feeling and the smell were too much at once.

"Seriously, you look totally sick," she pressed. "Are you making fun of me?" Her pale complexion was going pink.

I shook my head vigorously, afraid to open my mouth for fear of what would crawl out of my stomach.

"Look, I don't smell. I don't care what you say!" she shouted, and as the bus stopped at Stop #4, she slid out of the seat and stomped back up the aisle to sit with Joe. He cringed a little.

I shrugged and continued to hug my backpack, suppressing the still-urgent barfing feeling. Just three more stops.

Peter (a.k.a. Pull-Ups) Jenkins slid into my seat as the bus started to move again. One time in second grade, he'd drunk too much Kool Aid before heading out to recess. No one had ever let him live down the accident he'd had in the tunnel slide.

Here sat living proof that I could not barf on this bus.

"Hey, Kate," he murmured shyly.

I nodded a hello.

"How's it going?" he asked.

I took a quivering breath and nodded again.

"You okay?" he asked. "You look ill. Do you want some gingerale?"

He held out a green bottle of bubbly liquid. My stomach heaved at the thought of drinking it.

"Really, I don't want it. You can have it," he insisted.

I shook my head vigorously and pushed the bottle away. Peter did not realize how close to danger he was.

"Hey, I'm not giving it to you because I can't drink it," his voice and expression turned pouty. "I could drink it if I wanted to. I can drink as much as I want and nothing will happen."

Beat-red, he opened the bottle with a violent twist and turned it upside-down over his mouth. He drained it in about 15 seconds.

"See?" he muttered, and he stormed off looking like he had to pee.

I shrugged and continued my anti-barfing regime of hugging my bookbag and rocking back and forth. People sure were touchy today. At any rate, I had only two stops to go now. I could see the toilet at the end of the tunnel. Maybe I would get out of this without barfing on my reputation.

But then Jacob Wiley slid into the seat next to me. Jacob Wiley. Dark brown hair, blue eyes, soccer player, and a totally nice person. My stomach fluttered for an entirely non-barfing-related reason.

"Kate," he said coolly, nodding.

I nodded back and gripped my backpack tightly. I could not barf on Jacob Wiley.

"You okay?" he asked, but there was something odd in his voice. He sounded...nauseous.

I examined his face more closely. He was...well...green.

"Are you okay?" I managed to pipe out without barfing.

He shook his head and clutched at his stomach. "No," he said with a pained smile. "Honestly, I feel like I'm gonna be sick."

Surprised to hear he was suffering from the same problem I was, I returned his pained smile. "Me, too."

The bus hit a huge bump and I nearly lost it. I saw him swallow a few times, looking greener.

"Must have been something we both ate," he murmured. His blue eyes met my own.

I nodded, my heart as wobbly as my stomach.

"See, someone left some cookies and a card on my desk today," he said slowly, "and I more or less ate two dozen of them at lunch. And since I eat the same thing for lunch every day," he swallowed hard, "I figure it must have been the cookies that got me sick."

My mind raced. Had I poisoned him? Oh noooo.

"And the way I see it, anybody else who's sick must have eaten the cookies too," he pressed on, still clutching his stomach.

It was true. I'd saved a few cookies for myself and had eaten them at lunch. I shifted uncomfortably.

"So anybody else who's sick," he gave me a meaningful, blue gaze, "must have given me the cookies."

My heart thumped hard in my chest. My Secret Admirer status was blown. If only the bus would get to my stop. Jacob was going to hate me now that I'd poisoned him.

"Kate," he said, his face greener than freshly cut grass, "I think you're the nicest girl around here. You don't care about the embarrassing stuff, or what anybody else thinks of you. You're just...yourself, all the time. Would you...will you be my Valentine?"

I was shocked. I smiled wider than I ever had before (at least while trying not to barf) and nodded back at him, feeling the blood rush into my cheeks. Something else started to rush toward my cheeks, too, but it was coming from my stomach.

"Jacob," I murmured urgently. "I'm going to barf."

He smiled a pathetic smile. "Yep, me too."

"We're in this together, right?" I whispered quickly.

"You bet."

And then Jacob and I blew chunks all over the seat in front of us (where, miraculously, no one was sitting). I could hear the entire bus shrieking in terror. My reputation was officially blown.

I sure felt a whole lot better.

The bus pulled to a stop. We'd arrived at my bus stop.

Everyone stared as Jacob and I walked with dignity off the bus, hand in hand.