Chapter 5

Rondell stood next to the stop sign watching as Leona's shiny White Volkswagen Beetle approached from Longview Lane and stopped at the stop sign on the corner of Mountain Road. The window opened and Rondell saw Leona's smiling face.

"Good morning," Rondell said.

"Your ride has arrived," she remarked. "Please, join me."

He opened the passenger door to the car and got in and Leona zoomed the car onto Mountain Road.

Rondell and Leona left school together at the end of the day and Leona drove them home. She could sense that Rondell was more nervous than usual.

"You've never brought a girl home before have you?" She asked.

"I've never brought anybody home before," he answered.

"Well, that's good news for me then," she joked. "They have nothing to compare me too!"

"My grandmother can be a little stodgy," he warned.

"What about your grandfather?"

"He's set in his ways and doesn't like change," Rondell remarked.

"Maybe I'll remind them of their daughter," Leona said hopefully.

"They didn't have a daughter," Rondell told her.

"Your mother," Leona said.

"My father is their son," he revealed. "They just liked my mother better."

"Wow!" Leona said, nearly driving off the road with surprise. "That's insane."

"I guess that's my secret," Rondell realized.

A twenty five year old black Oldsmobile was pulling into Longview Lane just as Leona slowed her car to turn off of Mountain Road too.

"That's my grandfather," Rondell reported as Leona followed the Olds into the driveway of Rondell's house.

Rondells's grandfather parked his car in the garage and emerged wearing bib overalls underneath a flannel jacket, carrying a black lunch pail as he made his way to the backdoor of the house. He was lanky tall and thin with a full head of silver gray hair. The old man didn't say anything and Leona glanced at Rondell as they made their way toward the house.

"I guess I now know why you're The Quiet Kid," she observed.

Rondell brought Leona through the front door as his grandfather entered through the back door. Rondell's grandmother was standing in the living room, glancing back and forth between her grandson and friend and her husband.

"This is Leona," Rondell announced.

"The Bus Stop Girl," Rondell's grandmother remarked. "Hello Leona, I'm Mrs. Dawson, and this is my husband, Mr. Dawson."

"Hello," Leona said politely.

Mr. Dawson placed his lunchbox on the kitchen counter. "Shower," he ruffed as he headed for the stairs.

"Leona, do you live alone?" Mrs. Dawson asked.

She was a plump woman, much shorter and wider than her husband with long gray hair pulled up in a bun. She was wearing a plain house dress.

"I live with my parents," Leona replied.

"I never seem to see them," Mrs. Dawson observed.

"They work a lot," Leona admitted, trying not to sound annoyed by Mrs. Dawson's tone.

"Seems to me a girl your age shouldn't be alone so much," Mrs. Dawson remarked.

"Well, that's why Rondell has been so nice to me," Leona replied. "He's my first friend in Mt. Griffin."

"I don't think Rondell is ready to have friends who are girls," Mrs. Dawson said sternly.

"But we already are friends," Leona said plainly. "That's what happens when you spend time at the bus stop together every day."

"You have a car now," Mrs. Dawson noted. "I'm not sure if I like the idea of Rondell riding with you instead of taking the bus."

"It's a lot faster, Gram." Rondell interjected for the first time.

"Leona drives fast?" She frowned.

"No, of course not," Rondell replied, flustered.

"I'm a very safe and conscientious driver, Mrs. Dawson," Leona said.

"It's the other drivers I worry about," Mrs. Dawson replied.

"Mrs. Dawson," Leona said patiently. "Your grandson is a wonderful person. He's been a good friend. He treats me with respect. I'm new here and it's been a difficult change for me. I left behind many friends in Ohio and Rondell has been a God Send for me. I ask that you trust us to be responsible young adults. I know that Rondell is one of the nicest people I've ever met."

"It was nice to meet you, Leona," Mrs. Dawson said before turning and heading for the kitchen to unpack her husband's lunch pail.

"I guess you should go," Rondell sighed.

"I'll see you tomorrow?" Leona worried.

He nodded and walked her to the door. She gave him a forced smile and left the house.

Rondell stood next to the stop sign watching as Leona's shiny White Volkswagen Beetle approached from Longview Lane and stopped at the stop sign on the corner of Mountain Road. The window opened and Rondell saw Leona's smiling face.

"Good morning," Rondell said.

"I wasn't sure if you'd be here," she admitted.

Rondell got into the car and Leona zoomed the vehicle onto Mountain Road.

"I think my grandmother is conflicted," Rondell theorized.

"About what?" Leona frowned. "She comes across as The Warden."

"I think she wants me to be happy but she's afraid I'm going to turn into my father."

"You're not your father, Quiet Kid," Leona assured him. "What?" She guessed, glancing at him. "Your mother was young when your father knocked her up?"

"I don't have all the details," Rondell admitted.

"I think she's the one who made you brain damaged," Leona said. "She kept you from living a normal life."

"Is that stuff you said yesterday true?" Rondell wanted to know, throwing her a look. "About the difficultly coming here? Leaving behind friends in Ohio and me being your friend here and all that?"

"Yes," she said quietly, briefly glancing out the driver's side window and letting out a sigh. "I thought Nickerson wanted to be my friend but he wanted something else."

"Why did you start talking to me?" Rondell asked.

"Because I finally figured out that you weren't going to talk to me," Leona explained.

"I'm talking now," Rondell smiled.

"You're talking now," Leona grinned as she pulled the car into the student parking lot of Mt. Griffin High School.

Rondell and Leona left school together at the end of the day and Leona drove them home. She could sense that Rondell became anxious when she drove the car past his house and up the hill to her house.

"Do you think she's looking out the window?" Leona asked as they got out of the car.

He shrugged.

"Call her," Leona suggested as they entered the house. "Tell her we're having a snack and you'll be home soon."

She handed him her cell phone (Rondell was probably the only kid at Mt. Griffin High School without a cellphone of his own) and Rondell made the call as they walked into the kitchen and Rondell took a seat at the table.

Leona retrieved a bag of Doritos from the cupboard and a couple of Pepsis from the refrigerator.

"She okay with that?" Leona asked when Rondell ended the call.

"I don't know," Rondell admitted as he put a few Doritos into his mouth. "I don't know what she's okay about."

"She really can trust us," Leona said.

"Did you have boyfriends back in Ohio?" Rondell wondered.

"No," she said. "Just boys that I liked."

"Do you like me?"

"I guess that's my secret," she smiled.

"The bus stop will always be our place," Rondell decided.

"Even if we don't take the bus anymore," Leona agreed.