A wind gust twirled my pink poodle skirt around my knees as I ran down the Kansas City street to the youth conference bus. Kids poured in. "Hurry up," one called, but I was last to board the all-night ride to Kearney, Nebraska.
I saw an empty seat to my left, but next to it sat a horrid dark-colored old man who leered at me. The Missionary from some faraway country. The Church expected us to like him, but I didn't even smile. I just pushed ahead to find a seat with the kids.
Only one seat remained empty in the packed bus, the one by the Missionary's side. My heart slipped down.
"Come on," the driver grinned. "You can sit there." He pointed at that awful empty seat.
The Missionary's smile seemed stuck to his face. So I smiled, sort of, a thin smile that said, "I see you but I don't like you." And I sat. The bus roared onto the highway.
I scooted to the front edge of the seat and twirled my poodle skirt to have something to do. I bounced my feet up and down. My saddle shoes needed polishing. The toes were roughed up.
The Missionary looked out the window. He smelled funny, not bad, but an odd woody smell. After a while, I edged back into the seat. Outside the black landscape zipped by.
I felt tired. Two whole days of singing, dancing, Bible verse studying, and listening to the men talk, all of them better saved than us. That's where I'd first seen the Missionary, on the stage, his hands spread out, praising the Glory of God. Then my eyelids got heavy, and after a while, I slept, my head bobbing on my bosom.
I woke to feel something stuck between my back and the chair seat. I tried to sit back, but the Missionary had pinned his arm between me and the chair, and his hand curled around my side, pressing my breast.
I leaped from my seat, nearly falling with the bus's swaying. I ran into the back, hoping in vain to find someplace else to sit. Tears blinded me, so I grabbed a pole and swayed.
I heard male voices in the front of the bus. Then the driver stopped the bus and walked back to me.
"Come on," he declared. "You can't ride like that. It's against regulations. You've got to sit down."
Having no choice, I sat beside the missionary, scooting as far away from him as I could.
"I won't let him hurt you," the driver snorted. Then he put the bus in gear and roared back onto the highway.
I didn't dare sleep, so I just stared at the Missionary during the long hours until we disembarked.
I was the first one off.
Mother picked me up, and I thought about telling her what happened, but I didn't. I was afraid she'd figure it was all my fault. So no one ever knew but me and the Missionary—and maybe the bus driver.
a JoLt of CoFFeY
An Intermittent Newsletter
by Marilyn June Coffey