Thursday, April 15, 2010

Knights in Shining Armour


Knights in Shining Armour


By gina below

1969


The early Southern morning had a warm haziness to it that hinted of mystery. Excitement wrapped around me at the coming adventure, this would be my greatest to date. My very first day of school, my first time ever to ride on a school bus. I had watched with envy as it took my older siblings away each morning in previous years and now I was old enough. I was a big girl of six now. I even had on my best big girl hand-me-down dress, and my Sunday shoes on a weekday. What fun it must be to ride the big yellow contraption with all those other children on it. Their faces peering out the many windows as they pulled alongside our driveway. My older brothers had tried to warn me of the do’s and don’ts of the upcoming event, the biggest being “Do not be a crybaby”. They had repeated this warning several times so it must be the most important. It must be a great crime to be one, I know it was the greatest of insults to be called one. So I would have to make sure that I did not fall prey and give in, no matter what!


The familiar rumblings of our approaching ride could be heard lumbering down the hill. It would be nearly a full two minutes before we could see it as we listened to it cross the bridge over the creek and make its way up the winding road through the trees. When it could be seen coming around the bend, I felt myself laugh. Strangely my four older siblings were not nearly as thrilled as I and they seemed just the slightest bit grim. As it prepared to come to a halt in front of us with all of its unique sounds and squeaks, I felt a hand reach out and hold tight to the back of my dress. I’m not sure which one of them it was but one of my older siblings knew me well enough to know my excitement would override my common sense and I would be under the wheels of the bus before anyone could stop me. This was not their first outing with me. The big yellow school bus came to a screeching halt in front of us, the brakes gushed and the door slapped open to reveal a dark haired stranger. “Mornin’ folks” he said as we all scrambled up the metal steps and into the abyss. I smiled a weak smile at him as I moved by and then I was caught up in the mass movement of my group and propelled into the belly of the beast. One by one members of my party dropped off or shoved past me to waiting friends and saved seats and then I was alone in the sea of strangers that had swallowed up my siblings.

Panic seemed to paralyze me and the icy grip of fear tried to steal the breath from my lungs. Any earlier bravado seemed to crumble around my now leaden feet. I stood frozen alone in the mist of many. Tears burned the back of my eyes and scalded my throat as I searched for a familiar face. I bit my lip to keep it from trembling, I was alone in a crowd. “Don’t be a cry baby! Don’t be a cry baby! Don’t be a cry baby!” I repeated to myself over and over.


An adult voice from the front of the bus rose above the chatter, “Find a seat” it boomed and I felt my knees began to shake. A pair of caring eyes found mine in the forest of faces in the back of the bus and I took a shaking breath. I knew these eyes well and I could see the concern in them, just as I knew he could see the fear in mine. He began to rise to come to my aide but the pressing crowd and shuddering bus inhibited him. Then from my right a strangers voice came to my ears, “You can sit here” he said and I turned to look into a smiling face. I watched him as he scooted over revealing a small bit of seat, his companion next to the window glared at him as he shoved him into the bus wall to make room for me. He was an older boy, older than my brothers and I did not know him, and my hesitance made his smile soft as he said “It’s Okay”. I looked to my brother in the back of the bus for guidance and he gave me a nod and a smile and I moved slowly toward the stranger and his kind offer.

The bus lurched around a corner and threw me off balance and a big hand reach out to catch me to prevent my impending fall. “It’s Okay ‘little bit, I gotcha” he said as he guided and lifted me to a safe place beside him, and I found myself shaking as I sat down next to him. “You’ll get use to it”, he said calmly and the same hand that had saved me earlier now prevented me from being flung from the seat as the bus rounded yet another sharp corner. It was like being tossed around at sea in a storm and my feet did not reach the floor. “Are you Okay now?” he asked and my head twitched yes as I continued to look at the floor. “Do you have a name?” he tried again and my head twitched yes again, but I did manage a sideways glance at him as I heard him softly chuckle. “Can you tell me what it is?” he asked with laughter in his voice and I shook my head no as my cheeks turned flaming red. “Well maybe next time”, he conceded and he chuckled again “I’ll just call you ‘little bit’ then” and this time I could not prevent a little smile as I snuck another sideways glance at him.


We road in silence for a while as I managed to relaxed beside him. Other passengers would engage my protector in conversation, and all the while he kept his arm on the back of the seat behind me. On more than one occasion he would prevent me from sliding off the seat by tucking me neatly under his arm as the bus rumbled over hills and around sharp curves and even when it came to abrupt halts to admit yet another passenger. Then calmly he said “There it is” and he pointed up to a hillside where the school buildings were located. My eyes followed the direction that he was pointing and he looked at me as I let a long shaky sigh escape. He kept his hand on my shoulder as the bus made it’s way up the long drive and as the bus came to a stop in the school parking lot he said “Here we are” and he scooped me off the seat and set me down on my feet in front of him. He kept both hands on my shoulders as we made our way to the front of the bus and just as we started down the metal steps he took my very small trembling hand into his very large one.


He stood with me on the side walk and held my hand and as we waited he asked me “Do you know where your room is?” and I shook my head no as I looked at the ground at our feet. “I think here comes someone who can help us” he said with a chuckle and I looked up to see my brother approach us. As my brother took my other hand my new friend released the one he held and leaned down to my eye level, “It was really good to meet you, ‘little bit‘” and he touched my cheek where earlier they had been red with embarrassment. As he straightened my brother stuck his hand out and they shook hands like the southern gentlemen that they were raised to be. After they exchanged a few kind words, my brother and I struck out for our new destination. I managed a glimpse over my shoulder as we walked away, he still stood on the sidewalk in his high top converses and cream colored oxford short sleeve shirt and new dark jeans, and he raised his hand to wave as we rounded a corner. I managed to get my free hand up to return the wave before we disappeared around the corner and I saw him smile and turn to go.


He would save me a seat every morning for many weeks and then one day he was gone. Where, I do not know. But like the knight in shining amour that he was I am sure it was to save some other damsel in distress. Thank you, kind sir, wherever you may be.



No comments: