Beethoven – Sonata No.1 in F Minor, Op.2 No.1
Getting to school and back by bus every day was tough. Especially when you are feeling rather down and blue. Now that she was a senior in high school, she no longer had Danny Murphy to sit with on the bus. Mary Phillips and Pidney Breslow had graduated four years ago and were in college now, soon to graduate from Iowa State University. Danny had graduated from high school last year, and had told her during that summer that he and Carla Bates would be getting married in the near future. Well, maybe not as near as anticipated since they still hadn’t picked a date. But no more Danny on the bus to tell her jokes or drive her home from Belle City High in that incredibly old 1950s car he inherited from his Grampy.
She sat alone in the far back of the bus now. Every day. The bus ride to Norwall seemed endless, even though it was only ten miles as the crow flies… a really slow crow named Joe with half of his tail feathers missing. But on this day, Dilsey Murphy, Danny’s younger sister, moved to the back as soon as she got on the bus. She was wearing that old purple Carl Eller jersey, number 81 from the Minnesota Vikings of the 70s.
“Um, Valerie… do you mind if I sit with you on the way home today?”
“I may be kinda grumpy company. But sure.”
Maybe the younger girl could lighten the mood for her. But, then again… probably not.
Dilsey had straight black hair which she sometimes wore with a barrette on the right side of her bangs because her mother’s fashion sense reeked of the 1960s. Otherwise, ignoring the hair and the barrette, Dilsey was dressed like a boy. Vikings’ jersey, denim pants, and boys’ sneakers.
“Um, Val, I have a favor to ask.”
Oh, boy. Here it comes. The real reason.
“Please don’t be mad at me, but…”
“It’s all right. I promise not to bite… at least, not very hard.”
“Yeah, um… you know Mrs. Patricia Zeffer?”
“Ray’s mom. Of course, I know her.”
“Well, I normally babysit for her on Saturdays when she needs to go out. But this week I can’t…”
“Mrs. Zeffer has a kid that needs babysitting services? She has a kid that young?”
“Well, yes… it’s her grandson, actually.”
“Oh, of course. But why is little Troy living with her now?”
“Uh, well… You know that family has a bit of trouble since…”
“Since Ray disappeared six years ago.”
“Yeah. I’m sorry. I wouldn’t be asking, but… I have a date on Saturday.”
“You do? But you’re only…”
“Almost sixteen, and a sophomore in high school.”
“Sure. I wasn’t trying to insult you or anything, but your mother…”
“Trusts me more than she ever did Danny.”
“Of course, she does.”
“Aren’t you going to ask who the date is with?”
She didn’t really, exactly… well, care. But…
“No! You have gotta be kidding me! Tim the Terror? Dim Tim? Rim-tin-Tim? The stinkilicious leader of the Norwall Pirates?”
Dilsey giggled awkwardly. “I’ll have to remember those names. They may prove very useful.”
“Why would an otherwise, very pretty girl waste her time with Tiny Terrible Tim? He’s my cousin, and one of the grossest human beans in all of Iowa. In fact… all of the Midwest.”
“You know he is a good person at heart. He’s only an icky boy on the outside. Inside he’s…”
“Only icky ninety-nine percent of the time. I do know my own cousin.”
Dilsey laughed a little more easily this time. Of course, Val wasn’t entirely sure she was joking. The brat could really get on your nerves sometimes.
“But… you don’t really think that…”
“That you shouldn’t be dating him? The girl who once told him that he was the worst, most two-faced person she ever met?”
Dilsey’s face was suddenly crestfallen. She looked like her whole positive little self was being crushed and was about to crumble into a weepy pile.
“You think it’s a mistake if I think I might be falling in love with him?”
“A boy who is a year younger than you are? One who is way less mature than you are? Way meaner too?”
Tears were forming in Dilsey’s dark eyes. Valerie had gone too far. Who was the meaner cousin now?
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said any of that. I have been feeling outa sorts and kinda depressed for a while now. I didn’t mean to take it out on you or Tim either. Forgive me?”
“You’ll take the babysitting job for me?”
“Of course. Little Troy Zeffer? He’s such a little cutie.”
“Do you really think it’s something a normal human being would do to like Tim and go see a movie with him? He wants to watch Mrs. Doubtfire with me.”
“With Robin Williams in it?”
“Yeah. The Murphy family wants to see it together too, so, if I go with Tim, I’ll be watching it twice, probably in the same weekend.”
Val chuckled softly. “That sounds good. You make sure you tell Tim I am taking this sitting job for you to be able to go with him, so he owes me. And if he tries to sneak-kiss you, hit him in the nose really hard.”
Dilsey laughed. Val knew she intimidated the younger girl. Dilsey had never been a cheerleader. Never been the leader of the Norwall Pirates. And never lost a boyfriend before. And Val envied her those things.
“Valerie? Do you need to be alone in this back seat every day on the bus ride home?”
“Are you offering to sit with me regularly?”
“Yes. Especially now that Tim is on the basketball team and has practice every afternoon.”
That was right. Now that Valerie had given up cheerleading, there was no longer any reason to stay in Belle City after school, and no reason to ride the late bus.
“I had thought I wanted to sit alone this year, without Danny here to entertain me. But I think sitting with his sister will be just about the perfect thing to take the place of that.”