Mrs. Jo

Before she had even fully cranked open the folding doors of the school bus, our driver Mrs. Jo, tipped her helmet of platinum blonde hair forward and stared at me in disbelief, her thickly lacquered lashes hovering just over the top of the rhinestone-studded cat’s eye sunglasses she wore rain or shine.

“Heavens to betsy, why’d you do that?” she puzzled a little too loudly for my comfort, as she proceeded to crack her gum in a way I knew after five years of riding her bus, meant she was expecting an answer.

“Mama did it.” I mumbled, head down, eyes on the floor, hesitant to make the turn and face a bus full of rowdy kids, yet wanting to rush by her as quickly as possible at the same time.

“Now, you just hold on now.” She said as she reached out and gently touched the soft flesh of my upper arm with her cherry red enameled fingertips, at the same time as she was making eye contact with Laura Sue Mosier who was seated directly behind her, and had been sitting in that seat alone with her backpack since we were in the first grade.

“Laura Sue, pick your backpack up for me and put it in your lap, I’m a need that seat.”  

With a simple nod of her perfectly coiffed head in my direction she let me know she meant for me to sit there.

I could feel every eye on the bus burning holes in the back of my head as Mrs. Jo pulled away from the curb, her pastel pink lips pursed as she dared anyone on the bus to make a sound via ‘that look’ in her rear view mirror.

As the last gawking teenager stepped off the bus, Mrs. Jo closed the doors and took the seat across the isle from mine.

“S’pose you tell me what happened.” Was all she had to say to unleash the tears I’d held inside all summer because I wasn’t gonna give Mama the satisfaction of seeing me cry.

Through my tears I did my best to explain to Mrs. Jo, that what Mama thought happened, never really happened at all.

“They just rode by on their bikes while me and my cousin Laurie was picking weeds in the front beds. They rode by two or three times before they stopped to talk. When Chet invited me and Laurie to cross over into Millers field and hang out with him and Billie by the Old Elm for a while, I just couldn’t say no. I just couldn’t. He’s the cutest boy in school.”

“Laurie wouldn’t go, but I did. I had to. Don’t cha see? How could I ever face anyone again if the cutest boy in school picked me out of all the other girls and came all the way across town on his bike, with his best friend to see me, and I wouldn’t even cross the road to sit down and talk with them for a while.”

“We talked. Well mostly they talked, just joking around with each other, and I listened. I was scared to do or say anything that might wreck my chances. Chances of what, I’m not really sure. Because now, none of that matters.”

“What Mama done, changes everything. No boy in his right mind is gonna pair off with a girl who’s own mother shaved her head as punishment for what her own dirty mind conjured up, when really all that happened was me sitting down under an old elm tree watching to two cute boys playing the fool.”

“Nope. Everyone is gonna think just what Mama wanted them to think. And that’s why she shaved my head. So that they’d all think I’m dirty, just like she thinks I am.”

She let me finish, and then she smiled. The kind of smile that comes from deep inside a person, and doesn’t need any makeup to make it look more beautiful than it already is.

She was quiet for a minute, and then whispered, “And here, my whole life I thought I was the only one who’s mama was cruel enough to do her like that.” Her voice wavered slightly as a single tear slipped out from behind the mauve shadow of her tinted rhinestone glasses.

“I got somethin’ for ye.” She said with a wink as she pulled a golden tube of lipstick and a small compact mirror from the enormous sequined handbag she always kept stowed away under the driver’s seat.

“Got me through. It’ll get you through too. Now, you go one now. First bells fixin’ a ring.”

Written in response to two prompts supplied by the Haunted Wordsmith. The Main March Madness prompt of the day: An Elm tree and the Story Starter Challenge: “Heavens to betsy, why’d you do that?’

7 thoughts on “Mrs. Jo

    • I think Mrs. Jo overcompensated for the humiliation she endured when her mother shaved her head for nearly the same reason my protag’s mother shaved hers to make sure no boy would look at her ‘like that’ again.

      Liked by 1 person

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