The Last Stop
Amir felt the weight of the cell phone resting in the pocket near his heart. As his arm stretched up to turn the steering wheel, he felt its coolness through the fabric of his uniform shirt. The big wheel spun as the bus rounded the corner and he covered the phone with his free hand. With all his being he willed it to vibrate.
Darkened factories shadowed the sides of the deserted road as the bus growled past. Street lights reflected off the melting snow. The large parking lots were quiet and dark and there were no cars. The emptiness offered him no distraction. There was only one thought that churned in his mind and a fist of worry impaled his gut as he drove through the grey skyed night.
He had sent several text messages to his daughter this evening but she was not responding. Zahra had gone to a high school dance for the very first time with her Canadian friends. So quickly it seemed, while he was working hard to make a new life for his family, his small daughter had become a young modern woman. The speed at which she’d grown up still astonished him.
“Baba”, she had said to him. “It’s OK. Please let me go. You know that I love you and I’d never do anything to shame you. All of the girls are going and…” Her smile flashed like a silver dagger as she kissed his cheek, and of course she had gone.
In his mind he could see the school gymnasium where a ruffian thug of a boy pushed Zahra into a storage closet, then she was being pulled into a car in the parking lot, then a needle jabbed her arm. It was too much and he forced his thoughts away from these improbable visions.
The engine whine filled his ears and again his hand reached to press the phone against his chest. It was a thin electromagnetic thread of hope.
Just one last stop and he could book off.
Soon he saw the bus station ahead. Deep ruts carved the grey slush on the tarmac and tall orange lights lit up the dirty snow. Tonight it was quiet; the gangs of teenagers were nowhere in view and there were no police cars. As the last of the passengers stepped off, a young girl flitted through the open front door as fast as a hummingbird. Her blue jacket flashed at the periphery of his vision as she slid into the seat behind him.
“Miss”, Amir said, looking into the rear view mirror. “This bus is out of service.”
The girl gave no answer.
“Did you hear me? You will have to get off.”
He sighed and pulled the parking brake, stood up and turned to the girl. Dried tears lined the girl’s face and her jacket was streaked with mud.
“Are you hurt? Do you need medical attention?” he asked.
“No,” she whispered. “I just need some help.” She paused and seemed to collect herself. “Can you please call my mom? I just want to go home.”
He looked down at the girl and saw that she was cold and frightened. “Of course,” Amir said and reached into his pocket. “Tell me your mother’s telephone number.”
He punched the numbers on his cell phone. With each number he felt the band that constricted his heart loosen. He handed the phone down to the girl shivering on the seat. He would stay here with her until her parents arrived and then he would pick Zahra up from the school dance. And she would be there waiting with her smile that shone like silver.