“Come on, Alice, stop daydreaming. Out, girl. Let’s get us some snacks and be back on the road.”
Alice looked at the speaker, Maizie, the most aggressive girl in their group. Maizie had long, curly strawberry blond hair and fierce freckles. She also wore a frown. She didn’t care too much for Alice.
“Ugh, don’t blame me if you’re hungry and need to pee hours later,” Maizie said. “Loser,” came out under her breath.
Alice frowned. Folding a corner of a page from a book she was reading, she closed it and looked out the window. The group of fifty classmates and four chaperones was headed to Orlando for a fun weekend stay. Alice wasn’t looking forward to getting there. She wasn’t interested in water rides or roller coasters. She was happy being a homebody, studying hours a night. That’s how she ended up on this field trip. Their school was rewarding students for top grades. Alice had never wanted to sign the field trip form, but her mother smiled, thinking it would be a good idea for her to go.
“You never go out much,” her mother had said. “Something’s missing in your life. You need to go out more often.” She’d even hand delivered the field trip form to the main office to ensure that they received it on her daughter’s behalf.
Alice cracked open the window. Sitting next to Maizie had been no easy task. The first hour, Maizie had been asleep. Many of them had been, since they’d arrived at the school to board the bus at six that morning to get to Orlando before noon. Then the second hour, Maizie had been nasty, giving her snide looks and making remarks about Alice’s mousy hair, pale skin, and nose in a book.
It was a cold February day, with one of those rare cold fronts that descends on Florida. People wore sweaters and jackets. A line formed outside both restrooms, people hugging themselves and even shivering. The bus driver also got off the bus to go to the restroom. They were somewhere in Central Florida. The thrum of cars driving over the speed limit caused vibrations at the service plaza in the middle of the highway.
A yard from the bus, a driver of a shiny black Mustang parked next to a fuel pump. A middle-aged man with a paunch stepped out. He pulled his jeans up, but didn’t manage to yank them across his middle. The belt slid down and settled underneath his stomach. He wiped his nose with a finger, adjusted his sunglasses, and walked inside.