THE ATONEMENT CHILD.

CHAPTER 7.

“Not really. He was lost.”

“Yeah, right. That’s his story.”

“He was looking for the campus.”

“I hope you told him where to go.”

“I gave him directions.”

Martha laughed. “I’m sure you didn’t give me him the ones I would’ve given him.

They talked about their jobs until the bus arrived. Martha climbed aboard first and moved to her usual place near the back, where she could read her romance novel uninterrupted. Dynah took a seat at the front, across from the driver.

Her first day aboard, she had noticed the pins on the lapel of Charles’s neat uniform jacket. When she asked what they were, he said he had one to show for each five-year period he had driven without an accident. After a few weeks of riding with him, Dynah had gone to a trophy store and had a plaque made up for that said, “In honor of distinguished service to Middleton, Charles Booker Washington is awarded the title of Driver Emeritus.” He had laughed when he opened it, but it was now proudly displayed next to the No Smoking sign at the front of the bus.

“How’s things, Charlie?”

He grinned at her as he hit the button to close the door. “Pretty good now you’re aboard. Missed your sunny smile last night.”

“Ethan picked me up.”

“He driving a Cadillac yet?”

She laughed. “No, sir. Still had his Buick.” She leaned forward in the seat and rested her arms on the iron railing.

Charlie nodded. “When he gets a church, he’ll get his Cad. We don’t let our preachers drive anything else. Treat them good.”

“I noticed.” When she had gone to Charlie’s church, she has seen the new maroon Cadillac packed in the “Reserved for Pastor” space. She had enjoyed herself so much at the service, she pleaded with Ethan to go back with her. He had gone once, grudgingly, but had refused to attend with her again. He said the service was a little “too lively” for his tastes. He hadn’t felt comfortable with the loud gospel music pouring from the choir, nor with the way the members of the congregation interjected during the pastor’s sermons.

“It felt irreverent.”

She hadn’t shared his discomfort, though the service had been far from the kind of service to which she was accustomed.

She felt the Spirit moving in the church. The members celebrated their love for Jesus and for each other. She had enjoyed the experience. Something about it had stirred her. The pastor had preached straight from the Word, and the people made sure he knew his points were sinking in. However, Dynah didn’t argue with Ethan’s assessment. She had learned early that he took his role as the spiritual head of their relationship to heart. She also knew he had been brought up in a conservative denomination who showed their zeal in other ways. His parents, like her mother and father, were deeply involved in community action and charities.

She and Charlie talked about all manner of things. He had been driving a Middleton city bus since before she was born and had learned a lot about human nature. He didn’t mind sharing what he knew.

Tonight, Mr. Packard was on Dynah’s mind.

“I know the Packards,” Charlie said. “He and his wife used to get on the bus every Tuesday and ride it to the end of the line. Good people. I read she passed on. Too bad. She was a nice lady.”

“Maybe I could tell him you miss seeing him.”

“You do that, girl. Maybe I’ll drop by and see him myself.

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