The Wait List continues today in the third installment of the story...
Bella looked across the parking lot. It was empty. He was gone. Of course he was gone. 15 minutes is a long time to wait for someone who is not yet a friend. Damn it. If she ran, she'd at least catch the last bus home.
She adjusted her backpack and started running toward the bus lot. She got there just as the last bus had left the stop. The walk home was at least 45 minutes and it had just started to rain. Again. This time, the rain was colder, as it was part of an cold front coming down from the gulf of Alaska.
She started walking along the side of the main road, which did not have a sidewalk. Her pants were soggy. Her shoes were muddy. Her hair, which still hadn't dried from her earlier shower, was completely soaked. Jessica drove by and rolled down her window. "I can give you a ride home, but you'll need to join the wait list," she taunted. "Fat fucking chance, Jessica!" Bella replied. Jessica aimed her car toward the puddle near Bella, skidded her wheels, and sprayed Bella with dirty pavement water. Misery. This was misery.
Another car slowed down beside her. No doubt one of Jessica's groupies. She turned away in order to avoid more puddle dousing. "Get in," a voice called. It was a male voice. It was Edward's voice. The car pulled over to the point where the asphalt gave way to the mud.
"Sorry...I'm soaking. I'm going to ruin your seats, " Bella warned.
"I don't care about these seats. Get in now, it's not safe out there" Edward demanded.
Bella sat down. Edward put the heater on and directed the vents to her face and feet. The instant warmth felt wonderful. She placed her hands to the vent after her face had dried and let the hot air warm her pruny, cold fingers. "Thank you. Thank you. I'll help pay for the mud cleaning," she told Edward. They were quiet for the next 10 minutes as she felt her body temperature slowly climb back to 98.6 degrees. He pulled onto her street. She didn't remember telling him where she lived, but maybe she had. She was exhausted.
"I live on the fourth house down, on the left. But do you mind driving a little further? There's a dirt road at the end of the street. Would you mind pulling off on it when you get to it?" Bella asked.
Edward nodded. They passed her house. The lights were still off, meaning her father wasn't home yet. He was probably working another late shift.
Edward pulled off to the side road and turned the car off. "You can kiss me now," he joked.
Bella unstrapped herself from her car seat. She moved to his side of the car. He looked nervous. He had been joking about her kissing him, but she was serious. She needed to kiss him. She reached over and unclicked his belt buckle.
"Listen, about the list. I need to tell you something. And it might scare you. Ready?"
Bella nodded. Guess the kiss would have to wait, she thought.
"When you sign the list, you are basically signing one of your parents up to work the boiler room at the mill. It is the most dangerous assignment. The boiler is unstable and often just blows, but someone needs to be there to constantly attend to it. The mill cannot afford another boiler. No one wants that awful job, so it is scheduled by a lottery system. If your number is picked, one of your parents has the shift. The more people on the list, the less likely the odds for one of your parents to be picked. No one has ever served more than five shifts there without being killed by that boiler. So that's why they want you to sign the list. To sign your Dad up for the lottery."
Bella went pale. Edward took her hand.
"Jesus. That's awful," Bella replied. She started to cry. She couldn't lose her father.
"Your Dad has avoided the list since he's the only cop in town, and he's had no one sign the list for him. People can't put themselves on the list, that's one of the strange rules. Now that you are here, people expect you to put him on the list. They are going to hound you until you sign it, Bella. The bullying will get worse. And if you don't sign it, Charlie will be forced into working the shift. No lottery option." Edward hated to be the one to tell her the horrific nature of the list, but he knew that if he didn't, no one else would.
Bella looked shocked. She actually looked like she might pass out. He had to think fast.
"There is a way to keep your Dad safe, though. It's not conventional and it is pretty extreme, but it will keep him safe," Edward stated.
"I can't lose him," replied Bella.
"I can't lose him," replied Bella.