December 19, 12:37 PM Eastern
Jeanine grabbed her phone from the counter and read the latest message. Behind her, a news channel was showing footage of people carrying shattered and bloody bodies past school buses and into waiting ambulances. The cameraman lingered on the line of policemen, who faced outward from the pandemonium, wearing black body armor and carrying rifles and shotguns.
“Oh, thank you, Lord Jesus!” she cried out as she hit the dial button on the phone’s screen. It took several tries to get through on the crowded network, but eventually Jim’s phone rang. He picked up immediately.
“Everything OK?” he said without greeting her.
“Just got word they’re sending the kids home from school,” she replied excitedly.
“Where are you going to pick him up? I’ll meet you there,” Jim said.
“They’re bringing Jordan to the house,” she said, “I guess they don’t want what happened in Cinci…”
“Yeah, that makes sense,” her husband replied, cutting her off, “You going to be OK? I can leave here and be there when he gets home.”
“It’ll be all right,” Jeanine answered, “I’ll meet him at the street and we’ll just stay home for the afternoon.”
“We OK on groceries?” Jim asked, “This is looking like a full-on french toast emergency.”
Jeanine smiled as she answered, “We’re OK. We’ve got the essentials: milk, bread, eggs, toilet paper, shotguns, ammo, and bourbon.”
Jim chuckled at that. “All right, sweetheart. Let me know when he’s home safe. I’ll try to get out of here early,” he replied, “It’s a mad house with everyone who didn’t come in.”
They chatted for a few minutes before Jeanine’s phone chimed again with a message from the school. Jordan’s bus would be there in about ten minutes, so they ended the conversation with promises to call if either one had any problems.
Jeanine put her work computer away and made a quick lunch for both of them. As she was setting the plates down on the table and shooing the cat away for the third time, she heard the diesel engine of the school bus making its way up the street.
Jeanine grabbed her jacket from its hook, putting it on as she walked down the front steps and out onto the lawn. The familiar yellow bus stopped a few yards from their driveway, but the doors did not open.
Jeanine started to walk toward the bus, but froze in shock when a deep voice barked “STOP!”
She looked toward the source of the noise and saw a police cruiser behind the bus. Its driver was standing next to it, aiming a rifle across the sedan’s roof at Jeanine.
“MA’AM, GO BACK INSIDE THE HOUSE!” the policeman shouted.
Jeanine stood there for a moment, then slowly raised her hands and backed up the porch steps to the front door. She saw the muzzle of the rifle turn to follow her as she moved. When she felt the storm door against her back, she turned and opened it, then walked inside.
Once she was on the other side of the glass door, the policeman muttered something into the microphone clipped to his vest, and the bus eased forward a few yards. When its doors were even with the driveway, Jeanine saw a little head pop up out of the seat behind the driver and the doors slide open.
Jordan jumped down the bus’ steps and sprinted for the door. Jeanine pushed the door open again and her son ran past her and into the hallway. Behind him, the bus driver closed her doors and began moving again. The policeman waited for her to close the storm door before getting back into his cruiser and following the bus.
Jeanine closed the front door and dead-bolted it before slumping to the floor and crying. Jordan came over and sat on her lap, and her tears flowed freely down his hair as she clasped him close to her breast and rocked back and forth. In the kitchen, the cat looked up from where she had been lapping at the peanut butter on Jordan’s sandwich and wondered what all the noise was about.