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Bette had gotten up from the steps and was waiting a few feet from the bus’s open doorway. Even the expensive aviator sunglasses that she wore couldn’t hide the crestfallen expression on her face. She walked up to Tina when she disembarked and pulled her into a hug. The blonde hugged back tightly still holding the bouquet of flowers that they’d picked up on the way to the bus station to welcome Marci.
Bette watched the driver over Tina’s shoulder locking the bus’s doors and bringing down the hinged panels of the cargo compartment.
“I’m so sorry baby. She’s not coming, is she?” Bette whispered not able to hold back the tears any longer. Tina pulled out of the hug and pushed the sunglasses on top of Bette’s head so she could see her eyes. She held Bette’s cheeks and gently wiped the tears away with her thumb.
“Maybe. There is still one more bus due in from Nevada this afternoon. Ernie is checking if maybe she’s on that one.”
“Who’s Ernie?” Bette asked momentarily confused.
“The driver. He called dispatch while we were on the bus.”
“I thought that was against the rules.” Bette had just spoken to the passenger service department, and even though she’d paid for Marci’s ticket they firmly told her it was against company policy to provide passenger information to a third party.
Ernie was aware of the policy and respected it but under the circumstances he didn’t see any harm in calling a compassionate dispatcher just to check if Marci Dickerson was on his bus and perhaps got off at one of the intermediate stops. He was sure he would have recalled a young pregnant woman getting on the bus. He always counted the number of passengers at the start of the trip, and after every rest stop. He would never leave anyone behind, that didn’t willingly alter their plans. He told Tina he would check if maybe Marci missed his bus and took the next one.
Ernie’s cell phone rang just as he finished securing the bus. He listened intently for a few minutes then hung up the phone. He walked towards the couple as two sets of eyes watched him intently trying to read some hope in his expression but there was none. He stood by awkwardly for a few seconds not really wanting to be the bearer of more bad news for the already distraught couple, but there was no point prolonging it. He cleared his throat and removed his cap.