“Jessica Ragsdale,” The announcer called over the loudspeaker. She was ready for this, as she got her wheelchair in position, then rolled up the ramp and across the stage. She turned towards the audience and glowed with pride as she saw her mother, father, brother (myself), and sister all there. She couldn’t believe her eyes, as all differences appeared to be put to the side as she accepted her degree shaking hands with the dean.
Once the ceremony was over, she wheeled to the main atrium where she was to greet us. “Jess, we’re over here,” I called out, and she quickly wheeled over to us.
“So you now have your degree, and you go to full time status at WorldSoft next week,” Rachel said proudly.
That’s when all hell broke loose. Our parents, being bitterly divorced, started blowing up and making a scene. “BOTH OF YOU! STOP IT,” Jessica suddenly screamed in rage, “JUST WHAT THE HELL IS THE MATTER WITH YOU TWO!? YOU RUINED MY GRADUATION! AND FOR WHAT,” She paused to breathe, “FOR ONE DAY IN MY LIFE I WANTED MY MOTHER AND FATHER TO GET ALONG FOR MY GRADUATION! IF YOU TWO KEEP ACTING LIKE CHILDREN…” Jessica was too angry and upset to complete her thought.
Jessica and I both started crying. Jessica because our parents ruined her graduation, and as for me? I was spiraling into an autistic meltdown, being overwhelmed by all the shouting. Jessica grabbed Rachel and I and said in a quieter voice, “Come on you two. We are getting something to eat then we are catching a bus somewhere. Don’t worry, I’ll pay your bus fare: I brought money, fearing this would happen.”
“Jessica, please. I’m sorry,” We heard our mother said.
“No you’re not! Now good bye,” Jessica snorted, “Don’t follow us!” In a calmer tone directed to Rachel, she sobbed, “Help calm him down. Help calm me down.”
Our father spoke up. Whatever it was, we did not catch. Jessica whispered teary eyed, “We need to get on the next bus, and go somewhere. I don’t care where, but we need to get out of here. Someone take control of my wheelchair, and let’s go. Catch a bus on The Ave, I know a place. Rachel’s you’ve been there before. Time to introduce our brother to our friend Jack.”
My tears started to subside as we made our way outside, and were on a bus about five minutes later. “This is why I love Seattle: frequent buses. Now, I’m taking both of you to get some food.” Her phone rang, and she declined the call as she whispered, “Dad can go back to Vancouver, Mom can go back to the hotel, and you both will come to Federal Way with me,” She said. Her phone rang again, and again she declined the call. “On second thought, maybe I best put us up in a hotel for the night, in case they stake out my apartment.”
Rachel asked, “What time is the last bus to Federal Way?”
Jessica groaned as she wiped more tears. Rachel was asking about the 174 of course, since it ran much later than the 194 (2 in the morning vs. 10 at night), and they say that is the crazy bus of southern King County. However, Rachel did have a good point: check the apartment building first.
The bus ride up The Ave was short, just as Jess promised. “Wheelchair getting off,” Jessica called forward as we crossed the traffic light and the Stop Request bell rang.
“Jack,” Rachel squealed with delight as she pulled me into a hug, trying to clear my tears, “Best food in the entire Pacific Northwest!”
“I wasn’t expecting to have a simple meal at Jack,” Jessice said with tears still filling her eyes as we crossed NE 50th, “I uh…” Her phone rang again, and this time she decided to shut it off. “I don’t want to talk to either parent right now. Rachel, please help your brother with the menu. You know what he likes, but he’s never been here before.”
“Jack,” Rachel squealed in delight as she opened the door to let Jessica and I inside. She saw the glum look on our faces and said, “Jessica, let’s try to fix this.”
She looked up at her younger sister, wanting to explode because of what our parents did, but kept it inside since it wasn’t Rachel’s fault that Jessica’s graduation was ruined. “You two, get whatever you want,” Jess said with dried tears still in her eyes.
After a somber meal, Jessica directed us back to the bus as she said, “I don’t want to be in the University District. I don’t want to bump into them. Let’s get going, and I don’t care where we go.”
Rachel hurriedly suggested, “Let’s go north. Let’s find a hotel in Snohomish County. Now I’m glad we decided to pack clothes. We just need to get on a bus and get moving.”
Jessica suggested, “Take me to the Freeway Station. Whatever shows up first: Ash Way or Everett.”