A King County Christmas

Jessica and I arrived at 7th Street Transit Center where we would transfer from the Van-Port Transit Authority bus to the AmeriTrain. I was excited since I was going to spend a week in King County with my older sister. She had this 1 bedroom apartment that was modified to accommodate her in the wheelchair as she proudly boasted, “I’m not on any government program. I’m currently working at WorldSoft while I complete my Senior Year here at University at Seattle. The landlord gave me written permission to let you stay for a week.”I pushed my sister into the train station and she presented her ID to the attendant. “The train leaves in about an hour. Do you two have any bags needing to be checked?”Jessica answered, “No. We’re taking our two bags with us.”

She then turned to me an explained, “I have a bunch of clothes for you up in Federal Way. I think you’ll like it there. The bus system is amazing: there’s no need to drive a car with PugTran. I have direct bus service to work, or I could take the bus direct to Seattle. It runs almost 24/7 and the bus that comes by me is every 30 minutes.  Would you like some breakfast? There’s a Burger World next door.”

I answered, “Yes, please Jess.” I grabbed her and pushed her across the transit center to the Burger World.

We got to the counter and the cashier said, “Good morning and welcome to Burger World. What would you like this morning?”

Jessica answered, “This will be to go. I’m going to have two Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Combo both with Orange Juice to drink. I’m also going to have two Bacon, Egg, and Cheese sandwiches.”

The cashier rang up our order and it wasn’t too long before we were back in the train station with 30 minutes until the train showed up.

About 15 minutes later, the train did show. The conductor got the mobile lift going for my sister then allowed me to board the train. She parked her wheelchair in the area and asked, “Will you help me transfer to the seat?”

I responded, “Sure. What do I need to do?” She extended her hands to me and I grabbed her. It was no trouble at all and my big sister was in the seat. I sat down next to her and she started hugging me tightly and started sobbing.

“I miss you so much,” my sister started. Her voice was breaking, like she was just so happy to see me.

I was right as Jess continued, “I’m going to make the most of the week I have you. It was wonderful to see Dad and Rachel, but I really missed you most of all.”

I replied, “I missed you too Jess. You’re right, let’s make the most of this week together.” It wasn’t too long before the train was pulling out of Vancouver. I pulled out my laptop , plugged it in and asked Jess, “I have these three movies. Would you like to watch them? I have two headphones and a splitter.”

I popped in the disc as the laptop started charging. We enjoyed watching and soon we were both getting hungry. It was lunch time and Jess did pack lunch. “No more movies,” Jess said, “I want to spend this time rebonding with you. I missed you so much.”

I started hugging Jessica and asked, “What did you pack for snacks? I’m getting hungry.”

“Let’s see…there’s four sandwiches, chips, and some drinks. I didn’t pack much since we’re pulling into King Street right at lunch. The sucky part will be navigating Downtown Seattle in my wheelchair. It’s amazingly steep.”

Jessica handed me a sandwich and a soda can. She decided to get one for herself as well. We happily ate as Jess explained, “We’re rolling through Steilacoom now. This is Pierce County and the next stop is across the street from Tacoma Dome Station, a huge park & ride facility. After that, it’s this embarrassment know as Tukwila. We’re getting off at King Street Station in Downtown Seattle.”

Finally, we arrived in Seattle. A mobile lift was used to get Jessica onto the ground. With our bags in our hands, she pointed out:

“The elevator is over there. PugTran operators call it the Weller Street Bridge. From there, we need to simply head over to Second and Jackson. We need the 194 and it comes at 12:46.”

As we boarded the 194, snow started falling. Jess exclaimed, “Crap! My wheelchair doesn’t get along with snow.” She flashed her WorldSoft ID to the driver as I helped her make the turn into the bus.

By the time the 194 was dropping us off at Sea-Tac, the snow was coming down. The 174 did show up almost on schedule (it was five minutes late). Jess explained, “The 174 is always packed worse than the 194, but it runs well into the night. The last one leaves Seattle at 3:30 AM and the first one leaves at 5:22 AM. You’ll love the bus out by my place.”

Sure enough, as the 174 pulled up, it was loaded. What I liked about out here was that, even though the bus was packed, passengers politely moved without having to be asked. We boarded the bus and I assisted her onto the bus. She explained to the driver, “I’m getting off at the new Transit Center,” as she flashed her ID to him.

The 174 dropped us off and the snow was coming down quite hard. “Michael, you’ll have quite a bit of fun trying to get me through the snow. Once we’re in, we’re in. I’m guessing that WorldSoft is going to start it’s Foul Winter Weather policies.”

We got into Jessica’s place and she logged into the WorldSoft Employee VPN and I was right there at her side. “Yep: Winter weather in Redmond. If this snow keeps up, I’m going to work from home tomorrow if I have power.”

My sister started hugging me as we watched the snow come down harder than before. I commented to her, “What do you think? We got in just in time?”

Jess answered, “Yeah. The strange thing is that it doesn’t really snow like this out here. Let me call Dad and let them know we’re safe and sound in Federal Way.”

So my sister called Dad. “Hi Dad, it’s Jess. Mike and I got into the apartment just in time since it’s snowing here in King County.”

Later in the day, Jess was on the phone with dad who was checking up on us, “I have Mike with me. He’s going to be with me for the week.”

“EXCUSE ME! WHO THE BLANK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE,” Jess continued angrily.

“IT IS MY HOUSE AND I CAN HAVE MY BROTHER OVER IF I WANT! GOOD-BYE,” as she slammed the phone back onto the hook.

The phone rang again and Jess said: “Let it go to the machine. If it’s dad, don’t answer. If it’s Rachel, I’ll answer.” My sister looked quite pissed and I wasn’t going to argue with her.

The machine picked up: “JESSICA, PICK UP THE DAMN PHONE! I KNOW WHAT YOU TWO ARE DOING AND I WILL REPORT YOU! I KNOW YOU TWO ARE HAVING SEX! PICK UP THE DAMN PHONE!” Dad was quite wrong about that. Jessica’s face (as well as mine) turned bright red in anger.

I said to my sis, “Did you hear crying on the message?”

She answered, “Let me play it back. I think you’re right.” We played back the message and sure enough, my suspicion was right. “Only dad and Rachel should be home right now,” she continued.

I was angry, “Holy Shit! He did not just hurt Rach! I’ll kill him!”

Jess angrily told me, “I’m taking the phone off the hook. Let me email Rachel and explain what’s happening. That man stepped way over his boundary in that assumption!” She started breaking down and whimpered, “Hug me. I need comfort.” By now, my sister was sobbing. I started hugging her like she asked as she tried to rest on the bed.

After a little while, Jess calmed down and started to explain, “Dad thinks we’re doing the bad thing when obviously we’re not. I’m going to send an email to Rachel. It’s going to explain how to get through to you and I. Now what do you think of dad claiming you and I are getting it on?”

I asked her to clarify: “You’re telling me that dad thinks we’re having sex!?

Jess answered as she typed up an email to Rachel, “Yep.  To be honest, since I feel we’re both adults and can make decisions for ourselves, I couldn’t care less, but you know I wouldn’t dare since we’d get in so much trouble.”

I replied, “Right. Not worth the risk.” By now, Jess and I were sitting together in bed. She was typing an email message to our little sister Rachel explaining what just happened and how to get through to us. After sending the email, we both rested on the bed for a few hours.

After a nap, my sister asked, “Getting hungry for dinner?” By now, there was a thick snow on the ground. It was the wet snow like back home in New England.

I answered, “Yeah. What were you thinking?”

Jess answered, “I was going to cook, but I’m so pissed at dad, so how about a frozen pizza?”

I answered, “I don’t mind. What do you have?”

Jess answered, “Push me into the kitchen and we’ll decide together. I just went shopping the other day.”

Sitting in her wheelchair, my sis opened the freezer as I watched the snow fall outside. Jess started, “I have Four Cheese, Pepperoni, and Sausage.”

I asked, “How about Four Cheese? Are you able to make the crust soft?”

Jess answered, “Four Cheese is fine with me. Yes, I can do a soft crust. That’s no problem. If you want, get something to drink. I have milk-based hot chocolate and not the cheap kind either. The pizza should be ready in about 30 minutes. Make yourself at home.”

I turned on the radio and the local station, KSEA-FM, was playing “Christmas Tunes from Yesterday and Today” and it felt good hearing some classics as well as some funnies.

The pizza was finally ready. Jess called out, “Pizza’s ready. I’m going to make you my special blend of hot chocolate. I know you run from spices, so I don’t use any. You’ll love how it’s loaded with sugar and made with milk!”

I carried the pizza to the table while Jessica wheeled herself over to the table. “The soft crust is perfect, just the way I like it. Thanks Jess.”

“You’re quite welcome,” my sister replied as she hugged me. We happily ate up.

“I do really like your hot chocolate,” I commented. Jess responded by hugging me tighter. After dinner, we watched a comedy to try to cheer us up from the slump dad put us in. After the movie, I was starting to fall asleep.

Jess told me, “Oh, you’re sleeping right here in the bed with me.” I gave Jessica a look and she continued, “I won’t bite. Besides: I’m your sister. What am I going to do besides hug you and love you?”

I decided to head to the bathroom to change. I pulled out my Pjs and headed on into the bathroom and quickly swapped day clothes for a warm set of Pjs. I then climbed onto the bed where my big sister was already under the covers. As I curled up beside her, Jessica latched onto me and held me tightly like I was a big teddy bear.

By the time the next morning rolled around, Jessica and I were snuggled very close together. She started to wake me up. “What would you like for breakfast,” she asked.

“What do you have,” I asked groggily.

Jessica answered as she transferred into her wheelchair, “I have cereal, eggs, toast, and pancakes. I was thinking of making ham and cheese omelets like Mom used to do Sunday mornings.”

I answered, “I haven’t had omelets in forever. Let’s do that this morning.” I looked out the window and noticed, “Wow…it’s still snowing!”

Jess answered as she wheeled into the kitchen, “Yep. I will be working from home for as long as we have power. We’re in a good area of Federal Way and I don’t usually loose power.” I took the opportunity of Jessica being out of the room to change into clean clothes. After I changed, I headed out to the living room.

Jessica said, “Just in time for breakfast. Here’s your plate.” I took my plate and politely waited for my sister to be ready. She came over to my side and we both happily had breakfast.

“I’m just so happy to see you again, “Jess started, “I really missed you.”

I hugged her and said, “I missed you too. I’m glad I can be here in King County with you.” My voice started breaking. I was just so happy to be with Jessica. The only thing that sucked was this snow storm: I got to spend time with my big sister, but her plans of showing me around Downtown Seattle were obviously scrapped.

We decided to watch a movie together. We snuggled on her bed together. It was Christmas time after all so we had to watch Christmas movies. Jess showed off her collection of everything from the classics to the new movies. We watched a couple of animated classics, then Jess told me that she needed to begin her work.

I sat down beside her as she wheeled to her desktop. She allowed me to hug her as she worked. Of course the string was that I had to keep my mouth shut about her WorldSoft project. Soon, we got a phone call. “Hello,” Jess started. A moment later she put it on speaker. “Rachel, you’re on speaker. Michael is right here at my side. What’s going on?”

Rachel started, “John just broke up with me and his father assaulted me. Dad doesn’t care and blames me for not working it out on my own.”

Jess asked, “Would you like to spend Christmas with your brother and I? I can get you up here on the afternoon bus and you can be seeing us tonight at Tacoma Dome Station. How does that sound?”

As my little sister cried, she managed to squeak, “Thanks Jess. I’ll take that ride.”

Jess said, “Alright. Stand by while I give Coach Washington my credit card information. Then I’ll give you the ticket info. I’m going to wire you some money to the Vancouver bus station so you can get something to eat. Go on and chat with Michael for a moment while I get this going.”

Rachel said, “No, not Vancouver! I’m in Portland with Noelle and Senator Hambulton. Wire money to Portland.”

Jessica said, “OK, Portland it is.”

Rachel started talking to me in between sobs. “I’m currently depressed.  John just broke up with me and Dad could care less.”

As I watched Jessica input the credit card info, I told Rachel, “Jess is taking care of you. She just finished inputting her credit card info for the bus company. The station is right by Portland’s Union Station.”

Rachel said, “It’s on the #77 Van-Port Transit Authority bus. Noelle’s Mother is an Oregon Senator and uses Van-Port Transit Authority to get everywhere. They’ll get me there safely.”

Jess said (remember that our sister was on speaker phone), “I’m now wiring you money. It will be available in 30 minutes. What do you have with you?”

Rachel answered, “I have my ID, my laptop, and some clothes. I am not prepared for the snow out here. What time does my bus leave Portland?”

Jess answered, “2:05 PM Tonight and you’ll be in Tacoma at 5:10 PM. We’ll see you at Tacoma Dome Station tonight. It will be a tight fit with the three of us, but I think we can make due. I’ve wired you $50 to get something to eat. Get yourself a calling card while you’re there. Your ticket and wired money should be ready by now. We’ll see you in Tacoma tonight. Don’t tell dad anything. I don’t want him coming up here to Federal Way causing hell.  You saw what he complained about in the email.”

Rachel said, “Alright Jess. I’ll talk to you later.”

Jess sent a message to WorldSoft: “Family Emergency: I will be going to Tacoma to rescue my sister and I need to leave right now. I will continue working when I get back home tonight.”

Turning to me, Jess said, “As bad as the snow is, we need to head to Tacoma. By bus, it is about 30 minutes using the 500 Local or 15 minutes using the 574 Express. We’re going to eat at the Arch’s Burgers right by the transit center, then we’re going straight to Tacoma to get Rachel.”

I replied, “Alright. What do I need to get?”

Jessica answered, “Just put on your winter wear. All we really need is my WorldSoft ID, which counts as my bus pass, and my wallet. Too bad my wheelchair doesn’t have snow chains.”

We left the apartment and headed out into snow-covered Federal Way. It took a while, but we made it to the Arch’s. We got a quick meal to go and promptly headed to Federal Way Transit Center. As we pulled up, the 574 LAKEWOOD via TACOMA showed up and we boarded. Jess told the driver, “I’m getting off at Tacoma Dome Station. I won’t need any buses.”

We arrived at the Dome Station and Jess told me, “Rachel’s bus should be here in about 4 hours. This way to the Coach Washington terminal. We’ll check in, then I’ll show you Downtown Tacoma.”

I pushed my big sister over to the terminal and the attendant greeted us, “Good afternoon and welcome to Coach Washington. How may I help you?”

I answered, “We’re waiting for our sister who is on Schedule 305 coming up from Vancouver.”

That’s when I got a call. “Michael, it’s Rachel and I’m stuck in Olympia, specifically at the Olympia Transit Center I’m calling you from a Thurston Transit place. Coach Washington is putting us in a hotel in Olympia for the night.”

I answered, “Alright. Hang on a moment. Let me tell Jessica.”

I turned to Jess and explained, “Rachel is stuck, she says, at the Olympia Transit Center.  They want to get hotel rooms for all the passengers.”

Jess said, “Hand me the phone. I know of a bus that will get her here to Tacoma Dome Station.”

I handed my sister the phone and Jessica spoke: “Rachel, where exactly are you?”

“Alright. Hand the phone to the Thurston Transit employee. There is an express bus that’s $2, but I will need to know when it arrives.”

Now speaking to the TT agent, Jess said: “Hi. My little sister is stuck there. What time does the next 603 or 603A show up?”

“Alright. Will it stop at the Dome or just 10th & Commerce?”

“Alright. What time does it get to the Dome? Please guide her to the bus. Tell her that her brother and sister will be waiting at the Dome for her. We’re already here. Thank-you so much for your help.”

Turning to me, Jess explained: “Rachel is stuck in Olympia. Don’t worry, there’s an Olympia-Tacoma Express bus that will take her here to the Dome. It’s 4:15 now and her bus leaves Olympia at 4:35. It will be here estimated at 5:35. Our bus leaves, if we’re lucky and the 603 is a bit early, we can make a 5:30 local bus back to Federal Way. The Express comes at 5:42 and we’ll be home by about 6 or so. It’s only $2 for Rachel’s Express ride and with a valid transfer, it’s $1 to upgrade to a 2-Zone Express fare. I’ll pay her fare if I have to.”

Jess told the Coach Washington attendant, “My sister is taking a Thurston Transit bus here and should be pulling in at 5:30 or so.”

Jessica pointed the way to where the transit buses meet up. It was a pain in the behind trying to push her through the snow, but Rachel, both of us agreed, was more important.

Finally, the bus showed up, a few minutes early at 5:25. Jessica wheeled up to the front door and there was Rachel sitting up front. “Rachel, it’s Jess. We’ve got a tight connection. Our bus leaves at 5:30.”

Rachel gladly jumped off of the 603. She was sobbing and wanting to hug us badly. I gladly allowed her to hug me seeing how upset she was.

We all boarded the 500 and it was supposed to be a quick 30 minute ride to Federal Way, but SR 99 was more like an ice skating rink than a major highway.  Rachel explained, “They wanted to put us up in hotel rooms for the night and continue rolling tomorrow.”

Jessica said, “I’m glad you called.  Be glad you were stuck in Olympia since we were able to get you onto another bus to come here.”

The bus started to slide as we passed SR 161 (Enchanted Parkway). Thankfully, the operator was able to regain control of the bus before anything bad happened. This was even with the snow chains on the drive wheels.

I looked at Jessica’s straps to make sure she was tied in properly when she asked me, “Could you get the shoulder belt secured for me?”

I was one step ahead of my sister and quickly strapped her in. Finally, we pulled into the Federal Way Transit Center. It was nothing more than a big sheet of ice. Rachel and I were going to have lots of fun trying to get Jessica home, even though home was across the street from the new transit center.

“Both of you are going to have to work together to push me since I don’t have snow chains or off-road tires,” Jessica explained. Finally, after struggling a bit, we got into Jessica’s apartment.

Rachel asked Jess and I to not leave her side because she was frightened. “I can’t believe that dad hit me,” she cried as I let her snuggle in my arms. Rachel was crying and she was giving me the impression that I better not let go of her.

Hoping to calm Rachel down, Jessica turned on the radio to the Christmas Station, KSEA-FM. It was the end of a commercial break and Sarajevo started playing. “Jess, please turn it off,” Rachel sobbed.

As Jessica shut off the radio, she asked, “What is it?”

Rachel answered, “This was the song that played when John dumped me yesterday. It’s bringing up the bad memories.”

Jess replied, “Having the radio off is no…” Jessica was interrupted by a power failure. She continued, “Well, I guess Mother Nature also wanted the radio off.” That got Rachel to smile a bit as she continued to sit in my lap and hold me tightly.

Jessica pulled out the board games. She had our favorite, Land Grab: Tidewater Edition. We all decided to play that under flashlight.

I whispered into Jessica’s ear: “Go on and let Rachel snap up Oceanfront and Ghent. We’ll split College Park and Park Place. I think, if she wins the game, she’ll start feeling better.”

Jessica whispered back, “I agree with you. We’ll let her take them, build Luxury Condos, and run us bankrupt.”

Jess and I worked together to ensure Rachel won the game and sure enough, our little sister won and was feeling better about herself. By now, she was no longer crying, and her tight grip on me loosened, but she wasn’t going to let go any time soon. We still had no power and we started getting hungry. Jessica wheeled into the kitchen explaining, “I’m going to get dry cereal for the three of us. I’m bringing the box and three bowls. I’ll be right back.”

Jessica returned with our cereal. “It’s not much, but I didn’t want to open the fridge. It’s dry, but it’s better than nothing.”

“Thanks Jess,” Rachel said. I also thanked my sister for the cereal. We happily ate up as we watched the snow continue to come down quite hard. Rachel looked out the window and couldn’t believe her eyes: “Good grief this snow won’t stop!”

Jessica remarked, “I know. It doesn’t normally snow out here. It usually rains non-stop though. It’s the wet stuff that reminds me of home sweet Rhode Island though.”

I added, “Makes me want to head home to Aquidneck Island.” By now, it was only around 12 noon. The snow was coming down harder than ever and, with the power gone, there was nothing to do.

Rachel happily commented, “Well, Christmas Eve is tomorrow.”

Jessica said, “Yep. Don’t think I’ll be able to get to the bus for evening service with this weather sadly.”

Rachel insisted: “I will try almost anything to get you onto the bus tomorrow night. All three of us are going to Christmas Eve Service! It’s just, I need a winter coat.”

Jess said, “Rachel, follow me to my main closet. I have a spare, but I don’t know if it will fit you.”

My two sisters went to the closet and it wasn’t too long before Rachel came back wearing that winter coat. She had a smile in her face I haven’t seen in the longest time. “The coat fits! I’m just so excited!” I’ve never seen Rachel so happy before. She started hugging me, squeezing Jess and I real tightly.

“Rachel,” I gasped, “I can’t breath!” She released Jess and I, but that smile wouldn’t leave her (and I didn’t want it to leave her).

At last, the power came back on. Jess suggested, “Why not head to Federal Mall and get some winter gear? The snow appears to be lightning up. We’ll also eat there if the King County Health Department gave them the all-clear.”

It was around 2 and the three of us were quite hungry. Rachel asked, “What bus takes us to the mall?”

Jess answered as she transferred into her wheelchair, “The mall is within walking distance. No bus needed.”

Rachel and I worked hard to get Jess to the mall. It was quite difficult with the heavy snow but we somehow managed to get in.

Once inside, it appeared to be business as usual. Jess explained, “The mall is on a separate grid from me, so I doubt they lost power.”

“Where to,” I asked.

“The food court is to the left. There’s plenty of choices. I was thinking of Nova’s New Orleans Chicken.”

Rachel and I both agreed to the idea since we were both craving a Classic Po’Boy for some reason. It was my turn to push Jessica so she guided me in the correct direction and we happily ate at Nova’s.

Pulling up to a table, Jessica started: “Rachel, what exactly is going on? Take as long as you need. I’m not going to rush you. Michael and I won’t tell dad anything.”

Rachel started tearing up. She pointed at the still highly visible red mark on her cheek where dad slapped her. “I was apparently on the phone with my best friend Noelle for ‘too damn long.; Even though it was a local call! I sent them a message and her mother picked me up in a heartbeat. I spent the night there then I got your email the next morning.” My little sister grabbed me and held on tightly as she told Jessica what happened. It was as if she was clinging on for dear life. I’ve never seen her so frightened (but I didn’t blame her).

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