The rain fell in sheets as thick as lead, pelting the roof of the bus as it pulled into the station. Flooding the isles, passengers bumped into one another, as they grabbed their bags and attempted to make their way to the front.
Not wanting to get involved in the messy race to the front of the bus, seventeen year old Casey Duff remained seated, fiddling with their phone as they waited for the aisle to clear. Once the co-motion had died down, Casey stood, grabbing their barf green duffle bag, a gift from a friend from a group home they were in some years ago, from the overhead cabin, and made their way off the bus. With no luggage to retrieve from the underneath cabin, Casey followed the other passengers into the bus station.
Passing through the station, they snagged a Pepsi from the vending machine. Once outside again, Casey found a bus shelter with a dry bench. Dropping their duffle bag down onto the bench, they flopped down beside it. Then, slipping their hand into their jacket pocket, they pulled out a pack of NewPorts; it was only then, as they gripped the cigarette between their lips that Casey realized they needed something to light the cigarette with.
“Aw fuck! Where did I put those gotdamn matches!?” Casey grumbled,patting themself down.
“Need a light?” Asked a deep voice.
Looking up, Casey spotted a tall man, sporting a cowboy hat, a button up, dark jeans, and a black jacket. With a cocked eyebrow, the man held out a lighter. After looking him over, Casey stepped forward, allowing him to burn the end of their cigarette.
“Thanks.” They said, through the cloud of smoke.
The man nodded and pocketed his lighter, before continuing to stare; he wasn’t even trying to hide that fact.
Growing slightly uncomfortable, Casey shifted their weight from one leg to the other.
“Do you need something?” They said, doing their best to keep their voice steady.
“Casey Duff, right?” The man said, pointing at them.
Casey squinted; subconsciously taking a few steps back.
“Who’s asking?” They asked, taking another drag from their cigarette.
“Hey, I mean no harm. I’m Mason Griffin. Your foster dad.” He said.
And that’s when it clicked. Don, their social worker, had told Casey all about Mason.
Normally Casey would have been driven to Mason’s house by Don, but Casey was able to talk Don into letting them take the bus.
Casey paused for a moment, looking at the lit cigarette in their hand, and then back at Mason.
“Oh God, you’re not gonna lecture me on smoking are you?” Casey said.
“That’s not really my style. I will ask that you don’t smoke in my truck or the house though.” He said. Casey nodded.
“That’s reasonable.” They said,
“Alrighty then. Well when you’re done, you can meet me in my truck.” Mason said, pointing to a black lifted Toyota Tacoma just a few feet behind him.
Casey nodded just before Mason made his way over to the truck. As they watched Mason climb inside, Casey let out a little sigh, thankful that he didn’t lecture them about their smoking; For many of Casey’s foster parents, their ‘terrible habit’ was ‘a beast that needed to be conquered’. Casey had been forced to do everything from intermittent fasting to ‘pray the demons away’ to being slapped every time they even thought about smoking. They were in no mood for another round with insane foster parents pretending like they gave a damn.
After a couple more drags, Casey thought it’d be best not to keep Mason waiting. So, dropping their cigarette, they stepped on it, smushing it into the wet concrete. Thereafter they scooped up their duffle bag, slung the strap across their body and began making their way towards the truck.
The inside of Mason’s truck was warm and smelt of vanilla, definitely not what Casey was expecting.
After checking that they had everything, Mason shifted the car into reverse.
“Have you eaten?” He asked, pulling out of the parking spot.
“No.” Said Casey.
Mason paused for a moment, shifting the car into drive.
“You like burgers?” He asked, raising his eyebrows.
Casey couldn’t help but smile.
“Love ‘em.” They said, causing Mason to return their smile.
Stepping on the gas, Mason made his way out of the parking lot and onto the road.