It had happened right as mommy bent down to kiss him. He liked when mommy him. and he liked the sound of the bus – the steady sound of the engine, the way the seat hummed. Riding the bus with mommy was very nice, one of his most favorite things to do.
Everything was good, comfy, he was with mommy and he was happy, until the moment of the loud noise. Suddenly there was panic, screaming. He hadn’t known that grown-up people could scream like that. There was a big bang, and then the bus was moving quickly, in the wrong way, sliding across the road. Not at all the way a bus was supposed to move. “Mommy!” he shrieked, but didn’t hear a answer. He saw her head, in slow motion, slam against the side of the bus, snap back. There was something strange about the way her head moved, the rapid movement of her neck. He called her name, over and over, but she didn’t answer.
When he realized that mommy was not waking up, he made his way along the bus, toward the front, trying to find somebody who could help, maybe the bus driver. Everything was at a strange angle, and it was hard to climb over the people – especially the ones who were still awake, moaning and sobbing in their seats. They kept moving, and grabbing, and he had to walk around them.
He had tried talking to mommy, but mommy was just not answering, no matter how many times he called her name. The bus driver wasn’t moving either, and that was when he had started to cry. After a long time there was grandpa, he hadn’t been on the bus — maybe he came after the — after. He was with daddy. They were arguing, shouting back and forth. Grandpa was saying “yes, we have to, it’s the only way.” Daddy was shouting back “it’s too soon, it’s not ready,” Even long afterward he remembered that. Then they were looking at mommy, and they were looking at him, they were saying something about he was bleeding from his ear, and it was kind of funny, like watching a dream. Except instead of waking up, everything went blurry and after that he couldn’t remember anything.
Francesca read through the newpaper a third time, to make sure she had missed no detail. The pages were yellow with age, but the paper was still perfectly readable, even after all these years. Many people had died on the bus. Apparently a madman had set the explosives, nobody was quite sure why. There had been no way to find out, since he had blown himself up with the bomb.
The mother — Bianca — was listed as deceased, killed in the explosion. The boy had ended up in a coma, that much was clear, apparently for several years. The oddest part was that after three years he had mysteriously disappeared. His grandfather had called for an investigation, but it hadn’t gone anywhere.
She still found it hard to believe that Frederick had kept something like this from her. They had always shared everything, or so she had thought. She found herself realizing that she might not have known Freddie as well as she had believed. Those weekends when he went on his business trips. She had thought it was something harmless — another woman, or another man perhaps, not that it would have mattered — but there might have been something else going on entirely. She realized that the part of the record she now needed to see was not in the office of municipal records.
As she was walking out, she could see the blue flickering of the monitor in the little office where the clerk sat. She decided not to disturb him, watching his blue movies. He had been more than helpful, simply by allowing her to spend so much time looking through the old files. Besides, there was much to do, and she did not have any time for the idle chitchat.
When at last Francesca got back, she did something she had promised herself she would never do. But now it was different — there were lives at stake. The blue notebook was old — it had not been opened in years. Slowly she unwound the string that bound it. Just before she opened the book, she took a moment to stare at the cover. “Frederick,” she said softly. “I am doing it, the thing I promised I would never do. I am not such a good keeper of your secrets after all. But you are dead my dear, and the living must continue to live. I hope you will forgive me.”
And then she opened the diary and began to read.