Eleanor winced as the little girl's ear peircing shout carried across the parking lot, then smiled as the six year old tackled her knee in a hug. “Hello, Bianca. And how are you today?”
“I'm ok! Up up up up!” She held out her hands pleadingly. Eleanor laughed, and picked her up. “How're you?”
“I'm good. Where's your brother?”
“Camping.” She stuck out her tounge. “Dad and Gabe are camping cause they like icky bugs and dirt. They're weird.”
“Silly boys.” Eleanor giggled, despite herself. “And your mother?”
“Right behind her!” Denise Stonewood followed her daughter across the parking lot, breathing hard. “Thank you so much for agreeing to take care of her today, I...”
“It's no trouble.” Eleanor smiled. “I have to spend time with my favorite granddaughter sometime, don't I?”
“Gramma, I'm your only granddaughter!” Bianca pouted in her arms.
“That doesnt mean you're not my favorite!”
Denise smiled. “Thank you. Can you drop her off back at the house at... oh, four, I guess?”
“You'll be lucky if I ever bring her back,” joked the older woman and the little girl squirmed in her arms.
“Mama, gramma's kidnapping me!” squealed Bianca.
“You better bring her back, or I'll send her daddy to rescue her.” The young mother smiled, laughing, and Eleanor understood not for the first time why her only son had fallen for her.
“Hah! Roger never won against me when he was a kid, and he still can't.” Eleanor started tickling her granddaughter, who was giggling uncontrollably. “Anyway, don't you have a doctors appointment to get to?”
“Oh!” Denise glanced at her watch. “I'm late! Thanks again, bye!”
Eleanor smiled after her daughter in law as she drove away, then turned to her granddaughter. “Well, what do you want to do?”
“Swimming! Swimming swimming swimming!” Bianca squealed. Eleanor flinched again.
“Bianca, not so loud, please.”
“Because it hurts my ears.”
“But Mama said that I need to talk loud so people can hear me!”
“Well, not quite so loud, ok?” Eleanor set the girl down, and took her hand as they walked towards the little green car. “I can hear you just fine when you talk normally.”
“Gabe says I'm good at being loud. I'm louder than anyone else in my class!”
“Honey...” Eleanor took a moment to process just how much her granddaughter must annoy that poor teacher. “Louder isn't always better,” she finally said as she fiddled with her car keys.
“Because if people can hear you, that's loud enough.”
“But the louder I am, the more people can hear me!” Bianca was jumping up and down in her seat as her grandmother tried to buckle her in.
“But what if you don't want someone to hear you?”
“But I like people to hear me! They all look at me when I'm loud!”
“That's not a good thing, honey.” Eleanor buckled herself in and started the car. “You use your inside voice when you're talking to people.”
“I can be even louder inside!”
“That's not what I mean.” The stoplight at the edge of the shopping center parking lot turned green, and Eleanor's foot hit the gas.
Bianca was strangely silent for the next few minutes. Eleanor glanced over at her, somewhat worried.
“Oh, honey, you're so pale!”
“Look out Gramma!” The little girl squeaked, and Eleanor swirved without taking her eyes off her granddaughter.
“Are you feeling alright? Maybe we shouldn't go swimming.”
“Car! Car car car car!”
“Bianca, didn't I just say not to talk so loud?”
The little girl covered her eyes as her grandmother screeched into the parking lot of the city pool. It took her a few minutes after the car had come to a complete stop to open them again. “Gramma, why do you drive so fast?”
“I don't, honey, it just seems faster because my car is lower.” Eleanor was digging around in her huge purse for that medicine that she was sure she had in here somewhere.
“But the dialy thing said 80!” Bianca pointed to the spedometer, still white as a sheet.
“No, honey, you must have misread it. I wasn't going faster than thirty.”
“Gramma, your car is scary!”
“Don't be silly, dear, I have anti-lock brakes and air bags! If someone runs into us, we'll be fine.” Eleanor finally gave up on the medicine and took Bianca's temperature with the back of her hand. “You feel fine to me, dear. I wonder what that was...”
“Gramma, they've gotta catch us to run into us!”
“Bianca, dear, didn't you want to go to the pool?”
Bianca nodded, then unbuckled her seatbelt and stumbled from the car. “Mama can pick me up here, right?”
“No, honey, I've gotta drive you home.”
The girl paled again. “Gramma, can we take the bus?”
“No, honey, my car works just fine.”
“But I like the bus!” Eleanor flinched at the return of the full fledged outside voice. “The bus is... the bus is cool!”
“But yesterday you said the bus was full of icky boys and...”
“The bus is cool! I like the bus!”
“Maybe we can ride the bus some other time, honey.” She opened up the back of Bianca's backpack and pulled out her swimsuit. “Now go get changed. And stop talking so loud!”
“I like the bus....” mumbled Bianca as she trotted dutifully off to the changing rooms, swimsuit in hand.
“Strange girl.” Eleanor turned to the ticket window directly in front of which her car which her car was parked. “Two, please.” The attendant was white as a sheet as she took Eleanor's money, never taking her eyes off the green car parked less than six inches away from the front of the building. Eleanor glanced behind her at the attendant as she headed for the changing room herself. “Huh.” She shook her head. “Must be a virus or something.”