“Come on, honey,” Mom coaxed five-year-old Brea, “eat your cereal. I have an early doctor’s appointment today.”
Cassie stifled a yawn and took her bowl to the sink. “I’ll take Brea to her bus, Mom,” she offered.
“Oh, thank you!” Mother gave Cassie and Brea a quick squeeze. “Don’t worry, Brea. I’ll be at the bus stop at noon to meet you. Have a beautiful day, you two!”
The morning sun filtered through the trees as Brea held tightly to Cassie’s hand. “How do you like kindergarten so far?” Cassie asked Brea.
Brea skipped happily beside her sister. “I like it.”
“That’s good,” Cassie replied.
“Hey, Cass!” Judi called, running to catch up to them. “Did you get all that homework done?”
Cassie shrugged. “I’m not sure about a couple of the answers. How about you?”
“Miss Hager is a slave driver!” Judi mumbled grumpily. “I’ve worked hard, and I still need to look at some maps in the library before school. How about you?”
“That sure would help,” Cassie agreed. “But I have to get Brea on her school bus first.”
“Can’t she get on the bus by herself?” Judi asked.
Brea nodded and grinned at Judi.
Cassie looked at her little sister. She probably could, Cassie reasoned. Once I get her to the bus stop, she could wait with the other kids. Then I’d have time to check my homework too.
When the girls arrived at the bus stop, the other kids were holding their mothers’ hands, waiting for the school bus.
“Well, here she is, safe and sound,” Judi said happily. “Come on, Cassie. We still have time to visit the library.”
Cassie looked down at Brea, who suddenly seemed to turn shy and hang back. Why is she acting like this? Cassie wondered. “Maybe I’d better wait,” Cassie said. “I told mom that I’d make sure that she caught her bus.”
“She’s here,” Judi grumbled. “What more can you do?”
Cassie shrugged. “I’ll wait with her till the bus comes.”
“You’re impossible, Catherine McLaughlin!” Judi groused as she started down the sidewalk. Then her face relaxed, and she called back, “I’ll see you later.”
Cassie watched Judi until she turned the corner; then she glanced down at Brea.
“Is Judi mad at you?” Brea asked quietly.
Cassie shook her head. “No, honey, not really.”
Brea was a pain sometimes, but from the pressure of her fingers on Cassie’s hand, it was easy to tell that she didn’t want to wait alone.
The quiet sound of air brakes broke into Cassie’s thoughts as the bright yellow bus turned the corner. Mothers bent to kiss their children as they eagerly lined up in single file. Brea was still clutching Cassie’s hand, but she let go and pointed, smiling as another little girl hurried to cross the street. “There’s my friend!”
“Well, get in line with her, honey,” Cassie said.
Cassie was about to continue on to school, when she saw a wildly speeding car turn the corner. It rocked from side to side, then zigged along the street, heading straight for the school bus. Without a second thought, Cassie pushed Brea and her friend behind a tree.
The out-of-control car scraped the bus, jumped the curb, and landed against the bus-stop sign—right where the children had been standing!
Cassie looked at her trembling sister. “Don’t cry, Brea,” she soothed. “Everything’s OK.”
Police sirens filled the crisp morning air as mothers calmed their terrified kids and Cassie’s own trembling hands smoothed Brea’s hair.
Later, in history class, the teacher came to Cassie’s side and whispered, “You’re wanted in the principal’s office.”
Cassie looked up, then gulped. As she hurried along the hallway, her stomach churned. What’d I do wrong? she worried. When she neared the office, she saw a policeman and swallowed hard. Has something happened to Mother or Brea?
“Catherine McLaughlin?” the officer asked with a friendly smile.
“Yes,” Cassie replied.
“Eyewitnesses credit you with saving the lives of two children, and we’re happy to tell you that you’re to be awarded the Mayor’s Award for Heroism.”
Cassie sighed with relief. “All I did was—”
The officer smiled and held up his hand in a gesture of friendly dissent. “You acted in a prompt and heroic way without hesitation,” he told her. “That’s something to be proud of, and I’m glad to meet you.”
“I am, too,” another man said as he stepped out of the background. “I’m Doug Miller from the Bradley Standard, and I’d like to take a picture of you at the accident site as the children come off the bus. It’ll be in tomorrow morning’s edition. The principal has given his permission for you to miss your classes long enough for me to take your picture, and this officer will take you there,” he explained.
When the school bus pulled up to the curb, Cassie stepped out of the police car. As soon as the waiting mothers saw her, they crowded around, thanking her. Then Cassie felt a hand on her arm and turned.
“Cassie?” her mother said in surprise. “What are you doing here?”
“Your daughter is a hero,” one mother said with a happy grin.
Brea jumped off the bus, smiling. “You’re both here to meet me today!” she said excitedly.
“Come on, kids,” Doug Miller directed. “We’re going to take some pictures of you with Catherine beside the school bus.”
After the pictures were taken, Cassie’s mother looked at her with a bewildered expression. “I don’t understand. What happened this morning?” she asked.
“I put Brea on the school bus like I said I would,” Cassie replied simply.