Someone was calling my name, the single word breaking through a haze, prodding insistently at my sleepy brain. My attention was being summoned from somewhere; that much was obvious, but I was sure the sound was coming from miles away. I could probably get away with ignoring them for a little while longer. Shifting slightly, like this would be enough to shake them off, I kept my eyes closed.


This time, the tone was more persistent, followed by a real prodding in my side. It seemed the caller was not giving up as easily as I first hoped.

"Ellie, wake up. I'm not going to let you take a nap."

A low groan escaped me as I battled the effort to force open my eyes. As my vision slipped back into focus, I realized I was staring at the back of a bus seat, and my head was lolling sideways on something hard: something, I later discovered, that happened to be Seb's shoulder.

Rubbing my eyes, my gaze met his, and he smiled. "You look so attractive when you've been drooling."

A hand instantly flew to my face, swiping at the corner of my lip as Seb collapsed into a fit of laughter. I tried not to think about the flush rising up my neck, instead settling for a flat look sent in his direction. "Shut up. Can't you just let me sleep? In case you've forgotten, we just did an all-nighter, and I'm dead on my feet."

"And trust me, the solution is not to sleep the entire day and screw up your body clock," he said. "So there's no way I'm letting you drift off on this bus journey."

We had been driving for no longer than an hour, with at least seven more ahead of us; the GPS on my phone told us we were yet to even make it out of Manitoba, before I'd had to switch it off to conserve battery. The bus station clerk had booked us on the earliest trip out, leaving at eight a.m., which had involved a long wait until one of the buses in the yard actually gained its driver. Thankfully, by the stroke of a very necessary miracle, there had been a coffee shop across the street; our extra large cups had been the sole source of energy for the entire morning.

Once we boarded the bus, things hardly improved much. Even disregarding the distinct smell from the onboard toilet, which induced nausea right from the back row, it quickly became obvious we had joined possibly the oddest collection of passengers in the world. I had never visited Thunder Bay before, but my first impressions from the people traveling alongside us hardly filled me with hope for our stay. Seb appeared to be thinking along similar lines; we'd exchanged very odd looks after settling into seats near the front.

Behind us sat a couple both covered in beaded shawls, and the fact that the husband wore more than his wife made the spectacle that much weirder to look at. Between juddering movements of the bus, I caught several snatches of their conversation; they were in deep discussion about what their tea leaves had predicted for the journey ahead. A man to our left appeared to have brought no other luggage for the eight-hour trip aside from a box of Tim Hortons donuts, and I only hoped he wouldn't turn to us for amusement once he exhausted his supply. Somewhere at the back of the bus, the parents of six children were trying to control their horde to no avail; the youngest baby had not stopped screaming from the second the bus pulled out of the station parking lot.

"Not even a nap?" I asked Seb, almost pleading.

His eyes were underlined by dark circles, too, but his face had taken on a look of steely determination. I could only guess the barista had made his coffee twice as strong, because all I wanted to do was sleep for at least fourteen hours. "No. You're going to stick this out with me."

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