She looked so broken, worn out, shattered.
“I’m leaving for Henry’s tomorrow,” I said, shifting my feet around on the carpeted floor. For a brief moment, Mom began to shiver. I thought about taking the words back and staying put in the apartment. But before I could offer that up, she spoke.
“That’s good, Ashlyn. Do you need Jeremy to drive you to the train station?”
My head shook back and forth. My heart pounded against my chest as my fingers formed tight fists. “No. I’ll figure it out. And just so you know, I’m not coming back.” My voice cracked, but I bit back the tears. “Never. I hate you for leaving me when I needed you the most. And I’ll never forgive you.”
She glanced to the floor, her posture falling low. She then looked up at me one more time before moving back toward the front door. “Have a safe trip.”
And with that, she left me standing, once again, alone.
Always remember our first glance,
And I’ll promise your heart that I’ll be enough.
~ Romeo’s Quest
The next day came fast. I was sitting outside of a train station on top of a large suitcase. I’d never been on a train before today, and it had been quite the experience.
Three things I’d learned about trains: One, sometimes strangers sit next to you and snore and slobber, but you had to act like it was normal; two, a can of soda would cost you more than buying a herd of cows; three, the train collectors looked exactly like the guy in the movie Polar Express—minus the whole computer-animated character thing.
Trains always seemed cooler in the movies and in books, but really, they were just cars that ran on tracks. Which made sense, seeing how they called each link of a train a ‘car.’ Well, almost each one. The front one was called the locomotive and the last one was called the caboose.
A smile ran across my face as I thought about the word caboose. Say that five times without giggling.
Oh no. I was laughing out loud and crying at the same time. All roads led back to my sister. The people walking past me probably thought I was crazy because I was laughing so hard by myself. To scale off the crazy looks, I pulled out a book from my purse and opened it up. People could be so judgmental sometimes.
I tossed my purse back on my shoulder and sighed. I hated purses, but Gabby had loved them. She’d loved everything about dressing up and being pretty. She’d been super good at it, too. Me? Not so much, but she’d said that I was beautiful, so that counted for something.
You know what the best thing about purses was? They could carry around books. I was reading Hamlet for the fifth time in the past three weeks. Last night, I stopped at the part where Hamlet wrote Ophelia telling her to doubt everything she saw except for his love. But the silly girl still went on to kill herself later in the story. The curse of being in a Shakespearean tragedy.
As I was reading, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man pulling his luggage out of the train station. He proceeded to lean the luggage against the side of the building. It was strange to call him a man because he wasn’t that old. But he was too grown to be called a boy. There needed to be a word for the in-between years. Maybe moy? Ban? Banmoy?
This banmoy had also been in my car—car being our link of the train—and I’d noticed him right away. How could I not? It wasn’t often that I found someone beautiful, but he was the top of the line. His hair was long—too long. At least that’s what I thought until he ran his fingers through the dark brown hair and it lay perfectly on his head.
Total blushing from me.
On the trip to Wisconsin, he’d sat two seats behind me. When I’d gone to the bathroom, I saw him tapping his fingers against his thighs in a rhythmic pattern, and his head was rocking back and forth. Maybe he was a musician. Gabby had always been tapping her feet and rocking her head.
He was definitely a musician.
He noticed me noticing him, and when he looked up to find my eyes, he smiled pretty wide. Which made me feel pretty small. So I adjusted my stare to the navy, coffee-stained carpet and hurried on my way. His eyes were so blue and filled with interest. For a second, I thought they were a passageway to a different world.
Maybe they were a passageway to a better world.
On another note, people should never use train bathrooms. They were pretty gross, and I’d stepped in someone’s gum.
When I walked back to my seat, my heart tightened in my chest because I knew I would have to walk past Mr. Beautiful Eyes again. My eyes stayed down until I reached my seat. I released a breath, and then my head involuntarily turned toward him. What?! Dang my eyes for wanting another glance his way. He smiled again and nodded toward me. I didn’t smile back because I was too nervous. The strange blue eyes made me so flipping nervous.
That was the last time I saw him. Well, until now.
Now, I was standing outside the train station. He was standing outside the train station. We were standing outside the train station. And I moved my eyes over to him for a moment. Heart putters. Major heart putters.
Trying to play it cool, I twisted my head in his direction to make it seem like I was looking past Mr. Beautiful Eyes to see if Henry was coming. In all reality, I was just trying to get a peek of the banmoy against the train station wall.
My breath picked up. He saw me. Moving my feet against the sidewalk, I hummed to myself, trying to play cool and failing dramatically at it. I held my book upright in front of my face.