Celia only had one small suitcase. Standing on the platform of the train station, she wrinkled her nose in disgust at the dust rising off the tracks as the cars rattled past. It was hard to tell that she afraid, but she was biting her lip and glancing at every man who walked past. A ticket was clutched tightly in her hand. She didn’t recognize the name of the town she was heading to; she only knew that it was south.
Her train pulled up, and passengers spilled from the cars, spewing onto the station platform. After the train had emptied, uniformed men began taking tickets and helping people onto the trains. She was next. Handing her crumpled ticket to the conductor, she handed him her suitcase and grabbed the railing, jumping up the steps herself.
“You’re an independent one, aren’t you, missy?” he asked as he passed her the bag she had thrust at him.
“A bit, thanks.” She looked down at her ticket.
“Seat 123 is to the right,” the conductor smiled kindly at her as he sent her in the right direction. Only nodding, she followed the way his finger was pointing and easily found her seat.
- The Conductor
Today was unusual. Normally, he would not have remembered a single passenger to hand him a ticket and walk past him, other than the regulars who rolled through several times a week. But when the young women clambered on board, alone, he made certain to remember her face.
The last time a woman had boarded the train alone, she had been fleeing from debtor’s prison. It was all too common to see young women spending more than they could afford in an attempt to be seen as one of the elite members of society.
But this one was different. She did not have the arrogant bearing of an aristocrat, yet she did not have the humble air of the lower classes.
The girl was a different breed altogether.
Leaning against the window, she absentmindedly twisted the ring around her finger. It meant nothing to her, but she could not bear to get rid of it. It had once meant that her future was bright. Now the ring represented a sentiment that she could never bring back.
The train lurched forward as it pulled out of the station, leaving behind the dreary station and whatever fate had intended for them back in that town.
TO BE CONTINUED