The Train Ride
"A blind agitation is manly and uttermost. If you do not enjoy it, why make a fuss about it"
She planted her little flower of civilization into the conversation.
"Uh huh - and what exactly did you mean by that, Ma'am?"
"Oh you're so ignorant, you're such a ..."
Words failed her, an uncommon occurance. Just then the train enterred a tunnel; the darkness and the sounds enveloped them for a while. When they exited, blinking at the sunlight, she found her travelling companion in the same condition, slowly laying down the cards for solitaire. One difference - he was smiling at her.
"You yankee women sure can talk."
She sputtered for a second.
"Well, I should hope. I've studied in the finest universities, spent time in Paris..."
His calmness was unmoved.
"Well that doesn't say what kind of person you are, now does it Ma'am. I can't help but wonder what you are doing out in this god-forsaken part of the country"
She pulled her cloak around her shoulders as if for protection.
"I have family business in San Francisco. One of my sisters..."
Her voice trailed off as she thought of the errand she was on.
"Hope its nothin' serious."
His voice was half question, half condolences. She wan't sure she wanted to share family secrets with a total stranger, especially a man so... different.
He stood, picked up his Stetson from the seat next to him.
"Pardon me Ma'am, I'm going for a smoke"
She watched him cross the car to the rear platform, pulling a cigar from his suitcoat pocket as he went. Actually she was surprised at his gallantry - she half-expected him to smoke in her presence. The silence almost turned into loneliness - something she thought silly, but there it was. She turned back to the need for her trip - Lily was not only in trouble but sick as well. She wasn't looking forward to straightening out another mess. She was the strong one, though, and that had always been her lot in life. Sometimes she wished she wasn't.
He walked back to their seats - they were the only occupants of the car. No wonder, she thought. Who would want to come out to such an uncivilized country unless they had to.
He stretched out on the seat, dropping the hat back next to him. He looked at her thoughtfully, his weatherbeaten face concerned.
"Ma'am, you really seem to be troubled. Is there anything I can do to help you out?"
She laughed bitterly.
"Certainly. Help me pry my sister out of a really bad marriage and get her on the train back home. Her husband is truly evil."
She was surprised that she had stopped trying to hold everything in. She didn't know why, but she was beginning to trust him. He seemed to have a quiet strength, different from the men she knew.
"In what way is he evil? Just because he wants to keep her there?"
"No - if it were that simple... He beats her. All the time. And now she's sick and he's been beating her even more becasue she isn't ..."
She couldn't bring herself to say her own sister was a whore. To be honest she didn't know what she would do when she got there. Or could do.
"Dont cotton to men like that"
She felt strength from his displeasure. She felt a sense of right, of doing the correct thing. But she suddenly couldn't hold her feelings in any more, just could not continue to be strong. She started to sob, teardrops running down her face. She felt his body next to hers, hard and lean, his arm around her heaving shoulders.
"Ma'am I've got a few friends in that town, including the police chief. I think we can get him pried away from her. Don't you worry your pretty little head about it"
He reached down and tilted her face up to his, his blue eyes angry.
That was all he said. She was content to sit near him, watching him play.
Later they talked. They talked of differences and similarities. They talked of New York and of Dallas. They talked of her writing and his cattle ranch. They talked about each other. She became used to his gentle drawl and he to her sharp-edged pronunciation. She walked out on the platform while he smoked, something she had never dared do before. He sat quietly playing cards while she read.
The night before their arrival she curled up next to him, sleeping while he played. His arm around her body, she felt completely safe in a way she hadn't since she was a small girl.
As they climbed down from the railway car she was impressed at his command of the disorganization of travelling. He lined up porters for their luggage and got everything moving to their hotel. He had insisted she stay with him - he had cancelled the reservations she'd made in the small hotel, moving her into his suite in the Stanford.
She was impressed when the chief and several policemen paid them a visit that night. Bret explained the situation to them far better than she could. All of them had grim faces as they left. He left with them, telling her to wait for their return. It was over an hour when the door burst open and he carried Lily in to the bedroom, accompanied by the policemen. The two women screamed and hugged each other, Lily thanking everyone within earshot for rescuing her. She promised again and again that she had learned her lesson and all she wanted was to return home. Home never looked better.
The next morning they put Lily on a train headed there.
"I've got a little business to attend to, then we'll have dinner."
Business took several hours - she took the time to think over her new find. They weren't lovers but she could easily see it hapening. She wondered if she could give up her life for his - she had no idea what it was like to live on a cattle ranch. Of course, he hadn't even asked her yet.
Over dinner they began again.
"Train leaves for Dallas in the morning. Would you like to be on it with me?"
She looked at him. She'd already worked through to her answer. Tears welled up as she said yes. He fished in his pocket and pulled out a box.
"Guess you'll be needin' this then" he said with a sly grin.
She blinked at the size of the diamond, then screamed and threw her arms around him.
The next morning they held each other as the train pulled out. She curled up next to him, putting his hat on the other seat. She smiled as his arm wrapped around her body, then gave a little sigh.
He gathered some of the cards together and shuffled them...
Bookends, run by @caseydamnmorgan is an interesting exercise - given two sentances, write the story between them. Last week since I bitched about writing like a Brit she instead gave us quotes from a couple of American authors (although Stein was an expat in Paris most of her career). It remains an interesting exercise regardless of how you frame it. Try it sometime... see www.caseymorgan.org