--Just a city boy
Born and raised in south Detroit
He took the midnight train goin’ anywhere—
I woke up to light shining in the train compartment. I blinked rapidly, adjusting to the light. I looked across the way once my eyes had adjusted to the light and saw that the young man was gone. A newspaper laid open on the seat. I sighed in relief, glad that he wasn’t here right now.
I pulled down my suitcase, grabbing for a change of clothes, before going into the side room they had in the compartment. When I opened the door, I found a small sink, toilet, and even—to my surprise—a shower. I decided to take the liberty of the shower and take one. I felt gross anyways. In my frantic packing, I hadn’t even thought of showering before I left. I had to get out.
The warm water flowing over me felt wonderful and I relaxed. I’ve been tense ever since I left home. I was hoping and praying that Mom and Dad never noticed that I had left. They never noticed me in the first place.
That’s why I left. My parents never noticed me. Also some other reasons that I’d rather not get into. But that’s a long story that I’d rather not get into right at this moment in time too.
I turned the water off and squeezed my wet hair, trying to get the extra water out. I pushed back the curtain and found the young man standing in front of the sink, brushing his teeth. We both stared at each other before I screamed, distraught and covered my body with the curtain.
“Get out, you pervert!” I cried at him, wanting to hide.
“Calm down, will ya? I’m almost done.” He said after taking his toothbrush from his mouth, with foam around his mouth.
I glared at him as he finished his teeth brushing.
He started to leave, but I cleared my throat and he glanced back at me. “Yes?”
“Um,” I said nervously. “Can you hand me a towel?”
He rolled his light green eyes, but handed it to me anyways.
I pulled the curtain closed again and then wrapped the towel around my body before stepping out of the shower. He was still standing in the bathroom though. “What do you want?”
He smiled mischievously at me before coming towards me and backing me up against the wall in the shower. “What do you think I want?” My eyes went wide with shock. “I mean, a pretty girl like you, what guy wouldn’t want a piece of it?”
I stayed frozen to my spot, not wanting to move one bit.
He moved in closer to me, like he was about to kiss me. But he didn’t, he backed away chuckling. “That was for last night from your book throw.” He saluted to me as he left me, frozen to the wall.
My face flushed with embarrassment, then anger. That perverted jerk! He was just messing with me!
I dried and dressed angrily in a pair of pants and a t-shirt before coming out of the bathroom and finding him reading the newspaper. I ignored him as I put my belongings away and then brushed my tangled up hair. Once I was done, I put on my shoes and decided to go walk around and maybe find some breakfast. Just as I was opening the compartment door, the young man spoke up.
“Where are you going?”
I glanced back at him, he was still reading the newspaper. “Why does it matter to you?”
“No reason.” He shrugged his shoulders and then proceeded to fold his newspaper up and place it under his arm, standing up. “So, where are you going?” He came towards me and stood, looking down.
I tilted my head up to see his face. “To eat food.” I finally answered.
He smiled. “I’ll join you.” He held the door open for me. “After you,”
“Uhhh, right.” I went out and stood in the skinny train hallway. Right after he had joined me the train hit a bump on the tracks and I fell against the window with the young man catching himself above me.
He smirked, his light green eyes shining with mischief. “Aren’t trains the best?”
I ducked under his arm and continued to walk in the direction I smelt food coming from. “Yes. The very best.” I said sarcastically. We finally came upon the food compartment and my mouth started to salivate at the scents that were invading my nostrils. It smelt heavenly to my stomach. I went up to the counter and sat down.
“How may I help you, Ma’am?” The waiter behind the counter asked.
“Can I have a menu, please?” I asked politely.
“Sure thing, Ma’am.” He pulled a menu out from underneath the counter and handed it to me just as the young man sat down next to me. “And what can I get you, Sir?”
I had the menu open and was looking over it when the young man leaned over and started to look at it with me. “Hmmmm…” His breath tickled my neck and it sent shivers down my spine. “I’ll have the omelet, a glass of orange juice, and a blueberry muffin.”
The waiter turned to me. “And have you decided, Ma’am?”
I shook my head. “Not yet.”
“Alright then.” The waiter said. “I’ll have your order ready shortly, Sir.”
“Thank you.” The young man said before going back to his newspaper as I went back to the menu.
Hmmm… I pondered over the menu. The pancakes sound good… But so does the scrambled eggs and toast… I stared at the menu for another thirty seconds before finally deciding to get the pancakes with bacon. I waited for about ten minutes before the food came and it looked amazing with whip cream on top of the pancakes with maple syrup and the bacon soaking up the extra maple syrup. It was so delicious looking. In a few minutes, I had the pancake cut into pieces, soaked in maple syrup and whip cream before I started to shove the scrumptious food into my mouth.
Once I finished, the waiter took my empty plate away and I got off the stool and went back to the cabin, wanting to just read the rest of the trip out. The guy followed me back to the cabin and just as I was about to go in, I decided to turn around and face him. He stopped in his tracks before he bumped into me. “Okay, let’s get a few things straight. First, if you’re going to hang around me, I need to know your name. Second, do not come into the bathroom if I am in there. Under any circumstances. And lastly, don’t touch any of my stuff and I won’t touch yours.” I held my hand out for him to shake. “Deal?”
He contemplated for a few seconds before grabbing my hand and shaking it. “Deal.”
I went in and went back to reading, waiting for the train to reach its destination.
I finished my book and looked out the window to find it dark out. I started to freak out and fumbled for my ticket to actually see where I was going. My heart stopped for a few beats before finally picking up in speed. My breathing sped up too, hyperventilating.
Evan—the guy—looked up from the newspaper he was reading—again. “Is something wrong?”
“I—“ I gulped down some air before continuing. “This—this is too—too close to—to home.” I stammered between breaths.
“Too close to home?” His blonde eyebrows came together, confused. He set the newspaper aside and came and sat by me, taking the ticket from my hand, and looking to see where I was getting off at. I didn’t protest, too far in my hyperventilation-mode to even bother with what was happening. “How is Chicago, Illinois too close to home? It’s three-hundred-and-nineteen miles away from Port Huron, Michigan.”
I was still hyperventilating, so I didn’t say anything.
He pursed his lips in thought. “I still don’t see what the big deal is?”
I took a deep breath, calming myself. I didn’t need to freak out right now. Especially in front of this stranger I barely knew. I turned to him. “You don’t know him. He’ll do anything to fine me. And I mean anything.”
“Who’s him?” He gave me a pointed look, wanting to clearly know.
I thinned my lips, before saying, “Hopefully you’ll never know.”
His eyes turned a softer shade of light green, concern filling them. But that feeling quickly left and he cleared his throat, handing back the ticket. “Well, I hope all goes well.” He got up and went back to his seat, silently reading his newspaper, leaving me well alone. Which for some reason hurt more than making me happy. Which is weird.
“Thanks,” I said quietly before looking back out the dark window… Dark window…? I looked back at the ticket. “Isn’t the train ride only supposed to be about a seven and a half hour ride…?”
He looked up from the newspaper, alarm in his eyes. “Yes…” He sat down the newspaper and got up. “I’ll go ask the conductor what’s wrong.”
“Okay…” I watched him get up to leave. “Be back fast.” I said a bit worriedly, kind of not wanting to be left alone for too long.
He looked back at me. “I’ll try.” Then, he left.
After he left, I sat in the compartment quietly, every sound making me jump. I tried to relax and start another book I had packed—Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen—but that didn’t even settle my nerves. I stood up and started pacing, finally noticing that the train had definitely stopped. My stomach sank six feet into the ground, already digging my grave. The compartment door shook, rattling the hinges. I stopped breathing, waiting for it to open and see him standing there. But it was only Evan who stood outside. I sighed and hugged him, glad to see him. I felt him stiffen, taken aback by my sudden hug. He patted my back awkwardly and then I let go. He sat back down and I stood, watching him. “So, what’d he say?” I finally asked, not being able to take his silence any longer.
Evan let out a whoosh of air before talking. “He told me there had been some engine trouble earlier, and the engineers have been trying to fix it with no avail, but they’ve had no such luck.” He ran a hand through his blonde hair, pushing his bangs off his forehead for a few seconds. I noticed a scar at the base of his hairline, but I didn’t say anything, knowing that it wasn’t my place to know how he got it. He rubbed his face next. “They’ve apparently been at it for about four and half hours now. Or something like that. Maybe longer.”
“It’s definitely been longer. We should’ve gotten to Chicago at seven in the morning. It’s now”—I looked at my watch—“eight at night. That’s more than four and a half hours.” I started to head for the door.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
“To help.” I answered.
“How are you going to help? What makes you think you can help when the engineers can’t even figure out what’s wrong?”
“I’m more helpful than what I look.” I answered again before leaving him in the compartment to go help the engineers solve the problem.
I pulled out of the tight spot I had crammed myself into and wiped the sweat off my forehead, knowing I left an oil smudge there, but I didn’t care. I was dingy anyway. What was a little more oil? “I found your problem.” I told the two engineers who peered down at me, expecting me to explain what the problem was.
“Well?” One of them asked, pushing for an answer.
I unfurled one of my hands that were clutching a bolt that was lodged in between the gears, messing up the whole system. They both peered at it, astonished that something this small could cause such a big problem. “This was lodged in between two gears. Now, I’m guessing it came loose and fell or something else cause it to fall. But this is what you’ve been trying to fix for the past twelve hours.” I explained.
“Well, I’ll be darned,” The second one said and took the bolt from me. “Thanks for all the help, Miss.”
I smiled politely. “It was a pleasure. I haven’t worked on a machine in years. I thought I was getting a bit rusty.” They laughed at my pun. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go wash up.”
“Go right ahead.” The first one said and the both moved aside so I could pass through and head back to my compartment. “Thanks again.”
“You’re welcome.” I responded before making my way back. I didn’t really see anyone on my way since it was almost nine-thirty now and people would be going back to sleep—maybe not everyone, but most would be. As I passed through each train car, in between them was—what I called—an air pocket that sent a chill into my bones, that every time, after I passed through each car and finally got warm, it made me cold gain once I passed through. Finally making my way back to the compartment, standing outside the door, the train started to move again, the door opened and I stumbled into Evan’s arms.
Evan smiled down at me and said, “Aren’t trains the best?” again.
I pushed myself out of his arms and gave him a look. He laughed at me. “What’s so funny?” I asked haughtily as I place a hand on my hip.
He placed a hand over his mouth, trying to contain his laughter. It didn’t help. I waited for him to calm down, which was about three minutes, mind you. Once his laughter was at a bare minimum, he spoke. “You look like a Dalmatian with all the oil smudges all over your face.” He barked out another laugh.
I huffed, annoyed. I tromped into the bathroom and started to scrub my face off. Stupid Evan, laughing at my smudgy face. Ugh… He’s so annoying.
But cute. The same voice that spoke to me earlier said.
Go away. I berated myself, then continued to finish washing my face off. After rinsing my face off, I still had light oil smudges on my face, making me look like a Dalmatian that was washed too many times, and its spots were starting to fade. I sighed. May I never see another human being again. I pleaded to the non-existent person in the room. There was a knock on the door. Drat. Let down again. I dried my face off with a white towel and when I looked down, there were perfect little black dots on it. I looked back to the mirror. No black dots were apparent on my ace. I smiled. Ha! Shows you, Evan! I’m no longer a Dalmatian! I frowned at my image. Gosh, I need to get a better hobby than talking to myself. The knock came again. “I’ll be out in a second!” I called out.
I looked at my face one more time before heading out, waiting again for the train to reach its destination.
The train pulled into the station around four-thirty in the morning and I boarded off sleepily, not fully awake at this early hour. I stood on the platform, people flowing around me as I tried to get my bearings, trying to figure out where I was going to go from here.
“So, where are you off to?” Someone said.
I blinked groggily and looked up and found Evan looking down at me. I shook my head. “I didn’t think this far ahead.” I laughed, nervously.
A thoughtful expression crossed Evan’s face. “I have an idea.”
“Oh, really?” I quirked an eyebrow at him, skeptical.
“Yes, really.” He grabbed my suitcase. “C’mon, follow me.” He took off with long strides that I had to practically run to just stay with him.
My backpack bounced against my back with each step as I followed him to some unknown place in Chicago. Should I be worried? Yes. But am I? Not so much. I trusted him on some level. Even after that fiasco in the bathroom.
Evan looked back at me and smiled, his eyes crinkling. “I know you’ll love this!”
I laughed and shook my head, thinking that this man I was following was as crazy as a ding-dong bat, but I went along with him going on an adventure. Wherever it will take me, I’ll be satisfied.