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Tickets to Paris
We've finally arrived at the train station. The cab driver took forever and was listening to our conversation and giving us odd looks the whole trip over. Strange man. But we’re finally here and that’s all that matters. Helen is over at the ticket booth buying two one-way passes to who knows where; I gave her fifty dollars and told her to close her eyes and pick whatever felt right. She hasn’t failed me yet, I don’t expect her to soon. We only have one mid-sized bag between us, filled half with sundresses and gloves and lace kerchiefs for her and what natural-looking trousers and shirts I could find in my room. I left the starchy bleached whites in the drawers, partly because they don’t really blend in with the rest of my clothes. Helen says I should try my best not to draw too much attention to myself, and I suppose she’s right; no point in making a scene or causing a fuss. This time I’m going to try and not cause trouble. That’s where I went wrong last time, and I plan on doing my best to keep Helen happy. After all, it is because of her that I have this new chance, this new opportunity. The bag is sitting at my feet, on the left side, and my left ankle crosses my right knee where it perches like an anxious bird. People walk past and glance at me. I smile politely at them as they pass, like I was taught to do, but they look away. Everyone is rushing to get to here or there I suppose. Helen is still in the que for the boarding passes. I’m certain wherever she chooses will be wonderful; after all, anywhere with her is wonderful, but I do hope she picks somewhere warm with lots of sunshine. I do miss sunshine. Even when I do get the opportunity to go outside it’s always overcast and raining, as if winter never ends. I long for summer. I wonder if Helen packed a swimming costume for herself. I never had one, except for when I was a young boy and would go to Normandy for the summers with my cousins. I haven’t seen them in ages. I haven’t seen anyone in ages, really. But they said it was all for the best. And that is how I met Helen, after all, so I suppose it really was all for the best. But Helen was right, as she usually is; it was time to leave. I ask a small boy sitting to my left to watch my bag and I walk over to the food cart. I haven’t had anything to eat since last night, and it’s nearly two in the afternoon now. I never eat much anyways, since the food tends to be dry and cold. Helen doesn’t eat much either, so I always make sure to give her some of whatever I have whenever something good turns up, like some nice cheese or an orange. I buy an apple from the kart and stand for a minute; leaning against one of the platform barriers and watching the people go by. People seem quite odd here. Not crazy or particularly rude or anything of the sort like that, mind you, but just a bit off. Yes, that’s the word. Just a bit off. They move a bit too fast and speak a bit too loudly. Except for the children. They seem to have escaped some sort of trance or spell all of the grown-ups appear to have been put under. Then again, this is a train station and I might guess that nearly half the people here are from foreign countries, so I don’t want to judge anyone for their quirks or customs. I’m sure where they come from it’s perfectly alright to walk at a nice brisk pace and speak nice and loud. Where I’m from, though, we always make sure to speak quietly enough so as not to disturb others and walk slow enough for those with shorter legs to catch up. But I’ve left all that now, so I might as well get used to this new fast-paced, rowdy world. Everything has changed so much in the years I’ve been away. It’s all different; the clothes, the shoes, the hair (both head and facial. I personally sport a fresh-shaved look, as it was required back when I was in boarding school, and I suppose it’s a habit I’ve never dropped). I toss my apple core in a rubbish bin and weave my way through the crowd back to my bench. The little boy is gone, but the suitcase waits patiently on the ground where I left it. For a moment I wonder if he might have taken something while I was away, but the bag feels no lighter than it did when I left so I sit back down and wait for Helen to return with the tickets. I sit there patiently for another ten minutes, watching the people, listening to the sounds, smelling the strange and wonderful scents that waft under my nose. Everything is so different and new- I want it all. And I can finally have it. Finally. I look up and Helen is squeezing through two portly Scotsmen to make her way over to my bench.
“Guess!” she squeals.
“Guess what?” I question.
“Guess where we’re going! Guess where these two tickets”, she beams as she flourishes
the passes, “are going to take the pair of us?”
“Hmmm… Australia?” I tease; hand on chin, eyebrow arched, “Japan? Timbuktu?”
“No Samuel, you wonderful fool! Paris! We’re going to Paris!” she says this last word in
a terrible French accent, as if she was startled while naming the fruit; pear-eeeee!
“Paris! What a wonderful choice!” I wrap my arms around her lithe frame and spin her
around, planting a kiss on the top of her soft blonde head.
“I thought so too!” She laughs, “We can visit the Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower, and maybe the Versailles Palace! I know we don’t have much money between us, but I’m sure we can find you a job when it runs out. I hear Parisians are always looking to hire English-speaking men to guide tourists, and maybe I could find work as a nanny or a housekeeper.”
“Yes, I’m sure, but for now let’s just enjoy this and worry about work and money later, alright?” I smile into her bright blue eyes. I look down and read the small black print on the slips of paper “It says here we board in just over thirty minutes”.
“That’s just perfect. I’m going to nip off to the loo and powder my nose before we leave.
Stay right here and I’ll be right back to meet you, alright?”
I watch her walk away until she is swallowed by the sea of moving bodies. I sit back down on the bench and wait for her. How did I ever get so lucky? I was a broken man, and she managed to fix me, make me better, turn me into the type of gentleman that a girl as wonderful as herself could love. I owe her everything, and I would gladly follow her to the ends of the Earth (although I am pleased she chose Paris). I glance at my wristwatch and up into the crowd where I see Helen hurrying towards me. My wide smile quickly slides from my face when she gets nearer and I can see the worried look on her face.
“What’s wrong?” I urge “are you all right? Did someone hurt you?”
“No, no, no it’s not that at all” Helen soothes. I can hear panic seeping out of her calm, collected voice. “It’s you, Samuel. People are staring. I think they know Samuel. I think they know. Maybe it didn’t work. Maybe you’re not ready yet. I’m so sorry but I really think it would be best for you to go back. Just for a few more months, just to make absolutely certain that it worked.”
“Months?” I gape, “No Helen, I don’t think I can spend one more minute back there. I need to be here, with you. I need Paris. I need you and me, together in Paris. If you don’t feel perfectly certain, you can always keep check and keep a journal, like you used to do. Just don’t make me go back there, I’m begging you. If you truly love me, like you say you do, you won’t make me go back.”
“Please Samuel, please don’t make a scene. People are going to stare. People will notice.” Tears start to well up in the corners of her eyes and streak down her flushed cheeks where they fall and splash onto the ground like salty raindrops. “I love you. You know that. I always have. You have to go back because I love you. You have to go back so we can be together. Please Samuel, for me. And if not for me, then do it for yourself, so you can be the man you always told me you wanted to be.”
“What are you saying? That I’m not that man? That you lied to me when you told me, barely a week ago, that I’m the perfect man for you? Isn’t that why we’re here? Because I don’t need any of it anymore? Because you love me and we’re going to go away together? Finally?” I demand.
I can feel the blood rushing to my head. I can’t go back. I can’t. I just can’t. Nothing she says will change my mind. I’ve finally escaped and I’m never going back. I will have my Paris.
“I promise I love you Sammy. That’s why I have to do this. You have to go back so we can finally be together. We have to go back. It’s the only way we can be togeth-”
“Ma’am I’m so sorry to keep asking you, but we need you to repeat that just one more time, to make certain that Officer Fitch has that all written down in the records” The man says.
Tired. My arms. Wrists. Cold. Hard it hurts on my hands. Face can feel. Cloth on my face. Cloth in my mouth. Itchy. White starchy itchy. No. No. Please no. No. brown. Itchy. Not white. Brown. I can hear through the clouds. Hear them talking.
“Alright, if it helps. Wait! He moved! He moved! Oh dear Lord help! He’s moving!” she wails.
Stop. You’re hurting the clouds. Stop. Please.
“Ma’am please calm yourself. There’s nothing to be afraid of; he’s been handcuffed, gagged, and sedated. He’s no danger to you, nor to any of us at this moment. Please continue your testimony” he asks.
“Alright, if you’re certain.” She starts over “So. Like I said, I had to get up very early to make the four o’clock train to Berlin this morning to visit my son and grandchildren, like I told you before. But not my daughter-in-law. She’s just a horrid little tramp. I’m sure one of the children is from another man, and she doesn’t even know how to cook properly for my dear boy, but he loves her so what can a mot-“
“Ma’am, please stay on topic. This is of the utmost importance.”
“Yes, yes, I know” she grumbles. “So I got here at three o’ clock sharp so I would have plenty of time to buy a ticket and get my things together on the platform. When I got here, the station was nearly deserted and this young man was sitting by himself on that bench right over there. I thought nothing of it, after all many young men travel alone; business men and the like, you know? After a few minutes, though, he starts mumbling to himself and shaking his head. I didn’t think much of it, I assumed he was going over an important speech or presentation to himself and I didn’t want to interrupt. Only after he started getting louder and louder did I go over to the ticket booth and ask the woman behind the glass if there was anything she could do, since my ears are particularly delicate this early in the morning and his raised voice was making my head spin. When the woman went over to him he stands up and begins raving at her, shouting “Don’t you love me Helen? Don’t you? Don’t you love me?” She tried to calm him and lead him to the nurse’s station; I believe she thought him to be a drunkard or had come down with the flu and was having a hallucination. And then it happened. He just grabbed her. Like she was nothing but a ragdoll. She tried to struggle but he was too strong. He threw her, flung her off the ledge, onto the tracks. I ran to help her but it was too late…” the woman breaks down into tears, sobbing heavily as the officer tries to comfort her.
“There, there. It’s not your fault at all. Don’t go blaming yourself for things that you have no control over.” He soothes the weeping woman. “Nurse? Please take this poor woman with you and find her a warm blanket and a nice cup of tea. Thank you. Alright, let’s get to it. Name of deceased? Cause of death?”
“Her name is Katherine Mulloy, aged 23, cause of death is blunt force head trauma caused by a fifteen-foot drop to the bottom of the railway tracks.” A second man replies.
“Shame, shame, so young. And who’s this then?” The first man growls as I receive a sharp kick in my side.
The jabbing pain wakes me from my sedated stupor and I curl up into a tight ball to prevent further abuse.
“That, sir” I hear a rustling of papers, “is Samuel Waterford, age 27, broke out of Showell Green Hospital yesterday afternoon. They say they’ve been searching for him all night.”
“Haven’t been searching nearly hard enough if you ask me” the man spits on the ground. I hear it hit the stones near my head, “If these looney bins would keep their patients in check, we wouldn’t be having to arrest psychos at all hours of the night for killing every pretty girl they can get their filthy hands on. And who’s this Helen woman you were screaming your head off about, then? Where is she now, eh? Not here to save your crazy, worthless self, now is she?” the man jeers at me.
I hate him.
“Don’t worry Sammy, I’m right here.” I hear Helen’s soft voice near my ear. “Don’t worry. You’re alright. You’ll be alright”
I struggle to shout her name, to tell her not to leave me, but the gag in my mouth stops the words from forming.
“Shh love, don’t try and speak.” She whispers. “You need to stay quiet if you want to be with me. Let them do what they will. They will try and destroy you, but remember; I will always be with you, even at your final hour. Just know that I love you, and when your time comes, find me. I’ll be waiting for you in Paris.”