Fireflies

June 18, 2009
It’s almost dark. The train rumbles on without any sign of stopping. Dozens of tiny lights from the buildings and street lamps dance over the windows, like fireflies. They also dance over me. I watch them. I can almost imagine the real fireflies are here. Straightening my stiff grey skirt, part of my academy uniform, I try to relax, but it’s difficult when you’re standing up in a shaking train. The girls behind me are chatting about how they’ll spend their vacations. Visiting the beach, going on dates with cute boys, or maybe just going back to the city. They don’t ask me what I’ll be doing. I don’t mind that. For me, I’m going back to the countryside. Where I live. Where all the fireflies live, also.
There are no fireflies in the city. It’s too polluted. And even if they did live here, no one would notice when they came out at night, because the harsh glare from the cars and the street lamps and the towering buildings would drown out their light. No one would hear them, being too absorbed in their cell phones. And people never look up anyway. My watch beeps. Another hour down.
Someone brought a flower onto the train, a bright splash of color against the dull grey metal and dark blue leather seats. I can smell it from here. It helps me remember the fragrances of the flowerbeds at home. I used to take care of them before I went to school. And there were no flowers there. Only lots of lessons, straight-backed teachers, and rich, snooty, city girls. It was one of those places, where parents with lots of money sent their kids so they’d be out of the way. Everyone knew that was really why it was there, even though it was one of the best boarding schools around. They just pretended they went there because they could get a good education, that they were cream of the crop.
My parents had to save up a lot of money to send me there. They wanted me to learn in a school, not a house, not home-schooled. I knew they meant for the best. Times were getting hard back home. But as soon as I got there, I missed the garden. And the fireflies. It was uncomfortable in my starch white shirt, stiff grey skirt, and shiny, shiny rigid shoes. It never was warm enough in the winter, and too hot in summer.
The train lurches hard. Some girls scream, really loud, because it draws attention. They’re not really scared. Someone bumped into me and didn’t even say sorry. It hurt, too. More lights are dancing on the window. The sun had set a little bit ago, and all the city lights are in full swing. The fireflies should be coming out about now. Only a little more to go. Bit by bit, the train starts to slow down. This isn’t where I get off, but I straighten a little. It’s where all the other girls get off.
The steam whistle blows, and we pull into the station. It’s a noisy place, bustling with people getting on and off trains, whether going to the city, to work, or going home, like me. All the other academy girls are getting off, bouncing and giggling, stretching cramped arms and legs.
“Aren’t you coming?” a girl asks. I shake my head.
“I get off somewhere else.” I say politely. But the girl is already turning her head. She didn’t really want an answer. The train pulls out, and I am alone.

There are fewer buildings now, and it’s later. Stars are starting to push through the glare of city lights. There are more trees. More and more people are getting off, and soon it’s just a man in a business suit, and an old couple, fast asleep, and me. But there are more trees. And, at last, no buildings.

The train is slowing down again. I’m almost home. I can just imagine the flower garden, waiting for me to be its gardener, the trees, waving their bows in a welcome home salute. I can’t wait to see them again. The station is coming up. I can just see my parents, waiting on the platform, getting closer and clearer, as I get nearer. And, as we slow and stop, I can almost see the fireflies.





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