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The Train This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

He would never forget the day he met her. They were at the train station. Michael was going to San Francisco. He was no longer going to stay in Olympia. Rain wasn't his style. He had just graduated from high school and just like any eighteen year old kid with ambitions, he wanted the high life, and he knew just were he wanted to go to achieve it. California. It was there he was going to make his dreams come true. He was going to be a writer in San Francisco.
It was while he was standing there on the platform, looking smugly down at his ticket, that he heard a loud crash and a string of curses ensue after. He turned towards the sounds, irritated that someone had pulled him from his fantasies, and looked on a young woman who's stuff had fallen out of her suitcase and scattered all over the pavement. She looked to be in her twenties; her brown hair was tied in a bun that messily hung in her face and she was wearing a black skirt and matching jacket. He heard her sigh and he groaned internally when no one came to aid her. Why was he so nice?
“May I help you?” Michael asked when he walked over to the woman. “I noticed no one had helped you yet, and thought you might need some assistance.”
“Why thank you,” the woman sighed, nodding. She looked up, “My suitcase...” she trailed off. Did her eyes widen suddenly or was it his imagination? Her eyes were purple with a small ring of green in the middle. They matched her chocolate skin. Michael swallowed suddenly. His throat felt dry. The woman cleared her throat, “My suitcase must have a broken latch or something,” she finished smiling up at him. He nodded and they preceded to pick her things back up.

“Why thank you,” she said once they had her things and her suitcase secure. “I'm Sarah, by the way,” Sarah held her hand out; Michael took it and tried not to noticed how small and warm it was. “I'm Michael,” he said. He prayed she hadn't noticed him try to strain against the lump in his throat.
“Michael,” she smiled and Michael desperately wondered what she was thinking, “It's nice to meet you.”
“Uh, you also,” he said. It was his turn to clear his throat. “So where are you headed? San Francisco?” he asked. He was then taken aback by the hopefulness he found in his voice. Could it be that he wanted Sarah to board the same train as him? He didn't even know this woman.
“Uhm, no,” Sarah answered, sounding just as taken back by his question as he was, “I'm going to Chicago and from there to St. Louis.”
“Oh,” he said, frustrated with himself again. He was disappointed. Why? What was wrong with him? “Uh, your hometown?”
Suddenly a smile so bright broke on her face, and Michael couldn't help but smile with her. They both looked up at the sound of the train pulling up. “There's my train,” he nodded to the train in front of them that had pulled into a stop.
“There's mine, too,” she said, pointing behind her. “Well, I guess I'll see you. Nice meeting you, Michael,” she said, smiling at him again. Then she turned and walked away, before he could even return the salutation.
Michael sighed, then shaking his head he began to walk towards his train. But his movements was sluggish and he had the urge to look behind him. Why? He wondered to himself. I'm not going to turn around. I'm going to go to California. I'm going to follow my dreams, he chanted. I'm going to--
I want to see her again. The thought came unbidden in his mind. I want to see her again. He shook his head. She wasn't going to California. He would never see her again. The thought made him falter. He tried to regain his bearings. He was going to San Francisco. He was going to be an author in California. He was going to follow his dreams. But she wasn't going to be there.
He wanted to see her again.
Before he could change his mind, he turned around and ran to the other side of the platform. He could see Sarah's train and he knew she hadn't left yet. He sprinted even faster.
He made it to the train just as Sarah was boarding it. “Next, please,” the Ticketmaster on the train called. Michael cleared his throat. “Here,” he said, handing the man his ticket.

His voice sounded familiar, so Sarah paused at the door way of the train listening. It sounded just like the black haired young man who had helped Sarah pick up her things on the platform, when no one else would. Michael. She smiled as she remembered the encounter. But...she sighed. Michael was going to California. There was no way she'd meet him again.
“Young man, is this a joke?” the Ticketmaster said, and Sarah was snapped out of her thoughts. “This ticket is for the other train.”
“No, it's for this train. It is going to Chicago, isn't it?”
“Yes, but your ticket is for California.” At those words, Sarah turned and looked at the customer. It was Michael.
“Yes, I know. A mistake was made,” Michael said quietly. His head was down, so he couldn't see Sarah peering at him from around the corner. He looked up, “I was hoping you could...” he trailed off as his eyes locked on hers. Sarah felt the breath leave her lungs. His eyes were such a soft chocolate brown. She saw something in those those eyes that made her breath hitch. She couldn't think.
The Ticketmaster's words brought her back to reality. He didn't seem to notice someone was behind him.
“Well, I can't help. And unless you have a ticket you can't get on,” he said. Sarah watched as Michael dropped his head. “Now, young man, if you'll excuse me--”
“He's with me!” Sarah suddenly exclaimed. She saw the Ticketmaster jump and turn around to face her. She was standing directly behind him now. “He's with me,” she said more quietly. She could feel Michael's eyes on her frame but she dared not look up at him. “How much for the fare?” she asked the Ticketmaster determinedly. He seemed to hesitate for a moment before nodding.
“Two-hundred dollars.” She dug in her purse and gave him money she had pulled out from her savings.
“Thank you,” he said, moving aside so Michael could get on. She watched Michael thank him and ascend up the steps to meet her. She met his eyes again.
“May I take your suitcase?” he asked Sarah quietly. She smiled softly.
“Yes,” she answered.

Now

Michael threw the empty bottle of whiskey with a curse. It hit the wall and shattered. He cursed again at the noise. “D*** bottle,” he muttered. He stood up, “D*** chair. D*** table,” he suddenly lashed out against the furniture, throwing the chair and knocking the table onto its side. “D*** apartment! D*** rain,” he yelled at the window, the rain pelting against the glass. “D*** it all.” He sunk to his knees, clinging to the leg of the knocked down table. “D*** it all...” he repeated with a hoarse whisper. He let out a sob. He hated life. It had been mere minutes since Sarah walked out of his life, but it felt like it had been years since she had been away. He remembered their fight fleshly, as if it had happened seconds before.

She said she couldn't take it. That he was no longer the guy with ambitions and dreams or the man she had fallen for. She said that at twenty-one years old, Michael had only made his life as being a bum. He thought about his 300 page manuscript sitting in a drawer in his desk. Just because one tries to do something, it doesn't mean that they'll succeed. And they certainly won't by getting drunk every night and giving up all the time! Sarah had said to him. But he hadn't given up. He had finished his manuscript four days prior and went to submit it to a publishing company.
But they hadn't liked the material. They said that there were things that were missing, and things that needed a tune-up here and there. He was sent a rejection letter that held a “We're sorry to inform you...” that had probably been pasted in from thousands of rejection letters prior. H***, Michael wouldn't be surprised if they saved the letter format, and all some secretary had to do was fill in someone's name on the greeting line.
Writing was his life. It was all he breathed. He had dreams; he left Washington with the mindset of making those dreams come true. But even after three years they never reached fruition. Then, when he was ready, when he could practically taste fulfillment on his tongue, he's rejected, and all of his dreams and visions are shattered! Of course he'd be angry! Of course he'd be upset! He had every right to be, and she walks out on him? How dare she tell him he's in the wrong! How dare she walk away! He needed her and she couldn't even handle that much! She was the one who was going about things all wrong. Not him. He wasn't in the wrong. He didn't need to be corrected. He thought about the way she left. He thought about their fight. She had walked in and threw away his beer. That's when it started.

“Are you really going to lay there, sulking like a small child who's been sent to a corner?” Sarah had asked him incredulously. “ And drinking!” she looked down in disgust at the bottle in her hand. “Get up! Stop this; it's been days!”
Michael glared at her. “I was rejected, Sarah. Two and a half years, gone! Because I'm not good enough!”
Sarah laughed a humorless laugh. “Are you really pitying yourself? Stop acting like a child!” he watched her eyes narrow, “You sound like a kid.”
“Oh, yeah?” Michael countered. “Maybe I might, but that's only because I have nothing now!” he spat at her. “You have no idea what it feels like to have wasted your whole life on something that didn't matter to anyone in the end!” he swore. “You're so stupid! You don't even know. I hate it. I hate Missouri; I hate Dogtown. The fact that I came here, when I could have made my dreams come true? Stupid! And I have exactly what I need to show it; nothing!”
“Oh, is that so?” she asked, and Michael noted the dangerous tone in her voice. He pressed on. He nodded.
“Yeah, it is; I have nothing important to me to grasp in my life, because I followed you!”he growled.
He saw shock then; he watched Sarah blink, her eyes wide as she stumbled back, as if she had been hit. And then she walked past him, pulling out her suitcase from underneath the bed. He watched as she opened it up, and then turned to their dresser and began to take her clothes from the drawers. Michael stood silent as she folded each article and placed it in her suitcase, and then left the room, coming back a few minutes later with other items, like her books, jewelry, and toiletries.
“Sarah,” he said after sometime.
“You just don't get it, do you?” Sarah yelled as she slammed her suitcase shut. “I'm done!”
“You can't just walk away,” Michael said darkly as he grabbed her arm.
“Oh yeah?” she challenged, matching his glare with one of her own. “Watch me.”
“Sarah!” he growled, seizing her on the forearms. He shook her. “Sarah, you dunce!”
“Oh, so I'm the stupid one, is that it?” she growled back. “How dare you--”
“Yes, you're the stupid one!” Michael yelled back. “You're the stupid--”
Her hand came hard and fast as it hit his cheek. He let her go, stunned, and she took the chance to back away to the doorway. He met her eyes. They were glossy.
“You're the one who's stupid,” she whispered, her voice sad and heavy. Michael watched as the tears rolled down her cheeks. “You have no idea what you have. Not a clue. Just because...just because one tries to do something, it doesn't mean that they'll succeed. And they certainly won't by getting drunk every night and giving up all the time!” her voice broke and Sarah let her face fall. Michael watched as her frame shook against her quiet sobs. Then she looked up at him, eyes bright. “I'm sorry I ruined your life,” she said quietly. She shook her head and laughed bitterly. “You really don't know...” she sighed and turned away. “...Good-bye, Michael.”
When she left the room, he let her go. His anger wouldn't allow him to go after her.

Michael shuddered against his sobs as he remembered the crippling memory. Her tears. Their words. His cheek tingled with leftover heat from her hand. He wiped his eyes. He wasn't wrong. He wasn't.
Was he?

Then

“Had you ever been to this church?” She heard Michael ask her once she stepped outside.
“Of course,” Sarah replied, turning to him with a gentle smile. “I used to go here as a kid. U.C.C. United Church of Christ, is my second home. I know all the secret nooks and crannies,” she said with a laugh. “My mother was in the choir,” she elaborated.
“So you can sing?” he asked her, holding his hand out for her, which she gladly took once she hoped down the last step. He chuckled and she looked up. Her stomach tingled.
It had been four months since they had first met in Washington. After he had followed her to the train, they had talked, and gotten to know each other. Michael had told her he was a writer; he was actually working on a story apparently. She was itching to read it. She quickly found out that he was a young man of high ambitions. Barely that much younger than she was, she quickly found that he was an amazing guy with the right kind of head on his shoulders.
For her, the four months felt like a long dream. She loved every moment of it. She loved being with him. She loved showing him her town. She loved him.
Of course, she didn't tell him that. How could she? They weren't even together. They went on dates and they held hands, but they hadn't kissed. They weren't official. They were just friends. She sighed sadly.
They walked in silence. It was comfortable. Warm. She didn't mind it.
“Hey, sing me something,” he said suddenly. She looked at him. “Well, your mom was choir, so I just thought...” he trailed off and shrugged. “Here's your apartment,” he said suddenly, and she looked up dejectedly. He was right. He'd have to go. She nodded. “Well, then I'll see you tomorrow,” he said as he kissed her forehead. “Good-night.”
“Night,” Sarah said. “Happy birthday,” she paused. “Michael?”
He looked down at her, “Yeah?”
“I don't have you a present...”
“Don't worry about it, I--”
“Would you like to come in?” she asked, allowing the hope to seep into her question. Her downcast eyes met his and she swallowed.
“Yes,” he whispered.
He never left.

Now

Sarah turned the corner on seventh, buttoning her coat in the process. That's right. He never left. He had stayed in her life for three years. For three years he let himself love her.
Was it over?
Mind on the conversation that happened moments before, she shook her head and walked faster towards the bus stop.
She was thinking about going to St. John's; she had family in that county. She could stay there.
And then?
Sarah stopped momentarily. What was she thinking? Was she really about to walk away from him, just because of something like this?
He didn't think that she was enough, she reminded herself. He didn't realize what he had and he wouldn't...unless she left him.
It was that thought that gave her courage to sit down on the bus stop bench.

Michael pushed himself off the floor. He had to find her. He absently slipped on his shoes and left. He didn't bring a coat. How could he be so stupid? He understood. He knew what she had tried to tell him.
He hoped he'd make it to the train station in time.
His life wasn't over. As a man, human, writer, or otherwise. They had told him suggestions, the agents did. They wanted him to improve. They weren't shunning him. He was the one who had took the set back as rejection.
He remembered then; how for the last couple of days Sarah had stayed by his side, urging him to continue his book. She even got out the manuscript and put it before him, and how had he acted? He threw it back in hers and walked into their kitchen, to get a shot of whiskey. No matter she was sick of him. He inwardly swore never to drink again.
He turned the corner. He had to apologize; he never met to hurt her. Something inside of him...it just wasn't connecting. It kept remembering his past ambitions and forgetting his current and his future.
His past ambitions?
Yes, he realized. In the three years he had been with Sarah, his ambitions had changed and were changing.
He suddenly saw the bus pass him. He sprinted to the stop.
“Sarah!” he yelled as he neared the bench. “Sarah, wait!” he could see her profile, her dark skin walking up the bus steps. Why wasn't he fast enough? As she loaded the bus he neared it, his hand flying to keep the doors from closing. “Sarah,” he shouted. “Sarah, where are you?”
“Excuse me, young man,” the bus driver said, “the fare is $2.50. Young man!” the bus driver said sternly when Michael ignored him.
“Look, I don't have any money. I'm not staying on this bus, I just need to find someone,” Michael said.
“Well, without money, you can't be on this bus,” the bus driver replied matter-of-factly. “So, please leave, sir.”
“I can't. I have to see Sarah. I have to tell her--”
“No, you can,” the bus driver corrected, “and you will. Or I will. Get.”
“Please,” Michael pleaded. “I love her. I can't let her leave,” he sighed. “Haven't you ever wanted to keep someone in your life--” he searched for a name tag, “--Kevin?” It was a last resort, trying to make the Bus driver sympathize with him. It was also Michael's last resort at civility.
“Get off my bus,” Kevin ordered instead, and Michael sighed, deciding it'd be better to just walk down the aisles and find her himself. He started to move past Kevin, but he didn't get very far past the his seat, before Kevin seized his shoulder.
“You will not get any further,” he said, his grip on Michael intensifying. “Get off my bus, boy.”
“You don't understand. I screwed up! I--”
“I don't care about your private life! Get. Off.”
“No.”
“Boy--” Kevin turned Michael to face him. Glaring at Michael he began to roughly “direct” Michael to the door, “--I'm sorry, but--”
“Let go!” Michael said, trying to struggle. Kevin was strong. “I love her. I have to tell her I'm sorry! Sarah...I know what you were trying to say! Sarah, come back, Sarah--”
“--don't ever get on this bus again!” Kevin finished as he threw Michael off the bus. Michael sighed, not bothering to get up. He knew Kevin had shut the doors. He knew he was pulling away. It was over.
Sarah didn't even try to go to him.
He gritted his teeth. “But I love you, too,” he whispered to himself, finally understanding the sentence she never finished.
Now he realized just how much he loved her. Wryly, he noted how it felt to be a broken man. How it truly felt to have nothing. She was gone. And she was never coming back.
Then the bus stopped. Michael held his breath as he listened to the sound of stilettos walk towards him.

Sarah set down her bags gently. Then sinking to her knees, she wrapped her arms around him.



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