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Set in Steel

By , Shoreline, WA
Chapters:   1 2 3 4 5 6 ... 9 Next »

Chapter 1

The start of my journey began not with the purchase of a train ticket, but with the realization that I needed something more.  As I stood standing on the train station platform with my parents, clutching my bags and gazing out at the people boarding the train, I thought about what was to come.  The train I was about to board would take me all the way to New York, a place that seemed so far away and strange at the time.  I had applied to be an architect’s apprentice at the Baker Office of Architecture and Design, defying my parents’ wishes to stay home in Illinois and help with the family business.  For months my mind raced about this moment, and finally I was here, standing in front of my future, my ticket out of Illinois and into the big city. Deep in thought, I then got distracted by the steam from the engine of the train billowing in the wind, flicking at the corners of the station signs.
My mother, Maude, was an emotional wreck, crumbling into my father’s arms.  My father showed a lack of any emotion, although I knew that once the train pulled away, he would be just as distressed as my mother.  As I turned to say goodbye, my mother was already embracing me with muffled tears.
“We’re so happy for you Nina. We know how hard you worked to get here and that you will achieve great things in New York.  Oh Raymond, she’s so grown!”  she sputtered.
My father nodded in agreement and I hugged them both a bittersweet goodbye. 
Looking ahead at the train before me, I took a deep breath and set forward.  I grabbed my luggage which consisted of a hat box, a suitcase and a workbag.  While boarding the train I quickly scanned my surroundings.  The upper class were at the parlor cars while us lower class passengers entered at the front, boarding on the coach car.  I entered quickly, not wanting to hold up the line and headed for the chair car, passing through the vestibule which connected the two together.  The seats in the chair car were surprisingly comfortable.  They had plush lining which was easy on the bottom side and enough leg and storage space to make a girl want to pack more clothes.   I took my seat and reclined next to a friendly gentleman with three young girls on the opposite of him.
“Hello, the name’s Henry.  And yours?” He said politely.
“My name is Nina.  Pleasure to meet you.” I replied.
“Say, this chair car is a real corker, isn’t it?”
“Oh yes sirree!  These seats are very roomy.”
He then chuckled, saying “We’ll if I can fit two of my kids in one seat,” as he gestured over to the girls sitting opposite to us, “then they must be!”.
“These are my children.  The oldest one over there, she’s Margaret Anne, and these two little ones are Grace and Laura.”
“Hi girls, pleasure to meet you too.” I responded.
He leaned in close and whispered, “Laura there, she’s a big booster for not wearing dresses.  As you can see, she just prefers pants.  And that’s fine by me.  Not so much by her mother.”
I wondered where his wife must be.  I thought that she might’ve been somewhere else on the train, but then Henry explained to me how she was caught cheating with the postman.
“And so that’s why we’re on this train.  I made a rash decision to uproot myself and my kids and move to New York.”
“Why New York, of all places?” I prodded.
“My uncle lives there and it’s a great city during this time.  The place is booming!  However, I decided too quickly to write out a letter to my uncle so I guess it’ll just have to be a surprise.”
“That sounds great, I’m sure he’ll welcome you all.”
“So what are you doing here?  Why New York for you?” he inquired with genuine curiosity.
Not wanting to brag, I quickly explained, “I applied for an apprenticeship with a great architect in the city.  I’ve always dreamed to go to a big city, and as luck would have it, my application was accepted!”
“Congratulations! That’s amazing.  Do you know where you’re staying? If you don’t you’re always welcome stay with Uncle George and us.”
“Thank you for the kind offer, but my boss has worked out an arrangement for me.” I replied.  It was great to already have met someone willing to help me out just a few hours into the start of my journey.
“Oh no bother,” He said, “it’s just nice to have someone to chew the rag with.  We’re in for a long ride.”
“I’m sure we’ll talk soon, I’ve got to go check out the dining car.” I said while standing up from my seat with a small stretch.
Making my way from the chair car to the dining car was easier than I expected.  No shooting glares came my way, just a few pleasant smiles and glances from the other passengers.  We all knew our class and were comfortable with it. 
The dining car was a luxury.  What was special about this train line is that we didn’t have to make any stops at the dreaded station restaurants which housed slow waitresses and cold, tasteless food.  All of the meals we ate on the train were prepared on the train in the back kitchen.  It made the food taste delicious and made it worth coming back every few hours, even if it meant getting up from my plush seat.
After finishing my meal, I made my way to the sleeping car, which was at the back of the train, meaning I had to pass through the parlor car with the upper-class passengers and their cold glares. 
As I entered, I found my place near the front, stepping around luggage and sleeping passengers.  It was crowded, as by this time it was nightfall, although I was able to find an open bed.  I took the shiny handle on the side of the chair and pulled down, folding out to reveal a small mat-like bed to sleep on. 
And that was how my routine went for multiple days on that train until I arrived at the station in New York. It was a comfortable routine which consisted of gazing out at the country landscape on the chair car, eating in the dining car, and sleeping comfortably on my pull-out bed in the sleeping car.

Chapters:   1 2 3 4 5 6 ... 9 Next »

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