"Come on, lass, give us a smile. Or do you think you're too good to talk to the likes of me?"
The small part of Agatha that wasn't consumed by grief felt like she should have been angry.
Frustrated or indignant, perhaps, if anger was too much for her wrung-out emotional state. Irony, that even this semi-evolved pond scum could see a woman in full mourning, in a compartment clearly booked for a family, and somehow still think that the appropriate course of action was to try and flirt with her. Anything but this resigned sort of numbness.
"I thought the journey west would be boring, but a pretty thing like you makes it much better."
A clear "no" hadn't deterred him. Nor had the other requests to leave her in peace. In other circumstances, a slap might be justified, but the train conductor had made it clear at the start of the journey that any fighting would result in all participants being removed from the train and forfeiting any refund or recompense.
Dozens of miles from the nearest town, or perhaps even the nearest farmhouse, Agatha had no desire to risk being stuck in proximity to this Irritating Gentleman any longer than she had to. Certainly not alone and far from assistance. He was entitled enough in a carriage full of people glaring at him; how much worse would he be without even that meagre protection?
"Dressed like that, I'm sure you could use a friend. No need to be so cold."
Gritting her teeth - ah, there was the rage she'd been missing - Agatha willed the train to go faster.
It had originally been planned as a holiday; Agatha and her parents travelling from New York to visit Agatha's Aunt and Uncle, who ran the General Store in one of the many new Frontier towns that were springing up along the new railway line. Father had joked that it was a longer distance than most young men travelled for their Grand Tour of Europe. Mere months before the planned journey, however, sickness had swept though the city, leaving Agatha the sole survivor of her family.
Her father's partner had bought out the half of the business that Agatha had inherited. His son, James, who Agatha had grown up with, had promised to write and shyly offered to marry her when the mourning period was over, if she hadn't found someone better or found that Frontier life didn't agree with her.
It had been a kind offer, the promise of a home and family to return to, if living with her relations didn't work out. Agatha had thanked him and promised to think about it. There were certainly worse options, but she didn't want him to be trapped by an offer made in the heat of the moment.
Agatha wanted to at least visit her Aunt and Uncle, the cousins she had never met, all the family she had left. A grasp for normalcy, before she faced life without her family. Stuck in a carriage with this man, and several other men who shot the occasional disapproving look from behind their newspaper, but stopped short of actually doing or saying anything, made her wish she'd stayed at home.
Creating a scene would be counterproductive for Agatha - no doubt the Irritating Gentleman was counting on it - but perhaps there was another way. Papa had a briefcase that unfolded into a travel-sized writing desk, and she had promised James a letter. Perhaps the Irritating Gentleman would respect another man's claim more than he respected Agatha's wishes.
'August 16, 1852
I write this from the train carriage, for a lack of more desirable ways to pass the time, and must begin with a protest that you have clearly spoiled me in creating high expectations of how a gentleman should behave...'
Indeed, the Irritating Gentleman had been reading over her shoulder. "Who's that you're writing to, then? The posh gentleman whose name is on that case?"
Agatha smiled, but of course he missed the sharp edge to it. He wouldn't care whether the name on the briefcase was her father or any other man with a claim to her. "My fiancé. We can't marry until I'm out of mourning, of course, but he made me promise to write regularly."
Grumbling, the Irritating Gentleman backed off.
Of course he respected another man's claim to ownership more than he respected Agatha's agency.
Perhaps someday, in the far future, that would change.
Very well written. Keep up the good work!
Original narrative & well developed characters
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
Zero grammar & spelling mistakes
Niche topic & fresh perspectives
Expert insights and opinions
Arguments were carefully researched and presented