Click, clack, click, clack! The train was lurching ever closer to it's destination with a rhythm and a pattern that was inducing sleep in it's passengers. The green fields and trees passed like a blur. Smoke was puffing out of the engine and billowing out into the blue sunny sky.
The passenger sat and was entranced by the passing country side. He had left the concrete jungle where he felt comfortable and safe to this wilderness. What was he doing? This had to be the craziest thing he had done. No, he had done crazier things. Like that time he had jumped off the bridge into the creek below, but that was when he was 10. He didn't know any better. Was he any smarter now? Time would tell.
The passenger looked down and noticed his hands were sweaty. Strange, he normally wasn't the one to show his nerves. He wiped them on his dress pants. He chuckled, he had just dropped everything and jumped on this train. He looked around the train car, he was by far the best dressed on this journey.
"What a beautiful day." It was the lady sitting next to him. She was smiling too and had a friendly full face. Nick hadn't even noticed when she had joined him.
"Yes it certainly is. Ever been on this train before?" He was curious to know if he was the only one taking the journey for the first time.
"Yes, I'm frequently on this train. I visit my daughter and her family once a month. To be honest, sometimes the train trip is the highlight. What about you?"
"This is my first time on this trip. I must say the scenery doesn't disappoint." He looked outside again just in time to see horses grazing in the field. He remembered as a young boy he wanted to be a cowboy under the big sky of the country. It all seemed so distant.
"Well, I would be lying if I said I couldn't tell." He looked at her confused. "I mean to say I could tell you weren't a train traveller. No luggage, wearing a business suit out to the country." She laughed a gentle laugh. Nick started to laugh as well.
"Yes, I guess I am a tad over dressed." He chuckled, but quickly like a cloud covering the sun the smile went away. He had woken up to find her gone. At first he didn't think much of it. Jenny was a runner and loved an early morning run. He went about his business of getting ready for work. Then when he got to the breakfast table he saw it. The letter left very clearly on the table. The letter was now in his jacket pocket. Stained with tears and smudged and creased from reading it multiple times.
When he looked up again the lady's face looked at him expectedly.
"I'm sorry, what did you say?"
"Oh nothing important, dear. You remind me of my husband. He used to wear a suit even when we went to the beach." She giggled. It reminded him of Jenny, his girlfriend, the girl who had caused him to take this train, the girl he knew he would marry.
"Yes! He'd wear a bathing suit." Her laugh got louder and he found it contagious and began to join her. "Ah I still miss him even though he's been gone almost 10 years." Her face turned wistful.
"How long were you married?" The man needed to hear this story. His heart ached right now and he was looking for something to remind him that love existed.
"Almost 50 years. We used to live in Pine Hill and had a quiet life. Then his career took him to New York City and away we went. I go back to see my daughter it still feels like home."
The man reached in his pocket for the letter. He rubbed it assuredly. He could feel her on the paper. She had bared her soul. He was aware that something was off with her but he chalked it up the stress of her job.
"What brings you to Pine Hill dear?" The man flinched and his face turned to the window. "Sorry, I didn't mean to pry." Her voice was soft and gentle.
The man wiped his eyes and turned back to face the lady. His eyes were watery.
"No, it's okay. I am going to see if I can win back the love of my life."
The woman smiled and nodded. It was her way of saying he didn't need to say anymore. She patted his arm. The man didn't flinch. He was comforted by this stranger. Yet it felt like he knew her.
He cleared his throat. "How much longer 'til we arrive?"
The woman scanned out the window. "Lets see, have we passed a blue church?"
"I'm not sure. I may have missed it."
"My dear you couldn't have missed it. Trust me that blue church is a real attention grabber."
The journey seemed to be taking on a fantasy aspect. Blue churches, horses and cowboys. Just then the man's phone rang. Some of the passengers who were slumbering were stirring. The man quickly answered the phone.
"Where the hell are you? The presentation is about to start." the voice on the phone was urgent and stressed.
"Oh, I woke up feeling sick. You can deliver it without me." The passenger was hoping the lie would be bought. Just then the train gave out two blasts of its' steam whistle. The man grimaced and cursed under his breath.
"Sick, eh? Listen I don't know where you are and what you are doing. But we need you here. If you don't walk through that door in the next 15 minutes you should fire up your resume." Now the voice was angry and pointed.
"I'm sorry, Stan. Sometimes in life you need to be a little crazy. This is one of those days. Good luck in the presentation." Click. Nick hung up the phone.
"Everything okay, dear?"
"Hmmm, yes. I'm without a job but everything is okay." Nick looked outside again and felt his shoulders raise up. The weight had been lifted. The job had been one reason his country girl had left him and headed back to the country. Well, now it was gone. Somehow this didn't bother the man at all.
Just then he saw the blue church. The old lady had been right you couldn't miss it. A large steeple rose to the sky and looked like it would touch the clouds. The blue was vibrant and quite soothing. In some patches you could see the effects of the weather, the paint had unevenly faded. The stairs leading up to the double doors were aged and worn. The man wondered what the inside looked like.
"It's nice inside. I always feel comforted when I visit that church." It was like she read his mind. "They haven't changed it in many years. That was the church we got married in."
The man looked at the lady again. A round friendly face. Two dimples and a smile that would light up a room. She reminded him of his girlfriend. The hair was all silver now, but still cute in a modern way. Somehow she pulled the look off. He glanced at her clothes. Her shirt was a subdued red and her pants jet black. This lady had style. Just like his girlfriend. Maybe that is why he felt so comfortable with her.
The train was beginning to slow down. He could make out the station just ahead. His stomach did a flip and he gulped the air nervously. The lady patted his arm again. He turned and smiled at her.
"Here we are about to stop and I don't even know your name."
"Oh I'm Jennifer, but everyone calls me Jenny. And who might you be?"
"My name is Nick. Nice to meet you Jenny." He was now starting to feel like he was on one of those hidden camera shows. His girlfriend was named Jenny. He started to check to see if he had everything. The woman was putting a pen back into her purse.
As they got up to leave Jenny turned to him and said "Trust me, Nick, everything is going to work out fine." The way she said it made him feel more confident that he was doing the right thing.
"I sure hope you are right." He quickly put his hand in his pocket and felt the letter again. Yes it was still there, but he felt something else in his pocket. Weird, he didn't remember putting anything else in his pocket.
It was another letter but this one looked fresh and new. He opened it up and started to read it.
"Dear Nick, I will be waiting for you on the platform. Can't wait to see you, Love J." Where had this letter come from. The handwriting was unmistakable, it was his Jenny's hand writing. His heart started to race. He looked up and the old lady was gone. Where had she gone? He looked up and down the aisle and there was no sign of her.
He compared the hand writing and it matched exactly. How had this second note ended up in his pocket? He glanced out the window and sure enough there was his Jenny looking cautiously up and down the platform.
Nick looked down at the second note again. He started to walk towards the door and saw one of the conductors.
"Excuse me sir, did you happen to see where the older lady got off? The one who was sitting next to me?" His voice was excited.
"What older lady? You were sitting by yourself." The conductor eyed him suspiciously. "Are you feeling okay?"
"There was a lady sitting next to me. We talked for the whole train ride." Nick was getting more excited. He was sure that the lady had been beside on this trip.
"Did you want me to call a doctor?"
"Oh, just forget it, buddy!" Nick grabbed his briefcase and began to storm out of the car. Was he losing it? Had he really imagined the whole conversation? Whatever happened Nick would forever be grateful for that conversation. It had saved him the love of his life and allowed him to trust his feelings.
The lady watched from the shadows, she was smiling. She had done it. Jenny had saved him not just now, but then too. She watched as the two lovers walked the platform. A tear formed in her eye and she whispered the words "Good luck you two!"