And The Sparks Fly Upward

Here’s a new piece of flash fiction I wrote for my writer’s group meeting this weekend. Let me know what you think!

***

“Attention! American Rail number 541 to St. Louis, Memphis, and Montgomery will be departing from track twenty! Passengers…”

Please board now, Lydia finished the oft-repeated announcement in sync with the voice. She’s been in the station long enough to hear it a half dozen times as well as those for trains heading to more exotic destinations. It didn’t matter; she wasn’t scheduled to take them; her trip was only home to New York.

Why Mama felt it necessary to send to Chicago for my trousseau is beyond me, Lydia thought. There are fine designers in the city, but to make it “just so”…

She barely remembered the city when she’d arrived that morning. After all, she could have been no older than eight when they left. Buildings that once loomed leviathan seemed paltry in comparison to the Empire State Building she watched growing taller each day. Still, she’d wandered the streets, hoping for a whiff of nostalgia.

Since her father’s textile factory had been relocated to New York and her family’s social status a rung higher, very few of Lydia’s decisions had been left up to her.

Even her impending marriage to one Phillip Yancey Langer, a man she’d met a handful of times and shared only fragments of polite conversation with, had been arranged. He wasn’t hard to look at, that was true, and he laughed more often than most. Still, in a few weeks she’d be exchanging vows with a stranger and sharing a bed with him for life!

Once it was settled, her mother had contacted her designer to create Lydia’s wedding dress and other clothing, and while everything from cut to color had been decided via telegram, the only thing that she couldn’t do was stand for the fitting herself.

That’s why Lydia, for once, had insisted on traveling to the city on her own—even refusing to go if her one demand wasn’t met. And after a great deal of railing, her father had stepped in and forced his wife to stand down.

Can’t the woman understand that I need to breathe somewhere she isn’t, just once? Lydia thought as she sat on the railway bench, her fingers nervously drumming on the suitcase she carried. Many of the outfits, including the wedding gown, needed last minute touches and would be mailed to New York within the week. Three, however, had been folded and packed in the dainty blue suitcase she carried.

It feels much heavier than something holding three dresses should, Lydia thought. Like a case of cannonballs.

Still, she would dutifully lug the prize home and don all three in turn to let her mother critique her product, analyzing it the same way her father might a new fabric off the loom.

“Attention! American Rail 194, non-stop to New York City, will be arriving on track twelve in ten minutes! All passengers please proceed to track twelve at this time!”

Oh, hell, Lydia thought. Already? I’ve been away fewer than twelve hours put together and still haven’t drawn a deep breath. It’s not enough!

She stood, grabbed the handle of the case, and tried to pick it up. But suddenly, it seemed too heavy to lift. She stood watching crowds of people getting on and off of trains, going places she’d never been and would likely never go, and felt utterly alone.  She felt her shoulders slump—a position she’d likely know forever after, in spirit if not in body.

No, she suddenly said to herself. I don’t have to. Not now. Not ever.

She snatched the suitcase from the bench and marched to the ticket booth.

“Excuse me, sir?” she asked the bespectacled man behind the counter. “What trains are leaving in the next ten minutes?”

He consulted the schedule at his elbow. “Well, miss. We have three going out now. One’s headed to the Carolinas, another for Texas, and a third to the Midwest. But don’t you already have a ticket…”

“Texas,” she exclaimed. “I want to exchange mine for a ticket to Texas.”

“Alright, miss,” he stammered, taken aback. “It stops in three cities—Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio.”

“Dallas,” she said without hesitating. She handed over her ticket, paid the difference in fare from the money she’d stashed in her pocketbook, and thanked the man before turning to go towards platform three where her train was waiting.

It was only when the porter asked her for her bag that she realized she’d left it behind, and the thought made her smile.

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