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New Voices - Central Indiana: Prose

Ivy Tech's Literary Journal

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The Definition of Insanity by Matthew Bylsma

…He hit the deck with a thud, got up, and looked around. There was a long line of people starting just ahead of where he had landed, he couldn’t see where the line ended. 

“Looks like there really is no escape,” said the person standing in front of him.

“What is this place?”, Samuel wondered aloud.

A voice further ahead said, “It’s like an ouroboros!”

He couldn’t help but agree, as the deck stretched out in front of him endlessly, twisting up over his head to come back around behind him.

“It’s more like purgatory! You’ll see that soon enough!” said another voice ahead of him.

He could see no guards, no tormentors, no one on the deck at all apart from the endless line. There was just a mast reaching up to meet the mast hanging down from the deck above. It was curiously familiar, that sail. He stared along the height of it and his eyes twisted as the riggings went from up to down halfway along, where the crow’s nest should have been. As he stared up at it and tried to make sense of what he was seeing, he noticed that a man had decided to jump over the side from the deck above. He heard a scream and a thud as the man hit the deck behind him, got up, and looked around.

“Looks like there really is no escape,” Samuel said, as he shuffled forward, following the line. He heard someone ask what this place was.

“It’s like an ouroboros!” he said, for that really was the best way to describe it, he thought.

The thought of the sight of the ship twisting up and around him was haunting, he couldn’t shake that he’d seen that infinite mast before. Samuel realized that he was losing his mind, that he couldn’t be sure any of this was real.

“It’s more like purgatory! You’ll see that soon enough!” Samuel said aloud to no one in particular.

The man ahead of him grunted and appeared to nod in agreement, it was hard to tell since he could only ever see the back of the other men’s heads, no matter which way he looked.  He grunted and shook his head in frustration. This place would be the end of him, he knew it. He could see now that the ship merely looped around on itself somehow, and if he continued to walk, he would be here forever. There was another option though.

He looked over the sides of the ship and saw water. He looked over the sides of the deck above him and saw, upsetting enough, water. He wondered If he would simply fall forever, caught forever in the sliver of sky that lay between oceans. Which hell would be worse? An eternity ever walking, or one ever falling? But if he jumped there would at least be the chance that he would hit water, and from there he could possibly escape. He realized that he was counting death as a viable option for escape, but that was surely preferably to losing his mind forever on this infinite schooner.

He broke from the line. He saw a face on the deck below track him as he ran to the rail. He held his breath, and after saying a quick prayer, Samuel jumped over the side…

Inspired by the sculpture Mobius Ship by Tim Hawkinson, seen at Newfields in Indianapolis Indiana.

Transform by Leslie Ketchum

Laying in bed, Cas lazily scrolls through her phone. Rain softly patters on the window, and what little light shining through is just enough to bring out some colors in the room, including pictures from various plays she’s performed in and some CDs of one of her favorite indie bands, Steam Powered Giraffe. Her phone radiates its own blue light, illuminating her tan face and red hair. With how the day has been, there’s no telling how long she’s been browsing her—

Those boots are gorgeous.

They were gorgeous. Licorice black leather ankle booties with a shiny gold buckle. She just wished they were in her size. This is the bad side of looking through her social media feed. Disappointment at every turn, or in this case, every few posts. Cas knows deep down this has some effect on her mental health, but it’s honestly better than her trying to interact with her family. Or exist with her family.

Speaking of, she hears them all very loudly “discussing” the latest topic Dad brought up from the news. Cas has heard so many strange political takes that it’s just desensitized her from everything uttered from them.

“The hell is transgender?”

Cas’s eyes widened.

One of her brothers responded, “An excuse for sickos to dress like girls.”

She winced, gripping her phone tightly. There are no words for what pain surged through her. Nevertheless, she continued to listen, frozen, and unable to stop.

“Tch- Of course it would be,” another brother said.

“You know, they’re wanting to go in whatever bathroom they want.”

“I hope that’s not what it sounds like.”

“Oh, no. It’s exactly what it sounds like.”

“Fucking pedophiles...”

Her heart begins to pound. She gasped for air. Apparently, she had been holding her breath. Hopefully, no one heard.

Dad added, “Well, I know I wouldn’t have wanted one of those near any of you, period.”

“Yeah. Don’t wanna catch anything.”

Cas felt tears run down her face. She was absolutely mortified at what she was hearing. She thought she was used to their rants by now.

Dad continued, “That’s exactly why I raised you boys to be men. So you wouldn’t end up like some pathetic little sissies.”

“You sure about all of us?”

Dad laughed, “Well, 6 out of 7 ain’t bad.”

UGh...

Cas ran her hands through her hair and began to pull, needing a distraction from it all.

A nearby voice appeared, “Cas?”

She whipped her head around to the voice’s source. It was Cyrus, her brother, older by just a year. He was sitting in his own bed on his laptop. She was so lost in everything; she didn’t realize he was even there.

“Something wrong?”

Cas stays silent as she gets up out of bed and darts out the door.

“Dude, wait!”

She wasn’t going to wait. She isn’t ready for this. Weaving through the rooms of the house, she opens the back door and ran out, slamming it shut.

Cas sinks down on a bench a few blocks away, out of breath. She leans forward, catching her reflection in a puddle. The sight of this causes her to stomp it out, as if it were a reflex. She then begins to sob, the rain starting to pour down hard.

⬩⬦⬩

Cyrus drove slowly down the road in the heavy rain, searching for his brother. He was so worried about him, he stopped working on his paper for college that was due tomorrow. He couldn’t believe Cas stormed out like that; he hates the rain. There was once a time when they were younger, and Cas fussed about going to the store because he just got a shower that day and didn’t want the rain to mess up his hair. Cyrus chuckled at the thought. It was understandable, though. No one likes their head soaked.

Through the thick veil of raindrops, Cyrus spotted a figure slumped over at a bench. He slowed the car to a stop when he noticed the figure shifted into the person he was looking for. Cyrus parked it out of the way the best he could and turned his flashers on. He opened the door, got out of his seat, and called out to him.

“Cas!”

Cas turned his head up at Cyrus, then back down. Ok, something’s very wrong.

“Come on! Let’s get out of the rain and drive around for a bit! Maybe we can get some coffee?”

Cas remained on the bench, unmoving. 

Cyrus sighed and started to head over but stopped in his tracks. He went back to the trunk of the car, opened it, and smiled when he saw his umbrella. He’s glad he forgot to bring it inside the other day. He brought the umbrella over and sat next to him. Cas still showed no response to his presence, until Cyrus opened the umbrella and held it above their heads. Cas looked up, watching the rain washing across their shield, falling to the ground beside them.

Cyrus sighed, “No reason for us to soak while you ignore me.”

Cas looked at him, his sunken eyes peering through his damp red bangs.

“Geez, you look horrible...”

Cas scoffed, “Way to make me feel better.”

“Oh- Sorry.” Cyrus pinched his nose; he was never good at subtlety.

“It’s alright,” Cas looks back up, “Thanks for the umbrella.”

“No problem.”

They sat there in the white noise of the pattering rain for half a minute before Cyrus had to break the silence.

“So... What happened back there?”

Cyrus watched his brother’s face twitch and wrinkle up before he turned away. He felt his stomach do the same. It bothered him that he wasn’t talking to him because he usually does. He’s always tried to mediate everyone in the house, no matter how ridiculous the problem was⎯ not that he thought Cas’s problem was ridiculous. Whatever’s got him bugged is really gnawing at him.

“Cas...”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Why?”

“I can’t talk about it.”

“You know you can tell me anything.”

Cas’s voice cracked, “Not this.”

Cas pulled himself into a ball, closing off from Cyrus.

Cyrus persisted, “What makes this different from any other time?”

No response. Just the ball closing tighter. Cyrus sighed and looked up. The rain stopped, but nothing has been wrapped up.

He closed the umbrella and stood, “...Do you at least want to get some coffee?”

Cas glared at him, “Looking like this?”

Cyrus snapped, “Who cares what you look like?!”

“Everyone, apparently!”

He blinked in confusion, “What do you mean?”

Cas hid his face in his hands and sobbed. Cyrus felt his heart sink. Did he go too far?

Cas took his hands away, wiping up his tears, “Did you hear what everyone was talking about earlier?”

He tried to recall but the memory wasn’t there. He was glued to his laptop, trying to finish the paper. Everything that happened outside their room was never absorbed.

“No, but what did they say?”

Cas looked at him, “...You should probably sit back down.”

Cyrus obliged.

⬦⬩⬦

“So you... want to be a girl?”

“It’s a lot more complicated than that, but yeah...”

Cyrus blanked, “...Really? Are you sure?”

Cas nodded, “I have been for a long time.”

Despite trying to keep an open mind, Cyrus found it difficult to wrap his head around this. How could his brother actually be his sister? He doesn’t know much about transgendered people, so now would be the perfect time to find out.

“How have you known?”

“It’s hard to describe... I’ve always felt wrong in some way, but a few years ago, I found out that there’s a word for it and that there are others like me out there.”

“You sure it’s not just anxiety?”

Cas’s eyes narrowed, “Yes.”

Cyrus tensed at Cas’s glare. He looks annoyed— er, she. He began to explain, “I’m just trying to cover everything-”

“Why can’t you just take my word for it?” she retorted.

“I wouldn’t want you to decide that this is what it is without looking at other possibilities first.”

“You think I haven’t? I don’t know why you think that when it’s my own body. I’m the one who’s had to live with it all this time. I know how it feels.”

Cyrus froze. Maybe instead of trying to pick her brain apart, he should let her speak for herself.

“...How does it feel?”

She took a moment to answer, wrapping her arms around herself, “It feels like I’ve been stuck in an iron maiden for my whole life...”

Cyrus winced, “Ouch...”

Cas leans back in her seat, “Yeah...” she sighed, “and my only escape is drama club; if I pretend to be someone else, I won’t think about it as much,” she looks down, “It doesn’t always work... But it’s also the only time I can put makeup on and not get weird looks.”

“But some girls don’t wear makeup.”

“Well, I do.”

Cyrus shrugged and twitched a smile, “I guess so. Can’t argue with that.”

He looked away just as Cas did, trying to breathe in the thick air. Why does this feel so wrong to him? It’s not like Cas is harming anyone. Actually, the only one who’s been harmed by all of this is Cas, with her living through years and years of everyone pressuring her to be someone who she’s not. And what else is Cyrus doing but dragging this out longer? He knows she needs the support now more than ever; her mental health is suffering and has been suffering. Cas trusted him enough to tell him, so he will help her as best as he can.

He sighs, "I really want to help you, but I don’t know how.”

Cas smiled sadly, “I don’t think there’s anything you can do.”

“Well, how were you going to go about fixing this?"

"...I'd have to go through a long process of taking hormones and also get surgery done, but that would have to start later," she looks over at him, “For now, you can just be my helpful older brother.”

Cyrus smiled a bit, but things felt bittersweet. He wishes she could transform right away into who she wants to be, but he knows how their family is. They'd tear her apart.

“I bet you would be ready to start if we weren’t in the way, right?”

Cas looked away, “...I guess so, but I didn’t want to say it like that.”

Cyrus laughed, “You’re too kind.”

Cas laughed a bit too.

On Depression by Candice Slovinski

As I find myself searching the shelves of the refrigerator in hopes of planning dinner, her laughter reaches my ears. A symphony made up of pure toddler delight and anticipation. I can hear his heavy footfalls echoing down the hallway. His voice proclaiming his promise that he will tickle her when they meet. This very moment was once thought to be inaccessible to my past self.  Truth be told I never thought that I would be here to observe this scenario. Had I not once heard only the gasp of air expelling from my lungs, in a darkened room, that I sat in search for relief in? 

Relief from the constant stream of phrases made up of nostalgic reprimands that seemed to haunt my mind and demand reparation. The balloon inside my head, ever-expanding. Desperation reaching a peak in the prick of a razor's edge, releasing the torment I felt to the core of my being. Yes, I had no intention of being here now. Page after I page, I once reflected on the foolishness of my existence and the desire to feel anything but what I was experiencing at that time. Surely feeling nothing would have been better. Stacks of college-ruled notebooks once contained tales in which I discussed the many reasons I was not fit to be alive. I knew the many reasons that were repeated by those who never experienced this mindset.

“You have so much to live for.” or “You just need to choose to be happy.”

As if it were so easy.

Even when I wanted to get up and begin the day, it was as if someone had begun an IV drip while I was sleeping. One that filled my being with an invisible weight that all but physically pushed back into the bed of isolation I never made anymore. As if I weren’t going to lay in it far more than I was out of it. The hours I spent laying cocooned in a duvet of cotton that contained traces of darkening crimson, cracked and crusting on the very material that was meant to be protection from the cold world.  No, I had not imagined she would exist nor that he would have helped me to create her. How could I have believed in their existence when I so despised my own.

The doctors said that I was depressed. How simple a word to describe the complex stream of highs and lows one goes through in experiencing it. I had no words to explain what was happening to me yet here was a label meant to simplify what was happening.  I learned however that it was but a symptom to a much bigger problem. Reflection on one’s self can affect how we view our futures. My indulgence in it long ago almost cost me this precious gift.  The voice of my daughter calling to me down the hallway asking if we were going to “Eat eat” soon or the brush of lips against cheek as my husband steps pass me to the sink.

My family. My future. My life.

 

The Adventures of Sophie and Chuck by Kendra Clay

This is just temporary, I thought to myself. I checked my face in the rearview mirror. It was just as plain as it was every day. My lips were small and my eyes were small and my nose was not. My dull brown hair was pulled back in a skinny black headband and hung just past my shoulders, a little frizzier than I’d liked. I twisted the mirror back into place and huffed and puffed my way into the only bar in town where I’d been bartending for seven years.

My boss, Bonnie, said hello and good morning and I put on my best fake smile to say the same. I did this with the servers and the hostesses and the line cooks as well, just like every day. I went behind the little wooden bar and started in on my chores. The entire place was about set up when Bonnie unlocked the doors but it would be another few hours before anyone would walk in. Except for the new guy in town.

He had been coming in every day at the same time for about six weeks. I guessed that he was about eight or nine years older than me. He had big, broad shoulders that were held down by his suspenders and he wore a different patterned bowtie every day. His button-up shirts were always pristine white and perfectly ironed. He’d push his dark brown hair over to the side after he’d taken off his off-white Panama-style hat and sat it down on the bar next to him.

“Morning, Mr. De La Rue,” I dried my hands of the fresh-squeezed lemon juice and poured him his usual, a black coffee. 

“And a good morning to you, Miss Bellamy,” his voice had become quite comforting to listen to. I put his cup of coffee down on the bar in front of him. “Merci.”

“You’re quite welcome,” I picked up my lemons and continued juicing.

“So?” he asked, raising his cup to his face and pausing for a moment.

I raised one eyebrow in his direction, trying to make sense of the complete normality of the strangest situation I had found myself in. “No, I did not have any weird dreams last night.” I rolled my eyes and pushed the juicer down on the lemon with both hands.

“I see,” he sipped his warm beverage and took a deep breath before setting his cup down on the bar in front of him. “I suppose I will just have to tell you about mine again, then.”

He went on, like he did every day, describing his “dream,” really he just liked to tell stories. His brown eyes looked deep into the past as he pulled out ridiculously fantastic stories of having drinks with Mickey Rooney and dancing all night long with Billie Holiday. His stories drew in the other employees, too. Bonnie let us sit and listen for a little while.

“In your wildest dreams, you’re ‘knocking Joe DiMaggio’s lights out’?” I asked him, refilling his cup for the third time. I couldn’t figure out how he came up with this stuff. I told him that he needed to write these stories down, but he always said that he didn’t have the time to spend on such nonsense.

“What? You don’t think that I could?” He challenged.

“Oh, no. Of course, you could,” I reassured him playfully. “You’re just too nice a guy.”

I tilted my head to the side a little as I flattered him. I didn’t know him all that well, but there was a warmth about him that I was convinced a person couldn’t fake. My momma always believed that a person’s true nature can be felt, like an aura or a vibe or something. She would have liked him, I think.

She left a few years back. She had always talked about ‘getting out of this godforsaken place’ and I always figured she meant for me to go with her. I never knew my dad but when Momma caught word of his death something switched off inside her. I suspect that she always thought he’d come home for us and that was why she kept us there. But when she learned that that was never going to happen, she decided it was safe for her to finally leave.

I was fifteen years old with no family and no money. And everyone in town knew every humiliating detail of what my folks had done to me. And they knew the same thing that I did, I was left because I’m leavable. See, every person in a small town has a thing. Bonnie’s thing was being the girl who owned this bar. Momma’s thing was being the girl with the free spirit. And my thing was being the girl who got left behind.

Mr. De La Rue didn’t know that, though. And seeing myself through the eyes of someone who didn’t pity me was something that I really liked. He made me feel normal for the first time since Momma left me here.

He slid his cup across the bar after he finished his fifth refill and I knew he was about to leave for the day. “You getting me out of this place soon?” I teased him. He had been telling for two weeks now that he was going to take me far, far away from here one day real soon. He was just a flirt.

“I haven’t found anything yet but I have a good feeling about today,” he stood up and looked at me with a twinkle of hope in his eye. “Don’t you?” He put on his hat and rested both of his hands on the edge of the bar as he looked at me, waiting for me to agree.

“I think today just might be your lucky day, Mr. De La Rue,” I encouraged him, polishing the shot glass I had poured Drunk Harold’s Jameson in twenty minutes before.

“I think you’re right,” he winked at me. “I’ll be seein’ you, Miss Bellamy.” And he walked out of the bar.

I got home late into the afternoon. It smelled like something was burning and the house was beginning to fill with smoke. I rushed inside yelling for my roommate, “Memphis? Memphis!” I rushed to turn off the oven and pull out the black, circular brick that was supposed to be a pie. The smoke detector started screaming at me so I grabbed a pillow off the couch and waved it angrily back and forth back at it. After a couple of minutes, the smoke detector stopped and I heard the sliding back door open.

“Oh gosh!” Memphis exclaimed. She walked into the kitchen to see me holding the pillow and giving her the same look that I usually gave her when she did something like this. “Now Bella,” she started.

“It’s fine. Just be more careful next time, will ya?” She was lucky I was in such a good mood again today.

“Oh, I don’t know what I would do without you,” she gushed before turning her attention to her crispy failure sitting on the stove and whined. “Now I’m gonna have to stop on the way to work tomorrow and pick up a pie or somethin’ for Duke.” Then she blushed and rocked her crossed arms side to side, grinning like Drunk Harold after I poured him his drinks. “He changed my tire for me today.”

“Oh, good grief!” I rolled my eyes and grabbed a cheap bottle of chardonnay and two glasses. I was a little more than exhausted of hearing stories about Duke. He was a nice enough guy but I couldn’t help but to think that he needed to grow a pair and ask Memphis out already.

We sat on our old thrift store wicker porch furniture out back and drank our wine. “You seem happy today,” she pointed out, “again.” She looked down into her glass as she took a sip.

“Yeah, I guess I am.” I was hoping she’d leave it at that. I just didn’t want to have to explain myself. I didn’t even know this guy’s first name and I was never that kind of girl. Plus, Mr. De La Rue was just a flirt and that was all there was to it.

“You met a guy,” Memphis pushed.

“No... I mean yes and no,” I prematurely defended myself.

She pulled her legs up under her and sat up, ready for me to tell her something amazing, with both of her hands cupping her almost empty glass.

“It’s not that big a deal, okay?” I grabbed the bottle and filled her glass before topping mine off. “There’s this guy that comes into work.”

“I knew it!” she squealed.

“It’s not like that,” I sat the bottle back down on our little table. I felt the edges of my mouth start to curl up so I forced them back down. “He just comes into the bar and he talks to me for a couple hours.”

“What’s he talk to you about?” she pushed her blonde hair behind her ears and her many, many rings shimmered in the setting sunlight.

“I don’t know. Different things. He mostly tells me stories.” I said, chugging down a big gulp of my wine, immediately regretting the way that I’d said that.

“Stories?” I felt her interest shift.

“Yeah, he tells stories and, I don’t know. He just makes my job a little less dull, that’s all.” I started to feel self-conscious. “Whatever, you burned a pie today.”

The next day before I got into work, I gave myself the same pep talk, but after that, I wondered what kind of story Mr. De La Rue was going to have for me. I had just stuck a lemon in the juicer and pushed down with both hands and all my might when he busted through the door.

“Miss Bellamy!” His voice rang out, scaring the bejeezus out of me, lemon juice squirting all over my shirt, apron, and arms. “Good Morning.” He had on his lavender bowtie today and a smile bigger than Memphis’s when she sees a cat doing something funny on YouTube.

“Good morning to you Mr. De La Rue,” I dried my hands and poured him his coffee. “You seem well,” I understated.

“Oh I don’t need that today, doll. And thank you. I am quite well.” He stood at the bar, not removing his hat or sitting down on the stool.

I stopped and looked at him, waiting for some sort of explanation. “And that would be because?” I waved my hands around, one still holding the half-filled cup and the other with the pot.

“I did it,” he whispered, his eyes bright and his smile beaming.

“You did … what? You... fixed your thing?” I knew he was trying to work on something but I didn’t know anything about what it was. Did this mean that he was leaving town? Now that he was done with ... whatever it was he was doing?

“Yes,” he could hardly contain his excitement. “Now let’s go.”

“Go? What?” I stammered and set the coffee stuff on top of the bar.

He didn’t actually expect me to go with him, I was sure. I thought it was just something he was saying to the small-town, bartender girl. “I can’t actually go with you. I don’t know you. And I have a job. And an apartment. And a Memphis.”

My eyes looked into his for some sort of sanity, or maybe, safety. Of course, I wanted to leave but I couldn’t just leave my responsibilities for some suspenders and a bowtie.

“Of course you can,” his excitement faded into disappointment. He took a deep breath and said, “Why don’t you just take the day to think about it. If you change your mind, meet me here.”

He leaned over the bar and grabbed my pen and pad out of my apron, the back of his hands grazing my softer-than-I’d-like belly,  scribbled an address down, and set it on the bar. He smiled at me one more time, said “I’ll be seein’ you, Miss Bellamy,” and left.

Hours went by and I couldn’t get it out of my head. It was crazy and I knew that it was crazy. That was the way that people went missing and Ted Bundy was a super nice guy when he first met girls, too. People can be deceiving, I knew that. But I was sure that he wasn’t like that. He was amazing, I just knew it. I argued with myself for the rest of the day. Or maybe I was trying to talk myself out of it.

I got home and packed a couple of bags. I grabbed the hidden stashes of cash that I’d been hoarding as my ‘savings account’ and I split it into two equal groups. The first group was for my purse to take with me and the second was for Memphis. I sat down and wrote her a note, explaining what I could and apologizing for what I couldn’t. I told her to take care of herself and to not burn the place down. I told her that she’d never know how much I was going to miss her. I told her that she was the family that I hadn’t had in so long and that I would never forget that. And then I told her that this was something I had to do.

I wiped the tear from my eye and put the letter on top of the cash by the refrigerator, picked up my bags, and opened the door, turning to give my home one last look before leaving it behind.

“I’ll be back before I know it,” I lied to myself. I shut the door, locked it, and took a deep breath, fighting back the tears. I made it to the sidewalk, said, “What am I doing?” and turned back around.

I pulled my keys back out and put them to the doorknob and then I froze. No, I thought, I got to get out of here. I set my bags down and put one hand on the door. I looked it up and down a few times. I let just a few tears escape my eyes and run down my cheeks, feeling my throat close up, and then I wiped them away. Why is this so hard? I thought as I cried. I grabbed my bags and got on with my future. Or my death. I mean I’d been wrong about people before.

The sun was just beginning to set, leaving the sky all purple and orange and pink when my phone let me know that I had arrived at my destination. It wasn’t far. I had only been walking for 30 minutes. I looked up saw him sitting on a bench a few yards away. He saw me walking closer and jumped up, throwing the book he was reading on the bench. 

He ran up to me and embraced me in the warmest hug. “I knew you’d come with me. And you won’t regret it, either.”

“Look, I just need to say this before this goes any further,” I took a deep breath and watched his eyes fill with concern. “If you’re going to kill me or hurt me in any way, there are people out there who will find you, skin you, and burn you alive, do you understand?” This, of course, was not true but saying it made me feel better.

“I would never, ever hurt you,” he looked deep into my eyes. “I’m not a violent guy, really.”

He broke his gaze, took my heavier bag from me, and threw it over his shoulder. He put both of his hands in his pockets and began walking. I followed.

“I’ve just been stuck in a place that I didn’t belong for over a month. You seem like you’ve felt stuck for much longer. I thought you’d like to come with me and I’m glad I was right.” He looked down at me from the corner of his eye and smiled. Then he took one hand out of his pocket and held mine.

“Are we walking out of this town?” I didn’t see a car anywhere.

He chuckled. “Of course not, doll. My wheels are just around the corner.”

“Do I have to keep calling you Mr. De La Rue or do you have a first name?”

“Well how about that? I’ve seen you nearly every day and I never told you my name. Come to mention it, doll, I don’t believe that I’ve learned yours either.”

“I asked you first, doll,” I mocked him.

“Fair enough. My name is Charles De La Rue, but you may call me Charlie if you’d like.”

“Okay, Chuck. My name is Sophia Bellamy, but my friends call me Bella.”

“Aces, Sophie!”

Just as I was about to chastise him, an old train car came into view, all beaten up and not attached to anything. It was just sitting there.

“There she is,” he said proudly. “Now I know what you’re thinking but just give her a chance. She’s more beautiful on the-”

“You are going to kill me.” I let his hand go and began walking backward, allowing fear to take over.

“No, Miss. Bellamy. You just have to look inside. You’ll see what I’m saying.” He insisted. Then he set my bag down and took both of my hands into his and looked me in the eye. “Sophie, doll, Miss Bellamy. I’m not going to hurt you, nor would I ever. If you just look inside, you’ll understand,” he pleaded. “Just go look, okay? And if you decide that you don’t want to come along then you can go home and I won’t try and stop you. Just one look.”

I took my hands out of his and walked up to the train car. I slid the surprisingly heavy door open and peered inside. It was beautiful. There was a little table with a small vase containing one red rose. There were lights hanging from small nails along the tops of all four walls of the cab and there were two red vinyl-covered booths, one on each side. I turned to look at him, Charlie, Chuck, my Mr. De La Rue.

“What is this?”

He took a deep breath and walked closer to me. “I really did almost fight Joe DiMaggio.”

“You said you did fight him and that you won,” I teased, stepping away from the train car and folding my arms.

“Yeah, I fibbed but on the chance that you meet him when we get back, you should know the truth,” he leaned one hand on the train car, and his muscular torso curved under his white button-down.

“Meet him? Get back?” I put my hands on the sides of my face and took a step away from him. “You’re not a murderer. You’re insane,” I laughed at how ridiculous I had been. A guy’s good looking so he must be normal, huh? I questioned my judgment.

“Just get in,” he sighed. 

I stepped into the cab and sat down on one of the booths, giggling at the absurdity of the entire situation. He stepped in after me, setting my bags down on the floor and sliding the door closed behind him.

“Are you ready?” he asked.

“You betcha,” I remarked sarcastically, trying to figure out how I was going to explain myself to Memphis when I got home, hoping that she hadn’t seen the note yet. How embarrassing!

He took his fist and hit the front wall of the car three times. The lights flickered and it sounded like a motor had started. My heart stopped. I grabbed ahold of the booth with both hands tightly as I felt the cab begin to move. “Now what is this? What’s going on?”

“You can still get out now if you want. But you have to decide quickly.”

I looked at him and he looked at me. I wanted an adventure. And it looked like I was about to get one.

“No,” I exhaled. “I want to come with you.” I had accepted my fate, whatever it might be. 

“Then hold on.”

Just like that the car took off and we both fell backward out of our seats. My shoulder fell hard against the floor of the train car. This lasted about 45 seconds and then the car came to a screeching halt, throwing me back the other way. I sat there, my hair all over the place, trying to breathe, trying to get a grip. The vase was still sitting on the table with the rose in it, petals all completely intact. I jumped up and picked up the vase. It wasn’t attached or anything. Why hadn’t it gone flying with us? I turned to look at Chuck, all of the blood drained from my face, my eyes wide with confusion and a touch of horror. My stomach felt like it was about to fall out of my butt and my palms tickled with sweat.

He was just watching me. I couldn’t tell if he was trying to think of something to say or if he was afraid of what I was going to say.

“How?” I held the vase up in the air, waving it right in his face. “How?!” I demanded.

“I haven’t any idea,” He held his arms out to grab me, to try and get me to calm down.

I pulled myself away from his reach.“This can’t happen. This doesn’t make any sense! This vase wasn’t attached to anything? How did it not move?!” I slammed the vase back down on the table. “This train car wasn’t attached to anything! How?” I looked back at him, my body trying to decide whether to cry, laugh, or pass out.

“Sophie, I don’t know how it works,” he started, plopping down on his booth, resting his hands on the table. “I just know that I was in this train car on my way home one night. I had been drinking and I was angry about something,” he stopped and looked around for a second. “I hit the car a few times and the lights flickered and the car jumped forward,” his eyes were focused on the plain, white table. Then he looked up, “I shouldn’t have brought you here. I’m so sorry.”

We were silent for just under ten minutes, not looking at one another, both thinking that we had made mistakes. I walked over and sat next to him on the booth and took one of his hands in both of mine.

“You saved me from a lifetime of boredom,” I began, laughing a little bit through a couple of tears that I couldn’t fight back. “I had no way out and I may not know where I’m going or where I am right now, but I’m not there and that’s something,” his eyes met mine. “This is okay.”

He looked up at me and grinned slightly. “I can make it up to you. And we can go back whenever you want.”

“Do you really know Mickey Rooney?” I tried to lighten the tension.

“Yes, but you’re never going to meet him. The man is trouble.” We got up off of the booth and picked up our stuff. We took a deep breath and he opened the door. “Oh no...” His face fell.

“What?” I panicked.

“This isn’t 1938....” His brows were pulled in together.

I swallowed loudly. “You mean-?”

“I don’t know when we are.”