July 3, 2010


This story was written by IO and myself on the train.  Inspired by a real person's name but not by real events.

Violette sat on the train. Her hat was purple, her shoes were red, and her cardigan was snowy and soft as goosedown.  The man behind her thought she smelled like gardenias (he was wrong, it was freesias).

She stood up to stretch for a few minutes before her stop when a cramp behind her knee collpased her back into her seat. She fanned her brow, where a thin sweat had broken out in response to the pain.

The man sitting behind her peered over the top of his Russian novel with an interested eyebrow. He was wearing a fedora flat on his head, but this did not detract from his devilish attractiveness. He did not have a goatee, but rather a pleasantly scruffy five o'clock shadow.

Violette gripped the seat and forced herself to stand again. She reached overhead for her pink giraffe-print suitcase but it slid just beyond er fingertips.

Ted cocked his eyebrow higher and put down the Dostoyevsky. He rose with a pewter, panther-like grace. Quickly he extended his arm and looped two fingers through the handle. He pulled it toward him and gently eased it over the luggage rack railing, setting it beside Violette.

Flustered, she raised her eyes to his face with it's sharp, masculine lines and strong features. She murmured a "thank you" and looked away shyly, like her namesake. Ted smiled faintly and sat down, his eyes never leaving her as she left the train.

One stop later, he too got up to leave, pulling his fedora low over his eyes. Hands in his pockets, he set off into the tarnishing gold of the evening with a spring in his step.
Violette ran her hand through her hair. It was the color most often referred to as mouse-brown, subtly imparting a meek, scurrying nature to it's owner. When she thought about it at all, which was rare, she told herself it was latte-colored, which sounded sophisticated and delicious. She shrugged out of her cardigan and draped it over a chair, pulling a bottle of Pinot grigio from the fridge and grabbing a glass before heading upstairs. While the bathtub filled, she uncorked the wine and let it flow nearly to the brim beforeshe tilted the bottle back to vertical.

She sank into the tub and felt the warmth seep into her muscles. The wine and the bath put her gently into a meditative calm that deepened into the breathing patterns of sleep.

The steam curled into the air and condensed against the October-cooled window. Ted cursed silently. He could only barely make out the piled-up hair on top of Violette's head, it's loose tendrils snaking down against her nape. He pushed against the brick toe-hold and inched higher, focusing completely on the bathing woman's motionless form.

Ted's fingers gripped the ledge as he lowered himself to the ground, only the barest twitch of sound hinting that his feet had settled onto the mulch of the planting bed. He drew in a breath and counted to twelve, then exhaled to twenty-four. His terapist had recommended breathing exercises to calm the voices in his head, after all the generic and name-brand and even experimental medicines had proven ineffective.

Ted blinked. He saw before him Violette's back door, a flimsy screen and sliding affair that was easily pried open. He saw himself from above as he slipped through the kitchen and living room and eased noiselessly up the stairs.

On the fourth stair from the top, the wood step moaned, a baritone giving way to a creak with his weight. He paused. There was not a single sound in the house above the distant throb of the refrigerator down below.

Violette's eyes flew open. She was still in the tub. She closed them again and relaxed her neck against the back of the tub.

A rough hand covered her mouth. Her eyes burst open and she saw a man who looked faintly familiar standing over her. She pushed at his arm but he was strong as his hands forced her shoulders down into the steamy water, covering her head so that when she blinked wildly she looked like a fish. She thrashed for a few minutes but her movements stopped as her eyes closed, defeated. She did not see the tears drip off of Ted's chin onto the surface of the bath, his mouth moving in an "I'm sorry" as he held her there.

Adventures on Trains

I have now spent nearly twenty-four hours of this week on (various) trains.

Tuesday, I got up early to take two trains to Chicago.  The Missouri River Runner* got me to STL, where I got to switch trains and stretch, and walk around Union Station for a bit in a two-hour layover.  The Lincoln service took me up to Chicago, and after thirteen hours of traveling I finally was done with being on trains.  CB, her dad, and IO picked me up and we went back to CB's house.

Then, it was s'mores!  C's dad made a fire in this weird, grate-tent fire pit thing on their patio and we roasted CB's homemade marshmallows (because she's that cool.  She makes her own marshmallows.  The peppermint ones are awesome in hot chocolate!).  We also drank cherry wine and threw things like grapes and cherry pits and pennies into the fire.  "We're doing science!"

We all slept in, IO and I sharing the guest bed, which was ocean-sized. (I mean, king sized.  There would have been room for at least an army of other people in that bed!)  We took the commuter train into the city and wandered around Lincoln Park.  CB had found a cute cupcake shop she wanted to go to, so we went and had outrageous cupcakes (peach cobbler; some kind of peanut butter-chocolate contraption; chocolate mint).  Our next destination was a tropical flower exhibit but on the way, we were sidetracked by "Pocket Puppies Boutique," a store that not only sold adorably tiny dog outfits but also adorably tiny puppies.  We sat and held a yorkie puppy for about twenty minutes before we knew we had to leave, or we would be lost causes.

CB's dad cooked us an amazing dinner, grilled scallions and asparagus, salmon and this delicious mushroom appetizer:

1) grill 1 to 1 1/2 in. slices of bread.  Also grill several types of mushrooms, like oyster, shiitake, and portobello, lightly oiled and salt-and-peppered.

2) lightly scrub a raw clove of garlic onto the bread.  Brush with oil.  Top with mushrooms of your choice.  Consume as much as desired.

Then, we girls went to see Eclipse.  This was terrible.  Actually, no, it wasn't.  What was terrible was that we all had the intention of going in to make scathing remarks at the corniness of it all (the way we enjoyed the first two).  But this one was different, they've switched directors and it actually was believable (all but two or three scenes, which is pretty good for Twilight!).  I think CB and IO remained a little more skeptical, but I have to be honest and admit that I was grinning absurdly with delight for most of the movie.

Thursday, we ventured into the city by car to have brunch.  RB joined us after getting her fingerprints taken at a gun shop, all part of her pre-UIC enrollment chores.  We wandered around and went to this used-book store where the books went floor to ceiling and the aisles were so close you couldn't really pass someone, you just had to move around like those little tiled puzzles where one's missing and you have to unscramble it into a picture.  I found a book of argot (French slang) and dirty words called "Merde!" that had to come home with me.  CB found a book from the late 1890s called The Sky Pilot, complete with an inscription "to uncle Kurt, wishing him a Merry Christmas from , 1905."

Then it was a parting of the ways, as RB went one direction and the rest of us went to Union Station.  IO and I caught the train back to STL but not before I sent a postcard and we had smoothies.

The train to STL was by far the best leg of the trip.  We each made up a tiny scavenger hunt for the other and took turns going up and down the train, surreptitiously studying people's shoes and luggage for specific items. The conductor called one of the passengers down to give her some message; her name was Summer Violet.  We thought it might have been a joke, but she was a real person.  We were inspired to write a story about her on the nice, almost-cottony snack-car napkin and we left it in the seat pouch for someone else to find.

In STL, we took the metro to the CWE and I got to see IO's apartment.  Verdict: really cute! and conveniently located.  We put our luggage down and walked to Schnucks, even though it was almost midnight, for provisions.  IO had literally been out of the country for the last three weeks, so there wasn't much to eat if we didn't go to get something.  We got some basics but especially some ramen noodles, a late night staple.

In the morning, we slept in and then went to lunch at India's Rasoi (soooooooo delicious), then just digested back at her apartment while we watched Bones episodes, our favorite pasttime.  She took the metro with me to the Amtrak station and waited til I boarded.

The River Runner back to KC was awful.  Not inherently, but by virtue of being hours 18-24 of my week that were being spent on a train.  I couldn't get comfortable; there were tiny kids having high-pitched conversations that, while cute, also involved kicking my seat almost continuously.  I ended up giving up my book for a book-on-podcast while I knit, which was soothing (as something to do) and mind-consuming at the same time.

The requisite embarrassing episode was when I stood up to get my knitting from my bag overhead.  I hadn't been paying attention and somehow my arm swept outward and struck the bottom of a girl's cardboard tray she was carrying from the snack car back to her seat.  Suddenly, ice was everywhere and I was convinced I'd just scared the girl out of her wits.  Who am I kidding?  I scared myself out of my wits.  She went back for more ice while I tried to salvage my dignity by picking up the ice cubes all over the aisle.

Mom and Ben were there to pick me up, Ben having driven my new car (oh, the agony in that decision! Ultimately, it was the goal of getting to drive myself home in my car that made me let him drive it).  Mom was definitely back to her old self: critical of anything and everything, particularly my driving (some things never change).  Ben seemed in a surprisingly good mood, so things must have gone well in my absence.

Back home, safe and sound.  We even have 4th of July plans: a patriotic celebration of the 2nd amendment in the form of target practice at the shooting range where my uncle works.  Should be fun: crack shot-ery runs in my family (seriously).

*Side note: The River Runner is the name of the KC-STL trains but I'm pretty sure this is a new development.  Freshman year, when I took the train home for winter break, the same itinerary went by the name Missouri Mule**.  I think this is part of Missouri's plan to encourage Amtrak usage instead of taking the highway.  On the other hand, both times on the River Runner it felt fast, because we got in five or ten minutes earlier than scheduled.
**Further side note:  This isn't as insulting as it sounds.  The mule is the Missouri state animal, I'm pretty sure.  Tells you a lot about us, doesn't it?  Along with our nickname, the "Show Me" state: we're stubborn as hell and are going to insist on seeing convincing evidence before we believe you.  Sorry for copying pyjeon's use of footnotes.