by Brett Beach
The last train had left the station. Richard watched his breath splayed out across the window, the fog obscuring the faces of those remaining on the platform.
Beside him, Caroline spoke idly of the hotel. She considered aloud the number of towels the staff might lay out, the proper amount to tip the bellhop. Though, she reconsidered this a moment later and said, "Oh, no bother. I would think you know about all that."
Her collar skimmed the back of her neck, following the curve of her jaw. The two ends of the fabric sloped, tucking behind a pearl clasp at the hollow of her throat. The dress, trimmed with lace, seemed too sophisticated on Caroline, like a child playing dress up.
But after some consideration Caroline declared the dress sensible, and was glad she had changed into it after the ceremony. "There was a chill, I think. If we had stayed out much longer, I would have had to borrow your jacket." She pressed her lips together and laughed. Her hands were folded into her lap, obedient.
They had greeted their guests outside, just beyond the church steps. Caroline looped her arm with Richard's and agreed time and again, "We are happy." Turning to look past the tight sweep of her hair, Richard noticed a sprout of weeds growing against the corner of the church, where the clapboard had faded and the paint chipped.
When Caroline leaned forward his arm rose slightly and he had drawn his attention back. Nora stood just beyond them, her smile lopsided. She stepped forward to kiss his cheek and blinked twice, rapidly, resting her hand on his, her bare fingers pressing just slightly against his skin.
Alongside the track, hills now rose beyond fields of wheat, everything glowing silver under a robust moon. The porter moved steadily down the center of the aisle, offering tea. Richard steadied Caroline's cup against the saucer as the man poured, then waved him away, his own cup turned upside down.
The train jerked and Caroline cried out, rivulets of amber liquid staining the intricate latticework of black and gold, the bone-colored china. "Oh," she said, after a moment. "Well. I'm all right." The tea gathered in the saucer, each movement of the train swirling it close to the edge. She held her hand out, examining her freshly pink skin for a moment before allowing her fingers to wilt back into her lap.
Now the fields had been left behind and the trees grew thicker, the uncertain light allowing the thrushes of leaves to hint at the colors they would soon become. The train pushed forward still, and the darkness of a tunnel unraveled by increments down the aisle, cloaking seat after seat. Caroline sighed.
In the dark, her fingers slid across the top of Richard's wrist, folding into the curve of his palm as if they had always belonged there.
About the author:
Brett Beach is currently a senior at Wright State University in Ohio.