Trains, Dates and Automobiles
(Parliamentary Trains Passes 7,500 Words)

Room to Swing

The photo on the right is entitled “Room to Swing” by MrPessimist. It is used in accordance with his Creative Commons license.

I’m knee deep in two major writing gigs at the moment, and they’ll keep me pretty occupied between now and the end of September. As a result, a lot of other things are on the back burner, including this blog, and my work in progress, Parliamentary Trains. However, things still simmer on the back burner. Today, after getting a fair amount of work done on paying gig number one, I decided to take a break this evening and work a bit on my story.

I’m still very much in the exploratory stage of writing, here. I’m feeling my way around the characters and the setting, and I suspect that the side-effect of this is to make me very, very wordy. Still, even though this piece below is basically a first draft, I’m pleased at how Victoria and Barry’s characters are shown and their relationship is introduced. I think I also have some good images here, even if nothing much happens.

Either way, I hope you enjoy it. It takes place next morning after this scene.

Victoria’s eyes fluttered open and she looked around at her bedroom, wondering what it was that was different about this morning. Though everything was familiar, something wasn’t quite right.

It took her a moment to realize the room was brighter than it should have been. The sun glowing through the gaps around the window shade lit the room as effectively as her bedside light. A glance at her clock radio confirmed it: she’d overslept.

The rush of panic stopped only when she realized that today was Saturday. And, yes, of course she’d sleep in. She hadn’t gotten to bed until two last night. And after how well yesterday had gone, why shouldn’t she reward herself with a bit of a sleep-in?

As she settled back on her pillow, she thought that, of course, that brief rush of adrenaline meant that she was well and truly awake, and there was no point in sleeping in further.

She sighed. Then she reached to her bedside table and grabbed her cellphone. Peering close at the display, she punched in the numbers, and held the device to her ear.

“Hey, Bethany,” said Victoria when the other end of the line picked up. “Yeah, I didn’t stay overnight. Caught the last train home.” She shrugged. “I just wanted to sleep in my own bed, that’s all. I wanted to ask: how did the date with Baz go?”

There was a gabble at the other end of the line. Victoria blinked.

“Sorry, he did what?!” She sat up. “He talked about that all night?!” She ran her hand through her bed-matted hair. “Oh, dear.”

The phone gabbled again. “Well, yeah, he likes trains. I knew that.” She jerked up at Bethany’s response. “Why should I have warned you about that? It’s not like that sort of interest disqualifies him?”

More angry squawks.

“Well, I disagree,” Victoria snapped.

She had to pull the phone away from her ear from a stream of angry words.

“Look, he really is a charming guy when you get to know him,” she said, cutting in. There was another gabble. “Well, Bethany, that’s not exactly fair.” She bit her lip in frustration, then she shouted. “Look, if you don’t want to know the history of the Canadian Pacific, that’s your loss. I hope it’s on one of your exams someday, and then you’ll be sorry!”

She jammed the disconnect button then clenched the phone in her fist. She sat on her bed a moment, nested in her covers, her head in her hands. She sighed again. “Baz.” Finally she took a deep breath. “Time to start the day.”

She cast the covers aside and hopped out of bed. She combed her hair in front of a mirror and pulled it back into a ponytail. Pulling off her night shirt, she stepped over last night’s skirt and blouse — lying in a small heap on the floor quickly joined by the night shirt — and sorted through the clothes in her closet. She finally settled on a green cardigan worn over a white t-shirt atop a pair of faded jeans. A quick glance at the mirror to brush aside an errant lock of hair, and she pulled open her bedroom door and dashed down the stairs to the kitchen.

There, she met her mother, who was tidying away all but one set of dishes. “Hello, Victoria!” She pulled over a box of cereal. “I have cereal here for you, but if you want I can get some sausages from the freezer.”

“Thanks, Mom!” Victoria gave her mother a kiss on the cheek and then poured herself a bowl of cereal. “I can’t stay long, I’m afraid.”

Her mother’s brow furrowed with disappointment. “More work? Is that why you came home early instead of spending the night on the town? I was hoping to hear all about it!”

“Not that.” Victoria swallowed and continued. “It’s an emergency. Baz had a date last night.”

Her mother straightened up. “Oh.” She sighed and put the remaining dishes in the sink. “Oh, dear, the poor boy.”

Victoria tipped up the bowl and gulped down the last swallow of milk. “I guess it’s my fault. I did set it up.”

“You’re too hard on yourself, dear,” said her Mom. “You did fine work getting a date for that boy. What happened next was entirely up to him.” She turned on the water. “Though maybe he could do with some coaching.”

Victoria made a face. “I don’t think I’d be much help there, Mom.”

“You taught him how to climb a tree.”

“Dating’s different.”

“If you say so, dear.”

Victoria rolled her eyes, and she gave her Mom another kiss on the cheek. “I gotta go. I’ll be back soon.” She darted out the kitchen door.

“I’m proud of you, dear,” her mother called after her.

Victoria paused while pulling on a coat. She grinned. Then she ran outside.

She went to the house next door and rang the doorbell. She peered in the windows while she waited, and rang the doorbell once more, then backed up. That’s when she noticed there was no car in the driveway. She sighed and ran down the front walkway and along the street. Traffic was light. She could hear the birds twittering. The wind blow the leaves into a rush like surf. Brown and crackling leaves brushed by her feet as she made for the church two blocks away. She darted up the front steps and pulled open the double doors.

An elderly woman was inside, arranging the flowers by the alter. “Mrs. Finch?” Victoria called.

The woman turned around. Her eyes brightened. “Victoria!”

“Is Reverend Cooper in?”

“Why, yes, in the Parish Hall. Shall I get him—”

“What about Baz— I mean, Barry.”

Mrs. Finch frowned. “No, dear. His son wasn’t with him. Is something wrong?”

“Nope,” Victoria called back, already backing away. “Just going to find him. Gotta go.”

The heavy doors slammed behind her as she stepped down to the street. Home and Church eliminated, she thought. That left one place to go.

She crossed the street to the park, her gaze focused on the swing set in the far corner. Sure enough, a figure sat hunched up on one of the swings.

“Hey, Baz,” she said, when she got close enough.

Barry Cooper looked up. He gave her a flicker of a smile, then returned to his examination of the sandy ground. “Hey, Vic.”

The chains squeaked as Victoria sat on the swing next to him and rocked it back and forth. They sat in silence. Victoria watched the traffic passing on the street before she finally said, “So, I talked to Bethany.”

“Oh?” said Barry.

“She told me about last night.”


“What were you thinking?”

“That cross-country rail travel is romantic,” said Barry. His voice was strained, as though it were an effort to say this. “It says so in their advertising!”

Victoria put her head in her hands. “Baz, Baz, what am I going to do with you?”

He leaned against the chain of his swing. “I know.”

“I’m a politics geek, Baz, and I know it,” said Victoria. “But I get dates because I know there are other languages out there that people speak. That’s why I follow the sports pages. They’ve helped me a lot in talking to my dates.”

“No, Victoria. There are other reasons why you get dates.”

She slugged his shoulder.

“Ow,” he said.

She shook out her hand. “The point is, you’ve got to listen to other person; you’ve got to talk about what they want to talk about, and not go off on your rambles.”

“But what they want to talk about is boring,” Barry mumbled.

“You have to get through the boring stuff before you get to the exciting stuff.”

He scratched his head. “Well, I never get that far. I just don’t know what to talk about. And it’s not going to get any easier. This is, what, the third date you set up for me? I’m starting to get a reputation.”

She frowned at him. “You’re not getting a reputation.”

“Yes, I am,” said Barry. “Look at you: you can get dates just by asking someone. I need a conspiracy the size of Roswell!”

“Aliens are not better than trains, Baz.”

“You know what I mean.” He hunched forward again. “I know what strings you had to pull to get Bethany to give me the time of day. I’m a charity case.”

She slapped the back of his head. “You are not a charity case,” she snapped. Then she patted him on his back. “You’re my friend. And I want you to be happy.”

He glanced at her. His smile lasted longer and was warmer.

“Though maybe we’ll lay off the dates for a while.”

He laughed.

Victoria gripped the chains of her swing and kicked out. Soon, she was arching through the air, the wind whipping her hair. Barry watched her a moment, then kicked out himself, and swung beside her.

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