“THINKING OUT LOUD” – chapter 1 – ROAD HOME

Size: 12 pages / 3.2 K words

I’m happy to show the first chapter of the book i’m writing. It’s been written and rewritten but so far this is it. Please leave your critique and comments – they’re very much appreciated.

 ~ ~ ~

Rain. Love it. Love the rain.

Glowing drops. Love them.

How beautifully they glide down the window.

Wet forest. Want to go there.

This kind of phrases should have been going through Lillian’s head, but they weren’t. They were existing there, more even living there, living with a certainty of children who consider their parents’ house to be their own. It’s a place of mine, can it be otherwise? Right now thoughts were not on a walk, no – they were inside, hiding behind the window. Normally sitting deep in the living room, softly reading a randomly picked book, now they decided to come up to the window – something has probably caught their interest. Ah, the rain. As usual. Passers-by could now see them and started to bluntly stare at the thoughts who carelessly gave away their presence. Embarrassed by the gazing, the thoughts quickly hid back in the depth of the living room.

Lillian lost her mood. Her eyes stopped being focused on something beyond the window and switched to the actual window that was severely suffering from hard rain drops.

Dirty window? What is IT doing here? I wish it’d be gone. Be gone! Be gone!

Well, yeah, right, dream on. When instead of enjoying the nature her brain focused on the window, the conscious refused to be content with it and chose to switch onto contemplation of the train compartment.

Wonder what a puppy feels when it travels from a pet shop or such in a carton box with some holes for breathing?

Claustrophobia got all of Lillian for 5 seconds, but after talking herself into the idea that it’s just a temporary inconvenience, she decided to look more carefully at her traveling companions.

Indeed four people for such a small place… it’s too much.

In front of her seat – a young boy about 15, looking kind of tired and in a way… nerdy. He was sitting with a book high up to his face, but his posture seemed with it so natural as if he was made for reading books. Lillian was having her doubts that he was reading since in the last half an hour she couldn’t recall hearing a sound of a turned page. A thick fringe was covering his forehead and eyes but no way he could be sleeping when sitting like that. Most probably he was far away from here thinking about stuff of his. Wonderful! Lillian excluded him.

On the upper shelf – the sleeping place right above the boy – was boy’s father, snoring rhythmically but not very loud, god blesses him. This man was a typical lout – a kind of man one tries to avoid interacting with. Lillian bumped into him when entering their compartment and was slapped by a strong beer smell coming as if from the man’s very own skin. She assumed she didn’t owe an apology since she got this moral trauma as well. After everybody finished introducing themselves briefly and politely to each other, that man climbed right away up to the top shelf to sleep. Since he was quite a massive guy, lying on the shelf above the young boy he was creating a visual threat. Fragile looking boy looked nothing like his dad, but she couldn’t complain for that definitely. His dad was reminding of his presence only with low snoring and some weird hoarse sounds. Lillian was thinking he’s dreaming of something bad, and… well… hoping for that. But he was sleeping, and she was thankful for that. Lillian excluded him too.

From the shelf right above her, when rain wasn’t hitting the window so strongly and the man wasn’t snoring so loud, it was possible to hear soft breathing of her companion – Lisa, a friend of Lillian’s family, her former family. Even though technically Lillian was for quite some time out of age when she need another person to supervise her on the road, parents preferred to have somebody with her on the route “mom’s city – dad’s city”. Their main argumentation was that Lillian won’t get bored on the way, between the lines saying that long traveling can be dangerous for a young lady. Lillian was never a person who would get bored by being alone and people who inadequately percept alone girls were carefully staying out of her way, but agreeing was still the easiest way of communication with parents as long as her own  interests were out of reach. Most of the times Lillian’s “bodyguard” was their common friend Lisa. They had some age gap, interests gap… and many other gaps that were killing any of their conversations after first 15 minutes. This time a polite 5 minutes chit-chat was followed by getting on separate shelves. Lisa took some magazine with herself to the upper shelf and ever since the heavy rain started Lillian forgot about her. Probably the rainy sleepy mood was a plague that day. And so she was sleeping. Exactly what Lillian needed! She excluded Lisa too.

Taking down one by one people in the train compartment Lillian felt free. A small room seemed right away cozier and nicer. Lillian adored the times when everybody else was sleeping, this is probably why she liked the nights so much. Those who sleep are not exactly here, they’re far away, and so – she was alone there. How can anybody consider solitude something of a burden? In Lillian’s eyes a solitude, at least physical, was a synonym of a freedom.

She stretched out on her lower shelf-seat. Putting there some bed sheets and creating a fake idea of sleeping at home seemed meaningless. So she just lay down on maroon colored leather-like shelf that was just yelling out its un-ecofriendly origin, and pressed her head against cold wood pattern styled plastic of the wall. Soft shaking of the train, rhythmical snoring and breathing, sound of a rain – all this together was mixing a somniferous cocktail, and Lillian quickly hit a state of total anabiosis.

~ ~ ~

Lillian didn’t know how long she was lying there like that, and maybe was even falling in sleep from time to time. Her mobile phone got her out of that stupor – vibration call in Lillian’s pocket felt as an electroshock. Jumping half way up and almost hitting an upper shelf with her head, she spent few seconds trying to remember where she was at all. Since Lillian fell asleep there happened just one change – the young boy in front of her prepared his sleeping place on his shelf and was now dreaming, turned with his back to Lillian.

She glanced quickly at the phone: “Sett”. No way she would be talking to him from this compartment. After pulling sneakers half way on, Lillian slipped into the corridor trying not to trip over her shoelaces and not to make much noise, quietly closing the door behind her. The corridor was empty, only through the glass door she could see a woman smoking in the place between two wagons.

“Pick up the damn phone finally!” – Lillian’s phone was yelling at her.

– Hello?

– Oh finally! – Lillian heard an exhalation of relief – apparently the owner of the voice was agreeing with her phone.

– Sorry, I simply fell asleep. Didn’t hear you calling. – She said apologizing.

– Oh, I woke you up… Sorry. I just thought… you don’t normally sleep at this hour.

– Everybody’s sleeping here because of the weather. It’s silent as at a cemetery and same level of cheerfulness I must say.

– Firstly, stop blaming weather about everything. Secondly, at 11 p.m. almost all normal people are sleeping.

Eleven… It seems I did fall asleep, – Lillian thought. Because of the dark rainy sky it felt like it was late even before, so the scenes behind the train window didn’t seem much different from the one she saw three hours ago.

– And thirdly? … – Lillian asked playfully, knowing the answer in advance.

– And thirdly I missed you. When should I be getting you from the train?

– Oh please no pick-ups. My mom will be meeting me at the train station anyway. I think I’ll go straight home to relax and then will call you in the evening, ok?

– Maybe we could better meet in the evening? Let’s visit our coffee place, but only if you’re the one ordering! – He said half-laughing.

~ ~ ~

Meeting at this coffee place was one of Sett’s favorite stories. Few months ago after the last college exam, tired and sleep deprived, Lillian was walking in the deserted street that theoretically was parallel to the central one only two blocks away. The desire to drink some tea was the only adequate thought in her head. Lillian didn’t want a cup of tea – in her imagination it looked more like a one litter bear cup from October festival filled with tea, which isn’t a normal thought in the middle of a hot cloudless July day. 2 stressful hours at exams and a couple of sleepless nights of preparation to it provoked Lillian to shiver from feeling cold inside. On top of that she was trying to pull the sleeves of an unfortunate light summer blouse lower to hide there her icy fingers. Lillian reasonably thought that she should go home, then make there some tea (at home one is not limited and can make a whole basin of tea) and go to bed immediately. She thought, and changed her mind. The house was far away and some café was two steps away. If only they wouldn’t use this cold air conditioning, – frantically flashed through Lillian’s head when she pushed the door in.

Inside the café it was warm because of the sun from street. Lillian took a table closer to the window to let sun participate in warming her up. There were almost no customers except for two guys in the opposite corner actively discussing something over a piece of paper constantly writing or drawing on it something extra and arguing more and more after each other’s turn.

After 5 minutes of waiting Lillian was already not just in a bad mood but openly annoyed. She marched to the bar counter.

– Are you closed now or something? – Lillian pushed the words through greeted teeth as nicely as she could.

– Em… no. I can take your order, – the girl behind a counter replied shyly.

– I’ll have a big cup of green tea with mint. – and then added, – Please.

– But… we don’t serve tea.

A storm of angry emotions started a dance on Lillian’s face. A bartender girl braced herself to reply:

– You see, it’s a coffee place, – she said with a voice as if apologizing for not being employed at an ordinary café. – But our coffee is the best you can get in the city. Would you like some?

– Yes, please. Could you make a Vienna coffee? – Lillian mumbled embarrassed for her rudeness and inattentiveness, and put the money on the counter.

It was impossible to ignore the coffee smell that the whole interior was soaked with. Something merry was present in this slightly syrupy atmosphere. Behind Lillian somebody chortled. She turned back sharply.

Few steps away a guy was standing with his arms crossed at this chest as if trying to hold the laugh back and stared directly in Lillian’s eyes. How impolite! – She thought staring disapproving back at him.

– Here’s your coffee! – The bartender girl breathed out relieved when Lillian turned to take her coffee and without any other communication left to her table.

Lillian quickly took first sip slightly burning her throat but feeling finally warm and more relaxed. As she put down the cup on the table and lifted her head, she saw in front of herself the same pair of still laughing eyes.

– Do you know that you occupied my favorite table? – was the first thing the impolite guy said to Lillian.

While she was thinking whether to tell him how lame his phrase was, Lillian noticed that his eyes were the same color as her stirred Vienna coffee. She lost a track of thought for a couple of seconds watching as coffee that was warming her was swimming in her cup and his eyes.

~ ~ ~

With her forehead pressed again the train window Lillian was thinking about that warm color.

– Hey, are you still here? – She heard Sett’s coffee voice from far away.

– Eh… yeah, yeah. Just got lost in thoughts. Of course we should go, but not tomorrow’s evening. I really missed… coffee.

How it was nice for her to hear his laughter again. Lillian felt like she was already home.

– Ok then, go to sleep already. And don’t forget to get into my dream!

– Yes, sir! – Lillian replied in style. – Requesting a permission to perform the order!

– Ok, ok. Good night, my sweet.

– Good night, – Lillian echoed and ended the call.

She didn’t think of anything else but going back to dream watching. Still feeling warm from the phone call, Lillian kept going through the memories related to Sett. She thought a bit surprised of how many nice moments she passed with him since they met. Lillian missed the moment when she passed the border between her thoughts and dreaming.

~ ~ ~

Lillian woke up a bit dizzy and sad of forgetting what a nice dream she was watching.

The air in the compartment was extremely stiff. Lillian thought that in her carrying box somebody forgot to make holes for breathing. At first she was trying to calm down and adapt to lung unfriendly environment, but then decided to stop with self-deception and rushed to the corridor of the train.

The air in the corridor was much fresher. Lillian decided not to close the door behind her to let some of it in the compartment as well. On the left from Lillian a man stood leaning on the railing under the window. His untidy hair consisted of small mohawks left from pillow and he was gazing still sleepily outside. It seems he didn’t even notice there appeared one more person in the train’s corridor. Squinting Lillian looked out of the window too.

So that’s it. Is this the end? – She thought to herself. – Apparently the train has crashed and we’re on our way to heaven now. Or maybe we will be all stuck here in this trainy limbo?

Nothing was visible behind the window but a white-milky cocktail of fog. It seemed it was already day time because this mass was a bit glowing. Lillian immediately imagined as she would be opening the window, making a movement in the air with her index finger outside a la “I have a magic wand” and fog would get stuck on the finger like cotton candy.

Am I so hungry? – Lillian thought vaguely.

She looked at her watches. 6.34 in the morning. It meant it wasn’t much left to go. Since Lillian didn’t want to go back to the compartment, she chose to hang out in the corridor for some time. She pulled the headphones out of the pocket and hit “Play” on her mp3.

From time to time other passengers would wake up and shake Lillian from her oblivion by passing by, loudly talking to each other or by making a zombie-like disco dancing stepping from one leg to another in the queue to the only working bathroom. In about an hour the concentration of people started to annoy Lillian and she preferred to come back into the compartment.

Inside nobody was still asleep, woken up by the noise outside, since Lillian didn’t close the door. Though everybody was lying on their shelves, enjoying that there was yet time to relax with no rush. Lillian decided to arrange her bed already in order not to leave this origami for later when all around is “What? We arrive in 10 minutes?”

Until the train reached the city Lillian wasn’t changing her shelter – sitting at her shelf with legs stretched out and looking out of the window. The sun was from the opposite side of the train, so she could see not the glowing fog but quite a normal one that was slowly disappearing anyway.

Inevitability is inevitable. – Ingenious idiocy came into Lillian’s head, without knocking nor wiping its feet on the mat at the door. As much as she would like to stay, but still the train began to slow its progress, and she and Lisa had to take their things and leave this limbo.

Lillian’s mother was already waiting them on the platform. She hugged Lillian strongly and demanded to pass her the heaviest bag. Lillian chose the lighter one.

All the way from the platform to the parking lot Lillian’s mother and Lisa were chatting and Lillian was slowly walking behind them to avoid participation. As Lisa was getting in the cab Lillian with mother wished her good bye and went to the nearest underground station, since it was only a couple of stops till their place.

– You don’t look good, – Lillian’s mother commented.

– Hmm… thanks, mom.

– You know what I meant, you look so tired. Didn’t you eat anything at dad’s?

Lillian looked at her own reflection in the glass door of underground train – in the endless nights of metro dungeons it served as a mirror. Of course make up less she looked paler than normal – So early in the morning my appearance should terrify, so be thankful I only look tired.

– It’s my aristocratic paleness, mom, – joked back Lillian. – It’s a requirement in the society, you know. – and she made a face of a spoiled child.

Her mother laughed – if the daughter is joking then everything is ok indeed.

Going back from some trip, Lillian enjoyed watching people around her. She adored to watch how everybody’s rushing somewhere – to work, school, shop, date – but she wasn’t with them, she had a special day – she was somewhere where they never were, saw what they didn’t see. It seemed that a transparent barrier dividing her from these people’s everyday routine could become visible if the angle of light would shift a bit. Well, that’s some mysteriousness! Don’t you think it’s too much of attention to your persona? – Lillian judged herself each time. I’m so modest… because I’m so pretty, – another her was joking back at first her. Normally by this point of discussion the whole Lillian was reaching her destination and the inner discussion was being postponed till the next time.

Lillian’s mother opened the door and entered the house first. Lillian stayed on the doorstep for a few moments to let her feet realize that she’s finally back home.

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