Amazing Kids! Magazine

The Last Train of Summer

By Victoria Lin, age 18, Marlboro NJ

 

My mother was beautiful. I still think sometimes of her musical voice, chestnut hair, and gentle smile. I remember the colorful silk scarves with which she swathed her graceful neck, especially the one where vibrant hues of violet waltzed alongside peacock blue. I recall the aura of intelligence and a cultured upbringing. Even her death was beautiful.

My father was crazed by sorrow of a lost wife and madness of survival, until the curious events that transpired many summers ago.

At that point I was ten, an age old enough to acknowledge death, yet not quite old enough to realize its true consequences. I concocted brilliant plans to search for my mother, knowing she was gone and yet holding onto the shred of hope that I myself had manufactured.

After the funeral had been held on a hazy day in mid-June, I wandered aimlessly to the train station. The grand station was a center of activity, boasting numerous arrivals and departures each hour, as well as enough shops and restaurants to satisfy even the most enthusiastic shoppers. As I had spent the majority of my childhood in pampered seclusion, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of people going about their own business, smoothly weaving together to form a living patchwork of a crowd. It was a dizzying first visit.

After a brief exploration of the vast station, my feet ached and my ears rang. But I did not want to return to the house, where there surely were relatives flocking to my anguished father to express empty condolences. It was best, I concluded, to seek a quiet place to sit and rest my weary self.

I discovered a series of benches, lined up rather inconspicuously against the wall facing one of the quieter platforms. At the very edge of the last bench, a boy sat still, looking down at something in his hands.

I made my way to the bench and hesitantly sat at the other end.

“You can sit closer to me, you know,” he said, patting the spot next to him. I shuffled closer, and he smiled. The boy was my age, perhaps slightly older. Upon closer inspection, I noticed he held a small medal in his hands. It was a dull bronze color and sported a small, round football.

We sat in silence, until I decided to break it.

“My mother’s funeral was today,” I said.

“I see,” he said gently and slightly turned toward me. “I’m sorry.”

Relieved, I released the breath I was not aware I had been holding.

We continued to sit, but the silence was a comfortable one.

“Why are you sitting here?” I finally asked, after several trains had come and gone and he made no indication to stand up.

“I’m waiting for a train,” he responded, with a small smile. “I’ll be here tomorrow, if you’d care to join me.”

I had to head home soon after, lest I be late for dinner and arouse suspicion. He simply waved a silent farewell and continued to toy with his medal. As I ran home, I pondered this curious new friend I had made. I was somewhat doubtful that he was waiting for a train so early; quite possibly, he was in trouble, or perhaps he too was seeking a diversion in that teeming train station. But either way, I was glad to have had a companion.

The next day, I went to the same spot and found the boy sitting there again. And the next, and the next. He consistently informed me that he was waiting for a train, so much that I began to believe him.

Most of the time we sat in silence, but when we did converse we talked mostly of inconsequential things; the weather, random passersby, everyday goings-on in the station. He always brought with him the bronze medal. He said it was his most important treasure. He had won it at a football game a year ago, the only game his father had attended, the day before an unfortunate accident at the construction site he worked.

As June morphed into broiling July, the cobblestones baked and the grass yellowed under the overbearing heat. But I escaped it all, spending my time on the secluded platform, alongside this boy in a silence that contained more than any conversation.

The heat was not the only thing from which I was escaping. I also feared my father’s mania. Convinced that my mother was still hiding in the house somewhere, he shook the house with his enraged bellows or heart wrenching sobs. The household help were at a loss. I heard them sometimes, whispering amongst themselves that the master had gone mad, and that it was quite a pity because his good looks and fortune were wasted, for who would wed a madman?

July began the transition into a scorching August, and our conversations grew deeper, less aimless. We talked of sorrow, of disappointments, of madness, of what we believed lay beyond death. Or at least, I shared my suspicions of heaven. He simply stayed silent and smiled the small smile I had come to know so well.

And finally, the last day of August arrived. School would start in a few days. As I made my way to the station alongside the multitude of other people, I breathed the fragrance of a fading summer and trod upon the brittle leaves with childlike relish. I was, after all, a child.

The boy was waiting there, as I knew he would be. Perched upon the edge of the very last bench, he absentmindedly turned the bronze medal around and around. He made no sign of acknowledgement when I sat down beside him, except to smile that faint smile of his.

Just as the last train of the day grated to a halt, he stood up. That in itself was so shocking to me; I had never seen him in any position other than a slouched sitting one.

He stared intensely at the disembarking passengers for a few moments. For a moment I thought he had found a familiar face. Yet he stood, motionless, his gaze boring into the crowd. Suddenly he turned to me and dropped the bronze medal into my lap. It was heavy, solid, and surprisingly cold.

“Hold onto this, will you?” he asked calmly, but it wasn’t very much of a question. He gave a weak smile and quickly turned to go.

I pushed past worn businessmen and weary travelers, desperate to see my companion a final time and bid him farewell. To my dismay, I was unable to pick him out from the frenzied surroundings.

The train doors hissed closed, the crowd swarmed toward the exits, and the train inched forward with a groan. I anxiously examined the train windows, searching for my friend. At this point, the train cars had already gathered speed, and the windows were beginning to blur together. In the moment that I watched the train accelerate past, I thought I saw something painfully familiar yet strikingly alien.

A flash of vibrant violet and peacock blue. A chestnut haired woman, in the last compartment, smiling brightly at someone standing in front of her.

Then, just as recognition burned through me, the train was gone, leaving in its wake
the acrid taste of smoke and steel. I was left there, standing stiffly as people absentmindedly navigated around me.

When I went home that night, the house was silent. My father greeted me at the door, looking well-polished and cordial. He seemed perfectly calm, as if the events of early and mid-summer had never occurred.

As we were seated at the dinner table, he began to speak.

“Your mother is gone so it’s just you and me now.” He paused for a second. “But life goes on, son. We still have each other and we can move on.”

I nodded solemnly in response. I reached for the heavy bronze medal in my pocket, absentmindedly running my fingers along the dull edges. I thought of the last train of the day, the one my young friend finally boarded. I wondered where that train was heading.

From time to time I would return to the station, wandering through the halls alongside the bustling crowd, casually examining the faces of anyone who bore even the slightest resemblance to my young friend. I would find my way to the secluded set of benches on the dimly lit platform. I was certain he had gone away, to live happily in another part of the world. Even as his face faded from my memory, I continued to hope that he would come back to the station one day and look for me. We would have many more things to talk about. Or perhaps not.

2 comments

  1. Melodie Summers /

    This was deeeeppp. I loved the way that the characters connected with me, it was so deeeeeeeeeeeeepp. How old are you? Only 18?! Yes, you might be older than me, who is 12, but if I wasn’t on a website that was for teens and younger I would have thought that it was by a pro! (sorry for the slang). Keep up the good work!

  2. Rosemary /

    It’s very nice story, Victoria. Do continue writing more and I am sure people will enjoy your stories. Splendid!.

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