As my eyes drifted away from my computer to the starlit sky, I started thinking.
The train was moving fast, very fast, and it was dark. I couldn't see much but the moon and stars that shone like a compass in a lost universe.
Like if they wanted me to take that train and go.
Then I thought of a boy.
A gorgeous boy. He was an artist : a photograph and a guitarist.
And I am a writer.
He had eyes that shone and ruffled hair that flew in the wind. He had a sweet voice, and in my head, I heard him say my name, like a song put on repeat.
I went back to my computer after fifteen minutes of daydreaming.
10:34pm, I read on the screen. The train was scheduled to arrive at 10:56.
The face mask since it was now mandatory in trains, at least, it was in France.
The man next to me was snoring. In front of me, on the other side of the table, there was a mother, who was scrolling through her phone with a nonchalant expression on her face, and a little girl, looking innocently at my computer, picking her nose.
-I like your hat.” she said.
I was wearing a large summer hat with a white bow. I didn’t need it, being inside a train at night, but I wore it because I didn’t want to risk forgetting it.
-What are you doing?” asked the little girl, looking for a tissue in her mother’s bag.
The mother turned towards her daughter and me, she nodded, like to authorise the discussion, and soon turned back to her phone with a tired expression on her sunken face.
-Working on what?”
-It’s” I sighed heavily and dramatically “a story.”
-A story? Can I read it?”
-No, it’s not finished yet.”
-It’s not? What is it for? Are you an author? Did you write any famous books?”
-Well… I’d like to be one someday.”
-You haven’t published any books?”
I was surprised : the child knew what publishing was.
-No. Never a real publishing, like, you know, a physical copy, but I write and publish my stories on the internet.”
-On the internet? Do you get paid?”
-What about that story?”
She pointed to the open computer in between us.
-I won’t get paid for that one.”
-Why? What’s it for?”
-It’s for a contest…”
-A contest on a website. It sends out prompts every week and I write stories.”
-Do people read your stories?”
-Do they like them? I mean, are they good?”
The little girl was so naive, that I couldn’t help but smile.
-I like to believe that they are.”
-What do people say about your stories?”
-Well, some people say, like, I really enjoyed reading this, or good job, but some people say deeper stuff.”
-That’s cool… You know, I write stories too.”
-Oh really? You do?”
-Yeah.” The little girl blushed, “But they aren’t any good.”
-Don’t say that!”
The mother’s phone rang.
-Honey, it’s your father.”
The girl took the phone and cradled it to her ear.
I turned back to my computer screen, deciding to leave the girl to her private conversation.
I looked at the time again, 10:52. Then, the driver started to speak from the front of the train.
“In five minutes…” inaudible “the train will be cleaned at arrival…” “For your comfort and safety…”
I wrote a quick text.
There in five minutes... See you
Not a minute later, I got an answer,
I’m waiting for you. My parents drove me here, the car is ready.
After a quick “ok” typed on my phone, I closed the computer and put it in my bag. I then stood up and got my huge camping bag from the overhead bars for luggage.
-Are you going camping?” asked the little girl, who had finished her short call. She had a sad expression on her face.
-Yes, I am.”
-Are you going alone?”
-Who are you going with?”
-Someone...” My tongue stuck out because of the effort of lifting the heavy bag.
-Your sister or brother?”
-Your best friend or boyfriend?”
-Which one, boyfriend or best friend?”
-I don’t really know.”
The train arrived.
-It was nice meeting you and talking to an experienced writer, miss.” said the girl, grabbing her cute little Hello Kitty backpack from under the table and smiling. She was missing her two front teeth.
-Thanks. You too.”
She started walking away, holding her mom’s hand.
-Wait!” she said, as she was leaving the compartiment “What’s your name miss, if I ever see a book written by you, I’ll read it.”
-My pseudonym is Jane. Jane Pigier.”
The girl left with an even bigger smile on her face.
-Jane Pigier, I’ll remember.”
Shoot. I should have asked for her name too.
I left the compartiment too, phone in hand.
Now I just need to find them.
I walked next to the train for a few minutes.
How long is this train anyway? It seems to never end… Ah! There is the actual train station.
I approached a crowd of people, all walking, hugging, smiling, laughing… I looked for the boy I wished to see.
Then my wish came true.
I saw him and started running as fast as I could. My hat flew off, my trimless glasses bounced on my nose, my hair flew on my face, my surgical face mask almost fell off twice, but I pushed it back on my face.
I jumped into his arm, laughing and crying.
-I missed you Jeanne!”
-I missed you too, Louis!”
We hugged tighter.
-So?” asked the young boy’s flustered mother, who was standing next to her son, my hat in hands “Are you coming?”
-Yes Mom.” The boy took her bag off her shoulder and started walking.
-Put on your mask, Louis.” said the mother.
The son obliged.
-How was your train ride?” he asked me.
-Good. It was good. There was a little girl who was pretty nice.”
-Did she bother you? Were you writing?”
-She wasn’t a bother at all. Actually, I think she inspired me for my next story. I might make it about the train ride and seeing you again, and arriving at the house.”
-Will you write about the camping trip?”
-If anything interesting happens…”
-Well, I hope it will be interesting.”
-I don’t think I’ll write about it though, you know, it’s kind of a personal experience.”
-Yeah, I get it.”
-I won’t take my computer, but I’ll keep a journal of our trip.”
-That’s a great idea!”
-Will you write the story about the train ride and me tonight? In the car?”
-Probably not. I’ll try to rest and maybe drive a little. I’ll write tomorrow.”
-Could I read it when you are done!”
-Yeah, if it’s any good, I’ll post it.”
-You are so lucky to find inspiration in everything!”
-Yeah.” I took his hand. “I have the best life.”
We walked together to the parking lot, followed by the boy’s parents.
-So,” said the mother “We just leave you two alone now?”
-Yeah, don’t worry Mom, we’re fine, we’ll be okay!”
-So, bye!” She hugged her son, and turned to the me with a straight face under her mask, which almost made me laugh.
-Take care of him, okay? Have fun!”
The parents left as we got in the car, taking off our masks.
-I hate masks! They are the most annoying thing.” said Louis, putting his mask in his bag.
-Yeah but they are a safety measure. We need to protect every one.”
-Do you think that it’s natural selection?”
-What do you mean?” I was confused by his question.
-Do you think that by trying to stop the virus from killing the weaker ones, we are trying to do something against nature.”
-Maybe it’s sent to kill off people that shouldn’t be able to survive so that they don’t pass on their genes.”
-I don’t know Louis… It’s… complicated.” It was the first time he said anything so… dark!
-Are you ready?” he asked me. I had my seatbelt on, the map was on my phone.
-Yeah, I’ll give you the address, you can put it in your phone.”
The boy looked it up too.
-It’s a four hour drive, if we stop to get some rest, we won’t be there until three in the morning! I can’t make a four hour drive at night, I’ll fall asleep!”
-It’s fine. Do whatever you want.” I opened the window and looked at the sky. “We have time.”
And we drove off in the distance.
I fell asleep when we got to the highway.
The boy put on gentle classical music and hummed to the familiar tunes. He played the guitar and, if he wasn't driving, he would have been playing along.
Like he said, he stopped to rest a little at a gas station, at one in the morning. He went out of the car to walk a little and bought gum.
Then he drove some more.
And I woke up.
I smelled the air out of her opened window and suddenly, I was afraid.
The air smelled of grapes, wine, heat, summer and memories. I hadn’t been here for at least ten years, and even if I held on to those last memories like a treasure, they were slowly drifting away to make place for new ones. What would I find in place of the house I had known so well?
The house had belonged to my great grandfather and great grandmother. I had no memories of them, except for the fact that they hung up Mickey Mouse beach towels in the corridors and that they owned a vineyard and made wine.
When my great grandparents died, my grandmother asked me what I wanted from the house, as memories if they couldn’t keep it. I asked for a Mickey Towel which my parents didn’t want to hand in the corridor of our house.
Then, my grandparents bought the house and renovated it. It became a great summer house, with a huge pool and lots of rooms to hide in.
There were even secret passageways that led to rooms, writing rooms, secret rooms and hidden corridors. It was the perfect house for kids and adults alike.
And then, I had started to drift away. No fights, no screaming, no tears.
Just a silent divide stretching through the family and tearing everyone from the inside only to leave them destroyed. It was spacing away mother and daughter, granddaughter and grandfather, grandfather and grandmother.
I had been selfish. I had wanted to be alone. I didn’t realize what I was lucky enough to have until it slipped out of my fingers.
It will be alright.
The boy noticed my eyes were wide open under my glasses.
-Do you want any gum?” he asked.
-You have gum?”
-I bought it at a gas station.”
-Oh. Ok.” I took a piece he handed me. It was pomegranate seeds flavor. My favorite.
-I love that it’s your favorite! It is so weird!”
-Thanks I guess… It isn’t that weird, otherwise, they wouldn’t make it.”
-You might be right…” He breathed in the warm summer air. “I love driving at night.”
-Me too. Everything is more…”
-Romantic?” asked the boy. At this word, I shivered.
-Yeah. I guess.”
-Nights are pretty magical.”
-Yeah. They are… Do you remember when we sneaked out?”
-It was another starlit night like this. We were neighbours at the time. I had just moved. We had become friends at school, in the ninth grade. I had an olive tree in my backyard to remember the summer spent in the very house we are going to visit. Your parents weren’t home. My sister was babysitting me, she put on a movie and fell asleep. I texted you. You called me. Your house was just down the street…”
-It was so long ago.”
-Well, it was… ten years ago. Yet it seems to be a fairytale, frozen in the autumn night.”
-You have a way with words.”
-Maybe, but when I opened the backyard door and we climbed in the olive tree, I was silent.”
-Did you tell anyone about that night?”
-No. What is there to tell. We just gazed out at the stars, with our souls in harmony… Nothing happened.” I looked at him. He was blushing. “You?”
-No. It feels like a secret. Like we shared something no one shared with us. That night, I realized we were always going to be… together.”
-You are the best friend ever, you know.”
-Thanks, you too.”
-If I do write a story about tonight, I will be releasing this very private memory on the internet and everyone will know.”
-Yeah. It feels weird to confess about that.”
-I know… Well, not everyone will know. Our parents don’t read my stories.”
-My parents don't, and they wouldn’t punish me for it, it was ten years ago!”
-Yeah, my parents don;t read my stories either.”
-They don’t speak english.”
We both knew that it wasn’t the only reason. But no one talked about the divide between me and my family.
-Can I drive? I know this area really well. We’re almost there.”
We stopped next to a vineyard, which I recognized for having belonged to a neighbour, and we switched places.
-Can I pick the music? I hate classical.” I asked, trying to smile.
-I know, but you were asleep.”
-Well I’m not anymore.” And I changed to a well-known french pop song.
Comment puis-je oublier
Ce coin de paradis
Ce petit bout de terre
Où vit encore mon père
-I hate that song.”
-I know, but I love it.”
I started to sing as loud as I could, the windows open, the hot air in our faces.
I knew the song by heart and the words touched my soul.
It was a song that told my story of drifting away from her home, my “little piece of heaven”.
When we got to the town, I put the volume down, to not wake up anyone. And I stopped singing. By the end of the song, we had arrived.
-Here, that’s my grandparent’s house. They renovated the place when I was a kid.”
-Is it an old house?”
-Yeah. Pretty old. It belonged to my great great great grandfather.”
We got our bags out and entered.
-Do you want to go for a swim?”
I led him to the giant ball room.
-Go ahead, change here, I’ll open the pool.”
-You have a giant ball room!”
-Yeah! I wanted to make it into a gym, but my grandparents just built a gym on the last floor. It’s very cool.”
-Yes. It is.”
He closed the door to change.
When he exited the house, I was already swimming under the stars.
-I’m jumping in!” He screamed, jumping in the pool.
We swimmed and laughed.
-What time is it?”
-Almost four thirty.”
I went into the pool house to get a swimming mask.
When I jumped back in, Louis was holding a small box in his hands.
-Jeanne,” he said with his soft voice, “Jeanne… Je t’aime.”
-Me too… I love you!” I climbed to jump back in the pool.
-No. I mean that I really love you. More than anything, Jeanne,” he opened the box to reveal a ring. “Will you marry me?”
I put her hands over her mouth and smiled with my eyes.
-I love you too, Louis. I love you! I love you!” I put on the ring.
And we kissed under the stars in the swimming pool.