Thunderstorms are actually pretty cool, as long as they stay a safe distance of one hundred kilometres away from me, Darren Barlow thought as thunder rumbled in the distance. He was sitting in one of the small, cramped carriages of the five-p.m. train. Squashed to his right was an old lady knitting a sweater and to his left a redhead girl in an incredibly elaborate black prom dress and a sour expression, who looked like the type of person to flip over the coffee table after losing a game of monopoly.
If there had been a table in the carriage she probably would’ve flipped it.
Except there wasn’t.
So, she couldn’t.
Opposite to him was the most burly, muscular man Darren had ever seen. He had tattoos all over his left arm and shoulder, with a twirly, pointy uppy moustache that sat just above his lip and quivered whenever thunder boomed. To moustache man’s left was a skinny, pale kid in a black hoodie. They had the hood up, and was staring down at their phone, so Darren couldn’t make out their expression.
They seemed pretty sad, though.
Squashed up next to the rain spattered window, with her bushy brown hair hanging around her head like some sort of curly curtain, was Darren’s best friend Trisha Walker. She was hunched over her famous purple notebook, scribbling in it frantically, seemingly oblivious to her surroundings. Which puzzled Darren greatly, seeing Trisha loved people-watching, she said it helped for story writing inspiration, and the weirder the people, the better.
And they were certainly a carriage full of curious looking people.
Another flash of light lit up the sky, and when the thunder boomed Darren could tell it was much closer than before.
He knew because he counted the seconds between the flashing and the rumbling, just like his Grandpa had taught him too.
Twenty-three kilometres. It wasn’t exactly the desired one hundred but would have to.
He looked over again at Trisha, who was still huddled over her book like some sort of forest goblin. Darren knew she was probably making that concentrating face of hers, the one she made whenever she was figuring out exactly how to narrate a certain nature scene or focused really hard on an essay. Underneath her mass of hair her freckled face was all scrunched up, with her brows knitted together and her eyes going all squinty.
Suddenly the Monopoly girl next to him stood up with such force it made him jump, which made the old lady drop her knitting and curse loudly, which made everyone gasp simultaneously because that’s not the sort of thing you’d expect nice-looking old ladies who knit cat sweaters do.
Even sad phone kid was surprised by this unexpected occurrence. They eyed Monopoly girl carefully, almost as if challenging her, or judging her silently for interrupting their avid Tiktok scrolling.
Not that monopoly girl noticed. She was too busy picking up her dress and stomping through the carriage, not even bothering to look out for toes. There was a high-pitched yelp when her obsidian heel contacted the muscled man’s big toe, but she ignored it and continued stomping until she reached the door, which she yanked open furiously and proceeded to stomp through into the aisle.
There was a collective sigh of relief when the last of stomper girl (Darren had decided this was a more appropriate nickname) disappeared around the corner. Even the muscled man seemed to relax.
RUMBLE RUMBLE RUMBLE came the thunder, louder than ever this time. Darren’s stomach churned as he realised the gap was smaller.
Why were they even on this train in the first place? What did Trisha have in mind? And what were their parents thinking, letting two fourteen-year-olds catch a train to the middle of nowhere all on their own? He trusted Trisha, but had to admit, she could be really vague sometimes. And scary.
Glancing over at his friend again, Darren found that Trisha had stopped scribbling. Her purple notebook was tossed to the side, and she was staring out of the window. A brilliant flash of light lit up her face, and Darren could see a streak of electricity reflected in her eyes.
‘’The next stop is ours, sky boy, ‘’ his friend suddenly spoke, calling him by the nickname she’d given him three weeks ago when they first met. Darren still wasn’t sure what to make of it.
He cleared his throat. ‘’All right. Where exactly are we going again?’’
‘’If I told you, it wouldn’t be an adventure.’’
‘’But you know, so why can’t I?,’’ he was starting to get nervous now, and he was wringing his hands together. The sky was dark and scary. He didn’t like thunder in the slightest, and Trisha knew that. Their ‘’adventures’’ were supposed to be fun. This one wasn’t fun.
This one wasn’t fun at all.
Thunder struck again, and rain slammed against the windows. The ticket lady poked her head through the door.
‘’All passengers leaving the train at Bloomsbury station, please take note that now is your chance.’’
Some shuffling, and Trisha and Darren stood up, swinging their backpacks over their shoulders. Unlike stomper girl, they carefully made their way to the corridor.
‘’Trisha please just tell me.’’
''Trisha, please. You know I don’t like storms, why’d you bring me here? Why are we here? Why can’t we just go home?’’
‘’Because I said so, that’s why.’’
‘’That’s not- ‘’
‘’Just shut up!’’
They were off the train now, rain pouring down harder every second, lightning lighting everything up in brilliant flashes.
‘’ Just shut up, and let me think, Darren,’’ Trisha’s voice was quivering, and she seemed close to tears. Darren was shocked. He’d never seen her cry before, and he wasn’t sure what to do.
‘’ No Trisha, it’s my fault, I’m sorry I should- ‘’
Thunder shook the sky, and the earth, ad it felt like everything was going to come tumbling down onto them. Darren pulled Trisha closer to him, trying to steady his own shaking hands. His blonde hair was sopping wet, and tears were streaming down his face. It took him a while to notice Trisha was sobbing as well.
After what seemed like an eternity of sobbing and lightning and thunder and rain and more crying, the sky begun to clear, and Darren could see they weren’t actually in the middle of nowhere: they were on top of a big, wet grassy hill, looking out over rolling meadows and a twisting river. The railroad tracks went on as far as the eye could see, and the eye could see extremely far from their position. The sky was purple and obsidian, the sunset long since passed.
It was breath-taking.
Before he could even register the sheer beauty of the landscape, Trisha dragged him to the edge of the hill, and plopped her backpack then herself onto the soggy grass. At first Darren hesitated, but then he gave in. They were already soaked to the bone; a little wet bottom was nothing.
Bottles of water were pulled out of bags, and sandwiches were exchanged. Jokes were told and puns were made. Bottoms slid on the mud and views were taken in.
It was perfect.
Absolutely nothing could ruin this beautiful moment.