Chapter One: The Guy at the Train Station
It was a cool, clear winter morning and Emma sat at the train station, waiting. Union station was a beautiful sight right then, covered from top to bottom with cheerful, extravagant, Christmas decorations, and that, paired along with the high arched windows near the ceiling that let in so much natural light that any overhead lights seemed almost unnecessary, gave the place an almost magical quality. There were a mixture of smells in the air coming from the half a dozen or so restaurants all around them, once in a while being overpowered by the sweet, buttery scent coming from the nearby pretzel shop and filling the place with the delicious, fresh-baked aroma. The space was filled with people either hurrying along with their luggage, needing to get to one place or the next as soon as possible, or otherwise sitting and waiting either for their train to get there to take them somewhere or for it to arrive and bring their loved ones home for the holidays. Emma hardly took any notice of the commotion, however. She was too lost in her book. She sat, with her luggage stacked up beside her, towards the back of the large, finely-decorated space, where she wouldn’t be distracted by the frequent sounds of people late for their train running around, and where there was more than enough light for her to read her book comfortably.
As she turned the page and neared almost the end of her book, she couldn’t help giving an almost disappointed grimace. It was at that moment that a young man went to the seat across from her. There were only a few other people scattered around sitting that far back, leaving nearly empty rows all around them, so why he chose that seat over all the other empty seats seemed a little curious. He was rolling some luggage along with one hand and holding a jacket and notebook in the other. He put the bags down on the ground with the jacket and notebook on top and took a seat. Emma only looked up at him for a split second before looking down at her book again. Tall, athletic, dark hair; he was handsome… certainly handsome, and it was almost out of fear of being caught staring that she looked down again so soon. Once he made himself comfortable on the seat, he turned his attention to her.
“So, what are you reading?” He asked. Emma looked up at him again, wondering if he was actually talking to her or if he was just on the phone with someone. He was looking right at her, with genuine interest, so she answered.
“Oh, um, ‘Sense and Sensibility’, Jane Austen.” She smiled and said, holding up the book so he could see the cover. She was about to go back to reading it when he continued.
“That’s cool. I read that one in high school. So what do you think of it so far?” Was he trying to start a conversation? What a foreign concept that seemed. Usually in such places, everyone just kept to themselves and there was little to no actual interaction with other people. Maybe a remark or a question once in a while, but conversations were rare. But he was actually trying to start one. It didn’t bother her or anything, it was just new.
“Well it’s my second time reading it, but my feelings are the same as the first time, I like it fine.” She smiled. The boy chuckled.
“You like it fine? Not a fan of the classics then?” He asked.
“No, I am.” Emma assured him. “I love her books. ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is possibly the greatest love story ever written, but some parts are just so… frustrating.”
“What do you mean?”
Emma looked at him curiously. Did he actually care? Or was he just trying to keep a conversation going?
“You said you read the book, right? What did you think of the space battle at the end?” She asked in all seriousness. The boy let out a laugh.
“I think unless Marianne and Elanor were actually space warriors from another planet and I really misunderstood the plot, you’re just trying to test me to see if I actually read the book.” He smiled. Emma chuckled.
“Okay, so you did read it. Just making sure.”
“So what did you mean, then?” He persisted. Emma took a second to collect her thoughts and answered.
“Well, the women. They’re all so… submissive. Like, if it weren’t for the men letting their feelings known in the end, the women wouldn’t have, and they wouldn’t have had their happy endings. It’s just frustrating sometimes reading about the heroines passing opportunity after opportunity to let their feelings known and maybe have their happy endings sooner. And all for what? Modesty? They came so close to not having a happy ending.” The boy stayed quiet for a second and Emma wondered if what she’d said had come off at all like a rant. He then did something unexpected, however. He put in his own feelings on the subject.
“Well, I think that’s just how women at that time were. I mean, a woman in those times going around letting her feelings about a man known publicly? Can you imagine how outgoing she would have to be? She’d probably be shunned from society.”
“Well, yeah, I know society at the time was a lot different, and women were basically taught to be… unassertive, and that the author meant to satirize how women were treated at the time, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating to read.” She explained. The boy nodded.
“I’ll agree with you on that. I’m Luke, by the way.” He smiled and said, moving forward as much as he could in his seat and sticking out his hand. Emma smiled and reached forward to shake it.
“I’m Emma.” She replied. Luke then sat back again and continued looking at her.
“So… ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is one of the greatest love stories ever told? What about Romeo and Juliet?” He asked, almost teasingly. Emma scoffed.
“So you like tragedies? Well, in that case I don’t think we’ll see eye to eye on very many points of literature, let alone love stories.” Luke chuckled.
“No, I’ve actually never read it, but when people say, ‘greatest love story ever told’, they’re usually talking about that.” He explained. Emma shrugged.
“Well, it’s a good story. Shakespeare definitely knew how to get you to feel, but whether I’d call it a good love story is different. I mean, I don’t look at Romeo and Juliet and think, ‘Gosh, I wish my love life was like that’.” Luke let out a small laugh. “I prefer Pride and Prejudice. I overall really just love the story.” Luke nodded and Emma then stayed quiet, not sure what else to say.
“So where are you off to?” Luke asked. “Going home for the holidays?”
“Yes, actually.” Emma smiled. “School just got on break. I’m just waiting for my cab to get here. How about you?”
“I’m going home too, but my school got out about a week ago. I’ve been staying at a friend’s house.” Luke replied. “And I made the mistake of letting him drive me instead of taking my own car, so now I have to wait for my cousin to pick me up.”
“He lives with you?”
“No, but he’s staying with us for a few weeks.” He replied. “He always comes around Christmas time.” Emma nodded.
“That’s cool. Do you live far from here?”
“Yeah, kinda. It’ll be a long drive back. I might as well have taken a train, honestly.” He smiled. “But my mom insisted on him taking me until I agreed.”
“Wait, so you didn’t actually take a train here, and you’re not taking one back?”
“So what are you doing at the train station?” She chuckled.
“My friend lives pretty close to here, and my cousin already knows how to get here, so he just suggested this be where I wait for him.” He explained. Emma nodded again.
“I still have a few hours before my cab gets here because of some… poor planning. What about you? How long is your wait gonna be?” Luke let out a deep breath.
“Well, knowing my cousin and how responsible he is… I’d say probably around the same.” He replied. Emma laughed a little. She then noticed the black composition notebook he’d left on top of his luggage. She gestured to it.
“Are you planning on doing some studying?”
“Oh, no.” Luke nonchalantly took it. “It just fell out of my backpack earlier and I didn’t put it back in.”
“Well you should put it away, you might lose it.”
“Yeah, I don’t know where I’d be without my math notes.” He replied, disinterestedly putting the notebook down on the seat beside him.
“Not a big math guy?” She smiled and asked.
“Not any kind of math guy.”
“So how’s the college life been treating you, then?”
“Other than math, great.” He smiled. “I have my own apartment, I’m free, and independent.”
“Your own apartment?” Emma asked. He didn’t look like he could be much older than her, and how would he be able to juggle a full-time job to get an apartment with school? Luke noticed her confusion and explained.
“It’s an on-campus apartment. They’re a little more expensive than dorms, but not by much, so I got a job and told my parents I’d pay the difference.”
“Oh.” To be that independent at that age was pretty impressive. “So you live by yourself. How’s that?”
“I love it, personally. Sharing a room with a stranger really didn’t appeal to me. I have my own place and make my own rules.”
“So it’s a huge mess then?” Emma smiled and guessed.
“Yeah, most of the time.” Luke chuckled. The next two hours were spent with the two talking about… anything and everything; whatever came up. They talked about the train station, how cheerful the decorations were, the city, what they thought of it, other books they’d read, what they thought of those, movies they’d watched, etc. Emma mentioned having watched ‘Bourne Ultimatum’ recently, which led Luke to do a very bad Jason Bourne impression that made Emma laugh. Eventually Luke’s cousin texted him that he was there, however, and he had to go. He told Emma and grabbed his bags again.
“Oh… uh, okay. Well… bye.” Emma said, sorry to see him go. Luke gave a half-smile and small wave.
“Bye.” He replied, and he walked off. It’s a strange, melancholy feeling seeing someone you’d made friends with walk off. Like at the end of summer camp when you had to go home again and you knew you’d never see your friends again. It was that same feeling now. Even though they hardly knew each other, it still felt… sad.
Emma tried going back to her book once he was out of sight, but reading had lost its appeal. She sat there lost in thought for a few minutes. ‘He’s gone.’ She thought to herself. She’d really liked him. Why hadn’t she gotten his number? She gave a sharp sigh, not believing she hadn’t thought of something so simple. Her thoughts then came to a sudden stop as she looked to the seat across from her and noticed something. The black composition notebook, it was still there! He forgot his notebook!
She shot up and took it. She could return it! She looked towards the exit, but just as suddenly lost hope. There were dozens of people coming in and out every second, and he’d left several minutes ago. She didn’t even know where exactly he was getting picked up; she’d never find him. She sighed and sat back down. Oh well. It was nice while it lasted. Emma looked down at the notebook in her hands and saw the name written on the cover. ’Property of Luke C.’. Upon opening it to the first page, her eyes lit up. On the inside of the cover, where composition notebooks always have that little section to fill out with your information, it was completely filled out!
His name, address, and even his class schedule. Luke Carter; that was the name written in it. She could… She could… She slumped back on her chair and scrunched her eyebrows. What exactly would she do with this information? What could she do? It didn’t have his phone number, so she couldn’t exactly call him and tell him he’d left his notebook behind, and any hope of her catching up with him and returning it was gone; surely he’d left by now. All she had to work with was his name and address.
She could search Facebook for him, but there were probably thousands of Luke Carters out there, and he might not even have a Facebook, so she might just end up wasting her time. Maybe she could use his address. She looked at it again. It was in Northern California! That was hours away. She closed the notebook and sighed again. Well it’s not like she could go after him… right?
She pulled her phone out and went on Facebook, then typed his name into the search bar. A small groan escaped her lips looking at the list of results, and most of them didn’t even have an actual profile picture. Alright, so finding him there was out of the question. She sat up and considered what her real options were again. One: she lets it be, it’s just a notebook after all, and the semesters over. He probably doesn’t need it. But then that would also mean she’d never see him again. Two: she had his address… she could go after him, and return it, then get his number.
The mere idea of it seemed ridiculous to her. Go after him? He lived on the other side of the state. But how many hours was that exactly? She took out her phone again and this time went on google maps. Five hours! It would take her all day just to get there and back. Not to mention, what would she say once she got there? ‘Hey, you left your notebook behind so I came all the way here to return it. By the way, can I get your number?’ There was absolutely no way she could think of to phrase that without coming off like a complete creep. The whole thing would undeniably be absurd. Well, that was it then; she wouldn’t go after him.
She sat back and picked up her book again, but she didn’t get through a whole sentence before she thought back to the conversation she’d had with him. Heroines too afraid to make a move; too modest. Unwilling to take a chance and let their feelings known. Passing an opportunity for a happy ending. But that wasn’t what she was doing. She wasn’t in love with him; she hardly knew him! But she did like him… and what if he’d liked her back? They’d gotten along really well. It definitely wasn’t out of the question that he might have, she thought. And what would really be the worst that could happen if she went after him? She’d be about a day later than she expected getting home, but so what? If he hadn’t liked her back, then she’d just leave without a phone number, but at least she would have taken the chance. And if he had liked her… then she’d leave with his number, and they’d text, and maybe eventually something could develop between them. Emma looked down and seriously considered this. Just how much did she really like him?