Stephen Stratford stood waiting for the Amtrak to arrive in Chicago going back to Cummins Station near Nashville.
The trip was lonesome but it gave him a break from the road which was needed, the young truck driver was overworked and was beginning to burnout. Stephen spent most of his time in Chi-town appraising his life, where was his path taking him? Why is he the only lonely one. There has to be something better he thought.
"Lord," he asks, "Is there a plan for me?"
"Tickets!" the elderly conductor yells as he makes his way through the crowd of people waiting for the train. "Your ticket Sir?" the conductor was an older black man, reminiscent of a conductor you would see in an old movie. "Here you go Old Timer," the truck driver said with a smile. "Sir, how much longer?" The elderly man removes his gold pocket watch, Stephen tries to hold his laughter as he considers the stereotype. "Son," the conductor replies as the watch plays a familiar song, the young man sings along in his head. "Should be anytime now." Just then the two heard the faint sound of a train's whistle. "Oh my gosh!" The Conductor added. "I still have tickets to gather!" He immediately goes back to work. As the lonesome truck driver looks around he observes a woman several feet away fumbling with her belongings, there is a look of panic on her face. The nervous young woman was beautiful, tall with long blonde hair, thin and blue eyes. Wearing a London Fog rain coat she had an umbrella and matching boots, she frantically searched her pockets. Steven shook his head as he watched, "she is going to miss the train," the whistle could clearly be heard now, it isn't very far away.
Ticket Ma'am? the Conductor asks as he walks up. The woman's eyes teared, "I can't find it! I had it a moment ago, I know I had..." "Ma'am, I will need you to stand back until you locate it!" the old man instructed." But I just had it Sir, I promise I just had it! Feeling cavalier Stephen walks to the busy conductor. "Sir, the lady can have this one." He looks at the young troubled woman, "Miss, I was going to keep this ticket as a souvenir, you can give me your ticket when you find it." "Oh.... thank you Sir!" The trucker smiles with a nod as he turns to walk away.
Stephen boarded the train and navigated his way to his sleeping compartment. It was a nice room with a small table with two chairs in front of a grand window and a sofa bed near the room's entrance across from the lavatory. Once inside the area the young driver dropped his suit and duffle bags, he kicked out of his boots to relax on the couch. The young man looks out of the big glass window, his weekend is about over, he had no note worthy memories to share, nothing jumped from his mind. The train's Conductor knocks on the door. Stephen gets up to open the door. The gray haired man looks at the young traveler, "Sir, I wanted to let the 'two of you' know dinner will soon be served in the dining car." Stephen's face questions, "Two of you.... there is no two? it is just me!" The conductor looks into the room to find Stephen was alone. "Sir," he begins, the young lady you helped earlier has no sleeping quarters if she is not with you!" Stephen stares confused at the elderly gentleman, "What about her room?" She lost her ticket, Sir. She has no room, she is assigned to this one... with you." Stephen Stratford slides back into his boots, He looks back to the Conductor, "Any idea where I may find her?"
Stephen checks the dining car before walking to the observation car. There he found people laughing as they conjugated, the car was festive, everyone was formally dressed. At the rear of the car, the young lady sat, hungry, tired and alone. The truck driver made his way to her, "We meet again!" He said with a smile. The young lady looks at the truck driver. "I haven't found my ticket yet, I thought I would look for it here. Listening to the woman the truck driver smiles, "Ma'am dinner is formal. I would like it very much if you changed in my quarters and accompanied me for dinner. Stephen removes a door card from his pocket. "I will wait for you here, my dinner jacket is lying on the bed, if you don't mind bringing it back with you." Before the young woman could say no, the truck driver places the door card near the woman's hand. The woman was afraid and embarrassed. "Please Ma'am," as Steven motions with the key. The hesitant woman smiles.
It was an hour before the woman returned, Stephen the truck driver was starving and worried, hoping that his sincerity didn't bite him in the ass. An intoxicating fragrance grabbed his attention, the young driver looked up and turned to see a breath taking woman standing next to him. Her black dress was shoulder-less and form fitting to her small thin frame, it stopped at the middle of her thighs. She was wearing black silk stockings and 5-inch stilettos. Her long blond hair was pinned up, she allowed a few strands of her golden locks to hang. "Wow!" Stephen said aloud as the vision stood uncomfortably in front of him. The woman began, "Thank you, Sir.... here is your key." Stephen reached to take the key and noticed the lady's large suitcase was at her feet, his dinner jacket was nicely placed on top. "Ma'am, where are you going to put your bag?" She looks down at her suitcase, I didn't think about my bag, the young lady opens her small hand bag for a tissue. "I didn't think about...." her eyes begin to water. Steven quickly thought. "Why don't I take this back with me, I need to change now anyway, you look beautiful." "Sir, you have done enough already, I, I don't know how I..." "No worries!" The young man quickly interrupts. Stephen adds a smile hoping to comfort the young woman. "I will be right back, I was hoping to get by the old man with just my black jacket..." Stephen was wearing black jeans and cowboy boots. "I didn't plan to change, but now," he looks at the woman dress and heels. "I want too!"
Stephen quickly returns in his black tuxedo with Patton leather shoes. The young woman smiles with a cat call whistle saying. "Mister, you clean up well!" Stephen smiles, "Ta-Da....!" he sounds giving himself a turn to show himself off. The lady chuckles. The truck driver offers his arm and hand. "Madam!" The lady smiles as she takes his arm." They turn to walk to the dining car, "Stephen," the truck driver adds. With a girlish grin, "Desiree" the young woman returns. The old conductor watches them with a smile.
Stephen and Desiree enjoy their top sirloin steak dinner with white wine and conversation. Desiree laughs as she enjoys Steven's southeastern jargon and twang, a modern day hillbilly, but a very nice and handsome man she told herself. Desiree was from the north midwest, Minnesota, Stephen listens intently as he watched her mouth and listens as she rolls her words. Hours go by and the dining car slowly empties. The couple share what led them to meeting, Stephen's escape from his lonesome profession, and his hope to learning and maybe finding something new about himself. Desiree spoke of her divorce from the year before and how she has nothing but her bag and this dress she spent the last of her money on for this trip. She hoped the train ride would bring her perspective and direction as she looked out the window of the slowly moving train, she has no home, no where to go or be. The couple return to their cold meals as the realities of life remind them of what's waiting at the station named Cummins.
"Stephen, I love your accent!" Desiree admitted. "I don't have an accent! Down here we all talk like this!" The two erupt in laughter, it goes for several minutes. "So, what's next for you?" Stephen asks. Desiree looks back to her near empty plate, drawing a blank. That is her million dollar question having no money and no where to go. The couple are again silent. Stephen looks around the dining car, the tables are being cleared, they are the only couple sitting and the Conductor stands innocently at the car's exit. He opens his gold pocket watch to check the time, it begins the familiar song. Suddenly Stephen faces and eyes illuminates, "Oh Wow! Do you here that, that's one of my favorites songs! C'mon, we need to dance!" Desiree's eyes widen, "What.... she smiles as her date slides his chair back to stand, she hears nothing as he walks around to her. "Steven.... she gets up taking his hand. But I don't... I don't hear anything?"
Stephen brings Desiree to his chest as he begins to hum. She felt good in his arms, Desiree's scent was soft and floral with a hint of spice. In her heels she fit perfectly against him. She giggles nervously as the truck driver led their dance with his bad humming. Stephen's stomach was in knots as he danced with Desiree, hearing her laughter brought a smile to his face and some needed confidence. Being silly was his specialty, and he loved it. Steven begins to sing:
When you wish upon a star,
Makes no difference who you are,
Anything your heart desires,
will come to you!
Desiree's giggling goes silent, she placed her head on Stephen's shoulder. He could feel her crying. "Stephen..." she whispers. "Don't stop singing, I want to dance like this all night." The truck driver continues humming as the couple dance, slowly circling in place. Desiree's head resting on Stephen and her left hand in his right. The trucker pulled her closer, I like this, I like this a lot." she admits. Stephen looks up to see the old conductor still at the exit, there is a smile on his face. He lifts his gold watch and taps it indicating its time for them to go. At first the young man wanted to ignore the old timer, the nite has ended. He nods reluctantly to the conductor, but he wishes this night could go on forever.
Stephen walks with Desiree to his room, she needs her bag. The couple walk silently. "Desiree, why don't you sleep in the room. I will sleep in the observation car. I wouldn't sleep at all knowing you were out her alone. I am not much of a sleeper anyway, I will be okay!" Stephen ends with a polite comforting smile. Desiree stops and looks at Stephen. "I can't remember the last time a man was this nice to me. Stephen, you made this night the best I have had in a long time, I wish I could be with you like this always. "Me too!" Stephen admitted. They arrive at his room, Steven removes his key card and hands it to Desiree. "Thank you for tonight, it was the best I have had in a long time. If you want we can have breakfast before we reach the station." "I would like that, I would like that very much!" Desiree confessed. Steven released the card, and smiled as he turned to walk away. "Goodnight..." "Steven," don't you want to kiss me goodnight?"