In-Between – Originally published by Moonflake Press

Frost flowers bloom through her reflection in the smudgy train window. She dries her cheek with the sleeve of her coat that’s too big on her and sinks into the chair. Sweet metal mixed with earthy dust hangs in the air, engraved in the squeaking, bouncing low seats. The smell of other people’s history. Not her history.

A man in a flat cap sitting across from her glances up: young girl, crying on a night train. Must be some lover. Or a student. Or both. He returns to his newspaper, stretching it wide, pulling up a wall between them.

She buries herself deeper in her coat – an embrace from its owner, who won’t call her Cinege[1] anymore.   

Below her seat, there’s heat against her ankles. The rest of her body is cold.

Outside, a duvet of snow protects roots. Dark-green pines swim past. The moon stays.

Will she ever be able to stay? Will they ever let her in?

She only knows how to be in-between.

The seat under her shakes. The wagon starts to sway.

She clutches her armrest.

The man lowers his newspaper an inch.

Brakes scream on the icy tracks, pushing her deeper into the seat.

The man clears his throat, placing the paper beside him.

The wagon’s dim yellow lamps flicker out.

Night lights float in. Sparkle of snow. Glow of the moon. The fresh shine of the air.

Not daylight, nor darkness: in-between.

After a few seconds, the lamps blink back to life, reoccupying the space, projecting her ghost-like reflection onto the window glass.

The train gains speed.

“Tickets, please,” a short, muscular woman appears next to her seat.

She winces. Where’s her ticket?

The woman watches her, patient, as she untangles herself from her coat.

She unzips a couple of pockets on her large hiking backpack. It has to be here somewhere, on top of her life’s belongings. Would they believe she has a ticket somewhere? She fumbles until she finds a piece of paper tucked in one of the side pockets. She gives it to the woman.

“Bloody chilly, this evening, isn’t it?” The woman smiles. A warm smile.

She nods and smiles back. 

The woman scribbles something on the ticket then gives it back, “Safe journey, then, love… Tickets, please.”

The man has his ticket already between his fingers.

And the train rattles onward, tata-tata, tata-tata, like her heartbeat.

[1] Coal tit

Originally published in Moonflake Press’s Snowscape issue.

The image is created by Moonflake Press.

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