Today, I’m trying something new. I signed up for Jen at A2Eatwrite’s Writing Game. What’s the writing game? Well, a gaggle of us submitted a list of things we’d like to write about, a list of three characters, and a list of conflicts. Then, Jen mixed ’em up and handed them back out and we each wrote a story from the information we received. Here’s what I got from Soccer Mom in Denial:

Things To Write About:
– Night train ride
– A love affair through letters
– A family funeral

Characters:
– A student (age 18-20) traveling alone
– A parent
– A child with the parent (age 3-4)

Conflicts:
– the family is from that country’s undesirable class and the student is aware of that
– the parent strikes the child, causing a significant bruise
– the child breaks the student’s music player.

My story is below.

But first, I have to tell you that this experience has given me a new respect for fiction writers. This stuff is hard to dream up. What is more, it takes an enormous amount of courage to put your ideas out there for the world to view. What I do here on my blog is easy. I write about the facts of my life and most of the words come from the characters who are my family. This fiction stuff is something else altogether. This is my first go at it. Please, don’t judge me too harshly! Once you’ve read this, be sure to visit Jen for more and better stories from the other participants. Believe me, it only goes uphill from here.

***

She gazed out the window into the darkness. The allure of the scenic train ride had faded with the sun. As her son lay sleeping against her chest, she was left only with her thoughts and the sound of the train.

Clickety clack. Clickety clack. It reminded her of fingers on a keyboard. Her fingers, typing the message, “I’ll be there. Saturday. 11 a.m. I can’t wait to meet you.”

Just thinking about it made her lose her breath. What was she doing? Was she crazy? People just don’t meet strangers from the internet like this.

But, he wasn’t a stranger. She knew him well. Not his face or his body, but his heart and his mind. They’d been corresponding for more than a year now.

Still, she was nervous.

She ran through the plan for the following day. Her sister would meet her at the train station and take Sammy to the Children’s Museum. Her brother-in-law would escort her to the cafe where she was scheduled to meet him and hang around nearby, just to be sure everything was okay.

What would she say to him? What would they talk about? They shared so much on-line. Recently, they had begun writing letters by hand and exchanging small gifts through the mail. Perhaps she’d say something about mix cd she’d sent him. It seemed to say all the things she couldn’t. It filled the space between her words.

She wondered what he would think of her. She studied her reflection in the window. Would he think she looked old? Why hadn’t she given herself more time to get ready? She hadn’t thought about how she might look after spending the night on a train with a four year old. It would be the first time he saw her. Shouldn’t she look her best? Maybe she hadn’t thought this through.

Her sister’s word echoed in her ears, “Jim’s been gone three years now. It’s time to move on. What’s the harm in meeting your friend? He’s all you can talk about. Meet him. You don’t have to marry him. Just meet him. I think it’s more than a coincidence that he would be visiting our little town when you were already planning a visit. It’s fate. Sammy’s spring break came at the perfect time.”

As if on cue, her boy began to rouse. He sat up and peered at her through sleepy eyes.

“Hey, little man. Have a nice sleep?” she cooed softly.

He fidgeted in her lap until she let him sit next to her. He began to kick his legs against the seat and sing loudly. For the first time, she looked around at the passengers that shared their cabin. An older man with salt and pepper hair and glasses sat next to Sammy, reading a thick book. Across from him was a middle-aged woman, knitting quietly. Next to her was a young man with a backpack, a college student, reclined with eyes closed and headphones in his ears.

Sammy shouted, “I’m Superman!” as he stood up on the seat, bumping into the man next to him. The man cleared his throat and shifted his weight away.

“Not in here, honey. Settle down. Would you like to read a book?” she asked, reaching for her bag.

“Watch me fly!” Sammy shouted as he jumped off the seat and lept into the seat between the knitting woman and the college student.

“Sammy, no!”

As Sammy jumped back off the seat, his foot caught the cord to the student’s headphones, pulling him out of his trance and his cd player crashing to the floor. The lid had popped off. The cd had jostled loose and slid next to her foot.

“Sammy, sit down!” she said, pulling the boy into the seat next to her. She knelt to collect the cd player and lid, handed it to the boy and said, “I’m sorry.” As she returned to her seat, she reached down to pick the cd up. She turned it over in her hands and reached out to hand it back when she noticed familiar handwriting. It was her handwriting. It was the mix cd she had sent him. Her heart skipped a beat. She looked at the boy who barely made eye contact and said, “Yeah, thanks.”

He put his cd player back together, placed his headphones back in his ears and returned to his reclined position. All she could do was stare. Was this him? Could this kid be him?

Sammy tugged at her arm, “Mom, I’ve got to go to the bathroom.”

“Okay,” she said soberly. She grabbed her bag, took Sammy by the hand and left the cabin. They never went back inside.

When they arrived at the station a few hours later, her sister and brother-in-law were there to greet them. They hugged and kissed hello and her sister asked excitedly, “So, are you ready to meet him?”

“Bad news, Sis,” she lied as she saw him walking past in the distance, “He canceled.”