Random Arrivals: 3

Continued from here.

Mattie’s on her feet before I finish my sentence, her flounces holding me against the upholstery wall until she’s passed. Then I trail her down the corridor, my heart starting to pound like the locomotive again.

“‘Scuze me, boys,” she says as she moves into their compartment. In that motion, something in her carriage changes. Striding down the corridor, even with the rocking of the train, Mattie’s steps were long, purposeful. Now she slinks, like the old orange cat of Mrs. McLean’s.

I can see my flowered valise in the corner, looking forlorn among the men’s black cases. Mattie steps right across one of the gentlemen, her high-heeled boot coming to rest between the feet of the second man. And then, when she leans over to grasp the handle of my case, she stops with her eyes level to his. Not that he’s looking in her eyes.

“I’m heading to the Crowsnest. You fellows come and look me up any time, you hear? You ask for Mattie.”

The man swallows.

“So,” Mattie says when we’re settled back into our own compartment. “You gonna tell me why you’re going to the Crowsnest now?”

There doesn’t seem to be any reason not to. If she’s going there, and it’s a small place, she’s bound to find out anyway. My cheeks still warm, I reach into my stachel and pull out the letter from Mr. Bailey.

Dear Miss Stocker,
I have enclosed a train ticket. I will be pleased to meet you at the station and have made arrangements for you to stay on at the hotel until Sunday, when the minister’s due in town. If these arrangements do not suit, please reply by return post.
Kindly,
Burt Bailey

“They marrying children these days?” Mattie says, with half a grin.

“I’m hardly a child.”

Her question does rankle and it’s possible that I give my own skirts a bit of a flounce, but not nearly so much that Mattie should snort the way she does.

“Well, I think between the two of us, you might have the harder go of it,” she says. Then she turns to stare out the window.

I suppose it’s kindly meant, but her voice has such a ring of superiority that I turn from her and gaze out my own window, even though there’s nothing to see but fields and more fields, all exactly the same, and long fences stretching into the twilight. I watch them anyway until Mattie falls asleep. It makes me unaccountably happy to learn that she snores.

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