XII. The Train

The rider sits in the aisle seat as the woman insisted on the window. She feels the cloth of the dress he bought her; it is cotton and blue. Though she hates it she does not protest and simply retains her silence as the town begins to fade to the slow, heavy breaths of the moving train. He closes his eyes to sleep but finds that he cannot.

Outside they pass through the canyon and she watches the river alight with the midday sun. The rain has come and gone and she is grateful. Behind them people speak but say nothing, she does not care to understand their voices. A glance is passed to the rider and she sees him staring at the floor boards.

“Where are we going, tenahpu?”

“Somewhere,” his tone is dry and he looks over toward a sporting woman seated with a pastor. He smiles a bit and tips her his hat when she looks his way with pretty eyes.

The native woman wrinkles her nose and stares out of the window again. “You are still bitter about the thief,” she does not ask and her hands fold into her lap.

“Bitter ain’t the word,” the rider puts his attention down the aisles.

“Where are we going, tenahpu?”

He is silent for a moment and moves his dark eyes to the woman; noting again that he can see himself in her black stare and how much that upsets him. But the rider pushes his hat brim up anyway, “East, toward the sea.”

“Why?” She is not repulsed by the idea of the ocean though her glance is curious.

“There’s a place across the ocean; a hilltop in the desert where a man was killed. He was the son of my God, figure that’s the place we should go. If we seek to ask forgiveness for anything,” he folds his arms across his chest and sits back, looking away from her once more.

“I am not sorry. It is you who seeks forgiveness,” she reminds him.

“You ought to be sorry, for killin a man, even if he was a hardcase. Just decent to do.”

“Is that why you are cursed, tenahpu? You killed and were not sorry?”

“You got a tiresome amount of questions. Let’s just try to rest,” he resigns to silence after that and his hat brim is tugged low. The rider tries again to sleep and finds that he cannot even close his eyes.

The woman frowns at him and watches the window; it is dirty she notices. Outside the red mountains frame a distant land and peak out like fingers above the green trees. She thinks to smile at this but it never comes. A whistle blows outside and startles her; the rider does not see it.

She thinks about the sea. This place is unfamiliar and the farther away the iron train takes her, she knows, the farther away she is from anything she has known. The water reminds her of the grave and the sky is not so bright anymore. Her fingers wrap around her hand and she grips it tightly; in the reflection of the window she has noticed her face and the smiling scar that traces her neck.

Another whistle blows but the woman does not stir.

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