When I started Story-a-Day May this time around, I planned to write a series of stories. But I seemed to have gotten sucked into a longer storyline! Because that’s what I needed, right?
Anyway, slowly but surely my characters set out on their journey.
When Millie-Marie appeared at the edge of the square, she had a bloody nose and disheveled hair. She carried a small shoulder bag and a hefty looking stick. Her eyes met Ida’s, and she waited, stock still, for several heartbeats before marching across to the clock tower.
Ida said nothing. She nodded at the stick.
“Old Mortar took issue with me leaving,” Millie-Marie said. “He tried to relieve me of my bread and wages.”
Ida raised an eyebrow. She hadn’t considered Millie-Marie would say anything to either boss, least of all Mr. Mortar.
“It’s all right. He looks a right sight better than he’s looked in years,” Millie-Marie continued. “Looks a lot more graveyard.”
“Did you tell him where you were going?”
“I don’t know where we’re a going. How I gonna tell?”
Ida patted her coat pocket. “I’ve got us tickets on the overnight train.”
Neither girl had ever been on the train. Only one train worked and that was the overnight, and it didn’t always run. The governor didn’t care about much townspeople making their way anywhere. He had a private car and permits for every checkpoint. One of the last journalists asked him about the state’s plan to fix the train system. “Trains?” the governor laughed. “People are going to be expecting unicorns next.”
But the governor’s wife took on the cause. She was expected to have a cause after all. And she had a great ribbon cutting ceremony for the new overnight train. The questioning journalist disappeared a short while after and a few souls took to wearing unicorn on their lapels. Someone, no one knew who, spray painted unicorn on the side of the train. By then the governor’s wife was dead and the white scrawl remained on the side of engine, darkening with rust.
“How in blue blazes you get tickets?” Millie-Marie asked. She pulled a stray lock of hair from her face. “You don’t even got parents!”
Ida couldn’t help but grin. “Best you don’t know yet.”
Millie-Marie rested a hand on her hip. “Listen up, Miss. Princess Pants. I done beat a grown man with a stick and helped myself to a week’s worth of bread and cheese because you asked me to see the world. Don’t you go telling me it’s best I don’t know. I best damn well know everything.”
Ida took Millie-Marie’s rant in stride. “Course, I’m going to tell you. But if you don’t know, you can’t tell if we get in trouble.”
“You think I’ll blabber?”
“I just don’t want you to get in trouble.”
Millie-Marie shook her head. “I don’t ruined the boss man’s good eye. I already in a heap of trouble. Listening to you. Now you get yourself sorted, and you tell me how you got train tickets.”
A loud clatter echoed across the square. The vendors were closing up their stalls. Ida wasn’t ready to tell the whole truth even though she wanted Millie-Marie’s trust. And images of Mr. Mortar’s eyes pushed into her thoughts. Lots of adults who managed to live as long as he had possessed damaged senses—failed hearing, partial blindness, numbness in the limbs. Only the very rich avoided such plagues, and even they had trouble. “I stole the tickets, of course. I’ll tell you the details when we’re on the train. But we’ve got to get going or we’ll miss it.”
A hint of suspicion clouded Millie-Marie’s face, but she nodded. “That story’ll do, I guess. I’m already in deep here. Can’t never go within a horse ride of Mr. Mortar. He’d have me strung for sure.”
They both shuddered. Ida picked up her own bag and slung it over her shoulder. Her hand trembled slightly. “All right, Millie-Marie. Let’s go catch that train.”
Millie-Marie laughed. “I’m not sure I believe this train exists. I never have seen it, you know. I heard a couple grown ups tell about it, but I never laid eyes on it. What we gonna do if it’s a fairy tale?”
Ida shrugged and headed down the nearby alley. “Walk,” she replied. “Catch a unicorn.”
Thanks for reading!