Several times now I've come across the monthly chatterbox link-up on Rachel Heffington's blog. For April though, I decided I wanted to participate and so set to work on this month's theme: travel-by-foot. In her words: "Chatterbox is a monthly event created and hosted by me, designed as a quick dialogue exercise. It doesn't have to be strictly dialogue, as I enjoy good description too, but centering your piece around a conversation is the general idea. I assign a topic (usually one that can be taken any of several ways) and it is your job to write a conversation between your characters, using this prompt. When you've posted your piece on your blog, come back here and leave your link on the link-up below." I got a little involved in the characters and conversations though, so it's more like a short story rather than a 'quick dialogue exercise.' It's not perfect, in fact it seems rather childish now that I re-read it... But, I had fun, and hopefully the old saying proves true - practice makes perfect! And if you have some constructive criticism, please share!
She stepped onto the platform, suitcase in hand, another bag clutched under her arm. Everybody else scurried off, the train puffed away, and Alise was alone. She tip-toed through the station, and onto the road, while a sigh escaped from her lips. “Why did the train have to be delayed?” she whispered. The moon hadn't risen yet, and the light from the train station was not going to last far enough. Alise looked up at the night sky and pled for safety. She had to walk a little way to get to her aunty's house; a pleasant stroll in daylight, a fearful stepping in darkness. She'd only done this once before, and that was with her brother – and when she was with him, she could be scared of nothing. Her face clouded as the thought of him came again. It had been four years now since his place of big brother, and closest friend had been vacant.
“It's a bit dark to-night isn't it ma'am?” the man said, by way of greeting.
If the sun had been shining, it would've revealed Alise's very pale face. Surely only suspicious people brought up conversations by commenting on how dark it was. Others would've commented on the pleasant breeze, or glowing evening star.
“You just got off the train I see.”
“Ah... yes. Did you?”
The man chuckled; a friendly little chuckle. “No Ma'am. The old ford finally decided that enough was enough. She's on the side back up the road a piece.”
“Oh.” Alise couldn't even banish her own worry for long enough to express some sympathy for the man's plight.
“The stationmaster isn't any help; I know the man,” he went on. “So I'm goin' up this way to my mate's place. It's too late tonight, so I'll call the missus, and stay over. Get the old rattle trap on the road again tomorrow.”
“Oh,” said Alise again, wondering how far up this road it was the 'mate's place' and how that corresponded to the couple of miles to her aunt's house.
“Where are you from?” she ventured.
The man laughed again, a strangely familiar laugh that made Alise fear the more. “Long story to that one, ma'am. At the moment we're livin' on a farm 'bout twenty mile back that way.” He jerked his thumb in the opposite direction to what they were walking. “Bit of a shack really; the missus would like better. But I've got work there, so we're staying.”
“Do you have any children?” Alise wondered, her voice a little less strained than before.
“Yes indeed, ma'am,” the man responded, his voice echoing the twinkle that would've been in his eyes had she been able to see them. “One little tacker – he's up walking now. Gettin' into everything within reach.” The man chuckled, then sobered. “Another one on the way too. That's where I was today... The missus is having troubles, so I had to get some pills from the doctor.” He held up the case in his hand. “Not leaving it in the car,” he said, his chuckle returning, “Never know who's about.”
This last remark brought back the chills to Alise's spine. Was she really safe walking with this man? She was only just past halfway to her aunt's house.
“This night air does wonders.” said the man, breathing deeply as they strode along.
“What is your name?” asked Alise, ignoring the last remark. At least then if something did happen she would be better informed.
“You can call me Bruce” he said, a smile in his voice.
The road fell behind them, one step after another, until Alise felt constrained to ask, “Where is this place you're walking to?” They had already passed several houses.
“Just around the next bend.”
Alise wasn't sure where that was in relation to her aunt's house so she kept quiet, and looked up at the stars. The next bend came and went, and Alise, caught up in her own thoughts, unwittingly followed the man when he turned into a gateway, and began unfastening the latch.
“Oh!” she cried as she bumped into the gate. “Is this really your friends house?”
“Sure is, ma'am. You headin' here too?”
“Yes, this is my aunty's place. I'm staying here for a couple of weeks.”
Alise looked up at the stars again as she waited for the man to get the gate open. They reminded her of her brother and the nights they'd spent stargazing. It had been their favourite hobby, whiling away hours naming the bright, glowing planets, and making up their own constellations. What if she never saw Johnny again? A tear dropped to the ground at the thought, and Alise's head filled with memories.
“Are you coming Ma'am?”
The voice startled Alise, and she jumped, before stepping through the open gateway. How could she let herself get so caught up in her emotions again! “I must stay fully alert,” she chided herself, “It is not safe yet.”
They stepped onto the veranda, and a light appeared. Alise exhaled gratefully: Aunt must be home. She turned to view the stranger now that there was light to see. He stood there studying her, his face beaming.
“Do you know me now?” he questioned softly.
Alise stared, her jaw dropped of its own accord. “Johnny? Johnny!” Her voice rose in pitch and volume. “You told me your name was Bruce!”
The man, laughing loudly now, swung her around just like old times, despite her squealing protest, adding, “Want to go stargazing Alli?”
Linking up here.