Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Playroom: Chapter 4

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Chapter Four

For three days, despite the normal schedule for the post and despite the continued rumors spreading around Elisfield, Mary Isler received two letters a day. Mark Wilson, the postmaster, couldn’t explain it. Each evening, he would lock up having inspected his office thoroughly to be sure that no rogue letters had slipped from under his watchful eye. He would turn in quite satisfied that every envelope had been accounted for.

And then, bright and early the following morning, Mary Isler would ring the bell and there would be a letter waiting for her on his desk.

On the third day, Mark went so much as to stay at his desk all night. He’d fallen asleep by five-thirty, though, and at seven o’clock she was there pointing to an envelope that had mysteriously shown up beneath his own elbow while he slept.

Poor Mark Wilson closed his office early that day and spent the rest of the afternoon praying in the small church at the top of the hill.

According to the blank letters, Ben O’Maley had changed the date of his arrival to the following Sunday. His final letter mentioned that he planned on bringing his cousin, Miss Isabel Jaxpur, along for the visit.

So plans were changed, and more linens were washed, and Mary Isler hummed more cheerful melodies as she hung those linens out in the cold air.

Madelyn watched from the warmth of the house, wondering if Ben O’Maley was, indeed, coming…or if her mother’s apparent illness had just taken a more dramatic course.

In her journal, Maddie drew her mother standing in a frigid wind amongst the crackling trees, hanging linens on the line. Her drawing had oblivious eyes and a dreamy smile. She used blueberry preserves to stain her mother’s lips blue.

It was the only color on the page.

 

Brilliant light shattered through her closed eyelids and painted everything in her head a rosy hue. She winced and buried her face into her pillow. She wriggled around in a half-sleep, unable to get comfortable again.

It was her nightgown. Sweat was making it stick to her skin and plastered her brown curls against her forehead. She kicked her winter quilt off and let out a frustrated grunt.

She spun around and toed blindly at the floorboards for her slippers.

She paused.

The floor was warm.

Shielding her face from the bright sunlight, Maddie took a moment and let her eyes adjust.

Soft pink light rippled off of the morning mist as it rolled in past the groves. A light breeze swirled, making green leaves dance on their branches, and carrying with it flower petals and pollen.

A bird sang from a nest in a tree.

Maddie blinked.

She shrieked.

Her mother’s footsteps pounded down the hall. “Maddie? Maddie, what is it?”

Maddie threw herself into her mother’s arms. She couldn’t get a word past her sobs.

“Shh, shh…it’s alright, Madelyn. It’s fine.” Her mother whispered into her hair. “What on earth is the matter?” She brushed a curl from her daughter’s face and pressed cool hands to her cheeks.

“The-the window. It’s—”

Maddie stopped short. Her mother was bound in a thick quilt that she’d thrown around her daughter as well.

Maddie turned, wincing at the biting cold that made her feet ache.

Outside her window, the sky was gray.

Ice clung to broken branches…

where no birds sang.

 

It took some consoling, but by eleven-thirty, Maddie was dressed and fed and standing on the platform at the train station. Uncle Lionel huffed about the station not having so much as a cargo train scheduled until Tuesday. Mary Isler paid him no mind and stood on the tips of her toes, leaning far-over the edge to see when Ben’s train would get there.

Maddie’s lips were chapped and her nose stung with the cold. She couldn’t get the sound of chirping birds out of her head.

Strange dream, she thought, hopping from foot-to-foot in her winter coat, I swear, I could feel the warmth, though.

Twenty Minutes went by. Madelyn could no longer feel her fingers even though they were stuffed in her pockets. Lionel checked the time.

“I’ll have you notice no one else is here waiting on visitors, Mary.”

“Well, of course not, Lionel. No one else is expecting Ben and Isabel at eleven-fifty-eight.”

What train comes at eleven-fifty-eight?” Lionel demanded, waving his pocket watch in the air.

“Testy, testy.” Mary hissed, shielding her eyes so she might get a better look down the tracks.

“This is ridiculous. I’m having Ebber bring the car around. Maddie and I are going home. You can freeze to death out here all week if you want. Your daughter is going to be sick.”

“Another few minutes of fresh air won’t kill you, Lionel. I swear, this is probably the most time you’ve spent outside in ten years.” Mary rolled her eyes.

“It’s the frost that will do it—if your insanity doesn’t do it first. Come to your senses, Mary. There is no train—let alone a passenger train—scheduled for today.”

“Yes, well there was no post twice a day for three weeks, either, but I have my letters.”

Lionel nearly choked on his own anger. “You have blank sheets of paper! Sheets of paper without a damn thing written on them!”

“Oh, enough of this nonsense, Lionel. If nothing was written on them, then how would I know to be here at eleven-fifty-eight on a Sunday morning?” Mary clasped her hands and tilted her head at her brother.

Madelyn wasn’t sure, but three of her uncle’s hairs may have gone silver in that very moment.

The two continued like that for another ten minutes. After nothing was accomplished and no real line of communication had been exchanged, they stood on opposite points on the platform and sulked in their own frustrations.

At eleven-fifty-six, Lionel came over and took Maddie’s hand. “We’re going.”

Eager to be out of the cold, Maddie went along with him.

By eleven-fifty seven, they had cleared the steps down from the platform.

At eleven-fifty-seven and thirty seconds, the ground beneath them began to shake.

“No.” Lionel whispered.

Maddie spun on her heal and flew back up the steps. A train whistle blew through the air.

Mary Isler lept into the air, clapping her hands in joy.

Shaky and uncertain, Lionel walked to the edge of the platform and watched, slack-jawed, as a train rushed down the tracks and blew the hat off of his very head.

The train sounded again and slowed down until Maddie could hear the clacking of each track.

Steam released into the air as it came to a stop in front of the Elisfield platform.

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The Playroom: Chapter 3

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Chapter Three

Madelyn stood at her mother’s bedroom door and clutched her notebook to her chest. In it were drawings of the river and of claw marks—of train windows and blue eyes.

She had tried to draw a picture of Frank Isler’s piano, but she could never get it to look right.

Her mother hadn’t left her bed in nearly three weeks. It had taken almost an entire bottle of potassium bromide to sedate her. She’d thrown half of it up.

The sedative had left her incapable of speaking for several days. She was still lethargic and suffered tremors at night.

Since the attack, Madelyn had been allowed to drop her poorly executed façade regarding her schooling. Instead, Lionel agreed to search for a private tutor while the adults in her life tried to sort things out.

The fact was, aside from the side effects of her sedation, nobody could really find anything physically wrong with Mary Isler.

Madelyn twisted at her hair and bit her lip. A pang of guilt sprang at her inexplicably. Mary Isler hadn’t believed the story about the attack at dinner until her uncle Lionel had shown her the bruises on her daughter’s arm.

Lionel pushed past her in a frustrated march.

What is this, Mary?” he thundered, throwing a stack of creamy envelopes down onto the bed. Mary’s head rolled around on her neck and her eyes stared up at him in a glazed stupor. “Nineteen. Nineteen godforsaken letters and not a word on any of them!”

Mary looked up at him with confused eyes, her jawline slack and her mouth hanging open. Slowly, realization crept in and the corners of her mouth curled up into a drunk-looking grin. “Ben, my Ben.” She reached forward and grabbed the top envelope like it was the first drink of water she’d seen in days. Weak and shaking, she tore it open and read the page.

Lionel clenched his teeth and tore at his hair. “Who the bloody hell is BEN?!”

“He’s coming!” She cried, elated. She clutched the parchment to her bosom and fell back dreamily into her pillow.

Lionel snatched the papers and tore at them, screaming profanities at every rip, until they fell to the floor in shredded bits. He turned on his heal and stomped out of the room having never once so much as seen his niece.

Madelyn clutched at her drawing journal for strength. Tentatively, she approached her mother’s bed.

“Maddie? Darling?” Mary Isler said, her eyes bright and unfocused. “Isn’t it wonderful, dear? Ben O’Maley will be coming soon! You liked Ben, Maddie, don’t you remember? You met him on the train. I wonder if we’ll have coffee like we did in car six?” Her voice dropped below a whisper and then she was sleeping again.

Madelyn waved a shaking hand in front of her mother’s face. Then, she slowly removed the parchment from her Mary’s hand.

A tear slipped down her cheek as she looked over it, towards her mother’s sleeping face.

There was nothing on the page.

Not a word.

Gray clouds slipped in as the summer dried up. For the next week, Mary Isler showed marked improvements in both her health and her psyche.

Within a day, she was out of bed and bustling about the guest rooms in Lionel’s house. She ordered her housekeepers to scrub at the wooden floorboards and to give the furniture a good go with some polish. She washed the linens and blankets herself. When it came time to hang them on the line, she hummed and whistled and smiled…as if she didn’t notice the chilly autumn wind whipping through her.

She made special instructions about what was to be served when Ben was to arrived and moved her cleaning frenzy throughout the rest of the house until a single speck of dust might have stuck out like a sore thumb.

Madelyn, unsure of what to make of her mother’s marked flip, returned to school that week.

On Tuesday morning, three days after Mary’s return to the world, she was singing a melody to herself as she swept the kitchen floor.

Lionel eyed her suspiciously over his deposition. His breakfast—which he hadn’t touched—had been prepared carefully and included freshly squeezed juice, perfectly sizzled bacon, honey drizzled over fruit, and freshly baked bread.

Today was the day that Mary Isler had begun cooking again.

“When Ben comes, he says he wants to bring you some Scotch, Lionel. He knows you love Scotch.”

How? How does he know I love Scotch?

Mary opened the door and swept her little pile out onto the walk. She continued chatting away as she tended to the dead flowers sitting in pots on the porch. “I think he said it was from the Spreyside? or Speyline? Something like that.

Speyside. She means the Speyside. If she must invent such things, she should at least get the region correct!

“He is bringing a gift for Maddie, too, but I don’t know what it is. He hasn’t said,” Mary continued, closing the door and straightening her apron. “What is it?”

Lionel had gone rigid. His jaw was set and his papers were clenched in his fists. “Stop it.”

“What in the world are you talking about?”

“You can carry on about your friend Ben and his imaginary visit, but keep my niece out of it. She’s your daughter, Mary. What the devil is wrong with you? Prancing about, dangling a fake father figure in front of the poor girl when Frank’s not even cold yet!”

Mary tilted her head, confused, and clasped her hands together. “But, Ben isn’t fake. He sent another letter today.”

Lionel jumped up so fast he knocked his chair over. He fumbled, reaching for his pocket watch. “It’s 7 A.M. It’s 7 A.M.!! The post hasn’t even come yet.” He waved the watch in front of her, frightened that if he dropped the papers from his other clenched fist he might hit her.

Mary patiently reached into her apron pocket and pulled out another cream-colored envelope addressed to her. She unfolded it slowly and turned the letter around to show her brother. She raised her eyebrow as though she were making a point.

Lionel blinked. The paper was blank. He put the watch back into his vest pocket and walked out the door.

Halfway down the walk, he saw the shop keeper, John, heading down the road toward town. “John?” he heard himself ask in a shaky voice.
“Lionel? You don’t look well!” John said, concern drawn across his face.

“John, have you been to the post office yet today?”

John chuckled uncertainly. “Of course not, Lionel. It’s seven in the morning. The post hasn’t even come yet.”

Lionel nodded, rubbing his forehead with long fingers, his shoulders slumped. “No, of course not. Thank you, John.”

He made his way to the courthouse at a loss on what to do about Mary Isler.

The Playroom: Chapter 2

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Chapter Two

 

Elisfield was, so far as Madelyn could tell, exactly that: a field. There was a small slip of a town that lay mostly along one avenue and on parts of another. At the intersection between these two roads stood the courthouse where Uncle Lionel practiced law.

The school house was a clapboard building that sat near a river. Having attended a fine school in the city, Madelyn soon found that she was leaps and bounds ahead over her country schoolmates. She quickly became bored with her lessons and eventually found herself abstaining from them entirely.

Instead, she would sit down by the river and sun herself on a rock. Sometimes, she would open her notebook and draw in it.

If Madelyn was lonely, it was nothing compared to Mary Isler.

Within a few short days, Mary had drawn back into herself again and took to staring blankly to the west. At times, when she thought her daughter was in school and when Lionel was busy at trial, she would take the long way to go to the general store. On more than one occasion, Madelyn caught sight of her mother roaming out by the train tracks.

Whenever the cargo trains would pull into the station, Mary Isler would find some excuse or other to catch a glimpse of them. But both Mary and her daughter knew that Ben O’Malley did not conduct cargo trains, and that it was a rare thing for a small place like Elisfield to receive many visitors.

Lionel was aware that his niece seldom went to her classes, but he was so wrapped up in the nuances of a case that he had very little time to dedicate to the education of a young girl. Early on, he had petitioned his sister to take action, but she was so distant that he would have been shocked senseless to find that she’d ever heard a word he said.

And, at any rate, a young fatherless girl had no need for a rural education. It would do nothing for her on its own, and finishing school was out of the question. Lionel could not really afford it and he doubted Madelyn would ever go, anyway.

It was for that reason that, as the weeks progressed, very little was done to guide the girl. She spoke less and less and her notebook was filled more and more with secret drawings nobody ever saw.

October came in a fiery rush, and before long the fields surrounding the town were ablaze with intense, brilliant color. Madelyn began crushing berries and flowers together and rubbing them on the pages of her newest drawings. She used scraps of cloth for brushes and river water for blending. She probably could have gotten proper brushes from her uncle, but he was still cross about her skipping her lessons.

One late afternoon, Madelyn came up the walk of her uncle’s home at around the time all of the other school children were making their way back.

She paused at the door.

Something was different.

Through an open window in the kitchen, she could hear a soft humming. A breeze brushed past her, carrying on it the sweet, faintly spiced scent of warm bread baking in the oven.

She tilted her head without moving; she could hardly hear it, but the humming sounded vaguely familiar.

When she entered the foyer, she paused to remove her scarf and cap. As she combed out her soft curls and fixed her ribbons in the hall mirror, something on a small table caught her eye.

It was a cream colored envelope that had already been opened and discarded.

It was addressed to her mother.

“Momma?” Madelyn called as she rounded the corner into the kitchen. She froze at the door.

Mary Isler paused in her tune and spun around, holding a loaf of bread still warm in its pan. She grinned at her daughter, her green eyes sparkling. “Madie, darling, how was school?”

Madelyn blinked a few times, not quite sure of what to say. Eventually, her mouth remembered how to form the word good.

“That’s nice, dear. Run along and get washed up for supper, then.”

Madelyn hesitated as she turned around. Something was off about the way her mother looked at her, though she couldn’t quite place it. It was as if she wasn’t focusing. Her face was smiling, and yet it wasn’t—as if the muscles were unsure of themselves and were not quite cooperating properly.

And then there was the humming.

She puzzled over this as she made her way up the stairs. Momma never hums, she thought, placing her school-books on her writing desk, she didn’t even hum when papa would play.

She was not quite sure why, but a pair of ice-blue eyes popped into her head just then.

A chill shot through her. Her fingers tensed up.

She shook her head and wondered to herself if she was going mad. Then she poured cool water from a pitcher and into the porcelain wash basin on her dresser. She splashed some of it onto her face and neck.

She took a deep breath.

Without another thought on the subject, she changed into a cotton apron and headed back downstairs to help her mother with dinner.

 

Lionel eyed his sister suspiciously from across the table. She was, at present, an enigma. She was both beaming and unsteady all at once. She chatted away in a lively fashion, and yet the usual grace with which she generally moved seemed off-beat. Every now and then, one of her limbs would break apart from its intended course, resulting in an occasional jerking motion that Mary Isler didn’t seem to notice at all.

In general, her sentences seemed normal enough, apart from a nervous tick in her voice that took the shape of strange staccato-styled ha’s…as if she were about to laugh for no reason and then completely forgot about it.

A couple of times, Lionel and his niece asked her if she was feeling alright. She stared at them, confused, and mumbled something under her breath about a man named Ben.

“Who is Ben?” Lionel mouthed to Madelyn.

“The conductor on the train,” Madelyn said, her face carrying as much concern as his own.

“The train, my dear, my darling, my Mary”

They looked to the half-crazed woman twitching and mumbling at the far end of the table. She focused her eyes at them for a moment and cocked her head, confused.

“Momma?” Madelyn asked, her voice quivering at the finish.

“Yes, dear? Did you say something?”

Lionel watched his niece’s mouth open and close. She looked to him for help.

“Well, Madie, out with it.” Mary Isler spooned food into her mouth. “Oh, for goodness sakes, child, if you have something to say, say it. Don’t just linger on unfinished sentences. It’s rude.”

“Uh, Mary, love,” Lionel began, searching for a way to delicately broach the subject, “I, um, I see you received a letter today.”

His sister’s face broke into a girlish grin. Her green eyes glazed over and her pale cheeks flushed. She bit at her lip like a silly teenager and her fingers casually combed at her hair. “I might have received word from an acquaintance.”

Lionel raised his eyebrow. “Who was it, Mary?”

Mary blinked at him with wide eyes. “Who was who?”

Lionel shifted his glance with impatient uncertainty. “Who was the letter from?”

Mary giggled like a schoolgirl. “A friend,” she replied.

“I see,” he said, carefully, gripping the edge of his table. “Was it your friend Ben?”

Mary’s eyes rolled into the back of her head. She began to sway in her seat and a thin line of drool dripped down from her lip.

“Good Lord!” Lionel leapt up and caught his sister just as she was about to fall from her seat.

“Momma!” Madelyn shrieked. She gripped her mother’s hand.

“Madie. It’s alright; it’s alright—I’ve got her. Dorothy?!” Lionel called out to his housekeeper.

An older woman with deep ebony skin rushed in to the room. “Yessir?” She asked. “Lordie, what’s happened to Ms. Mary?”

“Dorothy, listen to me. I need you to take Madie into the kitchen. Giver her some milk or tea or something,” Lionel said, shifting the weight of his sister’s body back onto the chair. “Wake Ebber. Tell him I need him to fetch Dr. Rosteburg. Now.” He felt his sister’s head. She was burning up.

Dorothy nodded her head and fought to pry Madelyn from her chair. The girl was having none of it. She kept hold of her mother’s limp hand. Tears streamed down her face.

Mary’s head rolled around on her neck. Her green eyes glazed over—just pale peridot disks set beneath thick lashes. Lionel patted her cheeks and splashed water onto her face from a glass on the table. Her lips kept moving, releasing unintelligible mumbling and a sickly bubble of foam.

Her eyes snapped open.

She jumped forward at Madelyn.

She grabbed Madie’s wrist, her rigid hands like a vice. The girl screamed.

“Beware the dolls—their glass eyes and painted faces…the cracks in porcelain—the scratches that don’t bleed and the eyes that don’t blink. They see. They see everything.”

Madelyn stared at her mother; frightened tears fell freely down her pale face.

Lionel sat glued to his spot for what felt like an eternity. Mary’s face went blank, but her grip on her daughter remained iron-clad.

Dorothy, sufficiently terrified and characteristically superstitious, began clawing frantically at Mary’s fingers, fighting to free the girl from her mother’s grip.

“Let go, Ms. Mary! Let the child go!” Dorothy commanded. The girl cried.

Lionel gasped. Mary’s nails were digging hard into Madelyn’s skin, drawing blood to its surface. He grabbed his sister’s fingers and twisted them back. She shrieked as they snapped.

Dorothy and Madelyn fell to the floor. The older woman pulled Madie out, shielding her eyes.

Lionel sat and cradled his shaking, wailing sister until the doctor came.

 

 

 

The Playroom: Chapter 1.

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The Playroom

By Jane Benning.

Chapter One.

The conductor poked his head through the small compartment and requested the young woman’s boarding pass. Thin and pale with wide, child-like eyes, she looked exhausted. The light circle around her fourth finger hinted that she’d once worn a ring, but that it had been removed recently.

A young girl with chocolate curls lay asleep at her side.

Weary and nervous at traveling alone with her daughter, the young woman began leafing through her things.

“It’s somewhere in here, I know it is,” She sighed, shaking her head, “I just had it.” She set down her bag and reached for the hat box beneath her daughter’s legs.

The conductor placed his hand over hers and eyed her. “Don’t. Don’t bother the girl. Where are you off to?”

The young woman blinked up at him, confused. “Elisfield,” she said after a moment. She twisted her mouth and tears began to well up in her eyes, “to meet my brother.”

The conductor stared at her with sympathy and placed a hand under her chin, “Elisfield, huh?” He gave her a crooked smile. She realized then that he was young himself—probably not yet thirty. “Look, lady, I don’t know what’s bringing a city lass like yourself as far out as Elisfield, but my guess is that you could use a hot cup of coffee.”

She nodded.

“Maybe even a swig of whiskey,” he chuckled.

She broke into a tired laugh.

“I can’t. My daughter—”

“She’ll be fine,” he said, glancing at the sleeping girl against the window. “Car six. Tell them Captain O’Malley is taking care of it.” He winked at her and gave her another reassuring half-grin.

She thought about it for a moment and then nodded her head. “Okay. Thank you, Mister O’Malley.”

“Call me Ben.”

She stood and straightened her dress over her petticoat. “Ben,” she took his hand.

He gently guided her out of the car, “and you are?”

“Mary,” she said in a shy voice.

“Mary. Well, think nothing of it, Mary. I will have one of my attendants look after your girl. I’ll be in to see that you’re alright once I’ve made my rounds.”

She nodded gratefully and thanked him before checking on her daughter one last time and making her way down the aisle towards car six.

By the time the young girl in compartment nine opened her eyes, her mother had changed considerably. The circles under her eyes seemed lighter and the color was back in her cheeks. Even the worry lines that had marked her face for the last several months had grown lighter. In short, Mary Isler seemed younger—alive again.

Madelyn didn’t know what to make of the change, but she was relieved to see it. In the months since her father’s death, she’d begun to worry over her poor, helpless mother. Mary Isler was a lot of things, but independent had never been one of them.

It was not as if fate had granted them many options, but the idea of leaving their proper home on Billar’s Drive had upset Madelyn from the start. Her family was already suffering enough, but now her entire life was being uprooted and placed somewhere else.

At thirteen, she knew nothing of the world, but in the weeks after Frank Isler’s death, she laid awake listening to hushed voices coming from the parlor.

“That can’t be possible; Frank would never,” her mother would insist.

“My condolences, Ms. Isler, but unfortunately your husband’s debt remains an issue, regardless of the circumstances,” a man’s voice would say.

And on it would go throughout the night until her mother would agree to pay whatever sum was requested. Then collectors would leave, only to be replaced by someone else in due time.

Bits of furniture began disappearing, and soon her father’s beloved piano was gone. But still the men kept coming, chipping away at both Frank Isler’s debts and Mary Isler’s spirits.

Finally, in late June, one of the men stayed the night. He left in the morning, assuring Mary that the sum required would be forgiven and that, god-willing, her late husband’s soul would find peace.

That was the day Mary Isler wept for an hour and wrote to her older brother in Elisfield.

Madelyn knew the family’s fortune was gone, but it was losing both her parents—her father in flesh and her mother in mind—that left her feeling truly helpless.

And so, when she woke from her sleep in early September to find her mother looking less vacant, her spirits lifted. They had breakfast in the dining car and, for the first time since Madelyn could remember, her mother was talking to her again.

Some hours later, they took tea in car six. It was there that, to the girl’s mild surprise, she met the conductor.

Captain O’Malley was young and energetic with bright blue eyes. He had dimples at the corners of his mouth and an infectious grin. There was a light scar above his left eye that gave him a bit of character, and his accent was difficult to place.

In all, Madelyn liked him.

And he, it seemed, liked Mary.

The train ride from Norwyk to Elisfield took three days. For the remaining two, Mary and the conductor were inseparable.

He spent his meals with them in the dining car. He told wonderful, vivid stories of his travels throughout his youth and all of the colorful the characters he’d met on the trains. When he spoke, he lit up and his lively conversations left Mary and Madelyn beaming and wildly entertained.

When Mary smiled, Ben O’Malley would visibly melt.

Madelyn accompanied him on his rounds. Together, they stuck their heads out the window between the cars and spread their arms out like they were flying. Then, each night after she would fall asleep, Mary and Ben would have coffee in car six.

At precisely half-past noon on the third day, the train pulled onto the platform at Elisfield.

Madelyn and her mother bid Ben O’Malley a regretful farewell and turned to greet Mary’s older brother, Lionel.

Thin and tall with a groomed mustache and kind brown eyes, Lionel had always been Madelyn’s favorite uncle. A falling-out between he and Frank had led to scarce visits over the years, but they had always remained cordial in front of her.

Lionel kissed his sister’s cheek and held Madelyn out by the shoulders to see if she had, indeed, grown exponentially taller in the last six months.

Madelyn smiled and announced that she had, in fact, grown nearly three full inches over the summer.

Mary blinked at her daughter, having regretfully not noticed the change.

It was then that Madelyn turned back to look at the train. Ben O’Malley was standing in the window, watching them with a strange, puzzling look on his face.

A shiver ran through her as she met his cool blue eyes.

She cautiously backed behind her Uncle Lionel’s motorcar as he loaded it up.

It wasn’t until a few minutes later, when she was settled into the fine leather seat, that she glanced back at the train.

The conductor was still there, watching as they drove away.