The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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Doreen

 

A Chance Encounter
For the First Line challenge at Lancer Writers, November 2013

The old woman skittered around the corner of the store building, her walking stick clattering on the boardwalk.

She held onto her veiled bonnet with arthritic fingers as a cold wind blew up from the San Francisco bay. With some degree of trepidation she stepped into the busy road.

As quickly as her aged legs would allow she threaded her way between a mix of new fangled automobiles and horse drawn carts, carefully stepping over the tram lines until finally making it safely to the other side of the thoroughfare.

The Third and Townsend railway station now stood before her. Its design reminded her of a distant remembered white-washed hacienda and as always was overly crowded. Not that the old lady was going on any journey. For with no family and friends sparse in number, her only pleasure in life was to sit for a few hours each day within the plush interior, watching the passengers depart from and arrive at the always hectic station.

She liked to imagine where the people were going, where they'd been. Having never returned to the place of her birth, it reminded her of days gone by. Then she'd travelled the land with her grandfather, always seeking the elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow; a pot neither was ever to find and claim.

Entering the waiting room to her dismay the old lady found it nearly full to capacity. She preferred a quieter atmosphere. However with a sigh and grim determination she shoved herself unceremoniously through the throng of people towards a vacant bench seat in the far corner.

A voice suddenly called out close to hand. The old woman froze rigid, instantly recognizing the wonderfully dulcet manly tone. She turned and her spectacled gaze fixed on the owner of the voice as he chased after an over exuberant little girl who'd escaped his hold.

Even after fifty years she recognized the elderly gentleman immediately. Still as handsome as he'd ever been though his face was a little more lined, his back more arched with age, his hair now speckled gray beneath his hat.

Their lives had touched for such a brief space of time and she'd never been attracted to another man since. She whispered his name, and as always it brought a painful lump of longing to her throat.

Her mind flashed back to the last time she'd seen him. In full view of his family he'd reached forward and took her in his arms. Then he'd kissed her with such a passion and longing it had taken her breath away. She'd known from that moment he'd be the only man she could ever love. All he needed to do was say the word - stay. But both had known it could never be and the word went unsaid.

The young child suddenly changed direction and squealing happily ran directly into the old lady's path, pushing her aside. Shaken from her reverie unsteady legs staggered a few steps. A firm hand immediately took hold of her arm and gentle fingers held her own.

“Sorry ma'am. My granddaughter tends to get over excited. I hope she didn't hurt you?”

Smiling kindly as he spoke, his smile lit up his whole face. It was one of the things that had first attracted him to her. The old lady felt herself tremble, her hand shaking so much she dropped her stick. Unable to trust herself to speak, instead she just shook her head.

The walking aid was picked up and handed back. For a moment he studied her more closely. His blue eyes though wrinkled at the edge sparkled still. “We haven't met before, have we ma'am?”

The old lady remained silent, pulling her veil lower over her brow. After a hard life she knew she hadn't aged well. Once considered pretty male heads had often turned her way and she could have had her pick of many men. Only one had ever claimed her heart though, and he was now standing before her.

Should she say something?

Before making up her mind a male voice rang out towards them. “Pa, you better hurry, the train is about to go without you. Mother will not be impressed if you're a day late arriving back home.”

With another warm smile the man straightened, tipped his bowler politely and walked away.

The old woman followed him onto the platform and watched as he kissed and hugged the family he was leaving behind. Moments later he clambered into a carriage. After a loud whistle the train began to move off and through the open window he shouted. “I'll bring your uncle to visit next time. Johnny deserves some time away from the ranch since your aunt passed away.”

His rich sounding voice carried in the air then he was gone.

The old lady returned to the bench seat and sat down, lost once again in a dream of what might have been. It was a dream where she was walking down the aisle to where he stood waiting; smiling admiringly and his expression one of as much love towards her as she reflected back.

She gave a violent shudder, her wrinkled face filling with sadness. There'd been no dream life for her…just years of living in a miserable nightmare.

Within the high vaulted waiting room no one noticed as silent tears escaped down the crinkled cheek, stinging aged eyes and wetting the well worn black coat which was frayed at the hem and in desperate need of repair.

With her only solace the memory of Scott Lancer's fingers for a fleeting few seconds on her own, the old lady pushed a tired and failing body up. Holding her stick tight in her hand, Glory then slowly shuffled her way back alone to her lonely existence and home.

 

 

~end~

Notes:
The Third and Townsend station was built in 1914 for the Panama- Pacific exposition held the following year to celebrate the opening of the Panama canal. It served the Southern Pacific for over sixty years as a terminal for the San Jose commute service as well as some of its most famous name trains including the Coast Daylight, Lark and Del Monte.

Designed in the California mission style, it was a showpiece for passengers leaving or arriving in San Francisco . with the coming of Amtrak, which operated no direct rail service from San Francisco , a much more modest depot was designed and built on the site that was once the fourth ST tower . The large city block the depot was located on was turned into an RV park.

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