When the train reached the next town, a wave of people disembarked, making way for new passengers. An attractive man headed toward the empty seat beside Shelby. He looked down and smiled just as he was about to sit. “Is this seat taken?”
“No,” she replied, watching him take his seat and instantaneously, her mind trailed.
He sat down beside her. From the corner of her eye, she saw him take off his brimmed hat and rest it on his lap. She felt his eyes peer down to the ring on her finger and her briefcase by her legs.
“Business?’ he asked in a pleasant voice.
“Interview,” she replied, knowing his intention. He was a train traveler, seeking to find dissidents. His friendly demeanor was a dead giveaway.
“Oh?” he replied expecting more of a response.
“I have an opportunity to travel to Paris,” she said, realizing openness to the man was a better tactic to prove she had nothing to hide.
“Ooh la la, is that what they say?” he asked with a chiseled grin.
“So, you must be excited?”
“No. I will miss my husband terribly. I honestly can’t wait until I go and come home.” She turned toward him and studied his attractive face, deep somber brown eyes, sculpted cheek bones and full lips. “How about you? Do you ride this train often?”
“Why yes. Usually earlier in the morning. It’s filled with school children in their crisp white shirts and red neck ties. It’s inspiring to start one’s day surrounded by youth.” He once again trained his gaze upon her. “How about you? Do you have any children?”
“Not yet. Still enjoying being married,” she said with a beaming smile.
“I guess Paris can’t tempt you?” he asked.
“Absolutely not,” she replied.
He flapped his hat on his lap, and then waved it to his face, looking around at passengers in the rest of the cabin. “Had a good day, madam.” He rose from his seat, yet his energy remained continuing her feeling of oppression. It was an invisible force they kept over all the citizens at all times.
The man seated next to her felt the cool of her stare. “Is something the matter?”
Shelby broke an embarrassed smile. “Sorry, daydreaming. It’s a bad habit.”
“Writer?” he asked.
“No. Doll maker.”
He looked over the myriad of sketched faces on her drawing pad. “You’re quite an artist as well.”
“It helps contain the madness lurking within,” she said with a laugh.
The man broke a wide grin. “Don’t we all need a little containing of our madness?”
With that, Shelby relaxed in the man’s presence. Yes, there was madness all around, inside and outside. Some showed it; others hid it well. Relaxing back against her seat, she watched the English countryside roll past. Scotland, her home, was only a few hours away.