The Christmas Trains: A Story of Love and Fate
Updated: Dec 14, 2019
Christmas was more than a word. It was a memory. At a time, she wanted to forget the holiday completely. In a world of carols on the radio and lit trees in store windows, such a thing simply wasn't possible. People told her the solution to her pain was obvious. She just had to separate her ex-fiancée’s face from anything festive. She told them all the same thing.
"Even if I’ve stopped loving her, she is in every corner of my history."
Six years had passed since the first Christmas Christy spent with the woman she thought she’d hold forever. December still felt cold and empty, but it didn’t bother Christy anymore. It was a natural part of the season, as natural as the wet sky above her. That afternoon, the snow had finally become rain. She watched it idly from her front porch.
A strange sound came to mind. It was a subtle but steady clank. She could hear it over the patter of raindrops. ClankClankClankClank—WHISTLE. Whistle? What was it? What was that noise? The trains, Christy realized. That display. She was thinking of the Christmas train display in the closest shopping mall. She went with her ex-fiancée every year to watch the models chug along the tracks. The distant sounds were only getting louder in her head. They came from a deep part of herself, one she had almost forgotten.
The thought of that display was hard to ignore. Something inside of her felt she should visit it again. It was sure to be ready at the mall. Yet, she took a long pause. She didn’t like that her motives were unclear. Perhaps she wanted to go to prove to herself she had finally moved on with her life. Perhaps not. She had a feeling in her gut she was supposed to visit the display for some larger reason. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to trust the impulse.
She decided to surrender to it anyway. She threw on a coat and stepped into her rain boots. The ride to the mall was messy and gray. The garages were full, naturally. She had to make a run for it across the parking lot. By the time she got inside, she was soaked to the bone. It wasn’t too much of a worry for her. The owner of the train display always had free coffee that was hot enough to warm cold skin. She wasn’t disappointed. He had coffee available the second she arrived.
Christy sipped her drink as she walked to the miniature tracks and towns. Six trains whizzed along rails and over bridges. Nothing about them had changed. Even the bench nearby had the same worn paint. Christy sat on it with an uncomfortable sigh. In her mind, her green-eyed girl appeared beside her. That green-eyed girl was two states away and married to a wealthy businesswoman. Christy was single. Still. She would never have the money that businesswoman had. She doubted she was as pretty as the businesswoman too, though she hadn’t seen a photograph of her.
However, Christy’s heart was healed. She didn’t wish she wore that woman’s ring, and she didn’t dream of waking up beside her. She could imagine life with someone else. Although she had no idea who that’d be, being ready to love again meant more to Christy than anything else.
"Can I sit?" a soft voice asked.
Christy turned to look. There was a brunette with a gentle smile. She felt butterflies as she answered. "Sure."
"Thanks," the brunette sat. "I'm Jade."
The women shook hands. They drank their coffee while watching the trains travel. As usual, Christy avoided eye contact and felt her face turn red. She wasn't the type to make small talk. She certainly wasn't the type to talk to women first. That explained her relationship status. Rather, her lack of one.
She was convinced she would be rejected. Maybe the woman was straight, maybe the woman wouldn't find her attractive enough, or maybe the woman would find her creepy for some illogical reason—so why try at all? That’s how Christy tried to rationalize her silence. However, she knew it was entirely irrational.
Yet, something was different that afternoon. Christy knew she felt drawn to the trains for some reason. What if Jade was that reason? What if fate put them on that bench? What if the universe would fall to pieces if they didn’t meet? Christy swallowed, knowing nothing could happen if she stayed in her shell. She had to take a chance.
"Trains remind me of the cowboy days. You know, all those train robberies," Christy spoke before she could think. She kicked herself for starting a conversation with such a strange remark.
But, Jade laughed. "I can see that. Trains make me think about stuff like that too. They don’t seem too safe, do they? They’re always going off the rails or getting hijacked or coming across girls tied to the tracks.”
"I worry about that last one especially,” Christy said. “I’ve seen the cartoons. That's why I drive if I'm traveling by land.”
"You drive instead of taking the train because you’re worried about girls getting ran over?”
"Not really. I was just being goofy. And I like driving a lot.”
Jade laughed again. It was the prettiest laugh Christy had ever heard. "I stick to driving too. No trains or planes.”
"You don't fly?"
"Nope. I'm afraid of heights. A bad experience at a carnival. A long story."
"I wouldn't mind hearing it," Christy commented.
A smile crossed Jade’s oval face. "You wouldn't?"
"I wouldn't. Maybe I could buy you hot chocolate and we could swap carnival stories? I have one about when my funnel cake collided with a rodeo clown."
Christy was shocked. Had she really asked a woman out for a drink? What parallel universe or alternate reality had she fallen into? Jade wasn't responding to her invitation. Christy promptly panicked.
"Or not," Christy added.
"Oh, no, I would like to. I was just wondering why you said hot chocolate instead of coffee. I mean, most people say coffee is all. It’s refreshing you didn’t.”
"Well, there's free coffee over here. I didn't want you to think I'm a cheapskate by asking if I could walk six feet to get you another cup from a tub."
"I see your logic,” Jade brightly hummed. “I like hot chocolate anyway."
"Me too,” Christy grinned.
“Do you want to go now? Or did you want to watch the trains a little longer? I don’t mind either way. I just sat down because I felt it’d be rude to take the coffee and run.”
It was Christy’s turn to chuckle. “I don’t mind going now.”
"Let's go then. I don't think the fancy coffee place back there has anything other than coffee. I know there's a cafe on the other side of the mall that has cocoa. Do you mind the walk?"
"No. I'm sure it'll go fast. Things always go faster when the company is good."
That brought a slight blush to Jade’s cheeks. "I know what you mean."
Together, Jade and Christy left. The trains continued to move and whistle in the same old patterns. Jade and Christy were starting something new with each step they took. They swapped stories and drank hot chocolate. Some hours later, they weren’t ready to part ways just yet. They circled back to the train display for a final glance.
“It’s weird. Something drew me here today. I haven’t been in a few years. But, I got this feeling like I had to come,” Christy admitted.
“That is weird. I had the same feeling. I wasn’t going to come to the mall, but I was driving by and felt like I had to stop,” Jade replied.
“Maybe we know why,” Christy said.
“Yeah. Maybe we do,” Jade warmly responded. “So, I’m going to a Christmas party tomorrow night. Would you like to come with me? Lots of hot chocolate there.”
“Sure. Something has me in the Christmas spirit. Or someone.”
“You’re too sweet. Can I walk you to your car? I have an umbrella stashed by the entrance.”
“That’d be great. I’m just now drying out from my trip in here. It’s a bit of a walk, though.”
Jade smirked. “Good.”
Grinning, the women left the display behind them. It wouldn’t be the last time they visited it. A year later, they would get two free cups of coffee and sit on the bench, reminiscing about how they met. Every year after that, they would return to the same spot to celebrate the start of their life together and the joy of the season.
Even though Christy once visited the Christmas trains with her ex-fiancée, she knew her tradition with Jade was entirely different. Their tradition wouldn’t come to an end.