By Michelle Moraitis

Smoke smudged the pure blue sky as the train approached like a giant caterpillar inching its way across the countryside, growing in size as it approached Orchard Lake Station. Madeline trembled on the station platform, tendrils of hair falling from her messy braid, the train screeching to a halt, causing her to flinch and take a quick step back.  

“All aboard!” a figure called out, leaping from the train several cars down. Madeline’s station was practically vacant, an old woman being the only other person to be hobbling toward the train. 

Clambering forward, Madeline stepped into the train car in front of her, dragging her overly large suitcase behind her ten-year-old body and collapsing into the first open seat. She chewed and bit her lip until the skin began to painfully peel off. Distraught was an understatement for the anxious feelings making her belly turn and her palms sweat. The train whistle wailed loudly in Madeline’s ears and she squeezed her eyes shut, realizing only afterward that she should have covered her ears instead, and then the car lurched forward, the train beginning to roll back into a steady chug.  

Madeline watched the lush fields and hills of England passing by in a blur, sadly waving farewell to her, a prisoner condemned to the stone city of London, where nature was naught but a fond memory of summer days spent playing in the meadow. Of course, her papa only raved about London’s lively culture and beautiful buildings; so many people working toward building their futures by day and boasting about their accomplishments in pubs by night.  

“Believe me, Madeline. You will love it!” Papa had said. 

Madeline wasn’t convinced. Papa was an ambitious businessman in the days he lived in London. Madeline preferred playing by herself outside, reading books, and eating blueberry muffins with her mother to attending a busy boarding school in the middle of the city. Thinking of her mother made Madeline frown, the ache in her chest growing. She would not cry in the middle of this train. She would not.