I tried to keep my grammar nice and the story tone the same, but one can never be sure with their own writing. Let me know anything what needs changing, as well as your overall opinion.
I hope you like this story, which is as of yet nameless.*
From the moment she stepped off the train, she knew things were different. It all looked the same, right down to the carefully-tended pansies in the station's window boxes, but the flowers were unusually still. It was a busy summer day, but the parts of town visible from her position by the tracks looked . . . rigid. Contained.
It had been a while--seven years--but the town shouldn't have changed this much. Something else was at play here, just as she had been warned.
She stopped at the station to ask for directions to the hotel--it had been put up after she left. Mr. Lewis, who had worked at this station beyond anyone's memory, recognized her immediately.
"Miss"--she hushed him.
"Thank you, Mr. Lewis, but I'd like to keep this visit as quiet as possible." She smiled. "I am so pleased to see you again. Thank you for your assistance."
Mr. Lewis sniffed brusquely in his neat grey mustache, almost managing to look properly upset, but he offered her a peppermint from the stash he kept in the booth. She laughed, and took it--just as she always had. She cradled it in her gloved hand for a moment, lost in thought, then smiled at the elderly man once more.
"Again, Mr. Lewis, thank you. It is always delightful to see you." She left the office and walked briskly down the platform out of sight.
"Mr. Lewis? Who was that?" A homely lady stuck her head out the mail room door.
"No-one of import, Miss Annabelle. An acquaintance," he said, and then only to himself, "though I never thought she'd grow to be such a lady."
Miss Annabelle raised an eyebrow--she had caught Mr Lewis' aside--and went back to work. Mr. Lewis sat looking out the window long after the finely-dressed figure had vanished, the air around him quiet and sad.
The longer she was in town, the more eerie things were. No birds flew. The people were hushed. When she looked down the short alleyways to the edge of town, she saw large, tangled bunches of tumbleweeds.
The wind was dead where she walked, but she could see grass dancing frantically along the horizon.
She sighed and continued down the boardwalk with her black case. There were several familiar faces, but none of them bothered to peer through the dark veil on her hat. She thought one might have paused just past, but she had reached the hotel doorway and--
She stopped short, stricken and breathless, to almost jump around and look south along the dusty road.
The young man stood, hands in pockets, at the center of the street. He was just far enough away she couldn't make out his face, but he was staring. He was staring at her.
She was still breathless but no longer on the verge of panic when he began ambling forward. Her case quivered in her grip, but she stiffened herself and waited. After what seemed an eternity, he stopped at the edge of the boardwalk.
She knew him. He'd grown up more than she'd expected, but it was still Ch--Mr. Wright, she corrected herself. Please, let it be someone else . . . She nearly jumped when he spoke: she hadn't expected his voice would change so much, either.
"I couldn't really believe it was you at first." He still stared, but she knew his face. It was older, but it was still Mr. Wright's--
"I'd given up on ever seeing you again." Something twitched in the dark blue of his eyes, and her heart wrenched painfully. Oh, no, please, no. Make it be my imagination. She stepped slowly towards the edge of the boardwalk, skirts whispering, eyes searching.
"I wrote you. Dozens and dozens of letters. And you never wrote back." She stared back now, and the view was all she had dreaded. Cold dismay wrapped around her like a blanket.
"I would have written back, Mr. Wright, but it was not possible. I told you when I left that for seven years--" She stopped, watching him laugh bitterly.
""Mr. Wright." Seven years is some time, but I told you to always call me Charley. And then I wondered why you never wrote back. No one would reply to a stranger." Face bitter, eyes flickering, he stepped onto the boardwalk. His hair and clothes stirred in a breeze that wasn't there.
She stood, watching, case twitching. Not much longer, she thought mournfully.
He stepped in front of her, raised a hand to her face.
Had it been seven years previous, her cheek would have blistered before he even touched her. The impossible heat of him would have burned, beginning under his fingertips and spreading until she died in the flames.
But it was not seven years ago.
"Charley." She could barely whisper the name.
"Yes, dear." She almost winced.
"Why, Charley. Why could you not wait for me." Her voice was flat, inflectionless. He bent down a little so they were at eye level.
"That wasn't a question." His eyes were no longer the dark blue of water at night, but bright--brighter than the noonday sky above them.
"Why, Charley." The case in her hand jerked suddenly, and she no longer held a case. She raised her arm, and pressed the pistol to his chest.
His strange eyes stared at her hand now, her hand that knew its work and would therefore help her do this heartbreaking thing. Her hat, the lace at her throat and wrists, her dress shook in the energy currents she no longer kept locked in her case. They were both caught in the waves, but she was stronger and infinitely more practiced. Seven years could be a long time.
She would do what she must.
"Charles Wright, you have stolen power from this town and all territory surrounding in every direction for five miles. It is my duty to restore this force to nature, with or without your co-operation. Will you release this energy of your own volition?"
He looked at her face again, and she knew his answer. The pale blue had bleached brighter still, and his irises were nearly pure white. His fingers were actually starting to burn her cheek.
"Very well. I will do what I must."
She pulled the trigger.
Mr. Lewis was waiting at the station door when she walked onto the platform again. The pansies where dancing merrily in the first breeze they had felt for quite some, and their jigs had let him know it was safe to step outside again.
She had returned, but she was not joyous. Her hat was gone now, revealing over-bright eyes and letting the wind pick at bright curls. Her dress was all-over dusty, and the case gone: there was a black purse at her elbow instead. Her hands were wrapped tightly around a bare-rooted rosebush with small, blue-white blossoms.
"Mr. Lewis, is there a window box you might be able to loan me for a time?" Whatever her eyes said, her voice was calm and firm as it had been on her arrival.
He did not reply, but went and fetched a box that had not been empty very long. The short, deep box was set carefully on the platform, and the rosebush gently planted. It was only when she used the last of the water he had brought to rinse her hands, setting her gloves aside, that Mr. Lewis glimpsed the wicked cuts that had gouged through the kidskin and into her palms. She saw his face.
"It's alright, Mr. Lewis. I just forgot about the thorns again." She almost smiled.
"I know how you feel, m-miss. I know that . . . that this is difficult. Just remember, you've barely a fortnight before--" She shook her head ever so slightly, and he frowned in confusion.
"Mr. Lewis, my season was over very nearly a month ago. I did not hear of the . . . the matters here until I was going through the seven years' worth of post that had accumulated while I was . . . otherwise engaged." She grew very still. "I . . . asked for another term."
His sharp breath whistled in over his mustache, and his face hardened in dismay. She watched him for a moment, then stepped away from the flower box.
A slight shake of the shoulders and the dust was gone from her dress. The case dangled in her hand again, and her hat perched on her head once more.
A train sounded in the distance.
"You can't understand what you've done. One day, you'll wake up alone in a world stranger than you now believe possible and you'll know, but--" Mr. Lewis paused stiffly, snuffling and adjusting his spectacles, "but you can't understand what---what it's going to become at present."
He could not see her eyes through the veil of her hat, but her mouth smiled. How can she smile so?
"Mr. Lewis, it has been a pleasure, as always. I am grateful for your concern, I truly am. Ah, well," she sighed. "If all else fails, I'll become a train clerk, no?" She chuckled, and then her lips were serious again. "I'll be back for--for the rose soon enough. As soon as I'm settled, yes?" The train whistled again, much closer this time.
They stared at each other, old man and young woman. He knew, as she did, that it would be more than seven years before she returned. She knew, as he did, that he would still be here when she arrived. Magic soaked through skin into bones and spirit as it was used. Seven years was the advised season with good sense. If one only served seven years, one was guaranteed to still be human.
Mr. Lewis had worked in an era when power was mostly less dangerous than breathing, and remembered his seven terms: how could he forget, with the violet pansies to remind him daily? His forehead wrinkled, and something slipped across his cheek.
"Promise me, miss, that you'll do no such thing as four." The train whistled again, coasting in toward the track. The pansies danced. The lady stood very still, staring down at the pale roses.
"Please, miss. Promise me."
"I will be back in fewer than twenty-one years. I give you my word." Her voice was softer than he should have been able to hear.
"Good," he sighed, and his words were lost in the hiss of the engine.
"Well, Mr. Lewis, a pleasure. As always." She stepped up the passenger car's narrow stairway. "Don't kill the rose." She waved as she slipped into the seating area and out of view.
Mr. Lewis watched her silhouette sit, and remembered a carriage--no, it had been something else . . . what had they called it? He could not remember. But he remembered loneliness, and sorrow, and a pretty girl with an uncommon fancy for small purple flowers who had walked away without looking back.
The train blew its whistle one last time, and began pulling away. Mr. Lewis waved slowly, still remembering, then looked down at the rose. The petals already looked darker than he remembered them being. He smiled.
"Take heart, Charley Wright. It should only be three decades or so before you're finished, and she'll be back by then. And since she'll be retired, she'll have her name again."
Mr. Lewis looked back down the tracks--the train was gone. He picked up the window box and carried it to the station, setting it next to another box containing one pale lavender and one deep violet pansy. Perhaps they could teach the young man a trick to pass the time.
At least he wouldn't be forever waiting.
ALSO, IT HAS EVOLVED INTO A TRIP DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE, AND YOU PROBABLY WON'T COME OUT ENLIGHTENED. TAKE CAUTION.
*So, this story is a muddled twitchy combobulation of many different stories-ish except for the part where it's also written off feelings I get from stories-ish. But anyway, it is, in a few ways, a cousin twice or three times removed from a Garth Nix^ short story--I can't remember the title at present, but it was good in a Garth-Nix-sometimes-likes-creepy-things way--and in my exhaustion I almost gave my story here an almost identical ending, involving an empty-except-for-our-heroine train that vanishes randomly down track that isn't typically there, but I sobered up at an opportune moment to avoid a cousin twice removed from plagiarism; however, I still couldn't really save it--or this foot note--so it's rather awkward. Plus, beyond some back history explanations, I never had a real idea of an ending. Beyond her leaving. Which, we got there, but . . . urgh. Do you think it's bumpy?
^Since I've been doing this blog as a random combobulation of reviews, I should put a good word out there for Mr. Nix. Yes, he has a fascination for creepy and gore at times+. However, his Abhorsen trilogy is brilliance and deliciousness, even if there's not a lot of talk of things that even remotely qualify as edible (besides Mogget and his eternal fish-cravings, but you'll have to read the books to understand how desperate Mogget gets). On some levels, it is the creepishness that makes them a little more likable. When we think zombies these days, we think relatively human things that look gross. Garth Nix makes ex-humanoids that make you want to vomit and poop your pants simultaneously, they are that gross and scary (or they are in my head). ++ So, be a trooper. Support real fantasy. READ GARTH NIX (and Robin McKinley, but I haven't talked about her yet).
+ The gore, I think, gets me more than creepish. Average zombies, I can handle. The blood-spattering tentacled nightmares that explode in a horrendous fountain of gore from some random loser's head and torso on the Resident Evil~ videogames? AAAAAAUGH SAVE ME. (I spent several hours watching my brother play RE IV when I was younger. And then there was the time I accidentally found the video screen shots of the hero vs. Chainsaw Man and the hero lost. Horribly. D8 ) Which is where--TADAAA!--True Grit shows up. I did not want a closeup of the dead guy's head. I didn't. Your CGI is gorgeous, but . . . augh. Don't.
~I join the few Resident Evil worshippers I know in saying the movies don't even count. They're not even that scary. Or horrifyingly gory. Oooh, it's a dog that rips in half into a giant mouth! There are fish like that. Also, seen Monsters, Inc lately? Yeah. Look for the orange toilet-creature with teeth.
++This footnote mostly applies to the scary part of above line, as gross has already been discussed. It is also where I start . . . saying mean things . . . about today's teen literature.
First off, Robin McKinley has the right of it when she tries to write about a vampire that's scary~ as opposed to . . . what? That was the whole point of vampires, folks, and now that we've stripped them of their terror-raising skills they're annoying wusses that sparkle. And what about werewolves? They were once heralded as the ultimate doomsdayers, and calling someone a werewolf meant one of two things: either your village was going to gang up on that individual and burn him, or he was going to murder you to avoid the former scenario--and then he might burn anyway. What is the point of monsters that aren't scary? What are we going to geld next? Mass murderers?--oh, wait, that's Sweeney Todd fangirlisms. OH MY SHMARGLEFRITZ. THIS IS RIDICULOUS.~~
~Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce Robin McKinley's Sunshine. Sunshine's the heroine: the butt-kickingly scary vampire cast includes--but is not limited to--Con (Constantine, as close to good as these vampires get, but he's still scary as hell) and Bo (Beauregard, also known as evil incarnate). Authors of the world: we need more scary vampires. Even if you don't stake them all . . . MAKE THEM SCARY!!!
~~The longer I live in the real world, the more I notice everything is messed up--especially my head.