Incommon Haunts: Last Stop

Janine closed her leather jacket, trying to get herself just a little warmer. Late October wasn’t the coldest by any means, but it was a bit windy. She kept walking towards the old platform, holding a large bouquet of white lilies held together with a rubber band and wrapped in a Kroger shopping bag. She stopped for a second and looked at the Kroger bag she was carrying them in, tilted her head, and furrowed her brow. “Is this good enough? Fuck. It’s fine, no time anyway.” She stopped talking to the flowers, removed them from the bag and threw the bag in a trash can just before the stairs up the platform. 

Janine walked along the stone platform, listening to her own footsteps echo between the old train station and the apartment complex across the street. In the middle of the platform was an iron bench, recently renovated back to its original design from over 100 years ago. Janine was a sucker for art nouveau, but she could still appreciate its more art deco stylings, with its bold sharp shapes and sleek symmetry. 

She sat down on the bench and brought up one arm to rest against the back. Her flowers sat next to her. Turning towards the sign hanging just a few feet above and to the right of her, she confirmed that this was the right stop. The clock on the wall confirmed that it was the right time too. She was a few minutes early, but honestly, she was always early for these kinds of things.

Turning back forward, she jumped a little as she noticed that an older woman was sitting next to her now. The woman was wearing an old-fashioned bonnet with lace and a floor length dress. It reminded Janine of the Mennonites that would come into town to sell bread, and presumably other things. She only ever bought the bread and the pretzels.

Janine started to tap her foot and check her watch, occasionally turning towards the other woman who was sitting stone still. Janine would open her mouth, and then stop herself before looking back at her watch.  

The old woman finally seemed to shake awake and move a little. She blinked, once, twice, three times, and then yawned. She stretched and bumped into Janine. “Oh! Sorry dear, didn’t see you there.” She took a long look at Janine, starting at her eyes, following her nose, down to her mouth, then chin. “Have we met?”

“I…uhh, I don’t think so, no.”

“You look so familiar.”

“I just have one of those faces, I guess.”

The old woman let her eyes slide off Janine’s face and down to the flowers she was holding, the bouquet of lilies held together with just a rubber band. She smiled and looked back to Janine’s face, catching Janine looking just as intently at her. “Your gentleman must be very lucky. You’re a very lovely girl.”

“Huh?”

“The flowers, dear. I know a loving gift when I see one. Well, I think you are both lucky. He’s lucky to have someone so pretty, and you have someone so kind. Good fortune.”

Janine sat there, head tilted in confusion before she spoke up. “No…no, no, no, these aren’t from a boy. They aren’t even a gift to me actually. They are for someone else.”

“Oh, you youths are so peculiar.”

“No, not like that, just uhmmm, they are for my grandma.” Janine scratched at her elbow out of habit, not that her nails would really dig through the leather. 

“Oh, is that why you’re here? Going to see her, are you?”

“That’s…that’s the plan. Or was the plan.” Janine laughed awkwardly.

“Well then, your grandma is very lucky, I think. A lot of children these days don’t even think to get their own mother flowers, let alone their grandmother. My daughter got in trouble taking flowers from a neighbors garden once. Was a peculiar kind of sweet.”

Janine laughed. “Sounds like my mom.”

“Then she would have loved my daughter…hmmmm”

Janine paused for a second and then said, “I’ve never met her.”

“Your mother dear?”

“No! Sorry, no, I mean, you said my grandma was lucky. I just, I’ve never met her…before today, so I don’t know what she’d think.”

“That’s too bad, but I’m sure she will love you, and your little gift. Nothing a grandmother loves more than her grandchildren of course.”

Janine looked away, towards the sky and let the silence fall across the old train platform, occasionally broken up by the rustling of the errant breeze. 

Every once and a while Janine looked down and towards her watch, checking how much longer she had to sit there with this perfect stranger.

The old woman spoke up. “Are you alright?”

“Huh?”

“You keep checking the time. Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, just, want to really take in today.”

The old woman took a second and said, “The train seems slow today.” She sighed. “Not many people come to this stop any more. Just not the place to be I guess.”

Janine wanted to correct her, but instead stayed quiet, wanting to just listen to this older woman, taking in each syllable and letting it rest inside her head, savoring them.

The old woman placed a hand on Janine’s shoulder. “It’s nice to have someone here to talk with today though.”

“Yeah? That makes me happy to hear.”

“I like sitting here, with someone, and just looking out at the sky. No plans, no objectives, just sitting…and being. It’s nice.”

“I like that too. Mom says I got it from gran.”

“Sounds like we would have gotten along.”

“Yeah.”

“A sweet old lady.”

Janine adjusted the flowers she was holding, looking at the lilies, taking a deep breath, and then speaking, “I think she really is.”

Janine sat there, smiling, content, letting in the setting sun, and then she checked her watch again. She shot up. “I’m so sorry! I have to go, but uhm, I know this is weird, but please have these.” Janine handed the flowers to the fading old woman.

The old woman protested. “But they’re for your grandmother.”

“It’s okay, I’ll bring her flowers next time I see you.”

The old woman took the flower and breathed in the scent of the white lilies.

Janine started to walk away quickly, picking up speed as she dashed down the stairs, and finally taking a moment to look behind her at the defunct station. Her grandmother was gone.


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