This is the first of an 11-part short story based on the characters of author Susan K. Marlow’s Circle C Adventures and is posted on her blog https://circlecadventures.blogspot.com/
San Joaquin Valley, California, Late September 1884
Moving to a new school is always a little frightening. I hope the Fresno County School Board is more understanding than the last school board.
Ellianna Coulter twirled her pencil between her fingers, then pressed the blunt end against her chin and watched the flat, brown pasture racing away outside of the train window. Up close, the ground flashed by, making her dizzy; but far away, the mountains stood still, reaching the sky.
The steady thrum of the train had become white noise long ago.
Dropping her gaze to the small journal open in her lap, Ellie pondered her next words.
I wonder if anyone will be at the station to meet me. Jem sent his old friend Chad Carter a telegram, saying I was coming, and, of course, the school board knows I’m arriving today.
Jem kept insisting that Chad will remember us, but I doubt it. It has been at least fifteen years since he and Jem have met, probably nearer twenty. Besides, he is Jem’s friend. Not really mine.
“Next stop, Fresno! Twenty minutes!”
At the conductor’s call, Ellie started. Her stomach flipped. She shut the journal carefully, wrapping a piece of soft cloth around it and pushing it into the carpetbag at her feet. Ellie glanced at her hands; they were shaking. She forced them to stop and leaned back in her seat. Take a deep breath. Ellie told herself. You’re fine. Relax; take another deep breath. You can do this, there’s nothing to it.
She tilted her head back and looked at the ceiling. God, I’ve done this so many times; why do I still feel so nervous?
A few minutes later, the train began to slow. The steady thrum of the wheels became an agonized chug, as the train ground it’s way slowly to a stop.
“Here we are, folks! Fresno!”
Ellie grabbed her carpetbag and made her way to the door. As soon as she set foot on the platform, the busyness and noise struck her. People hurried back and forth, coming and going. Conductors called, the train whistled, the engine roared; people talked to each other loudly.
She scanned the platform, brushing a curl of auburn hair aside. A well-dressed man in his mid thirties caught her attention. His black hair was combed neatly back, and his eyes were also searching the crowd.
He noticed her and after a moment, made his way over.