Chapter One

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WISHING CROSS STATION is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events, locations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

COPYRIGHT FEBRUARY GRACE 2014 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Author: February Grace

Edited by Laura Bartha

Cover Design by Ida Jansson

~*~

For everyone who knows what it means to wait.

~*~

January 1, 2016

The wail and cry of the whistle. The puff of the engine. The clang of the bell and grinding screech of the brakes... all combined with the roar of a biting winter wind.

No matter how old I live to be, I will never forget that particular cacophony, an orchestra tuning up in preparation for a command performance. When I heard her approach, I knew the journey I was about to take would change me— no matter where I ended up when it was over.

She was beautiful, dark, and strong, with powerful legs beneath her as she rode the rails into the station. Plumes of white and grey rose around her as she moved, fluttering like angel's wings. The smell of the smoke was a singular aroma. Coal, fire, and heat all combined to intoxicate a man, to loosen the ideas in his head from solid form into threads meant to be spun into the foolishness of dreams.

She was a vixen, a siren, a savior, and damnation all in one. All things that beckon men to follow her anywhere, do anything to finally reach ecstasy before demise.

She was one of a kind, this engine, and her name was Aurelia Belle.

She's silent; the echoes of her glory only replay in my head. How clear, how deafening, how devastating, still.

She is restored now, sleeping in the roundhouse because the Historical Park is closed for the season. What happened to the version of the engine that took me on the voyage of a lifetime, I may never know.

I know just this: writing it down is the only way for me to even begin to come to terms with the fact it happened.

It did really happen, of this I am certain, because damn it, I was there.

It doesn't matter now if anyone else knows, or believes.

I know, I believe, and I will always remember.

It started as the most significant things in life do: in the middle of an ordinary weekday afternoon.

***

Sandy, my boss, asked me to go on an errand to pick up a bunch of books meant as a donation to the library at J. Howard Fox Community College. Just one of my glamorous duties as a page there. My official job title should have been Lowest Man on the Totem Pole, and Hauler of Unwieldy Objects.

I sang softly, coming up behind her as she sat at her desk with a wireless earpiece in her left ear. "Sannnnndyyyy..."

"Keigan Wainwright, you're going to scare five years off my life if you keep sneaking up on me!" She shooed me back, pretending not to enjoy the teasing, but I knew she did. "What do you want?"

"Just wanted you to know I'm taking off. To pick up the book donation."

"Very good," she replied with a nod, her graying blonde bob bouncing as she moved. "Be a dear and run them straight over to the research department at the museum afterward. They can tell us what we've got, clean them up. If they want, they may display some of them in the Park itself."

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