Metal screeched on metal as the car jerked on its rails, throwing my head against Zach's shoulder. The train jolted forward again, as Zach laughed and kissed my head. "Not exactly a first class train. That's what you get from the communists."
"Shh," I hissed. What if the others understood English?
The man by the window of our compartment didn't even glance up from his newspaper. The woman across from us was staring in our general direction, but her eyes were glazed, and her hand moved absently across the back of the child whose face was buried in her lap and whose gentle breathing said she was asleep. The woman's face was thin, fairer than even her average countryman's, and though the car felt warm enough, she hadn't bothered to take off her fluffy scarf or her voluminous burgundy coat. Her gaze drifted to the floor of the compartment.
"They're not all like this—the trains," I whispered to Zach over the clattering. "And you have to admit, it's better than driving in this." I waved out the window, at the blankets of whiteness, a stunning desolate beauty that Zach somehow seemed not to appreciate.
"Give me my car and a freeway any day," he said.
I rolled my eyes. He actually liked driving in L.A. I bought everything I owned at the Wal-Mart in town just so I didn't have to drive into the city.
"But I'm here with you." He'd turned on his charming voice. "And that's even better than a freeway."
I laughed and punched him in the arm.
The woman's head snapped up toward us, just as the train made a mighty heave and then drew itself to a long, shuddering stop. The woman's child slid half off the cracked vinyl seat, and Zach reached out to catch her, but the woman snatched the poor girl violently back, crushing her so tightly in her arms that the child could hardly breathe. Instead of squirming away, the little girl just looked out at us with big round eyes.
* * *
"Shhhh," I whispered to Ania, holding her tight, rocking her back and forth.
Łucasz had gone back to work for the afternoon. He wouldn't get home for another two hours. He couldn't even know yet that I was gone. Then why was I so jumpy? That poor young man wasn't Łucasz, but he looked a little like him, and that American girl with him—she seemed so happy, so carefree. I remembered feeling like that: like the world was a good place, like the man I was with was a good man, like I could do anything.
The young man said something to me in English. I lowered my eyes and kept rocking Ania in silence.
* * *
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