This week week we are highlighting the five stories that won prizes in this year’s short story contest. Today, we will look at Paige Murtaugh’s runner-up story, “The Journey Of How My Family Came To Be.” Our judges thought this was “a lovely trip through a series of memories that have been passed down from parent to child,” one that resonates with warmth and nostalgia.
It was a cold dreary weekday as she was shivering in her brown leather coat. Her long red hair was waving in the famous Chicago wind as she was waiting for the Red Line train to go to work. She hoped to see him, the “train guy” as she has named him. He was tall with beautiful green eyes, broad shoulders, and brown hair with a red goatee. He always wore a long black overcoat with work boots. There was a way of walking he had that made her heart skip a beat. She could see him all the way down the train platform, waking as if he owned the world. Such confidence in his stride and always held his head up high, but not in a way of being conceited, but more of a confidence that she hoped to have herself.
She was very shy and did not know how to approach him, so for over a month she would pray to see him and when she did on those cold mornings, her day was brighter, warmer, and happier. She wanted to talk to him, wanted to see his smile and hear his voice, but she dared not try. She was so afraid to stumble over her words, to say something stupid, or even worse, have him not like her the way she did for him. She figured that he also went to work somewhere downtown, but did not know where. She tried to time her day perfectly in order to see him, even if it was for only the minutes they spent together on the train gazing at each other.
He noticed her from afar, her beautiful long red hair and bright blue eyes. He would see her on the platform waiting for the train, looking as if she was daydreaming of being somewhere else. She would glance at him and then quickly look away as if to be caught doing something that she should not be doing. He found her beautiful and was very interested in talking to her, to hear her laugh and to see her smile, to ask where she was when she daydreamed on those cold mornings on the platform.
He tried to time his mornings to see her. He would pray that he would at least just get a glimpse of her to make his day brighter. He didn’t approach her because it wasn’t something that he did. He never has in the past and he didn’t know really what to say to her but hello. She was different than the other women he has met and dated. Even though he never spoke to her he could tell that she had a kind heart just by looking at her. He didn’t know how he did, but it was something that he felt deep within himself.
After much thought and actual practice, yes, practice at home alone in her room; she had the courage to write him a note. Just a small note to ask him if he would like to talk with her along with her name and work number. She figured that there was no harm in that. If he decided not to talk to her, then she would be sad, but at least she would know if he felt the same way she did. As she was sitting on the train with his back facing her, she knew that this was the perfect opportunity to write her note. She nervously took out her notebook and began to write. Just as she was writing she dropped her pen. She was humiliated. She felt his eyes on her through the glass as she tried so desperately not to be so nervous. She handed him the note as he was leaving the train. Then she left the train two stops down and went to work, hoping he would call.
At 9:05am, her phone rang at her desk, her heart stopped. This cannot be him, she thought. It was five minutes after she started work. She thought it was her boss, letting her know that she was running late or giving her instruction for the morning. As she answered her phone, it was him! She put him on hold for a brief moment to tell her coworkers that he did in fact call and to catch her breath. She finally found out his name, Eddie. They planned on meeting on the train after work. It was the longest day she has ever had.
When he saw her take out her notebook, he knew that she was going to write a note to him. She tried so hard not to be nervous, but in doing so, made herself appear more nervous. As she was writing her note, her pen dropped. You could tell without even looking at her that she was embarrassed. He was looking at her the whole time through the glass on the train, hoping that what she wrote was to him. As he was leaving the train, he walked passed her. She handed him the note. As he read her note, he finally he knew her name, Jennifer.
He called her at work five minutes after she started. He was nervous, but would never tell her that. They planned on meeting on the train after work.
As they met on the train, they talked about work, where they grew up, what they liked and disliked, the conversation lasted the whole way back to their stop. As they left the train, they started walking back to their homes He noticed that she had a beautiful smile and was very smart. He also was right, she was kind and gentle. He walked her back to her aunt’s house, where her son was being watched. She was afraid to tell him about her son although. Not many men like dating women with children. He didn’t mind at all, in fact he and her son got along really well on the way home. She then picked her son up and he walked them both home.
As they were walking home, she noticed the way he laughed, his smile and his voice. They had so much in common, but also enough differences to make their conversation interesting. Within their casual conversations they found out that they lived just blocks from one another for years and never met until that moment. Their lives were intertwined just as a spider hangs its web so carefully for its prey to be consumed in it. It is rather odd how people with such in common could have a barrier of three blocks between them.
She decided to walk him partially back to his house after she dropped off her son at home with her parents. She didn’t want the talking and walking to end, but it had to. As they were saying goodbye, he reached over and kissed her very gently. He said that he will call her later and cannot wait to see her tomorrow. They both knew then that they were falling in love.
My parents have been together for over 19 years. They have beaten many odds and have loved each other through thick and thin, sickness and health, richer or poorer. They have had an amazing journey and I hope that it continues for many years to come.