Stepping on that train was probably the hardest thing you had ever done in your life. You were leaving Mom and Dad in Thunder Bay and embarking on a two-day train ride that would take you to what would be your home for four years: the University of Red Deer, in Alberta.
You didn’t really care what university you went to… well, Lakehead was your first choice, until you received a letter from Red Deer. You were perplexed to find that they had actually scouted you out from your high school. The representative was there for a day to make its pitch, but you were sick with the flu. They had said at the meeting that they would pay the entire tuition for all four years for a student, at the principal’s choosing, that was studious and demonstrated leadership and athletic ability.
Mom had kept it a secret from you until the letter came. The principal had called beforehand to tell her the great news. It was still a surprise to you afterwards, when he announced your name in front of everyone at convocation, saying you had been chosen.
The university wanted to attract students, it was only a couple years old, and it needed to build an intelligent student body if it was to generate some quality graduates and hold its own against Calgary.
In the end, you consented. There’s no vertical here, you said to yourself. The dream of the west, just like old times, was pulsing though your blood.
The train rattled along, and the sun began to dip lower and lower into the prairie heartland of Manitoba. You were a little hot, so you opened the window just a little bit. The crisp late August air flowed in. You pulled out the pillow from under the seat, turned on your iPod, and fell asleep, knowing we would be in Regina by morning.
When you reached Regina, you said goodbye to the couple from Quebec who were on vacation, and stretched. It was somewhat noisy, so you put your headphones back on to block out some of the noise. Once the passengers had left, you were expecting a handful of people to get on… but not even one did. You took your headphones off, and kicked your legs out from under your seat and into the next, which was now vacant. Then, by surprise, the car door opened, and a girl in tears stepped in. A baggage handler stepped in afterwards with her bags, which he promptly put under her seat, and left.
You didn’t know what to do. She looked about the same age as you, wearing a light blue summer dress, with light brown hair, and grey-blue eyes. Her dress was embroidered along the side with white flower petals. She sat a few rows up from you, on the other side, also facing the window. You could still see that her face was still full of tears in the glass.
The train, since picking up its passengers, began to chug, soon leaving the station. After a little while, you awoke to the train passing one of many grain elevators. She was still sad.