After a few songs, the dude got up. Matt, intensely focused on every move he made, was struggling not to be caught looking. It wasn't jealousy, was it? No. This was a girl he had never seen before. Her tears, however, had turned to smiles. Matt hoped that she still some doubt about him in her mind.
He turned down his iPod, as the dude spoke.
"It was nice meeting you. My name is Cameron."
"Claire. Nice to meet you too, Cameron."
Matt couldn't stand it any longer. He turned up his iPod all the way until it hurt, and in a few short moments yanked the ear buds out in frustration. Just then, Cameron walked by and as Matt looked to his right a small glint of a polished brass chain stuck out from his pocket.
Turning his attention back to the girl, Claire, seemed only modestly content. The smiles she was sharing with Cameron rang slightly hollow. Perhaps he misspoke?
Just then a woman with a raspy voice announced the next and final leg in Matt's journey to Red Deer. "Next stop, Saskatoon. We are unfortunately delayed so our layover has been reduced to fifteen minutes instead of the usual thirty. Those passengers who are getting off in Saskatoon are asked to get their bags ready and ask for assistance if necessary."
A much sweeter and more youthful voice began to repeat the message in French.
Matt looked at Claire again. She was looking around for something. Perhaps she was getting off in Saskatoon? He realized he would have no chance with her then, and was ready to resign himself to his fate. I was never supposed to meet her, he thought.
She began searching more frantically now. Something was wrong now. Matt didn't care what, if anything, would happen between them. He knew he needed to help. So he plucked up whatever courage he had left and got up, for the second time. But this time he wasn't going to make any mistakes.
He walked over to her seat, and looked over her for a moment until she noticed him. Her eyes were blue as a clear summer sky, with a tinge of grey at the centre. Their eyes locked, and in that very moment found themselves speechless, fixated upon the gaze of the other. A moment later she glanced back at her bag, with the slightest hint on blush on her cheeks.
"Did you loose something?" Matt said, in the gentlest tone he could muster.
"Yeah, my purse. It should be here somewhere." Claire began fussing in her bag, pulling out all manner of books including The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, a book on fairy tales, some looseleaf papers, a few wrapped chocolates, a map and compass, and a brochure from the University of Red Deer.
"You're going to the University of Red Deer?" Matt asked.
"Yes. Are you?"
"I am. But that doesn't matter right how."
Just then, it hit him. It was Cameron. He had stolen her purse! That was the brass chain in his pocket.
"Did your purse have a brass chain?"
"Yes... wait how do you know that?! You didn't steal it, did you?"
"No," he stressed, "but I know who did."
He looked around to find an empty seat a few rows back, with Cameron at the end of the car opening the latch to get to the next car.
"He's getting away!"
Matt began to run after him. Besides doing hockey he kept up his fitness in the summer with track. He could outrun just about anybody long distance, but his sprinting was limited to more average speeds.
He pursued Cameron through the next car. In the dining car a tray of drinks came out of the side and was toppled, with glasses of coke and teas spilling all over the floor.
"What do you think you are doing!" the server shouted.
"Stop that thief!" Matt responded. The server then turned to a private telephone and began speaking.
As Cameron made his way to the end of the dining car he came to the latch but it wouldn't budge. He banged on the door.
"Damn it! Open up, you worthless thing!" he shouted at the door. But by then Matt had finally caught up. Cameron turned around only to have Matt pin his back to the door.
"Give back the girl's purse!" Matt was getting angrier and knew he needed to control his temper.
"What are you talking about?"
"The girl, the one you spoke to earlier, you stole her purse. I saw it, it had a brass chain and it was in your pocket."
"I said, I don't know what you're talking about."
"Let him go."
Matt turned around to see the conductor with someone else. He looked like an off duty officer. Matt released his grip, and Cameron began to walk back through the other side.
"You know you can let us handle this." The off duty cop said to Matt. "We appreciate your effort, but you were putting yourself in danger." Cameron had still not left the car, but without warning, tripped moments after he walked by the officer. The chain fell out of his pocket.
"Well, what do we have here?"
Claire came through the door, and spotted the chain on the floor, sticking out from Cameron's pocket.
"My purse! Give it back."
The off duty officer removed the purse from his pocket and gave it to Claire.
"I'm sure we can explain that coincidence at the local RCMP detachment," said the officer. Cameron was escorted away in handcuffs, and the conductor asked both Matt and Claire to return to their seats.
They began to walk back together, her stride matching his.
"Thank you," she said.
"Don't mention it."
"What's your name?"
"Matthew. But everybody likes to call me Matt."
"My name is Claire. Claire Falstaff." As she said that, she tilted her head ever so slightly, and smiled at him.