Fear The Dawn: Chapter 10

If he had expected her to open up right away, it didn't happen. After introducing herself, she quickly turned back to her window and paid him little attention. He found himself at a loss for what else to say, so they rode most of the way in silence.

Aidan felt like he had swallowed a bag of rocks. He had decided that he wanted to get to know this girl, but he couldn't settle upon what he wanted to say to her. He tried to recall how he had introduced himself to the other friends he had made over the years, but he was too nervous to think clearly right now. As he sat there strumming his fingers on his leg and wracking his brain, he noticed that she was scribbling away on a little pad of paper on her lap. She wasn't really hiding it from him, so he leaned over and took a peek. On the paper was a pencil drawing of a lake shimmering white in the moonlight underneath a starry sky. He raised his head to look through the window and was greeted by much the same scene outside as the train passed over the bay.
It's very pretty” he remarked.
Thanks”. She didn't even look up from her paper.
He looked past her out the window. “You know, I've been taking this train for four years, and I never really noticed it. I always hated going home after it got dark.”
I like the night”, she said, still not looking up at him. “It's very quiet and peaceful.”
Okay, I get it”, he huffed, feeling rebuked.
I didn't mean it like that.” This time she did look up from her drawing for a moment and smiled a little. She really was very pretty, and Aidan wished he could spend the whole train ride looking into her eyes. However, she quickly returned to her drawing and there was a short silence between them.
Are you an artist?”
Something like that.” She said, continuing to make little adjustments on her picture.
It's very good”, he said, looking at it again. “You've really captured how it looks.”
It's no substitute for the real thing”, she looked out the window again, “but it's a full moon and a clear night tonight and I didn't want to let it go to waste.”
All right, I won't bother you any more, then.”
It's fine”, she replied. “If I really didn't want you to be here, I wouldn't have told the conductor to let you on the train.”
He didn't know how to respond to that, but he was fairly sure he was blushing. Luckily, she was still working away on her picture and didn't seem to notice. “We'll be over the bridge soon”, she said offhandedly. “If you want to take another look at it you should do it now, it'll just be trees in a minute.”
He leaned over a bit to look out the window. It really was a beautiful sight, the moon left a white triangle across the bay that quivered back and forth as the waves rolled by. After a few moments, the bay passed by and the trees cut off the view, just as she had said.
I'm glad I got to see it” he said, turning away from the window. She nodded. He watched quietly for another few minutes as she put the final touches on her picture.
Is it almost done?”
I suppose it's as good as it's getting”. She held it the sketch up to the window. “What do you think?”
It looks just like it.”
She removed the page from her pad and handed it to him. “You can have it. I've seen it plenty of times already.”
Thanks”, he said, accepting it graciously. “It was nice talking to you, too.”
I was wondering when you were going to say something”, she said flatly.
You could have spoken to me first.”
I gave you this seat”, she pointed out, coyly turning back to look out the window.

And with that, he ran out of things to say. After another few minutes the train pulled into the station, and he retrieved his briefcase from under the seat and stored the picture in there. “Have a good evening”, he told her as they got off the train.
You too”, she said, and she walked off down the platform He waited until she was out of sight before he went on his own way. It had been easier than he thought to talk to her, but they hadn't really said a lot. “I suppose that's how things usually go”, he thought to himself as he started the walk home. He looked up at the sky. The moon was still shining brightly in the sky, but it didn't seem like anything out of the ordinary from here. He strolled home a little slower than normal, his nerves finally at ease.

Aidan turned the key to his apartment a little after 7:40. He put his briefcase down on the couch, took the picture out, and put it down on his desk. “I should have got her to sign it”, he thought, looking at it again, but maybe that would have been a little weird. He was happy enough to have some reminder that they had spoken at all, in case he started to think it had all been a dream. He changed out of his work clothes and heated up one of his frozen dinners. He was in a good mood, and partially regretted not stopping to get something to eat on the way home, he felt that he had earned something a bit better today after all he'd been through. He contented himself to eat his dinner and watch TV, but his mind was still focused on the conversation they had earlier. “She wanted to talk to me, too”, he concluded, replaying bits of it in his head, and that made him optimistic that he'd be able to talk to her again. He was already looking forward to going to work tomorrow more than he had in years. He made his lunch, took a shower, and spent some time on his computer before turning in early for the night. He slept well, unperturbed by any strange dreams or dissatisfied thoughts.


He awoke peacefully, slowly opening his eyes as the morning sun greeted him. “I must have woken up before the alarm again”, he thought, rolling over to look at his clock, then he nearly fell out of bed.
It was already 8:00! “I forgot to turn the alarm back on!” he realized to his horror. He leapt out of bed, threw on his clothes, grabbed his briefcase and ran out the door without even stopping to eat anything.

He had already missed the 7:30 and 8:00 trains, but if he was fast he might still be able to get to the 8:30, and he might feasibly be able to get into the building by 9:30 AM if he really hurried out of the station. He could already hear the trouble would be in for being late, especially the day after he didn't get all his work done, and that thought just spurred him on. Unfortunately, his stomach was starting to realize that it was past 8:00 and he hadn't eaten anything, and it grumbled to show its discontentment with this disorganized morning. “We can eat later”, he told himself as he jogged down the streets to get to the station.

He arrived at the station at 8:23, which might have been enough time to get a bagel for breakfast if it hadn't been for the other thirty people in line who had the same idea. Even the pita place had at least twenty people in line, which would be cutting it far too close to the departure time. He swore under his breath and headed for his train. He showed his pass to the conductor, took a window seat near the middle, and spent the next few minutes staring at his watch, trying to convince time to slow down until he got into the office. As the train filled up the seat beside him was taken by a young man in casual business attire. “It must be nice to be able to dress like that and leave for work at a reasonable hour” he thought bitterly, already back to hating his job. The man was eating a bagel, too, and that was the last straw for Aidan's stomach. He opened up his briefcase, retrieved his sandwich and ate it as the train pulled out of the station. He could always buy a bag of chips or something from the cafeteria to stand in for his lunch. If he still had a job by lunchtime. “That crazy dream did tell me to get out of here”, he thought, “maybe it's decided to take matters into its own hands”.

Despite his sour mood and the impending trouble at work, once the train was underway and there was no longer anything he could do to get to work faster he found his mind wandering. As the train passed over the bay he thought about Nisha, and how she saw the beauty there while he could not. Perhaps the key to happiness lay simply in learning to appreciate what you had. There had been a time when having his own apartment and going to work in the city had seemed exciting and fun, but somehow that feeling had faded and he didn't know how to get it back. He had definitely felt that same rush of energy when he spoke to her last night, though, and he knew he wanted to speak to her again as soon as he could. At least now he had something to look forward to.

Unfortunately, such aspirations were preempted by more immediate concerns. The train squealed as it pulled into Central Station and the noise brought Aidan back to the real world. He exited the train as fast as possible and sprinted down the platform to the main area. If he was quick enough, maybe he could grab something for lunch, there were a ton of places to eat here. Unfortunately, he noted to his horror that there were long lines everywhere. “Don't you people work?!” he protested, unheard over the clamour of a thousand people milling to and fro. The only place that wasn't busy with the health food store, so he bought a small garden salad and stuffed it in his briefcase for later. He glanced at his watch: it was already 9:25, he absolutely had to get going now if he didn't want to get fired. He sprinted out of the building and across the few blocks to his office building. The receptionist said something to him and he ignored her for the second day in a row, sprinting right past her into an open elevator. She was probably starting to form a negative opinion of him, but that was the least of his concerns right now. As the elevator doors opened at his floor, he held the door open and peeked his head out to see if anyone was around. Not seeing anyone, he quietly crept through the hall, past his co-workers, and dove into his chair. He quietly took off his coat and peeked around the walls of his cubicle to see if he might have gotten away with it, then reached over for his empty coffee cup.

I'm surprised to see you late on a morning where you have a backlog of work to attend to, Aidan.”
Aidan quickly turned to face his boss, knocking over his cup in the process. Somehow, he hoped he would find someone else standing there, but things never worked out so well for him. His boss was standing beside his desk with a disappointed look on his overly round face. “My alarm didn't go off... it won't happen again”, he said, sweating profusely.
Now now, Aidan, I too was once a disorganized young man who thought that rules and deadlines were 'un-hip', but I really must insist that you finish the whole stack of applications today. This is our most important time of year, you know. Students will be starting their winter term soon, and business will be looking for acceleration capital for the start of the new year, and we can't disappoint them.”
Yes sir, I'll have these done before I go home tonight.”
Excellent! I knew I could count on you, my boy”, he patted Aidan's head, causing his hair to lie flat and stick to his forehead. “As long as you keep sight of what's important, you'll go far at Walder Financial”.
Aidan nodded obediently and his boss finally left. It really could have been a lot worse, but the massive stack of papers in his inbox was punishment enough. There was no way he could get all those done by the end of the day, particularly not with part of the morning already gone, he would have to skip lunch and work late tonight if he hoped to have any chance of finishing them all. He briefly contemplated distributing a few of his forms to his co-workers when they went to lunch, but they all must have heard him getting chewed out and they'd probably catch on right away. He sighed and picked up the top form from the pile. Sure enough, it was a student loan application. “Oh yes, I appreciate how important this is”, he grumbled under his breath, “without the extra 200 dollars a month how would they afford their booze?” He hastily approved it and moved on to the second paper in his massive stack.

By lunchtime he was maybe a quarter of the way through the pile. Everyone else went off to eat while he remained at his desk. He got a refill for his coffee and opened up his salad. It was bland and dry, but at least it was something to eat. He chewed away while looking up someone's credit score. It had some strikes against it and was on the border of what they would accept, so he decided to turn it down. He wasn't really in the mood to be offering people chances today, and rejecting applications was faster than approving them. “Better luck next time”, he said as he put the application on the top of his outgoing pile and moved onto the next one. Today wasn't a good day to try his generosity.

Many cups of coffee later Aidan placed another form on the outgoing pile and looked at his watch. It was 5:30. It was already getting dark out, but he still had at least another hour to go. He wondered if he would even be able to make the 6:45 tonight. “There's no way I'll see her, either”, he thought, suddenly losing most of his motivation to get his work done. He turned his chair around to look out the window, wondering what she did all day. “I bet it's much more interesting than this”. His stomach growled violently, and he realized that he was still at least two hours away from dinner, and that gave him an extra push to get back to working on the pile.

You're making good progress”, his boss said, stopping by his desk before he left. “I wasn't sure that you'd actually be able to get it done today.”
Aidan looked up from his desk. The discontentment on his face must have been easy to read, because his boss picked up on it instantly. “Oh dear, been a rather long day, has it? Well, I won't disturb you any longer. Chin up Aidan, you'll get there.”
Have a good evening”, he said, wanting to get back to his work.

He finally finished it all a little after 6:40. “Great, I'm not going to be home until almost 9”, he thought. His stomach rumbled again. The next train wasn't until 7:15, so at least he'd have time to get something to eat at the station. He took the elevator down to the ground floor. Nicole had already gone home, so at least he didn't have to explain his recent lack of politeness. He let himself out of the building and walked down the street. It was another cold night, and he was terribly hungry, so he walked quickly towards the golden lights of old Central. It was fairly quiet at this time of night on a weekday, so he was finally able to get himself a proper meal without spending forever in line. He figured he'd suffered enough for one day with that salad he ate earlier, so he opted for a hamburger and fries for dinner. After barely eating all day to finally have some warm food was so refreshing that it almost made up for everything that had happened. He wolfed it down and then chose a spot near the platform to sit and wait for the train to arrive.

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