During my college years, my friends would often ask me to read to them in the evenings. (We attended a rather strict college where we weren’t allowed to watch movies or TV shows in our rooms so entertainment was limited.) We charged our way through Little Women and The Painted Veil, but my real memories from those nights are wrapped up in my own works, most especially reading them this, an unfinished novel I never titled. In my mind it’s still just: Eden and Ingrid.
I hope you enjoy the first scene from the story:
Some rumors say he came on the 3:15 from New Orleans the very afternoon of the McKay party, and that he had nothing in his pockets save a wallet containing a few dollars and his identification. Most people agree that he was running from something and had spent his last money on the train. Yet try as anyone might, beyond Atlanta his antecedents could not be traced.
Avery James— tall, brown-haired with blue-green eyes— appeared on the platform of Stillbank, Louisiana as if conjured up from the mildewed air. The only thing that spoke of his character and background were the clothes he wore: well-tailored charcoal slacks; pressed, white shirtsleeves rolled to his elbows; and a matching charcoal jacket slung over his shoulder. A hat perched on his head, and from his jacket pocket, the end of a tie peeked out.
He appeared, in all innocence, to be the casual traveler. Of course, Innocence was not an acquaintance of Mr. James’.
Louisiana was already baking by late spring that year, and Mr. James, standing on the platform, was greeted by a haze that spread across the verdant forest and far away swamp. The sun baked up waves of heat that ascended, shimmering, like the image of a dream. Birds called in the distance, and the trees seethed with sound.
It appeared Stillbank was not a very popular stop. Only five other people disembarked with Mr. James, and these, he discovered, had vanished. The only person left had been waiting for the train when it pulled in. The man stood with his back to Avery as he struggled with a trunk.
“Excuse me— sir?” Avery said in his deep, quiet voice.
The man lifted his head and turned, his brow knit. He was average height, powerfully built and broad in his navy polo. “Sorry—? Did you say something?”
“Yes. Do you know if this place has a taxi service?”
The man’s brows rose and his blue eyes twinkled. “A taxi service? This isn’t New Orleans, mister.” A pause, a suspicious glance, and then: “Where you coming from?”
Avery flashed a quick smile. “The city.”
The man smirked. “Right,” he said beneath his breath. “I can give you a ride to town if you like. My truck’s over there.” He pointed to a dusty old Ford parked along the dirt lane.
Avery glanced and nodded. “Thanks. That’s very kind of you.”
“Yeah, listen, the name’s Frank. Frank Langdon.” Frank extended a wide hand that was covered in calluses.
Frank’s brows rose again. “Avery?….hmmm. Give me a hand with this would ya?”
Avery obliged, and they lifted the trunk across the scarred old boards, over the knee-high grass, and into the dirt covered bed of Frank’s truck. A dust cloud billowed up to their faces when they dropped it in, and Avery coughed. Frank’s face lit up with laughter.
“Yeah, you’re from the city all right… You smoke?”
Avery glanced at him from dark eyes. “Of course.”
Frank moved around the truck. “Hop in. I’ve got a pack in the cab.” With that, he wrenched open the rusted door.