The Dining Car

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He looked up and his brown eyes met hers.  They locked for a second and then she looked down at her cup. “I don’t understand why we have to come all the way out here for this,” she said, intently stirring her tea. “Beca...

He looked up and his brown eyes met hers.  They locked for a second and then she looked down at her cup.

“I don’t understand why we have to come all the way out here for this,” she said, intently stirring her tea.

“Because I was hoping it would inspire us.”

“Inspire us?  How?”  She did not look up, just kept stirring.

“You know, I’m not exactly sure.”  He sat back in his seat, folding his hands behind his head.  “I was hoping it would just sort of come to me once we made it out here, you know?”

“No, no I don’t.”

He nodded and sat forward, pushing his tea cup over to the other side of the table.  The train jerked as the man turned his attention to the tiny, dust covered window next to him.  The outside seemed to fly by, while time stayed still inside the dining car.  Trees sporadically whizzed by in the golden grass that seemed to be symbolic of all of India.  It was a beautiful country, the man thought, but it was not well kept.  At least from an American’s perspective.  

He stared out at the mountains in the distance as they seemed to trudge along with the train as it headed towards Mumbai.  Such beauty, the man thought. The mountains had a magical quality all their own.  One that you would never find in America.  Not even in the Rocky Mountains.

“Are you going to stare at your tea all day, or are you going to enjoy India?”

With a sigh, the woman looked up.  The couple’s brown eyes locked again, but it was the man who broke the gaze this time.

“Ben, I didn’t even want to come.  I can’t believe I let myself get talked into this.”

“It’ll be good for us, Jess.  Just wait and see.  A little relaxation in a new and beautiful country might give us back that spark we once had.”

“I doubt it.”

“Well, with an attitude like that, nothing will help.”

The table that separated them was covered in a pleasant red and yellow cloth and Ben and Jess studied its pattern as if they were about to purchase it.

“I guess one good thing to get out of the trip is the distance between us and your parents.”  Jess pushed her tea off to the side, across from Ben’s.

“You don’t have to say things like that.  I was hoping for a peaceful trip with no arguing.”

“You want us to regain that spark that we had?  Then I feel like we need to talk about a few things.”

“Like what?”

“Your parents for a start.”

“What about them?”

“What about them?”  Jess’s eyes widened.  “I can feel the hatred burn the back of my neck every time I turn away from them.”

“They don’t hate you.”

“Yes, they do.  They blame me for everything that happened.”

Ben ran his fingers through his brown hair that had started turning slightly gray over the past few months.  Jess had noticed it, but did not want to tell him since he already had a lot on his mind and did not need to worry about graying hair at thirty-three.  

“You know it’s true.  The way they look and speak to me now.  They think I’m wicked.”

“Their beliefs are old fashioned.  They’ll get over it.  Just give them time.”  Ben pulled his cup across the table cloth and picked it up.  The tea was still hot and bitter, even with the five sugar packets he had dumped in earlier.  However, it seemed to clear his mind a little.

“We need a good vacation to take our minds off of things.  Then when we go back, my parents will have calmed down a bit, you’ll be more relaxed and the tension will have eased.”

“I hope you’re right.  Because I can’t take much more of the scrutiny and religious lessons they always try to feed me.”  Jess rubbed her eyes and then turned to look out the window.

Ben and Jess stared out the small portal and watched the sun slowly drift behind the distant mountains.  The burning red sphere seemed to scorch the golden grass as it made its final dip behind the mountains.  Lights came on in the dining car and a man with a long black beard and a colorful turban walked up to the table.

“Can I interest you two in a nice supper of fish?”

“I’ll have the fish.”  Ben said.  “Honey, do you want anything?”

“Do you have anything besides fish?”   

“We have chicken.”

“I’ll have the chicken then.”

“Good.  One fish and one chicken.  Soup or salad?”

“We’ll both have soup. Thanks,”  Ben answered.

The waiter bowed slightly and then was off to the kitchen car.

Neither Ben nor Jess said anything until their soup arrived and then the only words spoken were directed at the waiter.  They ate in silence, not looking up from the orange soup that burned both of their mouths due to the unfamiliar spices.  The waiter came and picked up the empty soup bowls and replaced them with the entrees.

“You don’t blame me, do you?”  Jess looked up from her half eaten chicken breast.  The spices on the chicken made it almost too spicy for her to eat.  Every bite seemed like she was eating part of a volcano.

“No, of course not.”  Ben did not look up as he picked at his fish.

“You do, don’t you?”

“No.”  Ben set his fork down and looked up at Jess.  “I do not blame you for what happened.  The doctor explained that it was just bad luck, that sometimes things like that happen and there is nothing you could have done to prevent it.”

“I know what the doctor said.  I want to know what you think.”

Ben took in a deep breath and let it out slowly.  “I am not my parents.  I don’t blame you for something that you had no control over.”

“You mean it?”

“Yes.”

Jess nodded.  “Okay.”

“I’m not hungry anymore.  You want to head back to our room and get some sleep?”  

“Yeah, this chicken is too spicy for me to eat anyways.”

Ben nodded and stood up.  He took Jess’s hand, helping her up out of her chair and slowly led her through the crammed train car.

“You know you were right,” Ben looked back at Jess.  “Eli would have been a beautiful name.”  

The couple exited the dining car together, hand in hand.

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