The Night Girl

The Night Girl
Cover Photos by Caleb Coppola and
David Michael Lamb, with composition by Caleb Coppola. Photos used with permission.

"We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits:
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry thirsty roots?"

--The Goblin Market, Christina Rossetti, 1862


Departures, Perpetua decided, deserved at least a train.

Dr. Zhivago had a train. He also had Russia in the dead of winter. There was billowing steam, a longing whistle, and longing looks. In Casablanca, Bogart had Ingrid Bergman and a plane.

I, thought Perpetua, have a small rolling suitcase with a stuck wheel scraping behind me as I walk to the bus station at the edge of town.

The sun beat down at her as she waited for the light to change. She crossed the highway, her long skirt swishing, her backpack on her shoulders, her suitcase going scraggle-scraggle-scrape behind her.

But the train had left North Bay years ago, a victim of government cuts. And as for a plane? That would blow her wad of cash before she even stepped on the tarmac in Toronto.

She walked down the hill to the old train station, now serving as a bus depot. She waited alone at the bay marked for the Toronto express. The breeze brought the sharp smell old rail creosote mixed with the fresh scent of the pine trees that she knew she was going to miss.

She perked up when she heard an approaching car, but it peaked and faded away, out of sight over the hill. The wind plucked at her ponytail and sent the trees shishing around her. She looked away as another car could be heard over the hill, only to fade on towards its destination.

"Not that I should care," she muttered. "I'm twenty-one. This was going to happen eventually. I don't need Mom to save me from myself."

We'll see how brave you are, her mother had said. After, Perpetua had to admit, much goading. But it still stung. Well. Yes. We'll see.

A rising roar and a gleam of reflected sun made her look up. She tightened her grip on her suitcase. The bus was coming down the hill towards the depot. The sign on its windshield read TORONTO.

It stopped with a squeak of breaks, and chuffed open its door. Perpetua looked up the hill for that one red car to tell her that, in the race with the Northland, her mother had at least shown up at the starting line.

The driver pumped the brakes. "You getting on or what?"

No car came speeding over the hill.

Perpetua shrugged. "I guess I'm going to Toronto."

The driver rolled his eyes. "That magical town."

She found a seat halfway back, stuffed her suitcase in the overhead rack and sat down with her backpack on her lap. She looked out the window as the bus groaned onward.

"Magic? Why not?" She tilted her seat back. "I could use a little magic right now."

Next: Chapter Two: The City of Light and Magic

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