Oyster Creek Ch. 01bySoebek110©
Daniel sat on the 13:15 train to Oyster Creek, sour-faced and miserable. The low, grey clouds, the encroaching cold and the settling gloom all conspired to lend the evening a foreboding look. Not that the rest of the day had gone well. Arriving in Portland International Airport at eleven in the morning had done nothing to clear up the jetlag from his thirteen hour flight out of London, especially not with the prospect of another four hours on the train in front of him.
Daniel hated trains. He'd never much liked them, and a daily commute from his sleepy town in rural middle England to the great heaving mass that was London had done little to diminish that sentiment. So when he found out he'd have to catch a cross-state train to Oyster Creek his reaction was not surprising, and it wasn't one of overwhelming joy. No, it was about as far from that as one could get without descending into a psychotic rage, and that annoyance had not much dissipated.
He had, of course, railed against the idea of going to Oyster Creek at all, particularly as the details of the journey had become clear. Not only a thirteen hour flight, but then another four hours travelling cross-country in a cooped-up metal tube, surrounded by sweaty passengers, noisy earphones and the omnipresent one-sided chatter of a mobile phone? No, thank you.
But he had no choice. His grandfather had retired, and the family business had passed on to his children, one of whom was Daniel's mother. The old man relinquished all control of the company, and apparently had thought long and hard as to whom he wanted to take up the post at Oyster Creek. Daniel's family were not great travellers, a trait that he shared, and the thought of upping sticks and journeying halfway across the world was not something that appealed to them.
The very fact that there was a branch in Oyster Creek at all had always surprised him. It was more a matter of historical sentimentality than economic prudence, Daniel felt, as his great-grandfather -- the founder of the family business -- had been from the small western US town and it had been his very first shop. Other than the first few decades of its existence it had never turned a profit, and was now nothing more than a general store. It didn't even share the name of the great corporate behemoth that the old man had gone on to found in Europe after he eloped to Britain with a young English woman. It appeared on no company accounts; a separate entity entirely, the general store was privately owned.
No, Daniel had found its existence annoying even before his grandfather had surrendered the reins of the company to his offspring. Why not just sell the damn thing? It had always seemed silly to keep hold of a small shop on the other side of the world, especially when it was nothing more than a pleasant memory of how things started. Who cared?
Daniel thought it was perhaps these views which had convinced the senile old bastard to send him to Oyster Creek. And here he was, to his great delight - the new proprietor of the "Oyster Creek General Store". His calling in life finally answered. Yeh, right.
He didn't even know what he was supposed to do once there, either. The only thing he'd been told was that the local hotel had a room booked in his name and that a girl named 'Jenny' was supposed to meet him at the station. He had no idea what the store even sold ('general' is not a product), or what his staff quota was. All in all, he was heading into the unknown.
It's not as if he'd been doing particularly badly back in the UK. He would admit that his career had slightly stalled, particularly after he'd been caught sleeping with his boss's secretary (who also happened to be his wife), but he was only twenty-four and he did not deserve this. Nobody deserved this.
Clearly, however, his family disagreed, and Daniel got the distinct impression that this posting was as much to do with getting him out of the way as it was any great gesture in improving his horizons. Still, he had little choice in the matter, and unless he wanted to be disowned by the entire Porter-Michaels clan then he had to go.
So he did.
He'd packed his things, said goodbye to his friends, given his ex-boss's wife one last seeing to whilst she was bent over the slimy bastard's own desk, and then left. The great American dream beckoned him; an epic story of sleepy mountain towns, a foreigner in a new land and a general store he already despised.
The crunch of the sliding doors brought him out of his reverie, and he surveyed his companions with a glower. He shared this carriage with a rather rotund gentleman in a faded business suit, tapping away on a laptop keyboard and loudly chuckling to himself. An elderly woman sat by herself in the next set of seats thoroughly engrossed in her book, and a couple of fresh-faced teenagers -- complete with hiking gear -- finished off the group.
Daniel had a row of four seats to himself, with a folding table. He immediately stowed it away and stretched his legs out, lying sideways across the seats with his feet up on the other side. He opened his book and vowed not to speak to anyone for the entire journey.
As the train moved off, the fat man with the laptop stopped chuckling, evidently moving on to more serious subject matter, and the excited murmur of the pseudo-hikers was all that he could hear over the repetitive clack of the wheels. Not too bad, he thought to himself. Though it could be better. I could be alone in the carriage.
Or not even on the fucking train, in this fucking country going to take over a shop I know next to fuck all about with no fucking prospects and a family back in the UK who want nothing more than to get me out of their fucking way.
Daniel hated trains.
They'd been travelling for about an hour when the train made its first stop, pulling into a reasonably-sized station alongside a fairly empty platform. It was quite clearly an important stop -- the size of the building made that obvious -- but a quarter past two was evidently not the time that most people boarded. A small gaggle of commuters stood milling on the platform, and as the train glided to a halt they moved towards the doors.
Two people approached the sliding doors to Daniel's carriage; a tall man replete with baseball jacket and cap emblazoned with what Daniel could only assume was the logo of the team he supported, and a woman he could barely see, so tightly wrapped up in her thick coat was she. As the doors hissed open they stepped on, and, in an effort to make sure no one sat near him, Daniel refused to make eye contact, instead resolutely focusing on the words of the page in front of him.
They picked their way over to the set of seats adjacent to his and sat down, the fat man with his laptop ceasing his incessant typing in order to size them up. He immediately resumed it.
Daniel closed his eyes as the doors shut once again and the train lurched forward, trying to eliminate the sense of claustrophobia that was building within him. The sky outside was fading into grey even though it was only afternoon, and the last wisps of pleasant blue were glowing over the horizon. Clouds were setting in, seemingly almost kissed by the serrated tops of the pine trees that hurtled past with increasing speed.
The two newcomers had begun to chatter, and given their proximity Daniel could unfortunately hear their voices murmuring. Yet he couldn't quite make out the words, which was even more infuriating -- at least he could have a good eavesdrop if that were the case -- and he gritted his teeth. It wasn't their fault he was annoyed, he knew, and it would do him no good to snap at them. They were doing nothing wrong; who wouldn't talk to whomever they were with on a long journey? No, the problem is mine, and I'll just have to suck it up, no matter how annoyed I'm getting.
He buried himself in his book once more, zoning out the noise of the train around him. He'd done it before that stop and he was able to do it again, his mind drifting and becoming lost in the fantasy world of the novel. It was so very much more interesting.
He must have been reading for a good while when the train began to slow again, another station evidently nearing. He checked his watch: quarter to three. Not too long then, but it was only an hour and a half gone. Still another two and a half to go.
Daniel became aware of movement to his left, and he cocked his head slightly to ascertain what was going on. In no way did he want to give the impression that he was interested in what was happening, of course, but he wanted to find out nonetheless. It seemed that the businessman was packing away his laptop and collecting his belongings, his journey evidently over. The man in the baseball cap, too, was shifting on his seat, though his partner -- whom Daniel had still not seen -- seemed far less interested in moving.
As the train pulled into the station Daniel noticed that the platforms were totally empty. The sky was completely grey now, the threat of rain imminent, most of the light cast by the searing white artificial bulbs that pocked the station's roof. The cabin of the train itself had adopted a cool glow; easily enough to see by, but Daniel could appreciate that it wouldn't prevent a good sleep, either.
With a small bump the train stopped moving, and Daniel watched the passengers disembark over the top of his book. It was indeed the fat businessman and the sports fan who climbed off the train, strolling along the platform a good distance apart. Clearly Mr. Baseball had not taken his companion with him, and Daniel shot a brief glance over his shoulder to see if she was still there. She was, staring at her mobile phone (sorry, cellphone), idly pressing buttons and clearly bored out of her mind.
He still could not see her clearly, but what he could make out was certainly nice on the eyes. She had medium-length brown hair that fell just short of her shoulders, layered and straightened to frame her face in an appealing -- but almost certainly difficult to maintain -- fashion. She had a cute, pointed nose, wide eyes of a colour he could not identify in the light, and prominent cheekbones. Daniel would need a better look at her to really tell, but from a quick glance she was certainly very attractive. She still, however, wore her thick coat, despite the relative warmth of the train carriage, and he soon grew wary of looking at her for too long and returned to his book.
As the train pulled away from the station he glanced in the window. The inside lights had practically turned it into a mirror, and Daniel stared at his own reflection. His sandy blonde hair looked stylishly unkempt, and he was pleased at that. He was going for the 'I don't care what my hair looks like despite spending a not inconsiderable amount of time on it every morning' look. Yet his green eyes were not noticeable in the light, which saddened him somewhat; he had been told by his admirers that they were one of his best features.
Settling down, and with one last glance at the pretty girl behind him, he returned to his book. The train had built up speed now, and the world was hurtling past at an impressive pace. He checked his watch: three o'clock. Sigh.
Movement behind him caught his attention, and he watched through the reflection of the window as his attractive fellow passenger reached beside her and picked up her handbag. She grasped it, sighed with boredom and looked up...
Straight into his gaze. Shit! He quickly averted his eyes and returned them to his book.
Another hour or so passed on the most boring journey of Daniel's life, and reading had begun to grow stale. He sighed, shutting the pages with a dull thud, and began staring out of the window once more. Of course, the reflective properties of the glass meant that he was really staring in, and he carefully watched the pretty creature that sat behind him. The elderly woman and the hikers had left the train at its previous stop, and so Daniel was now alone with this mysterious girl.
She had closed her eyes, evidently dozing, and it allowed Daniel to get a better look at her. She was still wearing her thick coat, no doubt owing to the open window that blasted cold air over her at the train's passage, but she nevertheless appeared to have drifted off to sleep.
He turned slightly, hoping to better see her form, and then turned some more. He had to admit, long journeys had a habit of making him pretty horny, and sharing the carriage with such an attractive young woman did nothing to curb those instincts.
The train juddered, shaking slightly from side to side as it rounded a bend, perfectly safe on the tracks but startling him nonetheless. The girl's eyes shot open and ice ran through his veins as she instinctively glanced round the carriage, her eyes yet again meeting his.
Daniel held the gaze a fleeting moment, too horrified at being caught in such a lecherous act to know what to do, his cool demeanour totally shattered. It was then that his book slipped off the seat, knocked sideways by the train's sudden veer, and they both jumped at the loud bang.
He closed his eyes, and laughed. He couldn't help it; such a ridiculous combination of events, and there was amusement to be found in them. He didn't think he'd ever been quite so frustrated and embarrassed -- he had somehow managed to couple his anger at the posting to Oyster Creek with the very immediate red-faced horror of his present predicament -- and it all just came out. He howled with laughter, rolling onto his back and doubling over, tears streaming down his cheeks.
The girl, he was sure, would change carriages. As he gasped in air, his fit of hysterics finally coming to an end, he glanced at the window once again. She was still there and, stranger yet, she was smiling, her lips curled into what seemed a bemused grin.
"I'm sorry," Daniel spluttered at last, laughter still shuddering through him. "I'm not laughing at you, I promise."
"I'd hope not," she said in return, her voice indicating her amusement. Relief flooded through him -- at least she wasn't going to get pissed at his being caught staring, as she had every right to do.
"It's just... a combination of events, culminating in that embarrassment right there. I... can't really explain it, but it was funny."
Daniel sat up and turned to her, surprised at her demand. "Excuse me? You really want me to bore you?"
"Look, dude, I just caught you staring at me whilst I slept. That's a cardinal sin, but hey, I'm cool with it. Everyone has desires, right? But you owe me, and I'm really fucking bored. Tell me what was funny."
Daniel was taken aback. She stared at him, raising an eyebrow. "Well?"
"Er, sure. Do you mind if I join you rather than talk across the carriage?"
"Don't bother; it smells over here. That fucking laptop-man."
She stood up at that, and Daniel got the chance to really take her in. She was, he decided, stunning. She crossed the gap quickly and sat down opposite him; he decided to remain sprawled across the seats. Those nondescript eyes were visible to him now, and they were a lovely hazel colour.
"Well, er, I guess I was laughing at being caught staring by you. And that, coupled with why I'm here, just made me laugh." He shrugged.
"And what's so funny about why you're here?"
"That's a separate question," Daniel teased. "You only demanded one answer."
"I suppose I did. Ask me something in return then."
"Can you take off your coat?"
She laughed at that, and shrugged. "Sure." She stood up, unbuttoning the long, grey coat, and slipped it from her shoulders. She was wearing a tight black t-shirt underneath, which Daniel was delighted to notice was stretched across an ample chest. Very ample indeed. As she leaned over to place her coat on the seat next to her, Daniel couldn't help but wonder at the feeling of those large tits in his hands. Goddamn, this journey has made me horny.
She turned back to him then. "So, my turn. What brings you to my fine country? I see that you're English."
"You want the whole story or the condensed one?"
She checked her watch. "I've got a while. The whole story."
"Fair enough." Daniel sat more upright. "My family owns a large business empire in Europe. I worked for them until recently, when I was fired from my job, and so they sent me here. We own a general store out in a place called Oyster Creek, you see, a relic of my great-grandfather's. I'm to oversee it until such a time I prove myself capable of being recalled to Britain."
"That's pretty interesting!" the girl replied. "I was expecting something like, 'oh, I'm a tourist and I was staring at your tits.'"
"Then I'm sure you're glad to hear that's not true."
"Well, one part of it anyway, huh?"
Daniel looked away for a moment, his cheeks feeling a little hot.
"Ah don't worry about it, I'm kidding. Seriously, if I got pissed at people staring at my chest I'd have flipped out long ago. You're a man; I understand that makes you a pervert."
Daniel laughed and turned back to her, pleased to see a grin on her face. She gestured towards him. "Your turn to ask a question."
"What about you? What do you do?"
"That's two questions."
Daniel smiled. "Just the last one then -- what do you do?"
"I'm a college grad. Last year. Business with economics. Good degree, too, but fucked if I can get a job in this current climate."
"What are you doing for money then?"
"Hold up... it's my turn to ask a question."
"Bugger, I suppose it is."
"What's your name?"
"Daniel, but all my friends call me Dan. Pleased to meet you. And yours?"
"You've already asked a question, can't ask two."
"Yup, you asked what I was doing for money."
"You're bloody good at this," Daniel laughed, shifting around to put his feet on the floor. He no longer felt like sprawling. "So... what are you doing for money?"
"Working in a shop. It's pretty boring stuff, but it's paying the bills until I can get out of town. I want to be a high-flyer somewhere. Don't really care where. Portland; LA; Chicago; New York. Wherever, really."
Daniel stared at her. "I know you're waiting for me to bite, but it's your turn to ask a question."
A broad smile spread across her face. "You're learning quick. Alright, how old are you?"
"Twenty-four. And you?"
"Twenty-four... too. A mouthful," she giggled. "And it's my turn, again. What to ask?"
"Ask a question. My turn."
"What? No it's not."
"You asked a question. You said 'what to ask.'"
"You bastard!" She grinned at him, then reclined. "You got me."
"Where are you from?"
"Hah, I think you mean 'where are you living', but luckily for you the two are one and the same. None other than your destination, Dan -- Oyster Creek."
"It is. Right, since you tricked me then I'm afraid I'm going to get personal." She leaned forwards again. "Do you have a girlfriend?"
"No. And if you're getting personal, so will I. Do you have a boyfriend?"
"Nope." She paused a moment, as if thinking up her next question. A grin slowly spread across her face. "Remember, Dan, we're answering truthfully here. Were you staring at my tits?"
Daniel swallowed, then shrugged. She wanted honesty -- she could hardly be annoyed by the answer. "Yes."
She nodded, and smiled. "Your turn, Dan."
He wasn't tolerating this. Her questions were probing, and they were embarrassing him. Time to turn the tables.
"Did you enjoy me staring at your tits?"
She looked a little taken aback, then a thought seemed to occur to her. "A very good question, I wondered if you'd stoop to my level. No British charm in you, clearly." She winked. "But in answer to your question: yes, I rather did. Do you find me attractive?"