Turning 40

By Michele A. Cunningham

Machion never had an adventurous bone in her body. Not one. Somehow turning 40 triggered her need to be more adventurous.

“What are you doing Machion,” she stated as she waited in the train terminal. Her summer was supposed to be filled with her working on her book. Now, she was waiting for her train to arrive for her five-day trip across country.

“All aboard for Seattle,” the conductor announced.

Machion exhaled. This trip was totally out of her character. No one would believe that Dr. Machion Carrington stepped out of her comfort zone for an unplanned five-day train ride to Seattle. She grabbed her bags and headed toward the conductor.

As she approached the train, her eyes went straight to a tall slender young man reaching for her bags. He was well groomed and she admired his demeanor. He introduced himself as Cruz. On their way to her cabin she listened attentively to him as he went over the itinerary. His chocolate complexion was gorgeous, and his eyes were dreamy. She figured he was no more than 20 or 21.

While he was talking, she was trying to get mentally prepared to spend 101 hours, give or take, on the train.

“Here’s your cabin Dr. Carrington. If you need anything don’t forget my name is Cruz. We’ll make our first stop in DC in the morning, then Chicago, Sacramento, and finally Seattle.”

Omg, his smile is most gorgeous I’ve ever seen, she thought to herself. “Thank you,” she handed him a crisp $20 out her purse.

“You’re welcome,” he placed the money in his coat pocket. “I took the liberty to put you down for dinner at nine. That gives you about an hour to settle in before dinner.”

Did he say he took the liberty, she thought? “Thank you,” was her only reply as she looked around the cabin.

“You’re welcome Dr. Carrington. Remember if you need anything I’m Cruz,” he stated again as he closed her cabin door.

Machion grabbed her phone to send her assistant clear her calendar for the next few weeks. In less than 20 seconds her assistant responded, What? FrFr Dr. C? She had no idea what FrFr meant, so she had to ask.

Her assistant text back, For real For real.

Yes, FrFr, she replied with a smiley face emoji.

After getting things squared away with her assistant, she messaged the only other person that would be questioning her whereabouts. Her best friend, Sterling.

Headed to Seattle on a little getaway. Not sure how long I will be gone. Call you in the morning.

            It wasn’t 10 seconds before her phone started chiming with Sterling’s face on the screen. “Hello,” her voice sounded muffled as if she was trying to conceal her location.

“Oh, no mam. Don’t hello me. What’s this about you heading to Seattle on a little getaway.” The pitch in his voice was fluctuating, “This is totally out of your character. You plan everything. Even your trips to the bathroom.”

Machion knew her best friend was right. This was totally out of character for her. She had shocked herself with the trip.

“What Sterling?” Her voice was back to a normal as she pulled out her tan romper from her suitcase and black duster.

“Why you didn’t call me to go along with you. You know all you had to do is give me a call, I would have been on the flight with you.” He started giggling, “But, don’t you worry. I’ll book my flight and meet you tomorrow.”

Machion pulled out her black sandals from her luggage, “I’m not arriving until Thursday.”

“Thursday? Honey, are you going by pony express?”

She chuckled, “No, I’m traveling by train. I wanted to relax and work on my book.”

“Well, that gives me time to get myself together. Text me the address of the hotel we’re staying at. I’ll get an early flight out Thursday morning.”

Machion listened to him ramble on for another 10 minutes before she started getting ready for dinner. A part of her wanted to call Sterling back. She did need to work on her book, but that was the last thing on her mind at that moment.

Her trip was about her discovering who she was. She wanted to be more than a 40-year-old virgin who defied all the odds of a kid who was abandoned by her parents at an early age. Now, that she had proved everyone wrong she wanted to focus her life on something more.

***

When she arrived in the dining car, she was relieved the dining car wasn’t crowded. She wasn’t a very sociable person. She smiled at a few of the passengers as she looked for her seat, ensuring she only made enough eye contact not to seem rude. Her only objective for the night was dinner, then head back to her cabin to get some sleep. She would try to be sociable another day.

“Dr. Carrington,” a young woman with long black hair stated.

“Yes.”

“Cruz reserved you a table. Follow me.”

Machion followed the young woman to a table in the middle of the dining car. She could observe the entire car from her seat.  The young woman took her order for seared shrimp and a glass of red wine.

Her seat felt secluded even than she was seated in the middle. The chatter from the other passenger reminded her she was not alone on the train as read a book.

“How’s everything?” The voice startled her as she looked up from her phone.

Machion smiled when she realized the voice was coming from Cruz. “Just fine, thank you for asking,” she replied as she grabbed her glass of wine off the white linen table cloth.

“I’m glad to hear that. I turned your bed down for you. I also left you a little surprise on your pillow. Remember if you need anything, just ask for Cruz,” he said as he pointed to his name tag.

“Thank you,” before she could say anything else the young woman approached the table with her dinner.

For a moment she thought Cruz was flirting with her, but she realized he was just doing his job.

***

Her dinner hit the spot. She usually didn’t eat that late, but she was on vacation. She even indulged in the complimentary dessert the young woman had given her. Once she finished everything, she left the young woman a $20.

As she left the dining car her sense of adventure kicked in. She figured she would roam the train before she headed to her cabin.  She found her way to two lounge areas, a reading nook, and the other dinning car.

On her way back to her cabin, she observed a young couple locking lips before entering their cabin. Machion had been many things in life, but in love was not one. She had dated several men over the years. Then, the moment she didn’t give into their sexual desire they were out like a light.

When she entered her cabin, her eyes went straight to her pillow. Cruz had left a box of Vosges Haut Chocolat and a note that read, “If you need anything do not hesitate to ask.”

Machion felt a warm fuzzy feeling inside. She realized she was blushing, “I need a hot shower.”

After her shower, she indulged in a couple pieces of candy. “He probably figured a full-size woman like myself would enjoy these. And, he was right,” she laughed as she plopped one in her mouth.

Machion settled into her bed, after texting Sterling for a few minutes. She grabbed her tablet to view a video on slavery one of her colleagues sent to her. The last ten years of her life revolved around her career and caring for her ailing grandfather before he passed away six months earlier, making no time for herself.

***

The sound of laughter and loud talking in the hall had awakened her. The screen on her tablet was now black, and her phone had fallen to the floor. She grabbed her phone off the floor to check the time. “It’s only 1:03. I could have sworn it was later than that.”

The laughter and talking seemed to be coming from individuals that had a few too many drinks. She laid there a few minutes listening as the laughter moved down the corridor. Once the laughter stopped she tossed and turned a few minutes before realizing she needed something to help her sleep.

Machion figured a nice glass of warm milk would do the trick, but the dining car was closed. For a couple seconds, she debated on buzzing Cruz. But, that was the only way she could get what she wanted.

She heard a low taping sound a few minutes after she buzzed Cruz.

“How may I be of assistance to you?” His smile was mesmerizing. She focused on his smile for a few seconds before asking for a warm glass of milk.

“Would you like for me to add a drop of honey? My grandmother used to add a drop to mine.”

“Yes, I would like that,” She felt herself blushing as Cruz dashed off to get her milk.

Her reflection in the mirror was not what she wanted to show him. She snatched off her sleeping cap, then grabbed her curling gel to bring her curls back to life.

Machion finished sprucing up just in time before she heard the tapping on the door. “Thank you so much. I guess I have to get used to spending the next few nights on the train.”

“No problem. I’m here to help you through the process beautiful,” he winked. “Remember if you need anything, I mean anything, you let me know,” he said as he handed her the glass of milk.

Machion smiled. Men had called her beautiful before, but the way he enunciated beautiful, was something she had never heard before.

“There is one thing. Is there an open car I can go to read and sip on my milk?”

“Follow me.”

She followed him to the dining car. He carried her glass of milk for her. The shades were pulled, and the lights were low.

“Here we are,” he said as he sat her milk on the table.

“Thank you,” she replied as she sat at the table at the end of the car. “This is not going to get you in any trouble, is it?”

He looked around as if he was looking for someone. “No trouble at all. The gentleman over this dining car is my uncle and we have an agreement. I send passengers to his car, and I get the use of it after hours when my passengers can’t sleep.”

Machion and Cruz chatted a few more minutes before she watched him walk out the car. He advised her he would be back in an hour to check on her. That gave her plenty of time to drink her milk and catch up on her latest reading.

The feeling of someone standing over her frightened her. She didn’t realize she had dosed off to sleep. When she opened her eyes, she saw Cruz’s handsome face.

“Are you ready to go back to your cabin,” he asked as he reached his hand to help her from the seat.

He was such a gentleman to be so young. Machion was impressed. She was trying to figure him out. Something was different about him.

“May I ask, what’s your specialty Dr. Carrington,” he inquired as he escorted her to the cabin.

“My specialty?”

“Yes, are you a surgeon, pediatrician.”

“I’m sorry it’s been a long day. I have my PhD in African American Studies.”

“Um interesting. Where did you attend?”

“Harvard.”

“An Ivy League woman like former First Lady Obama. How interesting? I minored in African American Studies while studying Political Science.”

She was definitely impressed, “You did? That’s very interesting, but you seem mighty young to have completed college.”

“I’m 25. Only five years younger than you I suppose.”

“Try 15 years younger than me,” she said as she unlocked her door.

“Well Dr. Carrington, I must say you make 40 look good.”

The warm fuzzy feeling was back. She went to hand him another $20, but he refused this time.

“We definitely need to find time to talk more,” he stated.

***

Machion had gotten comfortable with being on the train. The last few days she spent her days exploring the train and reading books. Then, she spent her nights engulfed in conversations with Cruz. His mind intrigued her.

When they stopped for delays, Cruz managed to find time to spend with her. When they stopped in DC they made their way to African American Museum. Then in Chicago, he took her to Rigley’s Field for a hot dog.

In three days, she learned that Cruz was the youngest of five kids from Atlanta. He was a Morehouse man. He decided after college he wanted to travel, so his uncle helped him get the job. Then in his spare time he was freelance speechwriter and working on his Masters. At 25, he had a lot more going on than some of the men she had dated her own age.

The final night on the train Cruz informed Machion that he arranged a special dinner at 9:30 for her, just as the dining car was closing. She spent the earlier part of the evening preparing for the dinner and making sure she looked flawless.

The butterflies in her stomach were fluttering as she walked in the dining car. She decided to wear a black floral flowy dress that accentuated her breast. Cruz had her table at the end of the car with a bottle of champagne and roses.

“You look beautiful,” Cruz stated as he walked her to the table.

After her dinner of buttered lobster, she enjoyed desert and coffee. Cruz popped in and out, as he took care of his other passengers. Once he could get break he joined her.

“Machion,” the two of them were now on first names basis, “the last few days have been amazing.”  Before she realized it, he leaned in and placed a kiss on her lips. The kiss took her by surprise but she didn’t resist.

The feel of his tongue in her mouth didn’t feel forced or awkward. She had never been kissed that way before. With so much passion. I think I’m in love, she thought as they continued intertwine their tongues.

Machion wanted to freeze time. Cruz had brought out a fire within her she didn’t want to burn out. They would be arriving in Seattle the next night, but she wanted to stay in that very moment. Everything was perfect.

As their lips unlocked, she looked into his eyes. Turning 40 was the best thing that had happened to her in a long time.

 

Category: Featured, Short Story, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing, SNHU Student