The Railway Woman

He was always an in-door sort of person. He preferred his technology to be closer than the threat of any natural danger. I once tried to get him to come on a weekend camping trip just to get him away from the pressures of work and city life. He steadfastly refused the proposition, calling it a ridiculous waste of modern comforts. But now I am free of him and his stubbornness, forever free to make my own choice. So I am on a holiday. I thought the highlands would be a good choice: beautiful and undeniably wild. Getting away from the “modern comforts” takes no time at all amongst the rolling hills and mountains of the Scottish Highlands and this rickety train is slowly getting me there. And if I were to meet someone new to help forget the wretched person I left behind, then the better still. But for now, I must move. The momentum I created when I tore myself away has not diminished. No, it has been building and building, pushing me further and further away. And I need to be so much further, as far as physically possible.

I watch the spritely green hills undulate across my eyes, lulling me into an entirely new disposition for me—contentment. I am meant to be home before too long, but I dread returning to any city with what he always called a thriving social life, but I always considered a monotonous and tiresome assemblage of people wanting to outdo each other. He must be glad to be rid of me too. I was never very good at the posh champagne crowd. I could never maintain the illusion that I wanted to have that life or be anywhere near it. But maybe he does miss me. It’s not like we hated each other; at least not the whole time. When we met it seemed like we had everything in common. We liked all the same shows, films, authors, and music. We could laugh together, enjoy each other’s company. It was going so well that an engagement was the obvious next step.

It wasn’t until a few years into our marriage that the creeping sense of claustrophobia began to set in. I knew that he wanted some different things than me. I knew he was more career-driven, focused. I just never thought that his priorities would override mine in every imaginable situation. I was always willing to compromise, make it work for the both of us. But to him that was like sharing a cup of coffee with a child. They don’t know what they want or how it will stunt them so it’s better to make the decision for them, a staunch unwavering no.

But no one wants to be treated like a child and I could only take it for so long before I ran away like a petulant teenager finally reaching my rebellious stage, hell bent on making my own choices, forging my own path. Even if that path leads to the top of the highest mountain in the United Kingdom. I will climb it if I have to. I am on the highest mountain looking out over where I came from and out towards where I hope to go.

I am entirely lost in my own thoughts when he tears open the sliding door of my cabin, leading with his worn suitcase before letting himself in. He is a good bit older than me but not entirely unattractive. He places his case over his head before sitting himself down across from me.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you,” he said.

I didn’t realize I looked startled. I try to relax and consciously stop my eyes from being so worryingly wide.

“Oh no, you’re fine. I was just kind of in my own head. My name’s Gloria. Hi.” We are too far apart for a casual handshake so make a small wave in his direction. I realize that it may have been an odd choice when he just nods and smiles awkwardly instead of responding in kind.

He turns his head to look at the window and I’m afraid that if I don’t say something soon that the rest of the train ride will be spent in agonizing silence. So I say the first thing I think of.

“I am going to climb a mountain,” I blurt.

He raises his eyebrows and looks me up and down ever so slightly.

“I’ve never done anything like it before but I have always wanted to.”

“Are you ascending on your own?” he asks.

“Um, yes.”

“Are you worried at all that something might go wrong? That you might get hurt or something unfortunate will happen and you won’t know what to do?”

I hadn’t been.

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