I sat on the train, my fingers drumming in anticipation. My eyes kept looking out the window at the landscape flying by us. Somewhere in the back of my mind I recognized it from before. Footsteps sounded from some place behind me, making me sit up straighter in hope it was the one I had not seen in so many months—fourteen to be exact. Over a year in waiting to come home. It had been forever since I had seen my sister and the one I loved. The person passed me by and took another seat somewhere else in the cabin—not seeing her yet caused my hopes to dwindle.
Slumping in my seat, I must have dozed off at some point. A loud screeching noise woke me as the train lurched—my head banging against the window from the sudden stop. Several people almost slid from their seats, all of us surprised from the abrupt movement. I looked out the window, searching the landscape. Yelling caught my attention—although it was more like a scream—and it must have caught the rest of the train’s too. People all pushed to look out the windows, trying to see exactly what it was that had stopped our train.
Some cloaked figure moved to the doors, carrying their own bag. Ascending the steps they moved through the cabin, joining the rest of the soldiers and passengers. Stuffing their bag into one of the baggage compartments, they moved towards a seat. Many of the other soldiers looked uneasy, but returned to their seats—remaining alert. Turning around, I sat back on my bench wishing we had reached the train station already. Just as I started to close my eyes, the newcomer cleared their throat.
“May I join you?” My eyes widened, recognizing the voice. Sitting up, I turned just as she was lowering her hood.
“Jade! I thought we were going to leave at the same time!” I said, pulling her into a hug. We sat as the train whistled and the grinding of the tires on the rails once again filled the area.
“I know, I got caught up and couldn’t make it back on time,” she said, shrugging off the cloak.
“Can you believe we’ll be home within a few hours? I’m excited to see Max. It’s been way too long,” I said, shaking slightly in anticipation.
“And to think you said you’d be back as soon as you could. I bet you didn’t think fourteen months would be the closest available time to return,” Jade said, ruffling my hair.
“Yeah, and every time I think about that, I feel horrible. But she got my letters and I got hers to prove that I cared,” I said, showing her the large stack of letters from my bag. We fell into conversation about all of the things we wanted to do upon our return. Time seemed to fly and suddenly the train was squealing to a halt. Glancing at my watch, I saw that Max would still be in school and both Lucy and Thomas would be working.
Gathering our things, we managed to disembark from the train—without losing anything—and onto the platform. Most of the other passengers had already dispersed to greet and meet loved ones. Shouldering my bag, I pushed my way through the crowd of families inside the station—leading the way. Getting out on the streets felt incredible astounding; to see citizens so happy and free really lifted my mood. After having to see so many go through the pains of being refugees, I was glad to have a home to return to. Glancing next to me at Jade, we smiled at each other and continued on.
“So much of the city has changed. All these new shops and restaurants to visit,” she said, marveling at all the new sights.
“One place will always be the same though,” I said, turning the corner and stopping before the huge wall that surrounded the base. We moved along it, heading straight for the colossal black gates. Nodding to the on duty security, we continued to our dorm building. Things didn’t seem to have changed here; much of the buildings were the same. Except of course the mechanic’ garage—which appeared to have grown almost four times its size. Tearing my eyes from the large structure, I followed Jade up the short steps into our home. Trudging up two flights, we finally stopped at our doors. Tugging my dog tags out from under my shirt, I brandished the key that was among them. Unlocking my door I pushed it open.
The room was not all that different, if it had changed at all. By far the only difference being the large amount of books that seemed to have collected on practically any flat surface. Dumping my bag on my bed I glanced at some of their covers.
“Anatomy encyclopedias? Medical journals?” I said looking around very confused. Jade entered behind me, glancing around at this large collection.
“Whoa, what happened here? Did you suddenly become a library of medical texts?”
“I have no idea. This looks like what I left my dorm as. This is my bed, Max’s stuff… but these books? Is Lucy living here or something?” The two of us glanced around, finding that it was still my room. I slumped to the floor—Jade having done the same on my bed—when a fiddling noise with the doorknob caught our attention. Sitting up, I looked at jade, raising an eyebrow as I turned my interest to the one in the hall.
“Just keep studying and you’ll get it,” a voice in the hall said.
“Yeah, thanks Lucy. I’ll be sure to look over those notes tonight,” the other replied, much louder now that they were mostly in the room. A grin formed on my face, seeing it was indeed my sister.
“Max! There you are!” I said, starting to get to my feet. She dropped her books with a loud clatter and tackled me in a hug, knocking me flat on my back.
“Finally you’re home!” Max said, getting off me she then went and did the same to Jade—who was laughing at us. “Why didn’t you tell me? I would have met you at the train station!” She said, smacking the back of my head.
“It was a surprise to me too. But after fourteen months and all the letters, I just didn’t know when I’d be coming. My leave was actually sprung on me,” I explained, rubbing my head.
“That’s beside the point. You’re finally home—both of you.” Max was grinning ear to ear as she looked between us.
“Come on, catch us up on what you have been up to. Your letters did not include your fixation on turning our dorm into a medical library,” I said, gesturing around the room. She laughed, finding amusement in my slight irritation, as she picked up some of the volumes she dropped.
“Right, about that… While you were gone we were talking about our career pursuits. I started to explore the options around town and here on the base. But after doing some talking with Lucy, I decided I’d become a frontline medic,” she said matter-of-factly. Jade and I stared at my sister blankly. This was the last place I wanted her to look for a job—especially one where she could get sent to the frontlines so easily.
“You couldn’t decide on anything else? You just had to choose to follow me into the military,” I said, exasperated.
“Well, it’s just that I had no other ideas and my schedule already included a few science classes. And with that decision, I observe Lucy’s work in the infirmary after school. I take notes on the injuries and later we discuss my possible solutions while in the field. In the end, it all works out,” she explained, seeming very pleased with her choice.
“I don’t approve Max. We moved here to get you out of that whorehouse mom and dad were in. Now you want to go ruin it all by being sent into the battlefield where you could get shot at?!” Stepping away I shook my head, very disappointed at her decision.
“Marcus, calm down. It was her choice and we weren’t here,” Jade said, patting Max’s shoulder. “Besides she’s working really hard for this. Don’t ruin it for her now.” With my arms crossed I backed off, moving to the desk. Leaning against it, I glared at a floor, trying to think what I could say.
“This is my decision, Mark. If you don’t support me, fine. But you have to understand that you have always taken care of me. I want the opportunity to take care of myself and this is how I plan to do it,” Max said, looking up at me. My little sister going into battle wasn’t exactly something I wanted to hear. Granted, her going onto the field would be a long way off… but the very idea scared me.