i"...sometimes in my head, i can still see pictures of you. and i laugh to myself when i think of all those crazy things that we used to do..."/i



berlin was still hours to the west. hours left to reflect about the life she'd left behind four short months ago. yeah, aaron and noelle had been together two whole years and yeah, from the outside he appeared faithful. but it would only take a second for anyone to see the burning stares that the two shared. it was made easier by the distance between them and noelle.



jen thumbed a worn picture of the two of them in a smokey bar. a mutual friend of theirs, will, had owned Soul Machine and begged her to come sing one night. she was barely sixteen when she'd stood behind the mic and belted out song after song to the gathering crowd. aaron was among the devout following she acquired in the next weeks; always standing off to either side, mesmerized. the photo had been taken one night on the spur of the moment before she took stage. she didn't know him from adam when he came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her. for years the picture hung behind the bar in a silver frame will had welded especially for it.



angrily, she wiped the tears from her cheeks and put it away, flipping forward several pages. the glaring sunset over the bayou caught her eye. she was moving from grand junction, colorado, to new orleans. she thought she'd been all over the country, seen everything there was to see but when the sun began to sink behind the murky horizon, it stole her breath away. the rockies paled in comparison to the dusty gold and orange painted sky that jen glimpsed through the bug-littered windsheild of aaron's red '91 dodge spirit rt.



more tears. a million more wouldn't make a difference. it wouldn't drown her pain or his memory. he'd announced that noelle would be his girlfriend and his only girlfriend and she'd left. turned around and walked out without saying another word. jen had packed while he was away on a job, left a note, never looked back. yet, here she was, looking back on a life she would never see again.



she lit a cigarette and stared out into the inky nightscape.



*



jen looked at her watch. she must've fallen asleep because the sky was beginning to lighten to a gray. probably two more hours until they reached the station and another fifteen hours until she set foot on american soil. sighing, she closed her eyes. nothing in the world quite like constant travel. a train to here, a bus to there, a plane half way across the world and a car ride to wherever she was to end up. how anyone could live like this was beyond her. she'd managed for weeks now, but chasing people across the globe was more of an escape than a job.



standing on legs weak from sitting so long, she began a wobbly trek to find the restroom. scenery flew by the windows she passed, people slept soundly or chattered lively in their glass-encompassed sections, their own private sanctuaries. finally, she found it. locking the door securely behind her, she stared at her pale reflection in the mirror: dark circles lined her eyes and her mascara had made tiny, winding rivers of black down her cheeks. she was a mess. she turned the water on and scrubbed her face. she scrubbed and clawed at the flesh until she was bright pink and her cheeks ached. jen rubbed her tired eyes as she dried her face with coarse paper towels. what she wouldn't give for a hot shower to peel away the grime she felt. quickly, she finished what she'd started and yanked open the door as the train rocked violently.



"fuck." she cursed loudly as she was slammed forward against the plate glass directly in front of her. "that's going to leave a mark."



a voice came across the crackling loudspeaker, alerting passengers to the reason for the sudden stop. something about a fallen tree. 'another couple of fucking hours.' bitter thoughts crept into her mind as she resumed her comfortable place by the window. the old man sitting across from her hadn't so much as moved during the shift. it made her ponder if he was even breathing at all. the light snores negated the idea. she lit another cigarette as the sky bloomed in lovely shades of purple and pink.



an elderly chuckle caused her to turn her head.



"do you mind?" he nodded toward her cigarette as he spoke. not fully understanding his meaning, jen's eyebrows furrowed. he cleared his throat. "may i borrow one from you, dear?"



embarassed, she held her pack out to him along with her lighter.



"awful long way from home, aren't you?"



his accent was familiar. english, perhaps.



"not terrible. on my way, matter of fact."



"not natural-born, though?" she shook her head and crushed out the butt.



"no. just taking up temporary residence." he shook his head, smiling.



"you're running."



"aren't we all?"



"ah, but we can't run forever."



and with that, he, too, crushed out his cigarette, folded his hands across his slight belly and closed his eyes. 'alrightie then.' a smirk painted her lips. not long after, she followed suit in pursuit of sleep.