On My Way with A Lady in Red

"And where are you going?" Mr. Montgomery's voice rasps from the doorway.

"Away from here," I tell him and continue packing.

"Where might that be? Not like you've got anyone to run to." He wheezes. I turn around and face this short wrinkled old man. A nasty wart on his nose, and a lazy eye make him all the more repulsive to look at.

"I found somewhere, though I'm not going to bother telling you." I turn back to my small amount of belongings and finish packing.

"You'll come back; you won't be able to last long. The six schools that kicked you out all agree that you're not a normally functioning person. Who do you think will take you?" He hacks and his cough sounds almost like laughter.

"It's none of your concern." I zip my bag shut and turn on the old man. "You've made my life here miserable, but you can't stop me anymore." I push past him, I make sure to push him hard enough. He hits the ground with a loud wheeze. I just keep walking right past him and down the hall.

A number of the other orphan kids are watching from their rooms, I'm their hero right now. The one who's actually leaving. At first they're quiet, but it doesn't last long. Just as I reach the front door there are calls of good luck, and never come back. I smile as my feet hit the ground outside.

I've been on this sidewalk so many times, but it's always felt cold. For the first time in my life this cold concrete holds the promise of a place across the sea. A place for me. I take my first step away from The Montgomery Orphanage smiling like a retard.

The street is lined with decrepit cars and the few people outside are the kind you want to avoid. The gutters are full of trash, cigarette butts, and any other sort of crap you might expect. This whole place is a dump, and I'm finally getting away from it all. Though I'm not out of the woods yet.

I pull my bag up a little more and keep an eye out for anything suspicious. Especially in the alleys, where the drugged up thrash tend to hide. I shouldn't be bothered by them though; they're not a threat until the sun sets. Who I need to watch are the gang members and scum hanging around in the open.

After a few blocks I start to relax, I'm getting out of the dumpy part of town. From here on out my worst worry should be getting ran over. Than again that would be my luck, seeing as it's got me here in the first place. I check both directions, and then sprint across the street. Two more block and I'll be at the train station.

I should hurry, don't want to miss my only ride out of this town. My feat pick up pace and I break into a jog. Turning the corner of the last block I break into a sprint straight for the small train station. There are about a dozen people already waiting with their luggage. As I reach the platform an older lady shoots me a dirty look. I give her a smile; at this point let her glare at me. I'll still smile.

The lady seems a bit taken aback at first, but returns a small smile, as if she knows something I don't. Wonder what it could be? Guess I'll never know. I look at the clock; still have about fifteen minutes before the train gets here.

I find a bench and toss me and my stuff on it. The older lady who had smiled at me slowly shuffles over to where I'm at. I pick up my bag and sit it next to me on the ground. The lady nods and sits next to me.

"I've seen you before." She says looking at me, with a puzzled look. I run my hands through my crayola red hair. Well it is hard to miss me.

"I was living at the Montgomery Orphanage until a bit ago." Trying to help her place me.

"Ah, I see." She nods, "I must compliment you on that lovely shade of red hair." She readjusts her equally red hat. As a matter of fact her whole entire outfit is composed of different shades of red. Including her wide brim hat with giant feather. One of the ones you would see in the twenties. Even her hair is a crimson color of red.

"Thank you." She seems like a nice lady. "Your outfit is very stunning, is there a reason behind it?" I ask her. It's not often you see someone dressed totally monochrome.

"Why yes," She turns her attention back to me, "I am Madame Red, I was once regarded as the most stunning women alive." Her eyes get that far away look, like she's watching years past. I wonder if she's just exaggerating or perhaps she was once very beautiful. You can still see traces of her lost beauty even now in her later years.

"What are you doing in such a dumpy town?" It does seem odd that this lady would be here. She looks as if she comes from old money. Her clothes look like they're made of very fine material.

"I travel a lot, following the winds of change." She looks down the railway, "I have a feeling change is fast approaching." She has that smile again, the 'I know something you don't' smile.

"Really?" Is all I can think to say.

"Yes, I think you'll be quite surprised." She turns back to me, "I've yet to be wrong." Her words seem almost magical. They kind of kill anything I might have said so we sit in silence waiting on the train.

"Ah, here it comes." She says moments before the fist billows of smoke can be seen over the horizon. She must have seen it first since she was watching. I get up and offer her my hand.

"Would you like some help?" I ask, she smiles and takes my hand.

"You are quite the kind young man." She straightens her hat, "Sorry for the look I gave you earlier, I was thinking you where one of those hoodlums." She waits as I grab my bag. I think I've gained some company for this long train ride.

"That's fine." I tell her as we get on the train. "I can understand why." Indeed, I can't really blame anyone who thinks poorly of me at first. After all I've been wearing this green coat for over four years, and that combined with my odd appearance, you can't come to many other conclusions.

"What do you say we sit here," She gestures to room sixteen. "It's my lucky number." She goes in and sits down. I sit down across from her and shove my bag under the bench.

"Well, that would be my age." I smile. How long have I been sixteen now, since December.

"Oh, that is a lovely age, so full of life." She looks at the door and it slides open. For a moment I think she did some sort of trick, but than the ticket man comes in. We both hand him our tickets. He stamps them than heads back out. That's twice she's done that. First she knew the train was coming, than the ticket man. How odd.

"Well where are you headed?" I ask her; maybe she's going out to the west coast to catch some sun. Though I don't really see this lady doing that.

"I'm going where ever you are young man." She gives me that smile again. Where I'm going?

"Well than I guess you're heading to Japan." I show her my other two tickets. "Are you following me or did you already know we're heading to the same place?"

"Oh, I'm following you." She says as if it's no big deal.

"Well, that sounds kind of strange." I point out. "Why would you follow a sixteen year old all the way to Japan?" She gives me that smile.

"I told you already, I follow the winds of change." She looks out the window. "And there is a hurricane of change blowing around you." She falls silent. Is she a psychic ex-supermodel, or perhaps a crazy lady? Either way, she seems harmless and quite kind.

The train gives a loud whistle and starts to move with a jerk. I watch as the cold city flies by faster and faster. After a few minutes I can no longer read the signs or see the people, than we're flying out of the city and into the surrounding country. Trees fly by all around us. Those tree's they're the same kind that used to be around Grandma's house.

My heart sinks a little at the thought of Grandma, she's been gone for years now, but I still miss her.

"What's the matter?" Madame Red asks; she's turned her attention back to me. "You're sad about something."

"I was just thinking about someone." I tell her, avoiding the whole conversation, but in a way I'm not really sure I want to.

"Who, where they?" She asks quite predictably, just like everyone else does.

"She was my grandmother." I say, and leave it there for a moment, the words hanging in the air, creating an almost chocking atmosphere. The only sound to disturb it is the quite rattling of the train along the tracks. "She passed away some time ago." I add, not being able to keep my mouth shut.

"It is a shame that someone as young as you would be so alone in this world." Madame Red says sympathetically shaking her head.

"Yeah, a shame." I say half-heartedly, turning to the window, my thoughts swarming over the blurred landscape before my eyes. Very soon I'm standing amongst the burning cabin, the smell of smoke is tinged with the smell of pechulie, which only seems to make it all that more sick and twisted. The people behind me are screaming and shouting as the building begins to collapse on itself, with her still inside.

I shake my head and pull out of the twisted nightmare that night was. Though it still weighs on me, and seems to make the small room suffocating.

"I'm sorry I brought it up." Madame Red says turning her eyes away from me. "I can see that it's painful for you."

"No, it's fine." I say not really feeling upset at her. No, I honestly want to confide in her, but I've only known her a short time so I refrain from saying anything. Though my silence doesn't last but a few moments, the need to say something to fill the suffocating atmosphere soon overwhelms my sense.

"She was a good lady," I say, "My grandmother. She took good care of me for many years, and the whole time she never so much as hurt a fly." My hands are clenched tightly on my lap, the nails biting painfully into my own skin, but I don't loosen my grip, and for the longest time the silence hangs in the air.

"I once knew a very kind man named Peatro. He was my childhood friend, my college in collage, and later he became my husband." She seems far away in some long time before now. "He too was taken from me in a cruel way. That is how the world is sometimes, but I always remember that I was lucky to know such a person." He words carry a large weight with them. Though something about it bothers me, I let it go. I'm keeping my secrets so let her.

"I am glad I got to have time with her, but I wish it had been longer." It would have been if not for those people. This conversation always makes me feel bitter. Though having Madame Red seems to have a more peaceful feel about her.

My brain flits back to that nightmare, to those people hollering and yelling, but this time I don't give it time to play out. I simply try to clear it from my head.

"Don't keep something as painful as that bottled up for to long." Madame Red says a bit seriously, "If you don't let it out, It will come back to hurt you even more later."

"I know, but…" search for the right words to say. "It's not easy to discuss it. It's simply to hard for now, but I'm sure one day I'll tell someone." My answer seems to please Madame Red. "Wow, I guess this makes us close friends?" I point out, changing the subject. Madame Red nods solemly.

"Indeed, it would seem so." She smiles at me, like Grandma used to. I almost crack again. "I think we will be good friends for a long time." I nod in agreement. A peaceful kind of silence falls over the room as we both think on our own. I feel better to have told that to someone, though it's sort of embarrassing since I just met her. Though it doesn't seem like we just met, it seems as if we've known each other for years. My negative thoughts seem to vanish almost in that instant, and I feel my mind moving to different things.

For a time I watch as more landscapes fly by and I wonder what this school in Japan will be like. It promises to help people like me. People who've always been different, who need a safe haven to learn and grow. I know it's an international school and they speak English, which is odd since they're in Japan. I also know it's suppose to have diverse curriculum you can't' find anywhere else on the face of the planet.

On top of that I'll be going in as a first years since they do it differently than America. The years go all the way to six, which means I will be twenty-two when I'm done. That is an awful long time to go to school, than again it is better than no school. I yawn and look at Madame Red. She's apparently fallen asleep; her head is hanging forward, allowing her hat to obscure most of her face. I lean my head against the window and feel the train's vibration.

I think I'll take a nap as well.

"Draden," A voice calls me, "Draden, we have to get off here." I open my eyes and see Madame Red leaning over me. I've managed to lie down across the whole bench and drool on myself a little. I sit up and wipe my mouth. Madame Red smiles and pokes my bag with her cane. Wait did she have that earlier? "Don't forget your bag." She says and walks out of the room. I fling my bag on my shoulder and chase after her. She's already standing on the platform waiting on me.

"Sorry, I should have woken up earlier." I apologize as I step off the train.

"Quite all right." She starts off through the crowd of people. There has to be hundreds of them, no thousands perhaps. They're all pushing and shoving trying to move through the mess. However they all seem to just miss bumping or pushing Madame Red. However I'm not so lucky. A big burly man pushes me out of his way and onto the ground. A number of people keep bumping into me as I try and get up, successfully knocking my bag to the ground where it's kicked away.

I run after it through the crowd and barely snatch it up before another lady kicks it away. With a sigh I turn around and realize I've lost Madame Red. That's bad. My heart sinks; I was hoping she'd stick with me for this whole trip. That would have been nice. Just as I start glumly moving through the crowd Madame Red comes stomping through, straight for me.

People are clearing out of her way like the Red Sea for Moses. Then again I would have to if I hadn't just spent a train ride with her. She looks livid.

"You need to stick with me or you'll get trampled." She grabs me by the coat and hauls me back through the mess. No one gets in her way and I still stumble many times as she relentlessly drags me through the mess.

"Hold on I'm going to fall again." I warn her as I trip for the umpteenth time. She lets go and turns around. She's resumed her earlier demeanor.

"Sorry, but I figured that would be the fastest way through there." She says.

"Yeah, your right. They had already knocked me to the ground and kicked my stuff around by the time you found me." I laugh and rub the back of my head. "It would have taken me forever to get out of that on my own."

"Glad to be of assistance." She says and leads me out onto the streets. Night has fallen by now and the streetlights illuminate an equally busy street. Madame Red moves to the curb with me right behind her. She puts her fingers up to her mouth and gives the loudest whistle I've ever heard. Taxi's all around come to a complete halt. Several nearby pedestrians are covering their ears. Me personally, my eyes are watering and my ears are ringing a little.

"That was impressively loud." I compliment her. She smiles and gets in a taxi. I join her in the backseat.

"To the West Amway Airport." She tells the cabby, "And step on it." The cabby takes off.

"This isn't my first time in the big city." She tells me. That is very apparent, she feels like she might be the queen of the city. As we pass idle chitchat and I watch the taxi go down the road, I notice that we don't slow down once. No traffic lights, no pedestrians, and no traffic coming to a halt. Everything with Madame Red seems to go smoothly. She knows before things happen, no one in the train station or streets bump into her. Than the taxi she picks is moving through this big city without a single stop.

"How do you do it?" I interrupt her mid-sentence. She gives me that smile, the one that says 'I know something you don't'.

"With magic of course." She waves a hand, her red nails glisten off the street lights.

"You know, Madame Red, if anyone else said that I would think they're crazy." I shake my head. This lady just may be magic, or incredibly lucky. Possibly a combination of both.

"Draden you should get used to it," She winks, "We still have a plane and train ride to go before the real fun starts." The taxi comes to a halt almost on cue, only furthering my belief that this may be actual magic.

Madame Red hands the man a wad of cash and we get out. I watch as the cabby gets its next passenger and takes off. It immediately hit's a red light. I turn around and find Madame Red already going into the airport. I sprint after her, the last thing I need is to lose her again. Who knows what might happen without her lucky magic.

I catch Madame Red handing tickets to the attendant, wonder when she got tickets. Though at this point I wouldn't be surprised if she was suddenly carrying around a pink elephant. As I watch Madame Red talk to the lady behind the desk I definitely notice a feel of magic around her. I wonder how I missed it before. Perhaps you have to be around her for awhile to notice her lucky magic.

She beckons me and I hurry over to the counter. I start digging through my bag but can't find my plane ticket.

"Don't worry." Madame Red says handing me my ticket stub. I wonder when she got it. Probably on the train.

"Again if it had been any other person I would have been upset, but with you I guess it's okay." I follow her into the waiting area.

The airport is just as full of people as the rest of the city has been. Madame Red finds us some seats near the big glass windows. We sit in silence for awhile, Madame Red talks to a gentleman behind her and I watch the planes. I've never flown in a plane; I wonder what it's going to be like. Suddenly my stomach growls and I remember it's been a long time since I last ate.

"I was wondering when you would get hungry." Madame Red says getting to her feet. "I'm sure they have something worth eating," She seems to think about it for a second. "than again this is an airport so it's unlikely." I follow her through the crowd of people. No one so much as bumps into us as we look for the food. Finally we find it, and I'm impressed. There has to be twenty different restaurants.

"If you like this you should see the one in Tokyo or New York." Madame Red frowns and leads me into a Starbucks. There's no line, of course not. Madame Red walks up to the counter.

"Two Earl Gray coffee's, black." She orders. I look at her for a moment, she smiles. "Don't worry you'll like it." We wait as the lady makes our two cups of coffee. She hands them to Madame Red and asks if we want anything else.

"Why yes, two bagels and a banana nut muffin." The lady gives me the plate of food and Madame Red pays for it. We go to a table in the corner and sit down. Madame Red hands me my coffee and I eagerly try to drink it. She puts her hand on the back and pushes the cup back.

"Wait or you'll burn yourself." She gestures to the plate. "Have a muffin." I pick up the muffin and take a bite. It's amazing, the flavor is better than anything I've had in years. The nuts are crunchy, but the dough is soft. Not only that, but it doesn't taste like actual bananas. It's hard to really describe the taste.

"Good?" She asks, as if she needs to. Still I nod, since it's impolite to talk with your mouth full. I swallow and try and remember my manners.

"Thank you." I say. I should pay her back. I reach for my wallet.

"No don't." She says shaking her head. "I'll feel awful if you don't let me pay for it." I think about it for a second.

"Are you sure?" I double check.

"Resolutely so." I put my wallet away. "You can drink you coffee now." She takes a sip of hers. I do the same. The flavor is… well, I don't know I've got nothing to compare it to.

"Your right, I think I have a new favorite drink." I take a sip, I want to make this last.

"Well that's nice to hear, but don't drink too much, or it will stunt your growth." She laughs a little. I can't say I'm short or tall, I'm five foot ten, which is normal height. I think.

We sit there and eat the bagels in silence and drink our coffee. As soon as we're done there's an announcement for our planes departure.

"More luck?" I ask Madame Red as we clean up our mess. She just gives me that mysterious smile.

"Perhaps." Is all she says as we make our way to our gate. As soon as we get there we are encountered with more good luck, we're just in time, all the other passengers are on and they were about to call for the last passengers. I just give Madame Red one of those, ok, I'll play along looks. She says nothing until we find our seats and sit down. I got the middle seat and Madame Red got the window. There's no third person in our row, of course.

"So things going smoothly." A suave gentleman asks from the aisle. His question came at a perfect time.

"Why yes, thank you for asking sir." Madame Red offers her hand. "Madame Red, pleasure to meet you." The man shakes her hand.

"Josh Murphy, Plane Pilot." He says than walks off. Well I was thinking it would be some friend of Madame Reds. Not the Pilot, though that was pretty cool. I should have said something. I look at Madame Red.

"Okay, I really have to know." I tell her.

"Know what?" She asks. As if she doesn't know what I mean. I lean in to whisper.

"Are you really using magic?" I ask than sit back in my seat. Her gaze turns serious.

"Do you believe in such things?" She asks. I think about it for a moment.

"I do." I leave it at that.

"Than in that case, yes." she says. Is that a real yes or a 'well if that's what you want to believe' yes.

After a few moments of silence the captain announces that we're about to take off. We all buckle up and sit back.

"Are you scared?" Madame Red asks.

"Not really, I just don't know what to expect." I tell her. I mean after all people fly everyday and they don't just drop out of the sky. On top of that Madame Red is setting next to me, so even if it did, she'd have parachutes and a back up jet waiting.

"That's good." Is all she says before the plane begins to roll forward. At first it's as if someone is lightly pushing me back into my seat, but as the plane completes more and more runs the pressure builds. Than with a sudden flattening force we come off the ground. Childishly I try and lean forward against the push, I don't manage to sit up far. Than the pressure slowly goes away as we get to cruising altitude.

"Good to see you enjoyed take off." Madame Red chuckles.

"That was pretty neat. It was like I was being pushed back. Than again I was. When jet pilots are taking off a force called G's is exerted, same thing here. Only it was a lot less." I spew out useless information. Something I'm good at.

"Well aren't you a smarty pants." Madame Red jokes.

"Actually, I'm a lot smarter than I look." Most people chalk me up to being dumb or average but never smart.

"Well when you've met as many people as me, you can tell." She thinks about it for a second. "I'll bet you've got an IQ in the 140's." She looks at me eyebrows raised.

"Yep, 146. It's how I managed to get out of school to work up money for my tickets." I never did go back and finish. Though I doubt I missed much the schooling back there was terrible.

"I see, well it's a good thing you're going back than." She says. I catch the fact that I didn't tell here I was going to a school. I'll make sure to bring that up on the train ride.

"Well what do I do now?" I ask. Madame Red hands me a pair of headphones. She plugs hers into the audio jack in front of us. I do the same. She points to the movie that's already playing. Pride and Prejudice. That should last most of the trip.

Three hours later and out of movie the captain announces we will land in Japan within ten hours.

"I'm going to take a nap." I tell Madame Red. She just nods and goes back to reading her novel. Where she got it, I have no idea. I roll over and start drifting off.

When you're an emotionally scarred child in an orphanage you learn you can go to sleep whenever the situation calls for it. I would say ten hours with nothing to do calls for some shut eye.

"Draden." A voice calls to me. I look around, but I can't see anything. It's not just dark; this is like there was never any light. It scares me.

"Who's there?" I all I can think to say. I wait for an answer, though it seems in vain.

"You are." A voice says from behind me. I spin around and find myself staring into the darkness. What the hell?

"Draden?" Someone shakes my shoulder. I blink my eyes a few times and look at a concerned Madame Red. "Where you having a nightmare?"

"Yeah, it was weird." I look around the plane. Most people are asleep and the few that aren't are minding their own business.

"Tell me about it." Madame Red sits back in her chair. I think about it for a second. I guess telling her about Grandma makes anything conversation material.

"I'm somewhere dark, but it's not just dark. It's as if there was never any light." She purses her lips and nods. Her expression doesn't tell me anything. "I'm there often, and the darkness isn't too bad. It's the voice that gets me. Every once in a while I'll hear it." I shiver.

"What does it say?" She asks, watching me closely.

"Never much, but it's how it says it that gets me. Like that last one, it called my name, and when I asked who was there…" I pause and relive that voice again. "It said that I was.'You are.' to be precise. I don't know why it messes with me." I just shake my head and look at a lady sleeping under a light.

"The Darkness is something we should all be afraid of, don't ever forget that." Madame Red says ominously. Her tone makes me think of that deep rooted fear we all have, either of what's in the dark, or the darkness itself. I turn to Madame Red.

"What are you afraid of?" I wonder what a woman like her would be afraid of.

"Being alone." She shakes her head sadly, "There is nothing worse than being alone. Without other people you'll eventually go mad or become spiteful and angry." She seems serious but than smiles, "Though I think I'll be all right. There's so many people around it's hard to ever be truly alone." I nod.

Sure enough, no matter where I've ever gone there's a person not a few miles away. Even when I lived with grandma there was always the town just a few miles away, and we always had each other.

"So you fear the dark?" Madame Red asks. Do I fear the dark? No that isn't it, there's something else that I'm afraid of.

"No, it's not the darkness that scares me the most. It's that voice, whatever it is, it's my worst fear." I continue to watch the lady under the light sleep soundly. For a time there's silence. Than a flight attendant walks over and shuts the lady's light off. Something about it feels ominous.

I turn to Madame Red to tell her, but she's fallen asleep. Was I talking to myself a bit ago? Oh, well, guess it wouldn't matter either way. I get up; I think it's time for a restroom break.

As I sit back down the plane jostles and for a moment my heart beats hard.

"Hello, this is your captain speaking," A voice crackles over the intercom, "We just hit some minor turbulence, please have a seat and we'll notify you when you can move about again." There's a click and people start getting back in their seats.

For a first flight it was going well, until just now. I buckle my seatbelt. Madame Red is awake and sipping on something.

"Well," She starts, pulling her drink away just as we hit turbulence, "I guess this must be fun for a first tie flyer like you." She smirks and takes another drink.

"Totally." Is all I say before the plane jostles again. A baby breaks out crying and I can hear the mother three rows back trying to calm it down. They let babies on planes? Is there a baby car-seat or I guess it would be plane-seat. For a half hour everyone sits tensely waiting on a succession of bumps and shakes. Finally though we get through it. I let out a huge breath of air. Didn't realize I was holding my breath.

"Better?" Madame Red asks. I nod; it's not so bad afterwards. "What were you thinking?" Madame Red asks.

"At first I was freaking out, thinking about me. Than I remembered you where setting there and knew I would be okay." I look back at the mother singing her baby asleep. She must be in her early twenties. "Than that baby started crying, and all I could think was 'what about that baby, and its family.'" I shake my head and finally stop chewing on my lip. I need to pay more attention or I'll get really nervous and chew it off.

"That means you're a good person." Madam Red nods as if she's not surprised. "You have a big heart." I blush, how embarrassing. Madame Red laughs, probably at the dark shade of red I'm turning.

"You are a strange person." She tells me, "Now please excuse me for just a moment." She squeezes by me. I watch her walk off and find myself thinking about our meeting. If she really sees this 'hurricane of change' than what do I have to look forward to?

I guess I'll see when I get there. I suddenly have a funny thought. Madame Red walking in with me and people asking if she's my grandmother. Immediately my heat sinks a little, I shake it off just as Madame Red comes back.

"Sorry." Is all she says. I nod, I want to ask where she went, but it's none of my business. I just leave it alone and start listening to the people around me, something to do when I'm bored. Pretty quickly my ears drift to the mother singing to her child.

Shush little one

Close your eyes

Let the sandman ferry you off

To the land of Dreams

Dream of puppies

Of kittens

Especially dream of me

Because mommy loves you so

It's not a real song, probably something she made especially for her baby. It's so soft and sweet, and that little baby will always have that song. Something to let him know his mommy loves him. Jeeze I feel like a dork thinking about this like an old lady. I give Madame Red a side glance, she's back to reading her novel. I go back to listening to the idle chatter across the plane.

"Did you see that weird kid?" I suddenly catch somewhere in front of me.

"Yeah the one with the old lady?" Another man replies to the first.

"Yeah that one. You ever seen anything like that?" I close my eyes and take a deep breath. I should stop listening, I know I should. I don't.

"Yeah, he looks like he came out of a poor house, but did you see the lady he's with. She's got to be loaded." I can hear the greed thick in his voice.

"Man if we could get that lady all by herself, we could take those fancy rubies she's wearing." I nearly gasp. They're talking about robbing Madame Red. I turn to her, she shakes her head.

"I already know, what a shame." She looks in the general direction of the voices. "People have no decency anymore; they see something shiny and go chasing after it. Regardless of if it hurts others." Her face tells me this isn't the first time someone tried to steal from her.

"How do people get like that?" I ask. I mean what made them think that robbing an older lady is okay?

"Sometimes people are desperate and can't find a way to make it. Those people I feel sorry for, but there are the kinds like those men, the greedy kind who just want. For them I have nothing but contempt." Madame Red seems almost angry, but retains her demeanor.

"I guess I shouldn't be surprised I've seen real atrocity before." my mind painfully pulls me back to those villagers. I shake my head to clear the thoughts.

"Not all the world is bad." Madame Red says, and I can hear the hope in her voice, "There is no true good or bad. People are both good and evil. Even me and you." She looks out the window, "We'll touch down shortly." She quickly changes the subjects. Her words stick with me though.

The question than becomes which part is bigger. The good or the evil? Those men are probably more bad than good. I hear the mother singing again. What about her? It's hard to think of that sweet voice trying to quite her baby would do something bad. My mind takes another odd detour.

What is good and bad anyways? Who's to say what is right and what is wrong? I know the churches will tell you what is and isn't okay, but I've never really believed in them. I guess if you broke it down it would come to the person and the circumstances, each time it's different. Then again there are situations where there is a clear don't do, like robbing Madame Red or killing Grandma. People like them should get what they deserve. They will, eventually.

"This is your captain speaking," The intercom crackles, "We are about to make our decent so everyone please take your seat and buckle up." After about ten minutes the plane starts to descend.

"You shouldn't let things weigh so heavily on your mind." Madame Red says just before we touchdown. I've stopped questioning how she knows things, so I just nod. She's probably right, but my thoughts will go where they will.

A few minutes of jostling and circling and the plane finally docks. I won't say I wasn't happy to be back on the ground. If I'm going to travel, I'll gladly take the train any day.

"So, you weren't scared?" Madame Red asks eyebrows raised.

"I was fine until we hit turbulence, than that freaked me out." She nods and we move through the docking are into the airport.

"Would you like to catch a bit to eat or go and catch an early train?" Madame Red asks as I grab my bag from luggage.

"Let us catch that early train." I say, she just nods and leads the way out of the airport. They don't check my bag on the way out, that's nice.

As soon as we hit the pavement I feel like I'm in another country. Well I guess I am. I catch a few signs in English around the airport, but most of them are written in Japanese. I blink a few times, not only that but I really don't like these brightly lit signs.

"Don't worry we'll be out of the city shortly." Madame Red starts walking down the sidewalk. I hurry after her, trying to keep up with her fast pace.

"No cab?" I ask as we turn a corner.

"No this way will be much faster." She grabs my coat sleeve and hauls me down the sidewalk at about fifteen miles an hour.

"What's up with the pace?" I ask as we walk across the sidewalk.

"Have you forgotten our two little thieves?" She asks looking at me from the corner of her eye. I look behind me. In the throng of people I can see the two men trying to keep up with us. Though they're falling further and further behind. Madame Red and I are not stopping for anything; they're being stopped at the intersection and being pushed by the crowd.

"They'll give up soon enough." Madame Red assures me. "They won't go through too much work for these." She says patting the giant ruby necklace on her neck.

"That's good, and I don't mean to whine." I start. Than we turn the corner and I'm looking at the train station. Well that answers my question. Madame Red slows her pace.

"Well from here on out it will be smooth selling." She says. I can't help but start laughing.

"Smooth sailing? What has it been up to this point?" I chuckle to myself. Madame Red chuckles a little herself.

"Good point." She nods as she puts our tickets in the turn-thingy you have to walk through to get to our train. As soon as we get on I get a weird feeling. The whole inside of the train is lavishly decorated with red satin seats and gold trimmings. I only spent twenty seven dollars on my ticket.

"Did we get on the wrong train?" I ask Madame Red as we sit in row sixteen again.

"No." She says.

"Did you do this?" I look at the fine wood carvings in the paneling.

"No. This is the twenty-seven dollar train you paid for." She hands me back my ticket.

"Are you sure you didn't do this?" I double check.

"Positive. You are on the right train." She looks at the door as a few more kids my age get on. I watch to as more and more people get on the train. They come in three varieties. Young and alone, a group of young people, or a young kid and accompanying parents. I look at Madame Red; she's going to spend a lot of time explaining she isn't my mother or grandmother.

"People are going to think we're related." I say as another girl gets on with her parents. Something else I noticed is all the parents immediately look at Madame Red and nod. Really weird.

"Why on earth would they think that?" She asks batting her eyelashes.

"Other than us setting together I would go with our strangely red hair." I look at her hair; it's really just my hair but a bit darker.

"I guess you're right," She sighs, "Well, I could go set elsewhere."

"No." I hold my hand up, "I still want to talk to you about a few things. At least before you ditch me." I laugh at my little joke.

"So you have questions?" She gives me mock surprise.

"Yes for example, how smooth our trip has been. Are you lucky or magical? Than you know things before they happen. Such as I'm going to a school, and I never told you that." I wait for her to talk.

"Well, have you not noticed this is a one of a kind train?" I look around yeah I did.

"I know that, this must be a train for the students, since all these kids appear to be just that." I reason.

"Well, I've rode this train before. So as soon as I saw your train ticket I knew exactly where you're going." She taps her cane on the floor and the train starts rolling. "As for that," She says referring to all the odd stuff. "Do you really need me to tell you?"

"Yes, either that or I'll keep thinking I might be insane." There is always that distinct possibility.

"Well if that's the case, yes, I've been guiding our trip with magic." She says quite blatantly. I look around and no one seems the least be phased. Can they not hear her, she's being loud enough.

"So, I'm guessing that this school isn't normal either." I just have this hunch, looking at some of these people. They have that same feeling as Madame Red. Not all of them, but most of them. I look at one girl in particular; she has purple hair and is making a pencil float. Just a feeling.

"No, it's for people like you and me. Like everyone on this train." She gestures, "You have untapped potential. We will help you tap it." She says. Something about her sentence seems odd. That last one, she said 'we'.

"What does that 'we' mean?" I ask her continuing to watch the girl. The pencil is now doing summersaults about two inches above her hand. I glance at the window behind her head and notice we're still in a dark tunnel. We've been in this tunnel since we left the station. Are we underground, please don't let the whole school be underground.

"I am part of the faculty; you'll see when we arrive. For now ask me any questions you have." She says. Well there are a lot of questions, though I can answer most of them with magic.

"At the train station, why where you really there?" I ask. That's something that's been bugging me since the airport.

"I was following the winds of change just as I told you." She taps her lips. "As a matter of fact, that is the whole reason you got that brochure." Wait I got that three years ago.

"Hold on, I got that brochure years before I met you." I point out.

"You where causing quite a stir in the winds, even back than." Madame Red explains. She sound very old and mystical talking about the winds. I want to ask her about Peatro, but her emotions seemed so real. I just summon up the courage and blurt it out.

"Was there really a Peatro?" I ask. She doesn't say anything for a moment. Did I offend her?

"Yes he was real, though I did lie about part. The last half of it, us getting married and living in Paris was true. What made you realize some of it wasn't?" She turns her head to the side slightly. She looks kind of younger now. Maybe forties or fifties. I guess I have a next question.

"You said you grew up together and you went to collage together. You looked about eighty-seven at the time so I knew it couldn't be true. Girls still weren't widely accepted into collages at the time you would have been going." I look at her; she definitely is getting younger, now she looks early forties. "You're getting younger." I point at her face. She reaches up a hand and smiles.

"Appears that bit of magic is wearing off." She is now in her mid twenties and a real stunning beauty. "I cast a spell to make myself older in the hopes that I attract less attention." her lips are now a full gorgeous red and her skin looks like porcelain. How is she still so young?

"How are you still in your twenties?" I ask, I could guess but at this point there are a lot of possibilities.

"Actually I'm in my three-hundreds." She says, "But thank you none the less." I feel my jaw hit the floor, again. Three hundred!

"Are you a vampire?" I immediately blurt out.

"Yes, good guess." Madame Red turns and looks ahead. "You'll see the school soon." I just keep staring at her. As if this wasn't all weird enough, she's a vampire. In the course of fifteen minutes I have had magic confirmed, learned I'm heading for a magic school, and learned Madame Red is a three-hundred year old vampire. Nothing else can shock me.

Than again I guess a Mansion/Castle thing could. We finally come out of the tunnel and I find myself looking at a giant… well I'm not sure what it is, it looks equal parts castle and giant mansion. Than as if it's not odd enough it's surrounded by normal looking buildings, like dorms and a few I'd guess to be the athletic department. And all of this is in the center of a huge well cut lawn. I mean we're talking acres upon acres of land. Than it turns into trees as far as the eye can see.

"Welcome to the Grand Master School for Gifted Students." Madame Red says from the front of the car. When did she move? Ah, forget it. "I hope you all enjoy your stay." She walks back down the aisle and sits next to me.

"That's a school?" I ask pointing to the giant building. "It's all almost too much." I mumble.

"Don't worry, you handle the strange well." Madame Red pats me on the back. "I must depart, I'll see you later." I turn to ask her when, but she's gone. I look around and she's simply gone. Did she vanish? You know what, I give up, let them do the crazy stuff. I'll just go along for the ride.

I look at all the people in the car with me, than back at the school I'm quickly approaching. Looks like a fun ride.