The train huffed and puffed as it exited the tunnel and moved along the railroad with a steady rythm. It had been almost an hour since its departure, and the flurry that dusted the station's concrete in Philadelphia had given way to a thick snowfall which showed no signs of stopping.
"Doesn't look too good out there, does it?" Marjorie heard the young man in front of her commenting.
"I suppose not." She replied, sneaking a glance at the frosty window before going back to the novel she was reading.
She should've known this was gonna happen. She had taken note of the man's behaviour since he showed up into her carriage fifteen minutes earlier. He hadn't said much besides 'Hello" before sitting down, but the way he said it didn't get past her. She knew all too well the self-congratulatory smile and mischevious glint in the eyes of a guy who knew he saw something - or rather someone - he liked.
Coughing, sneezing, tapping his feet. Anything that could catch her attention, he tried to pull it off, with the only result of leaving her reading the same page over and over again, unable to concetrate on more than a few words at a time and unnerving her to no end.
She even caught him catching glimpses at her, and a couple of times she thought she saw him fidget with his hat and open his mouth as if to say something, only to go back to staring out the window, most likely to practice his grand opening line in his head, the coup de grace to breach into her lonely countrygirl's heart. Ah! As if!
At the age of twenty-four she wasn't exactly an ingenue anymore, and she had encountered her fair share of such men in her life. Cocky, conceited, vain specimen of male waiting for the right prey - any girl who looked innocent enough such as herself, with her rosy cheeks and farmgirl looks - to sweep off her feet and then leave in the cold.
Her father had warned her about such men time and time again over the years, and she'd never bothered to give any of them the time of her day. Though she be but little, she is fierce. That was her favorite quote from her favorite Shakespeare play she read in school, A midsummer Night's dream, and she lived by it.
"Say, it is rather drafty in here. May I - ?" The man spoke again, pointing towards the seat adjacent to hers.
"You have been sneezing and coughing the whole ride." Marjorie remarked pointedly. "Suit yourself."
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to disturb your reading."
The leather cushion emitted a squeaking sound as the man lowered himself down.
"I'm Joe." He extended a lean hand towards Marjorie.
"Marjorie." She returned the handshake.
All in all, the man in front of her had been handsome enough. He seemed only a few inches taller than her five feet, a fact which she supposed most women would've objected to, but not her. She dreaded the idea of a lifetime of standing on her tippy toes and craning her neck just to look someone in the face. As far as face went, she couldn't deny it was noteworthy. Long and graceful, yet masculine with a a wide jaw, it wasn't perfectly simmetrical and the smile was a little crooked on the left, but that only added a certain je ne sais quois to the whole picture on her opinion, like one of those Picasso paintings. Perfectly imperfect.
"So, where are you going on this not-so fine day, Marjorie?"
"Glendale." She replied, setting the book aside. This man wasn't gonna give up, was he?
"Me too!" Joe flashed a row of straight, white teeth. "I'm doing a show there."
Marjorie furrowed her brows. "A show?"
"At the assembly hall. I'm a travelling act. You know, this." He put a hand on his heart and mimed singing." Then a little bit of this." He scrunched his face comically. "And a little bit of that." He tapped his feet on the carpeted floor, finishing it off with a hand wave and a grin.
He held his pose as if suddenly turned to clay, and Marjorie stared at him dumbfounded.
"You're supposed to clap now." He said through his plastered grin.
Marjorie rolled her eyes, then clapped without much enthusiasm.
"It's much more impressive on a stage with good lighting." He said in an apologetic tone, turning back to a natural position."The show is tonight at eight if you wanna swing by."
"Thanks, but I think I'll pass. Theater is not exactly my scene, you see."
Joe looked her up and down, his eyes dark marbles behind slit eyes.
"I would have pegged you for a dancer, that's all."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, I'm sure!" Marjorie replied, almost offended.
"You got dancer's legs." he peered down at the stocking-clad appendages in question.
Now she was actually offended. She let out a faint gasp and pulled her skirt further down her knee. The impudence, the audacity on the man!
Joe seemed to have caught on Marjorie's indignation, as his face softened and he sighed.
"I apologize. I didn't mean to insult you . I just meant you have a nice figure."
"That doesn't make it any better. What kind of man gives unsolicited compliments to strange women he just met?"
"The kind who is trying to get a strange, pretty woman to go to his show?" he shrugged. "… Would you have rather I told you you have a bulky neck?"
"I - " Marjorie grasped the offended part. "No! and I don't!"
"Not from the front."
Her face was getting crimson, matching her auburn locks and making her head look like a beet.
"How dare you!"
Joe crossed his arms. "At least now you have an actual reason to be insulted."
"This is not helping your cause at all, you know. I thought you said I was pretty."
"You are." he said earnestly. "Listen ... we got off on the wrong foot … I was trying to be smart and that obviously didn't work."
"It clearly didn't." Marjorie agreed.
"Finally, we agree on something. Let's pretend the last five minutes didn't happen. If you change your mind," Joe slipped a hand in his coat pocket and took out a slip of paper from the internal sleeve. "That's the flier for my act. Bring anyone you want, It's on me. Take good care of it, though. I only have a handful of these. I don't just pass them around to anyone, you know."
"I should be so honored." She replied sardonically, slipping the flier inside her book sleeve.
The train slowed down and came to an halt.
"Glendale St. Mary's. That's my stop." Joe said, looking out the window.
He wrapped his coat tighter, then picked up his non-descript brown suitcase from the luggage compartment.
"See you tonight, Marjorie." As he stepped by the door, he turned around and waved in her direction.
"Goodbye, Joe." She replied, shaking her head.
She had called him by his name, he thought as he strolled the platform and began to whistle a merry tune. There was hope, after all.