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The conductor listens to their story, but Michael knows he's already made up his mind. "That's certainly a creative story," the conductor says. "But I can't let you ride without a ticket."
"But we have tickets," Ellen says, holding hers up. "They're just for a different train. The train we were supposed to take."
The brakes hiss as the train pulls into the next station. "I can't let you ride without a ticket," the conductor repeats. "You two need to get off the train."
Michael feels awful as he steps out of the train. He looks around at the unfamiliar buildings surrounding the station. They're in some city about twenty miles north of where he's from. Despite how close it is, he's never been there.
"Sorry," Michael says, as the train pulls away.
"For what?" Ellen asks.
"I ruined your trip. You were going somewhere and I just led you on a wild chase and we didn't even get your suitcase back."
"You didn't ruin it," Ellen smiles at him. Michael notices she has dimples in her cheeks when she smiles. "That jerk who stole my luggage ruined it. You just tried to save it."
"But you lost your suitcase…"
"It's all right. It was just some old clothes I hardly even wear anymore. I was going to leave them at home and bring some better outfits I left at my parents' house back with me. I feel bad for making you chase someone when my luggage wasn't even that important."
"I would have done it anyway. I hate thieves. I don't care if they're stealing trash, it's still wrong."
Ellen laughs. "Wow, what a gentleman. Can I please pay you back somehow for making you chase my worthless clothes?"
Michael's stomach grumbles. He was planning on buying a snack on the train so by now he is starving.
"Well, I could use some food. If you join me we can call it even."
"That sounds nice."
The two of them walk off the platform, out of the station, and find themselves on a busy street, full of shops and people.
"Have you ever been here?" Michael asks.
"No," Ellen replies.
"Me neither. Well, this place looks good," he says, stopping in front of a small diner.
"Works for me," Ellen says.
They get a table and place their orders. As they wait for their food, Michael asks, "So, where were you going?"
"To visit my parents," Ellen explains.
"Oh, that's nice. Do you see them a lot?"
She suddenly looks sad and Michael regrets asking the question. "Not as much as I'd like to. My internship doesn't pay much, so it took a long time to be able to save up enough for the train ticket."
Michael feels even worse about her missing the train now. After that, the conversation shifts to Michael. He explains about his friend and the record deal and Ellen is interested, just like he thought she would be. They spend hours sitting there, talking long after they finished their food.
Michael looks out the window and notices, to his surprise, that the sun is starting to set. "I didn't realize it was so late," he says. "I guess we should probably head back."
He and Ellen walk back to the train station. They stop at the ticket counter and buy two tickets back home.
Michael hands the cashier cash to pay for both tickets, but Ellen says, "You don't have to do that."
"Too late," Michael says. "It's already done."
"Thank you," Ellen says.
They walk up to the platform and as they get there, Michael stretches his fingers out and hooks them around Ellen's hand. He smiles as she squeezes his hand. It feels so natural, like something they have always done.They stare out at the buildings painted in the golden yellow light of the setting sun. Ellen leans against Michael. "What a perfect day," he thinks as their train arrives. They step inside and find two seats next to each other and wait as the train takes them into their awaiting future.