The Gift Of Winter
By Kyla Baxter
I’m a liar. A liar and a thief, but let’s not delve too deeply into my personal history. The only relevant fact is that I’m headed on a train to New York, not at a Young Politician’s conference at Washington DC like I told my guardians (let’s not talk about how I got the ticket).
If we look at the pros and cons… actually, the cons outweigh the pros so it’s best if we just don’t look at all. Especially out the window. The train is at its maximum speed, hitting 200 mph if the pamphlets are correct. And traveling at this speed and at the height of four hundred feet has yet to endear me to this mode of travel. Unfortunately, I had no choice. It was either hitchhike (and play How Quickly Can Darcy Get Kidnapped?) or the Maglev.
Pulling my worn, military jacket closer to me, I keep my head down and my ears open. The Maglev begins to slow, the carriage swaying slightly. I wince as the crackle of static comes over the speakers.
“Attention passengers. This is an automated message from Delta Transportation. We are arriving at our destination, Grand Central Terminal. If you do not speak English, Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic, or Russian, you are advised to hire a translator, available for only $15.99 per hour. Thank you for riding with the Delta Transportation. Have a good day.”
With that, the Maglev jerks to a stop, almost throwing me to the floor. Immediately, all the passengers converge at the exits, squashing me between a black backpack and the terrarium some psycho is carrying. With no choice but to go with the crowd, I’m pushed onto the platform and to the right. When the crowd thins I manage to stumble to a kiosk, filled with pamphlets, maps, and translator androids.
“Do you require assistance?” The blue plastic humanoid machine asks.
“Er, no. Thanks,” I grab a map and head for the bustling city. It only takes me two minutes to realize I’m looking at the map upside down. “Great start,” I mutter to myself under my breath. If anything says country bumpkin besides my too tan skin, unfashionable attire, and my wide, innocent eyes, (true story; I’m told it’s why I never get in trouble) it’s my inability to read a map. Or perhaps that I have the map in the first place. And the fact that all I’ve brought with me is $250, which will probably only buy me one meal at an overpriced and underperforming restaurant.
“Manhattan Plaza, 400 W, 43rd St.,” I tell the taxi driver. He grunts, speeding into traffic. I screech like a cat suddenly tossed in water, my arms raised to protect my face from what is surely to be an accident. After several seconds, I drop my arms, smiling sheepishly at the disgruntled look on the taxi driver’s face.
“First time in New York,” the driver states rather than asks in a heavily accented voice.
“Sort of,” I reply vaguely, fingering the key in my pocket. I’ve never lived here, never even been here for more than a week. But a week still constitutes as having been here, even if most of my time was either in a limousine or at my sister’s apartment.
“Here.” The driver parks on the side of the street. “$9.50,” he adds gruffly. I hand him twelve dollars through the window then turn to the renovated and sophisticated building in front of me. The wary eyes of the doorman follow me as I enter through the double glass doors.
“14,” I dangle the key in front of him briefly. I didn’t get this far only to be dragged out because they think a ragamuffin is trying to break in. The doorman tilts his head slightly in acknowledgement and turns to the couple behind me. Already self-conscious about how I look, I turn to the stairs rather than stand amidst the glamor the elevator carries.
I take the stairs two at a time, the sound of my sneakers against marble echoing in the stairwell. As these are four room apartments (one bedroom, 1.5 bathrooms, kitchen + living room, and studio), number 14 is on the second floor. My sister rented this place for ten years under her contract for Ford Models. So far, it’s only been five years and at my request (and the police’s, though only for the first two years), this place has stayed the exact same, the rent being paid by George and Jamie, three guardians ago. They were really into the modeling world and now they could say they owned the apartment of the rising star, Summer London.
“Just go in,” I whisper to myself fiercely as my feet feet stop of their own volition in front of my sister’s door. I fit the key, my sister’s spare, into the lock and it smoothly turns. Gently, I push the door open. Tears well in my eyes as I see that everything is the same. A clean stack of dishes by the kitchen sink, the wall of windows across from me, and the coat rack with one lonely black hat hanging upon it. My sister’s favorite hat. The one she wore to her first modeling gig. The one she wore in the first movie she ever starred in. The one I gave her for her birthday when I was six and she was thirteen.
I shut the door, choking on my sobs. Five years. Five years without the only family I’d ever known. Five years without my only and best friend. Five years, a lifetime, an eternity, it all felt the same.
“You can do this,” I whisper to myself in the mostly empty room. Yeah, you can find your sister where Private Investigators and the NYPD couldn’t, my self-doubt sneers at me. “Yes,” I whisper. “Yes I can. Because I have something they don’t. I have memories and experiences. I have more knowledge about my sister than the Private Investigators and NYPD together.” And now I was here, in her apartment. That was one step in the right direction. One step toward my sister, my home.
“Yup,” I wiped the tears from my face. “Looks like I’m almost home.”
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