Freight Train



Loca peeled back the duct tape holding the CD drawer closed, balanced her little finger against the eject button and carefully inserted the screwdriver under the drawer. Her bottom lip disappeared under her front teeth and she paused. It had to open. It had to. A trace of despair crept behind her eyes, sharp and sickening.

"Come on!" It couldn’t break today, not today. After that, she promised herself, it didn’t matter.

The silence hissed in her ears, straining as they were to hear the whir of working machinery. She waggled the screwdriver, screwing up her eyes in prayer.

A high pitched scream of releasing steam rent the air and Loca toppled backwards. Cursing, she quickly righted herself, but the screwdriver had rolled away across the floor. She heard it clattering under one of the units, but her still-ringing ears couldn’t tell which.

"Loca!" Her father’s voice drifted through the open door at the end of the carriage. Why now? She was trying to change the CD. Her limbs dragged her back up from the floor and she glanced over at the stupid device. The drawer was open, duck tape now sticking itself to the CD. Finally, she eagerly threw herself towards the shelf, clattered through the battered cases and selected an album. Vaguely, she heard her father calling her again, but she ignored him. He would wait. She would be along in a second.

With a precisely aimed prod, she drove the CD drawer closed again and, after a small pause jabbed the remnants of the play button with a cocktail stick. She felt her hands quiver as she urged it to work. Then the distant beats flitted from the speakers and her whole body relaxed. It worked. With a final smile, she stroked the top of the machine and skipped from the carriage.

The train was moving at a regular speed. She paused to watch the tracks flash past the gap between the carriage and the locomotive in front. The flicking was exhilarating. She would miss it. That and the regular swaying of the floor as they raced across the countryside, the scent of burning coal on the wind and the teasing tingle of the steam when it drifted back in waves to envelop her. Suddenly chilly, she tugged her jacket more tightly around her, wondering if she would be able to find some new buttons in the drawer to fix it before she left.

"Loca! Where are you?" He didn't hear her scrambling over the coals in the tender, their dull rustling drowned out by the rumble of the engine. They scraped against her bare toes. She didn’t want to put on her new shoes, not yet.

"What?" She perched on the back of the cab and peered over her dad’s shoulder at the dials.

He removed his cap and braced himself with a hand on the radio. "We’ll be going through Nor’ferry in a minute, go and make sure all the doors and windows are locked."

Excitement drowned out the mild concern that passing through the notorious station always caused. She could smell the sea already, she was sure of it. They would be on The Bridge soon, and then safe. That swishing moment when the train hit the other side of the Forth always carried the worry away with it. They would be safe south of the river.

"And turn up that music." He grinned. "The speakers I fitted out here are broken again."

The doors were all locked, so she fastened the windows and drew what blinds she could. A couple required the duck tape and there weren’t many strips left on the edge of the bench. They would need some more. She paused, hand still on the curtain. She would have to tell Dad. He would need to get it. It was strange to be thinking like that.

Under her feet, Loca felt the train speeding up, and with it the concern began to overwhelm her excitement. Had she remembered to fasten the padlocks properly in Carnoustie? Dad had left her to lock up after they loaded the salmon and cod. Of course she had. She always did. It was pointless to imagine she hadn’t. What else was there?

Loca scanned the carriage in the semi-darkness cast by the closed blinds, humming along to the music still drifting from the speakers in the corner near the door. It looked weirdly more familiar than it usually did. Except for the cracked suitcase stood at the end of her bed, waiting. She pushed its reminder from her mind and scrambled onto one of the chairs to reach the lockers bolted into the overhead luggage racks. The legs wobbled dangerously. One day the chairs were going to break under her weight. They should have bought new ones last time they were over the river.

She dragged aside the small curtain pinned above the lockers and strained to get her arm right to the back, to the two metal objects stowed against the carriage wall. Their weight as she lifted them down gave her a sense of both confidence and worry. The guns weren’t a perfect protection. They didn’t always help. Her eyes dragged themselves to the stove between the two beds, to the third rifle, which, despite the fact it still worked well, her dad had fastened to the wall. It had been there as long as she could remember.

"Loca! Are you done in there?" Her dad’s voice roused her from her stupor and she clambered back outside with the guns in hand.

The sea was coasting by when she reached the cab, a salty breeze ruffling her thin ginger hair. She could see the tips of The Old Bridge’s high pillars already when she peered over the cliffs in the distance, its metal cabling rusting as the seaweed crept up it. A vast industrial complex glided past, its windows boarded up but several flags with threatening designs whipping against the flag poles. There were houses in the shadow of a hill, empty, stained with rain. The train passed a platform, a huge billboard brandishing threats. The building was long gone, but strangely not the empty purple flower pots. Someone had taken the sign away with them, years ago, a souvenir of civilisation.

"Where’s the extra shots?" She queried, keeping her eyes on those houses, eerie as they were, because her dad’s face would bring out her fear. Every time it was the same. The long anticipation. Would they make it through the station this time?

"Just behind the coal."

They were plunged into the darkness of a tunnel. Loca reached out for the comfortingly chill of the train’s iron frame. She felt its power, pulling them onwards, refusing to turn back.

The great hull of a mighty ship stuck out of the sea close by, surrounded by concrete walls and the remnants of cranes. Its name, she could remember the painted letters clearly in her mind although they had been worn off long ago, had been something foreign. The letters made no sense. But she had re-written them years ago, formed them into a story of her own: The Phoenix. Its ghostly crew still haunted it, wandering the hallways unaware of the strange angle, waiting for it to rise again and sail to the east, to the north. She had been its cabin boy at eight, its captain at ten. Now, at twelve, she had been promoted and confined to shore. When would she see it again?

Another tunnel stole the view and Loca momentarily forgot where she had left her gun. A moment of panic drowned itself in the dark as she waved her hand in a circle around her, but the cold metal wasn’t far away.

"Nearly there." Her Dad’s voice echoed in the dark.

She should be further down the train. What was she still doing here? The residual traces of panic still tickling her heart, she crept back over the rear of the train and eased herself across to the living carriage. A pale light sped her up. She could see the grey glow of daylight around the edge of the truck and dashed headlong across the rug, flinging herself at the ladder. The sea breeze wafted her hair as she lay flat on top of the carriage and dragged herself across its roof. Would that be far enough? She hated sitting on the ladder in the freight truck. At least here she could hear the music, its comforting beats making the roof quiver.

It was too late. Daylight closed in around her again and she propelled herself to the far edge of the roof, gun ready. Hopefully she could protect the freight truck from here. The station was waiting. With her head down she could see the remnants of the town under the wooded hillside and clinging to the edges of a muddy bay, cracked solar panels still clinging to the roofs of boarded up houses. Ahead, the black flags waved above the concrete reinforcements on the hilltop station building that swallowed the track. The track light was red. It was always red. Beyond it the railway ran clear under the three iron hillocks of The Bridge. She loved that bridge; it would carry them to safety, beyond the reassuringly thick walls of the Lothian border.

A siren wailed through the ancient station tannoy, drowning out the music. Window shutters flew open above the platform. Loca felt her heart pounding against the canvas of the roof and she forced herself to breath, face pressed against the metal edge. Why did she never get used to this? Just to be sure, she slipped her feet into the loops of rope attached to the roof and braced herself. Perhaps they would leave them alone this time.

Bullets sparked off the freight truck. Warning shots, Loca told herself, not aimed to hit her. She wouldn’t die from a gunshot wound. Not unless she was very unlucky. But there was no reassurance in that thought. Her Mum’s luck had run out.

Two men appeared from the ticket office, clad in acerbically bright colours and grotesque masks. They were dragging a thick pipe. Loca tried not to tense, deliberately relaxed her limbs. That wouldn’t help. She just had to pray they aimed for her and not for the train and its precious fire.

The water was icy cold and slammed into her side like a fist. Disorientated, she flailed to grip the edge of the carriage. The dull pain in her ankles where the rope dug in tugged at her consciousness anchored her. The gun. A moment’s made panic flooded her veins, matching the water in ferocity. Where was it? Had she dropped it? Blinking, she wasn’t sure if the water in her eyes was tears. Panicking, she twisted against the ceaseless deluge.

Her hip screamed at her. Some how the gun had shifted, and now she was lying on it. She moved again, dragged it back to the front of the carriage and levelled it at one of windows. Still struggling to breathe, dripping wet and terrified, she looked down the barrel of the gun at the masked face in the window.

The water stopped and for a brief moment there was nothing but stillness and the screeching of the seagulls circling overhead. The CD player had stopped. Had it reached the last track already? She hoped so.

The tannoy spluttered back into life with a high-pitched whistle and Loca found her teeth clenching. The water was new. This was not. Screams rent the air. The agonising sounds of pain channelled through the loud-speakers on the platform. So many voices, individuals scattered amid the cacophony. Her brain tried to convince her she could hear familiar voices there, but that was impossible. It was always the same sound anyway. Surely those people had died years ago. She refused to believe her Mum’s voice was in there. The bullet had killed her. It had to have. Death had been quick.

A bullet flicked off the edge of the carriage and Loca froze. She had to move. She had to fire back, but she couldn’t. Spotting that no one was going to defend the train, the masked figure scrambled quickly out of the window, a rope ladder with sharp metal hooks at one end slung over his shoulder. Loca’s finger quivered against the trigger. Another bullet whistled past her ear, leaving a whispered trail of terror.

"Loca!" Her Dad’s voice brought her back to her senses. "Fire, you idiot!"

The gun was already aimed. All she had to do was fire. Squeezing her eyes shut, droplets of water still running down her face, she pulled the trigger. A bullet exploded from the air, but she kept her eyes shut. She didn’t want to know. There was no shout, no cry if it made it to its target. She heard nothing but the screams on the tannoy.

Gunshots filled the air, surrounding her in the comforting darkness of her own mind. She ignored them. That screaming tunnelled its way through her skull. Why didn’t it stop? Clutching the gun more tightly, she imagined herself back, her Mum lying beside her, protecting her. This had been so much easier when she wasn’t alone.

Loca’s eyes flew open, the salt in the breeze stinging, and she suddenly became aware of just how much she was shaking. The train had sped up. They were nearly through. Struggling to breath, pressing her teeth together then opening her mouth to gasp in chill air, she crawled back to the ladder. When had the screaming stopped?

Ears still ringing, she glanced back over the carriage, to the station building where the masked figures waved guns and curses at the fleeing train. Throwing her gun back down into the living carriage, she lay back and flung her arms out, turning her face to the sky. Clouds and seagulls soared overhead, and the train sped joyfully onwards.

They hit the bridge a few second later, a trace of fog wrapping itself about her as the iron girders interrupted the sky. It always surprised her how close the station was to the firth.

"Loca?" Her Dad sounded worried. "Loca? Are you alright?"

Of course, she hadn’t thought what her lying on the roof of the carriage would look like. Slightly giddy, she sat up to reassure him and hurriedly clambered back down. They would be over The Bridge in no time. She opened the shutters eagerly, letting the dim sunlight back in, tentatively jabbed the play button on the CD player and then set off back to the driver’s cab. She couldn’t stop grinning.

They were sweeping across the wide river estuary, accompanied by strings and haunting choral music from the speakers in the carriage. She could see ships, far out where the river finally turned into the sea and the coastlines turned south and north. She often wondered whether it was any safer travelling out there, but never got a chance to go down to the docks when they were in town and speak to the sailors.

As they crossed the central island, with its ruined concrete fortifications and sun-bleached tents, where civilisation-hating hermits hid from the world, she glanced across to the Other Bridge.

"Do you think it would have really been a danger?" She didn’t really intend the question to be out loud.

"Probably." Her Dad didn’t look up. He didn’t like to look west; the two remaining pillars of the Other Bridge, the snaking tendrils of iron disappearing into the water where they would have carried the road, always disturbed him. Mum had told her the government had blown it up; an uncle had once claimed it was pirates. Her Dad didn’t believe it mattered.

The third bridge reached out from both banks, straining to join itself together. It never would. They sang songs about that one. Once, the pirates had set up a zip line between the two and a great concrete tower had been built on the end of the south arm. She used to imagine what it would be like to live there, battered by the weather, but with the most amazing view in the Central Lowlands. That was before it fell into the sea last Christmas.

Finally, as they approached the end of The Bridge, and the little town of Dalmeny nestled under its buttress, the train slowed. The wall faced them and they would have to pay to get through.

"Go and get the toll money. It’s under the bed." Her Dad waved her away, concentrating as he was on the brakes.

She hurried off, back to the carriage. When she got there, she considered lowering the volume on the CD player, but didn’t. Perhaps the toll-master would appreciate it.

By the time she got back, the train had stopped and she had difficulty climbing back over the tender without the regular swaying. That reminded her, she would have to get used to her land-legs soon. Next time she climbed onboard, she would have probably lost it. She would be like a stationer, falling about all over the place. Her heart sank. Would it really be that long?

"Mr. Roberts. Good to see you back safely." The toll-master standing on the platform below, clipboard in hand, gun resting lazily at his feet. His uniform was always neatly pressed. “If you have your itinerary, stock list and toll ready, I’ll get your passes.”

She felt abruptly more cheery and handed the bag of money to her father to check. He was digging about in a locker for the documents.

"The stationers have a water canon." She sat on the edge of the cab, stretching out her feet to try and touch the platform, without any real desire to do so. It remained comfortingly distant. She didn’t have to disembark yet.

"So I heard." The toll-master took the documents her Dad proffered, checked them and scribbled something down on his clipboard. "That’ll be five hundred pounds then, Mr. Roberts."

Loca froze. Five hundred pounds? Since when. She could sense her Dad’s concern, but she didn’t turn. Her legs, hanging down by the train, felt suddenly exposed. She wanted to be back inside, hiding in the carriage. Why had she left the music playing? It sounded so stupid.

"Five hundred? I though it was four hundred. That’s a very big increase."

"They’ve put up the border tax again, I’m afraid." The toll-master remained intent on his scribbling. Loca peered into his face, but he avoided her.

"But, I thought it was four hundred. All I have went into the freight." There was a trace of pleading in his voice, but would the toll-master hear it?

Slowly, she edged herself back into the cab.

Her Dad replaced her, standing at the top of the ladder, looking down on the toll-master and offering the bag of money. "This is four hundred. Surely it will do. Just this once. I can bring more next time, I promise."

She began to climb back onto the tender. Perhaps they would have to turn around and go back, sell some of the freight. They might even get the stationers to buy it, if they kept the guns on them. That tiny part of her that didn’t really want to go through the wall cherished the hope, and she furiously tried to stamp on it.

"I can’t." The toll-master didn’t take the money. "I’m really sorry. It has to be five hundred. Or the equivalent in goods that I can sell."

Loca paused on the edge of the tender. "What about the freight?" She knew it was hopeless but she asked anyway, and immediately regretted it. Her father’s face was so downhearted when he turned to reply that she felt herself recoil. Such disappointment filled his eyes that she could feel the tears returning.

"We’ve already sold the freight." He said it quietly; it wasn’t any of the toll-master’s business and the man on the platform busied himself with his clipboard, keeping up the pretence. "It’s all promised. We can’t bring less, it’ll ruin us."

"But..." There had to be a way. She picked up a piece of coal, but her father’s expression told her that was never going to be enough. Everyone south of the River had enough fuel already.

Loca turned and scrambled back into the living carriage. There had to be something in here worth the hundred pounds, surely. But what were a few tattered pieces of furniture going to get them. It wasn’t worth its value as firewood. Her Mum had had a few things, jewellery, photo frames, but they were long gone.

While she deliberated, standing in the middle of the rug in a kind of mad desperation, her Dad appeared in the carriage behind her. He paused for only a moment beside her. He must have considered this before.

He crossed to the beds and reached out to take down the gun hanging there. It was better than the other two, an heirloom of sorts. But, with a sinking heart, Loca felt like he was about to sell a family member.

"You can’t." She ran to the door, clutching at the frame in a pitiful effort to stop him. Would he really move her by force? Did he care that much. "We can go back north. We can get the money."

"We haven’t got time. We need to be in the City by tomorrow morning." He laid a hand on her shoulder and bent down to look her straight in the eye.

She couldn’t meet his gaze. "It doesn’t matter."

"It does."

"But I don’t care." She felt the tears, prickling and teasing.

"You will." He laid the gun aside and took her face between his hands, trying to smile. "One day."

"But I don’t want to go." She wanted to put her arms around him, to never let him go. But that would be giving in.

"I know." He lifted her aside easily, took up the gun and left the carriage.

She didn’t follow. She didn’t want the toll-master to see her cry. Instead she sank down against the wall where he had left her, trying not to look up at the bare wall between the beds. How could he just give it away like that? After all these years. It didn’t matter that she wouldn’t be here either. With a sickening feeling in her stomach, that made it worse. He would be all the more alone now.

"I don’t want to go." She whimpered to herself, clutching for the nearest familiar object, a tattered chair cushions, and shoving her face into it. Her Mum had made it. She remembered helping with the tassels when she was very small. It collected her tears.

"That won’t be enough. It’s ancient. At most I’ll get fifty pounds for it in the City."

Her heart rallied. He wouldn’t take it. She wouldn’t have to go.

A second later, her Dad was back, and this time he had more purpose. He crossed to the cupboard above the desk. What was he getting? They had nothing of worth left, surely.

They both paused for a moment, silent, waiting. She looked up at him, face stinging, with the strange hope of a condemned prisoner. She didn’t want to go.

Then he reached out, determined, and unplugged the CD player. This time she didn’t move. There was a resigned, angry expression on his face that kept her sitting there, cowering against the wall with the cushion gripped tightly in her fists. Slowly, he coiled up the wire, gathered together the little collection of CDs in their battered wallet with his name scrawled on in a child’s hand, blue marker pen faded with age.

He didn’t look at her as he left. Perhaps he didn’t dare. She was left sitting on the floor, eyes fixed on the tabletop, the little dust-free square where the wood was brighter. How could she go now? He loved that music. She couldn’t let him drive off all alone, without that tiny bit of comfort.

They arrived in the city that evening, pulling into the vast glass-roofed station alongside the other trains. Her Dad left immediately, locking up the cab and dragging himself off to the old waiting area, where the chairs had been rearranged around an old bin with a fire in it. The train-drivers gathered there, under the unlit shop signs and watched by pigeons, to discuss the price of fuel, the state of the network, all the news from north and south, and to drink whisky into the night. Loca didn’t go, though she usually would; there were other children there. They met in the ticket office, beyond the beaded curtains someone had put up when the automatic doors stopped working. Tonight she had to pack. Tomorrow she would be gone.

Her Dad wanted to carry her case the next morning, but she wouldn’t let him. She had packed it and it was her own fault it was so heavy. A few less books, and possibly less clothes, would have helped. But she had a whole three months to survive.

They walked slowly, without talking, along the busy streets of the City, up narrow stairs and past markets. It was so noisy. Would she ever get used to it? It was always so quiet on the train by comparison. It would be even more so now, she realised with a twinge of guilt. That toll-master could have let them through, she had decided, amassing her fury against him all night. It was unfair that he take her Dad’s CD player, after all the years it had clung to life. When she was older, and had money of her own, she could buy him another one, if she could find one, or something similar. Some of the shops in the City had record players, still working amazingly after so long. She could get one of those.

A huge stone gateway finally greeted them, and Loca found herself walking even more slowly, dragging out those last few minutes. But all too soon, they were there, and a middle-aged woman in a blue suit was bustling around them. Her Dad took out the other bag of money, the one he had kept locked away all these years and handed it over with a proud smile. It didn’t make Loca any happier. She still didn’t really want to go, even after all his explanations and insistence.

"Now, Loca Roberts, isn’t it?" The woman held out a hand to shake. "My name is Miss. White. I’ll be your headmistress. We’re so pleased to have you here. I’m sure you’ll do very well. I have you entrance exam results here and they were certainly excellent."

Speechless, Loca took her hand. The woman’s grip was firm and it felt somehow like she was handing over her life. It was a traitorous handshake, and even before she had dragged her hand back, she was looking back at her Dad. He was smiling.

"Now." He held her out at arms-length and inspected her with a half-smile, his voice slightly cracked. He was doing well to hide his sorrow. "Word hard and do me and your Mum proud. Got it."

She opened her mouth to speak, felt something rising in her throat and simply nodded. The blue-suited woman was sending a stranger off with her suitcase, chattering away mindlessly.

They stared at each other for few moments and then her Dad engulfed her in a hug. She could feel him shaking, drowned as she was in his arms.

"Remember," he mumbled through the tears, "I’ll keep the radio receiver on, all the time. Understand." He stood up and adjusted his cap so it hid the top of his face in shadow. "You can talk to me any time you want."

Loca tried to swallow, but her throat wasn’t working. She wanted to beg him not to leave, to plead with him. Instead, she just nodded.

The woman was hovering around again, Loca could smell her perfume choking the air. It was the scent of the City, of acrid sophistication.

"Go on then." Her Dad gave her a little push and closed his eyes for just a moment, before turning to walk away.

She wanted to run after him, to shout goodbye at least, but she found herself frozen to spot. Why did he have to go so soon? Was he taking the train away already? Would he still be in the City for a few days? He would come and visit her. She was sure of it.

Two new figures had appeared at the side of gateway, blurred through Loca’s tears. Her Dad paused. For a few seconds everyone was quiet. Had he changed his mind? A brief moment of hope flickered in her heart, but she didn’t dare fan it. Uncertain, she wiped those clinging tears from her eyes, blinked away the sadness.

"Mr. Roberts." The voice was familiar, stirring anger where the hope still lingered.

The Dalmeny Tollmaster had dressed up for the City, donned his best suit and tie. He looked somehow defenceless, odd, standing there without his clipboard. But what took her by surprise was the girl standing beside him, a suitcase in her hand, with black plaits and a straw sunhat, even more neat and tidy than him in her uniform.

Miss White seized on the recognition instantly, ripping through the tension. "You know each other? Excellent."

No one else seemed to think so. Loca found herself studying the other girl, trying to be angry, but mostly just curious. There was a faded appearance to her uniform, a slight fraying at the cuffs. It wasn’t new.

"Amy." Miss White swooped down on Loca again, draping an arm over her shoulders and dragging her forward. "Perhaps you could show Loca around. She’s joining us for the first time this year."

A sinking feeling, Loca ducked under the headmistress arm and twisted round to speak to her Dad.

He was already gone.

Panicking, she tried to get away, scanning the crowds, the street that lead away from the gates in both direction, dusty and full of people. There were too many of them. Fruitlessly, she found herself mouthing a goodbye to the strangers. They didn’t care and continued going about their business in the cold sunlight.

How could he have sneaked off like that, leaving her alone?

Furious, she rounded on the only other person she could think of to shout at the toll-master. "Is this what you wanted?" She pushed off Miss White again. The woman seemed determined to direct her. "You wanted our money so you could pay for this!" She didn’t know quite what she meant, and waved her arm wildly at the gateway and the lawns behind it. "You took...You lied. You said the taxes had gone up, so you get take the extra!"

"No." The toll-master fell back a little. "The taxes went up, I swear. But unless I gave them the right amount, I wouldn’t have got my wages. They..."

She couldn’t explain her anger, but it raged inside her. Her fists clenched. What she would give to have her Mum’s gun right now.

Miss White position herself defensively between them, then muttered something in a low voice to the toll-master. "I think you’d better go. Leave this to me."

He bent down to face his daughter, kissing her cheek, then tweaking her nose and ruffling his fingers through her hair. "I’ll come and see you at mid-term. Don’t forget to write."

Through her near-blinding fury, Loca watched their goodbye, and as the father turned to leave his daughter, a chill seemed to quench that anger, a sadness racing through her veins. The toll-master hadn’t done any different that her Dad.

"Come on." The girl was standing in front of her, a brave smile trying to stave off the tears that fluttered in the corners of her eyes. "I’ll show you where you’ll be sleeping first and then give you the grand tour. I know it all seems huge at first, but you’ll get used to it. I did."

She held out a hand, and close as she was, Loca imagined, or perhaps just caught a trace of, the smell of the sea and coal smoke.

"I’m Amy, by the way. I’ve been here a year already. You’ll love it, trust me."

"Loca." She took the other girl’s hand and allowed herself to be led past the beaming face of Miss White, under the gate and onto a wide gravel path leading across a vast and unnaturally green lawn. There were other children there, in their uniforms, reading under trees or running about. It was all so neat, so ordered.

"Don’t worry." Amy paused for moment and turned to face her. "He’ll visit as soon as he can. Mid-term is only six weeks away."

"Six weeks!" It sounded such a long time, an age to be alone.

"It’ll go by in no time. And you can write letters whenever you want. When I first started, I wrote one every day, half in the morning before breakfast and half again at night, just before I went to bed."

Loca looked up at the turrets and crenellations of the vast building before her, soot-stained bricks holding an essence of those station buildings that populated her life. It was so grand, and it called out to her. She had been accepted here; they were glad to have her Miss White had said. A creeping desire side-stepped its way into her heart, to get her uniform, to find her room, to fit herself into this place that welcomed her. She wanted to be busy, to explore, to have something to describe to her Dad when she wrote him the first letter tonight. Sadness and excitement clamoured in her head. She would have so much to tell him.