Raven’s Run 65

At my elbow, a heavy American tourist with a Texas accent talked about triple compound expansion, and from the references he made it was clear that he owned a small steam engine of some kind. Whether it was the kind you put in a launch, or one of those silly live-steam trains that you see grown men riding around on top of, he didn’t say.

Technical conversations fascinate me, and dedicated enthusiasts fascinate me. Another time, I would have made an excuse to engage the man in conversation to learn more about these steamers I liked so well. But not today. Today was for solitude.

I went on to the upper deck. Since I was using the Senator’s money, I had bought a first class ticket. The view was the same as it had been from the second class section on the main deck. Gorgeous. Steep, grassy hillsides dotted with chalets, cattle grazing, and all reflected in the glassy perfection of the lake. In the distance off the bow, beyond Montreaux, the snow clad peaks of the true Alps were playing peek-a-boo among the clouds.

Eventually, I became aware that one of the other passengers was eyeing me. She was young and lovely, in a tight mini-dress and sandals. She had hair cut shorter than mine, very black and straight, and lashes too long to be real. Her companion was blonde and frilly with a habit of hiding her mouth when she talked. They were leaning against the rail, talking, and giving me covert looks.

I don’t know why girls do that. I would not call myself handsome. Not like Will is. I am just six feet, one ninety, broad where a man should be broad and narrow where a man should be narrow, but no one would ever put me on the cover of Gentlemen’s Quarterly. Field and Stream, maybe. Not that I mind the attention, but it confuses me. My first reaction is always to wonder if they are joking. Did I forget to zip something?

Normally, I like the attention, but today I had Raven on my mind. When the girl with the lashes finally sent me a smile that would have melted a statue, I shook my head and turned away. When I looked around later, she was gone.

So then, naturally, I found myself regretting the lost opportunity. Consistently inconsistent.

I wedged my pack against the seat, put my feet up on the rail, and made myself comfortable. Fifty-two hours. That was how long it had been since I woke up to find Raven gone. Fifty-two hours, and I was still in shock. I was walking through my life half awake. I was eating, sleeping, making conversation, making decisions, choosing logical courses of action, not falling overboard. But I was doing it all with my mind only half engaged.

I sighed. It was one of those sighs that starts in the back of your throat and shudders you all the way down to your feet. It was good that no one was sitting near; they would have called the paramedics. And then I chuckled. Pitiful. Pathetic. Too sad to live. You can only take yourself so seriously, and then all your actions turn into farce. more tomorrow


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