The next stop, it turned out, wasn't for another hour. And so, Ike
and I tiptoed into our compartment, flopping into our seats. I watched as Ike explained everything to Natalie, Kate, and Taylor.
Ezra now lay in Natalie's lap, his head to the side, eyes closed. His breathing was slow and deep. I wondered if he dreamed
about Caitlyn. But before I could wonder for long, a woman reached the spot where we all sat with a trolley and stopped.
"Anything from the trolley?" she asked in a croaking voice. I yawned, running my eyes
over the trolley's contents. There was soda, along with numerous other drinks, such as iced tea or lemonade, as well as a
generous amount of food. I felt my stomach growl as I searched over the mouthwatering foods.
"Yeah," I told the woman, whose eyes were now on Ezra. "I'll have a...a sweetened iced
tea, and...a cheeseburger and fries, I guess." The woman gathered a foam container and a plastic cup. Filling the cup with
iced tea, she handed them both to me and took orders from everyone else. When everyone had something in front of them, we
paid the woman and dug in. It felt strange to be eating when Caitlyn was just in the next compartment, within reach. I sighed,
thinking of her surprised but happy face when she had recognized us not 10 minutes ago.
"So, Zac," Taylor said through a mouthful of steak, "Have you two set a date yet?" I
stared at him strangely for a second before comprehension dawned on me.
"No, no...not yet," I told him, smiling at Kate fleetingly before returning to my lunch.
"Ike, how come you never mentioned that Caitlyn had an aunt?" Ike looked up from his own meal, a dumbfounded
expression on his face.
"I don't know...it never came up, I suppose." he answered, frowning. Suddenly, Ezra gave
a small jerk. His eyes fluttered open and he nearly fell off Natalie's lap as he scrambled around to look at Taylor.
"Daddy," he stated loudly, "Where is Caitlyn? Where did she go, Daddy?" Taylor put down
his fork and knife and lifted Ezra from his place on Natalie's legs. He set him on the floor and looked him straight in the
"You'll see her soon, but not until I say so, ok, Ez?" he said, a note of firmness in
his voice. Ezra only nodded, staring at the floor.
"I'm hungry." he announced suddenly.
"I got you some food, sweetheart. Come over here and let's eat, alright?" Natalie replied,
swooping Ezra from the floor of the train. She set him back on her lap and he began to eat half of a grilled cheese sandwich.
I smiled, reaching back for my cheeseburger. The food was awfully good for being served on a train. The iced tea served as
a relief from the hot, stiff air which hung in the train as it rushed by. Sighing, I lay back in my chair, exhausted. Conversation
buzzed around me, coming not only from everyone I was with, but from everyone in the entire compartment. I opened my
eyes and gazed out the window. Blurred visions of trees, houses, and numerous buildings met my eyes. Yawning, I stretched
my arms. I laid my head against the seat and felt my eyes droop closed. I was in pain. I was in more pain than I'd ever,
ever been. Blinded, I could see nothing, though around me, sounds of shuffling feet struck my ears. My wrists were tied behind
me, my feet binded to whatever I lay on. Pain seared through my body; something in my stomach - something was very wrong.
I clenched my eyes tight and reopened them, over and over, praying for sight. I finally felt my eyelashes brush
a tight-stretched cloth. Blindfolded. I wriggled, trying to release my aching wrists from the imprisonment. Suddenly,
out of nowhere, laughter filled the room. A girl's laughter; a small girl's laughter; Caitlyn's laughter. I
jerked my body every way I could think of. I tried to speak, but no words were coming out; the blindfold was being untied;
light flooded into sight; Chaz's dark face floated in front of mine, his eyes full of hatred, Caitlyn's laughter still ringing
in my ears...
I awoke with a start, sweat dripping from every inch of my face. I was still in the train.
Relieved, I shook my head, attempting to force the vivid dream out of my mind.
"Zac," Kate said quietly, a note of worry in her voice, "The train is slowing down."