Lessons From the Orient Express – Part VIIApr 3rd, 2010 | By Heather Ann Schmidt | Category: Lessons From the Orient Express, Series | 482 views
Maps and Trains
Isabelle’s first year at Oxford went very quickly between all of her studies and the few visits from James that she could fit in. They continued to write and call one another and in that correspondence, planned a trip they wanted to take together on the Orient Express that went from Paris to Budapest to Venice. After they reached Venice, they planned on trekking through the rest of Italy and then Greece.
When the term ended, Isabelle went back to Notting Hill with Ellen and remained there with James until they left on their trip. They were to leave the week of her nineteenth birthday. As the date approached, Isabelle was filled with both an excitement, but a sweet sadness as well because this would be her first birthday without her father. She knew, though, that he would want her to live her life in a way that was full of the wonder that he always told her life could bring. While in Notting Hill, she had developed a sort of routine for herself: She would wake in the mornings and have have tea with James at his flat and they would talk and read in bed.James always liked to play his vinyl records on the turntable he brought back from home at Christmas. Lovely music would fill the corners of his flat. Sometimes she would open up maps and have them sprawled across the bed. She loved to see them opened up before her. It was as if she became a kind of god who was able to see the whole world at once. She would point to the places that she and James were going to and then she would begin the first line of a story. They would each take turns telling what would happen next to the characters in the locale she had picked and then, when they finished, James would say,”We should do that when we go there!”
The morning they got ready to leave began as casually as any other morning because they had packed their bags a few days before.They did not bring much with them. James believed in packing light on a trip and coming back heavy with treasure and experiences. Isabelle was the same way, she did not have a lot of clothing and was not particularly interested in fashion. Although, she did love sundresses and skirts because she found them to be more comfortable than pants or jeans.
James looked out the window from his flat down onto the street.
“It’s here, Izzy! Let’s go!” he called to her while she was in the bedroom.
Isabelle grabbed her bag and eagerly jetted out of the room to the door and she and James headed out to the cab. As they drove away, Isabelle could feel her insides lighten. Her dreams of seeing these places on maps was actually becoming a reality!! James reached for her hand and squeezed it tightly. She, then, pulled closer to him in the backseat of the cab and watched the passing rows of houses and the pattern they created lulled her into a trance until the vehicle stopped and it was time to get out. James and Isabelle took their bags and walked through the train station until they reached a dark green train with the words Venice-Simpleton on it.
As the ticket taker showed them to their berth, Isabelle looked around and felt as if she had stepped into a different place in time. Everything was so elegant and rich looking. The berth was paneled in a shiny honey hued wood and it had charming little details. Once the man shut the door behind them, James pulled Isabelle into a kiss and they fell on to the seat.
“I can’t believe we are actually on this train heading for Paris!” James beamed.
“I know!” Isabelle chimed.
James began to kiss her deeply and ran his fingers through her long blond hair, massaging the back of her neck. He then ran his hand along her until he found the small of her back. All of a sudden, the train began to move and they felt its velocity increase. Isabelle laid against James as they faced the window and watched the world pass them by.
After a short time, there was a knock at the door. A gentleman asked them if they wanted tea and James nodded yes to him. A short time later, he arrived with a tray of tea, biscuits and sandwiches for them. Isabelle took the teacup to her lips and watched the water of the channel below them. Before too long, they arrived at the train station in Paris and as they got out of the car, Isabelle heard other languages spoken all around her. Instantly, she felt as if she was in a strange new world. Since James knew French better than she did, she let him speak to the taxi driver who was to take them to their hotel.
Isabelle loved the stone side streets and the brasseries on almost every corner. She and James sat outside of one of them by the hotel and had croque monsiuer and sodas. All kinds of people walked by…and so did their dogs. One lady in a black dress who wore very high heels carried a very tiny dog in a black designer satchel. This amused Isabelle because she had always thought that dogs liked to walk.
“You have to promise me if I ever get a dog, remind me to buy one that is sturdy enough to walk on its own,” she commented.
James laughed,”I will!”
Once they finished at the brasserie, they walked around the city. The buildings were so rich in detail– the black iron scrolling on the windows and gates contrasted with the modern feel of the art galleries. As Isabelle and James walked, he would hold her hand or put his arm around her. There was love there. It filled the streets, and filled the tiny molecules that made up breath..it filled the movement of those around them and the sculptures in the squares. It was that love that filled everything that made her believe that things were possible, things that she only thought could be imagined. And here she was planted right in the middle of this moving, rushing existence. She could not help but feel overwhelmed by the presence she felt in the middle of that city.
After a long walk, James and Isabelle found themselves sitting on the bank of the Siene talking about what really mattered to them.
“What was the hardest part about losing your father,” he asked.
“Everything,” she said, “It is like a part of your life is ripped away from you and you don’t know where you are for a while. I still feel like part of me is floating in the ocean and other parts are around me, but I can’t exactly place where.”
James sat and took in what she had said.
“Yes there is that feeling of brokenness that never really seems to completely go away.”
“But right now, James, …right now I don’t feel so broken. With you and the experience I am sharing with you now, I feel as if I can see myself coming back together at some point in my life. Thank you for that.” Isabelle looked at him with intensity.
After many hours–some spent talking, some spent in pure silence so they could listen as the water rushed by–they walked back to their room and left the doors to the balcony open as the morning sun cast its red shadow over the hotel room bed and they slept in one another’s arms knowing that, at least for now, they were not alone in the world.Help Support T21 with your Dollar Donation Today
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