We arrived at the station as the first passengers began to disembark. I’d visited the depot only a few times previously, not being inclined to leave Widdershins if at all possible. The place was generally chaotic, with persons rushing to and fro, many of them shoving carts piled with baggage or crates or even live chickens ahead of them. The platform was a great, swirling mass of skirts, hats, running children, dogs, baggage, and a lone cage with a live parrot inside, screaming its head off.
Its shrieks were joined by those of a young girl, red faced and crying, apparently having lost sight of her mother. Perhaps reminded of another young child standing alone on another train platform, Griffin stopped and went down on his knee beside her.
“Are you lost?” he asked kindly.
She nodded and kept howling.
Griffin looked up at me, and perhaps saw the expression of horror on my face. “Whyborne, would you be so kind as to find my parents? I shall help this little one.”
“Of course,” I said hastily. I had no experience dealing with children, and hadn’t the slightest notion what to do when confronted with one.
I hastened to the crowd of disembarking passengers, only to realize I hadn’t any idea what his parents looked like. What on earth was I doing here, anyway? My inclinations meant many drawbacks in terms of society, but surely one positive was not having to receive the approval of my lover’s family. And yet here I was, stumbling about like a fool, while Griffin played hero.
A number of people—porters, perhaps, or hired drivers—shouted the names of new arrivals. Perhaps I should do the same? “Kerr?” I called tentatively. “Er, Kerr?”
A diminutive older woman popped out of one of the compartments, almost on top of me. I barely had time to register a seamed face, simple dress, and plain bonnet before she shouted “Kerr?” back at me.
“Yes?” I said helplessly.
The next thing I knew, she shoved a small trunk into my arms. “Look, Pa! Griffin hired us a porter to carry our things!”
A man with an impressive white beard exited behind her. “That boy always was thoughtful,” he said, grinning happily as he swung an even larger trunk into my arms atop the first. The weight staggered me; what on earth had they brought with them, bricks? Stones from the fields of Kansas? “Seems a bit on the scrawny side, though.”
“I’m, er—” I tried to object.
“Now, now, don’t you listen to him,” Mrs. Kerr said, piling a hatbox and carpetbag on top of the lot. My back let out a twinge of protest. “Carry these quick, and there’ll be a nice tip in it for you.”
“But, I’m not…”
“Come on now, Ruth, don’t be shy.”
I peered around the pile of baggage as best I could to catch a glimpse of a young woman following them off the train. Griffin hadn’t mentioned anyone else, so who could she be?
Whoever she was, she looked mortified. Curls of blond hair protruded from her bonnet. She wore a neat, though not terribly in-fashion, dress. I was no judge of women’s beauty, but I thought she resembled at least in general what most men seemed to consider attractive.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, a light blush pinking her cheeks. She reached to take the hatbox, but Mrs. Kerr cut her off with a call to come at once. “S-sorry,” she mumbled at me. “Coming, Aunt Nella!”
Aunt Nella? Griffin had some explaining to do.
I somehow navigated the platform without dropping everything, although the pile of baggage blocked my sight, so I bumped into several people and barely managed not to fall onto the tracks. That would be quite the headline: Niles Whyborne’s Son Run Over by Own Train. Father would probably raise me from the dead just so he could kill me himself.
PS: For those who haven’t caught up on the W&G series, I’m offering Widdershins for only $0.99 until December 9 at Amazon, ARe, B&N, and Smashwords. Already read it? Most vendors allow you to give ebooks as gifts, and some such as Amazon even allow you to schedule the delivery date.