Toini Comes Home – V2 – D1 – Scene 5

Kul Viller Grand Central

Everything is just the way it always were. In reality it is not, but a paladin does not care.

The sounds of the trains. The doves up under the rafters, and the steel beams holding up the roof. People everywhere. Alone and in groups. Families and couples. Everyone going somewhere. Home, or far away.

Yes, there are new shops in the gallery at the arrivals hall, there is new paint on walls, and giant monitors show arrivals and departures. Yes, things have changed, but nothing that matters is different.

It is still the Grand Central Station, and its spirit is still awake.

– – –

A paladin and her chronicler walk slow. Crowds part around them – the tall handsome man; the short hippie woman. There is no jostling, no accidental bumping. No one gets close. No one is a bother.

A spirit is curious. A mighty presence walks its halls – new and unknown, yet trusting and comfortable. It is good. It is all so good. A spirit fills with joy and confusion. For the rest of the day, no train leaves on time, but no one really minds. No children get lost, no luggage is misplaced, and no one misses a connection. It is a great day to be a train station.

– – –

“Hey, boss. Would you mind if I just stepped in to get a paper?” Raoul nodded over towards a news agent. “It’s been ages since I read the Viller Wall.”

Toini stopped. She frowned up at Raoul, started to say something, shrugged, and then nodded. “Just make it quick.”

Might as well. Better keep him happy. Easier that way.

Without a moment’s hesitation, Raoul snapped around and headed off towards the little shop. Toini sighed, shoved her hands into her pockets, and trudged along after him.

– – –

Raoul found his paper right away. That wasn’t the issue. It was the amount of people in the line ahead of him waiting to pay, and it was the old man serving them – each one in turn, with a kind word and a smile, and without even a hint of urgency.

Raoul looked at Toini. Raised an eyebrow.

Toini looked at Raoul. Lifted her shoulders and shrugged.

Raoul looked at Toini. Rolled his eyes and grinned.

Muttering to herself Toini walked the aisles of the little shop, looking at the wares. Candy she hadn’t tasted since she was a little girl. Advertisements in her own language. Brand logos from her childhood. Symbols of her long lost past.

And in the magazines section, among tabloids and gossips, a well known face smiled at her from glossy covers.

She stopped with a gasp. Adrian. Memories hammered into her. Assaulted and overwhelmed her. Adrian. She couldn’t breathe. The observation deck on the Golden Lancer. The ten-mile track outside Hemsfil Base. The officer’s ball that winter. Roy and Adrian fighting.

Toini stared. He was right there, right in front of her. Gorgeous as ever. Drama at the royal castle. Heartbreak. Girlfriend in tears. The headlines screamed their message. Single again. The kingdom’s most eligible bachelor. Big capital letters.

Groaning, Toini hung her head and covered her eyes with her hand. She did not need this.

“Hey, boss. What’s up?” Raoul appeared beside her.

“Nothing,” she said and looked the other way. “It’s fine.”

For a moment, Raoul said nothing, and then he began to chuckle. “Really, boss? Prince Adrian?” He nudged her in the side with his elbow. “Catching up on your teenage crush?”

“No! Idiot!” Toini spun around, shoved Raoul out of the way and stalked out of the shop, muttering to herself.

Raoul caught up with her outside the shop, but Toini kept on walking, staring straight ahead, not looking at him. He was grinning. She knew it. That smug, infuriating grin he always had when he knew he was getting to her – and no, it was not stupid charming.

– – –

A paladin moves with determination. Strides through a crowded station, out through doors of glass, into a city grey with rain. In the plaza outside the station she stops to wait, making sure her chronicler keeps up.

Water drips from the brim of her cap, seeps into her hair, and runs down her parka. It does not bother her. Rain is a part of nature, is a part of life.

Finally, her chronicler catches up, him and his suitcase on little wheels and his fancy coat and his stupid umbrella.

She nods. He nods. And together, side by side, but still in silence, they head for the subway.