7:00 A.M.

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The massive mechanical beast rested before the crowd with wide open doors inviting the guests to board. Instructions were shouted by various men in uniforms made to signal authority, but raucous, entitled men attempted to push forward regardless, deeming themselves above the rules. Must be first class. Gemma reached a gloved hand into her travel bag to find her own ticket with her seating information printed, partially thankful she wasn't in first class because of their apparent attitudes yet partially disappointed that she wouldn't get a chance to charm a rich man. Even so, excitement rippled through her with the crisp springtime wind at the prospects of her endeavors. St. Petersburg. She paused to breathe in the new atmosphere and exhaled her troubles.

Second class, prepare to board.

Gemma opened her eyes and the gaudiest of dresses and hats had disappeared along with half of the noise level, which was funny since their section would probably be quietest during the ride. For the first time she noticed just how large the train was and her stomach fluttered in anticipation. Two more deep breaths and Gemma was prepared. One low heel booted foot strode in front of the other and as much as Gemma hated to wear shoes she couldn't deny the high level of quality and taste her mother had selected in hopes that she would in turn wear them more often. Her head held high despite her short stature was striking from the simple yet elegant handmade headpiece comprised of ribbon and flowers on the side pinned in her long, wavy locks of red that spilled down onto her shoulders and breasts, untamed. Her hair was the feature that attracted the most attention from women and men alike so she loved to show it off and indeed it usually worked. After handing off her luggage to be stored, she presented her ticket to the man in uniform, and his face changed into an approving smile, which she hoped was a sign she'd have some luck in the ways of men on the train.

Gemma boarded the train, making her way to the right section and set herself down on a comfortable enough seat by the window. She couldn't wait to watch the landscape flit by before her eyes, but until that began she scanned the other passengers in her space as they filled into their seats, hoping to find one who caught her eye or vice versa. So far there were more men than women overall, and she expected that would remain true once the carriage was full. Her eyes passed over an elderly man with a cane and his wife, two older businessmen, and a family of four with the man looking less than pleased. None of these interested Gemma very much, for she preferred to choose someone alone who she wouldn't have to worry about interruptions.
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winter dawn
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"Where to?" a polite, feminine voice inquired.
"St Petersburg. One way," Charles answered in that meddle of firmness and elegance he endorsed whenever important decisions were made. This was an important decision - maybe one of the most important. A hard one too, as difficulty always seemed to accompany importance, but by no means was he going to step back now. He needed to go.
The receptionist gave him his ticket with a practiced smile - his train would arrive shortly, couples of minutes at best. He supposed it was a lucky coincidence - for each minute Charles would spend waiting on that platform would be tormented by the temptation of running back home. And that could not happen. Not anymore.

Keeping himself at a safe distance from the effervescent crowd before him, he waited for the Second Class to be called; then let the inspector punch his ticket as he stepped into the carriage. He was used to trains - but this one, typically made for long journeys, seemed richer - or at least, there was a feeling of sophistication and comfort that was not often found in Second class cars. His eyes stumbled upon a small painting framed on the wall, so softly colored the painter could have extracted his pigments directly from a cold winter dawn. He looked attentively at the face of the painted character, a blond lady in a creamy dress, and lost himself in her complexion for what seemed like a little eternity.

The sharp whistle of a locomotive, brutal call back to the reality of the instant, tore him from his reverie. The grip of his hand tight on his leathered bag, he sought for a place to sit - and would have gone with anything, really. He didn't need silence to write nor to sleep anyway. Most of the carriages were filled, but after a few minutes of trying to associate looking for a seat and keeping his balance as the engine started moving, he found an empty space next to a window. Swiftly and with as much discreteness he could manage, Charles entered the compartment and sat down, leaving his bag to rest on his knees. With him installed, the carriage was now full - but his first reflex, rather than to pay attention to the people around him, was to take out the book he'd brought with him. He'd have twelve hours to observe his neighbours, and it was still too early to write - reading seemed like the most appropriate activity for now; not to mention that the novel itself was quite riveting and a very pleasant distraction from unwanted doubts and worries.


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The last man who boarded the train and settled on a seat by the window caught Gemma's attention as he was a pretty attractive male candidate who looked to be of a similar age as Gemma. He sat a few seats behind her, which was ideal as a second choice because it was far enough away from the other male candidate sitting next to her should he prove undesirable for her purposes. In comparison to the speciman seated next to her, mysterious Mr. Last looked godly with a strange combination of enigma and charm that had her heart heatedly pulsing upon the sight of him. She instinctively reached for the pendant around her neck and smoothed her fingers along the now warm precious stone. Her cheeks flushed a shade of pink a moment and she quickly shook her head in response while laughter erupted in her mind at her foolish behavior. She attracted men, it wasn't the other way around. She wasn't looking for anything serious and so she forgot about Mr. Last and concentrated on the easy prey next to her. She flipped her hair and took one last long absent gaze out towards the passengers of the train before turning all her attention to the window.

Trees fascinated Gemma. The life they held, their roots entrenched deep into the earth with their being branching out into the sky. She stared out at the blurs of greens and browns and quickly found herself lost in the swarm of the beauties passing by too quickly to appreciate. The world tilted as her eyes unfocused and she stared out the window intently while her mind wandered. Family back home, ancestry, and destiny crossed her mind but nothing settled long enough for coherent thoughts to form. Good, too much thinking was how one became mad.

After about an hour, Gemma pulled her eyes away from the window and rotated her neck to spy on what the people around her were doing. The man next to her was reading, but when she looked around the carrier he took note and paused in his reading.

"Is something the matter?" the man asked, taking off his glasses as he spoke to me so I could see his chestnut brown eyes. He wasn't bad looking, actually quite attractive with his well-kept brown hair, nice yet weathered outfit, and even though he was a bit older than her, probably in his early 30s, she could see them having a functional relationship.

"No, Sir, I was simply looking around the carrier," she answered, giving him an innocent glance and knew she already had him. She'd had him from the moment he chose to sit beside her instead of choosing an open seat by a window. Not having to even push the conversation, Gemma felt more comfortable, and figured their speaking would progress as he allowed. She planned to make him feel like he was in control and already he was feeding into her trap by initiating conversation so soon.
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