It was cold on the train. But I knew cold. Cold was a friend to a girl like me. An orphan with dirty hair and legs so long my petticoat showed. And your petticoat never showed. Never. Indecent the women with lace gloves called me as they walked through the orphanage –and I grew older as new babies came each day and went away into loving arms, never to remember the boxy rooms that stank of fever and looked out over fields of nameless graves.
The train jerked and the book in the only bag I had ever owned fell to the floor. All eyes were on me. It was a new book, with pictures that were colored in red and blue. A book they all knew instantly I must have stolen. But oh! I wanted a book, what good was it to read without words?
Just then a man with spectacles and a grey wooley beard began walking near me as the boy to my right stood up and took my hand
“There you are! Come on, Mother will want you to help her dress the girls.”
I nodded, playing along as he pushed the book back into my faded grey-thin bag.
When the door to the compartment closed he let go of my hand, waving away my words before I even decided what it was I wanted to say.
“I know, I know- you’re welcome. And I’m Jim, by the way, James- if you want what Gramps calls particulars- James Dandy.”
When I didn’t say anything he went on.
“You ever heard of us Dandy’s?”
I shook my head, attempting to cover two holes on my stained dress by crossing my arms- making sure that my hand with the one glove I owned was showing.
“I’m sorry I stole your book,” I said in a whisper as the boy turned, “but when you set it down and kept kicking at it I figured you didn’t want it and–”
“It’s okay,” he said, turning back to reveal dimples that made my twelve year old knees bend. “I have ever so many books back home, I leave ’em on trains all the time. You stopping at Yorktown? Hmmm, thought so- what’s your name anyway?”
I froze. It was shameful to admit that I had never actually been named anything, but been called girl for so long it was the only title I was ever really allowed to own. For orphans owned few things.
It was at that precise moment, when names like Cecilia and Josephina were flying through my brain that a tall looking gentlemen with snow white hair- holding a long gold chain attached to a delicious watch- rapped on the glass window of the compartment ahead and the boy left as quickly as he had appeared; shooting me a wink as I stood staring at the empty hallway, listening to light laughter and the tinkling of glass hit glass in the first class car beyond.
On my way back to my seat I knew I had alot to think about. But first things first, I needed a name.