Chapter 1

Calliope shuffled across the scarred, blue-flecked linoleum of the quiet train station, kicking up small eddies of dust and disturbing yellowing newspapers as she made her way to one of the rough, oak benches. She was nearly home, though each mile sunk her heart even more as she realized she would have to tell everyone, everyone who had told her not to go in the first place that she'd failed. Nudging her pack off of her shoulder, she slumped down upon the bench and knew she wouldn't be able to face their smug sneers. Her brother would tease her about how dumb she was to think a silly girl from Montana could possibly become a Broadway star. Her father would give her yet another lecture about responsibility, and how she should be more sensible like her brother. Her mother would just sigh.

After having spent a month in New York, living with various strange characters in apartments the size of cracker-boxes, and working in smelly, hole-in-the-wall restaurants as a dishwasher or busser, knowing the restaurant would be any day condemned by the board of health, she finally realized that she was not going to get her chance at the auditions. She wasn't going to be that star-from-nowhere that everyone oooed and aaahed over. So, she took whatever she had left that hadn't been filched by above-mentioned roommates and took the last of her savings for a train trip back home.

Sighing, she stood up and lifted her pack back to her shoulder. The ticket-seller was idly reading a battered novel with the front cover torn off, so she couldn't tell what the title was. He was a weathered man who looked as faded and dusty as the depot itself. A pen was tucked behind his ear that he would whip out to underline some passage in his book that he found interesting. She felt almost rude to be disturbing him for a ticket. Timidly, she cleared her throat and the man glanced up from his book and trained his watery, blue eyes on her.

"Yes, Miss, what can I do for you?" he said in a gravelly, whispering voice that sounded as though it hadn't been used in some time.

"Do you have a list of destinations that you go to? I don't see anything on the walls." She replied shyly.

"Why, yes I do! Most folks have a general idea of where they want to go already though. Where are you heading to? I can tell you if we're going there."

Calliope was silent for a minute or two then smiled wryly, saying, "Well, I did know where I was going, but, I decided I'd like to go somewhere else. I'm just not sure where that somewhere is yet."

The elderly man chuckled, "Aha! Running away are we? You know whatever you're running from you always end up having to face sometime!"

Calliope frowned slightly, 'Why is it that complete strangers always try to preach at you about what you should be doing, as though they knew your situation?' she wondered to herself.

"Well, thank you for pointing that out, but, could I see that list anyway?" She responded as politely as she could.

The ticket-seller handed her a white, laminated sheet of paper, and she perused the names. Most of them were well-known cities and towns that didn't interest her. But, one name did pop out that did. As she repeated the name in her mind, it had a whispering, poetic, and warmly familiar sound to it that appealed to her.

"One ticket to Glen Aisling, please."

"Glen Aisling!" the old man guffawed. "Why no one's gone there for nigh 20 years! Why would you want to go to that dusty corner, Miss?"

Calliope shrugged, "I like the name."

The old man shrugged and took her money. The slot in front of him spit out a ticket which he handed to her. "Well, good luck to ya! The train's on its way as we speak."

From behind her she heard the clacking of the train slowly coming to a stop as it pulled up to the station. She boarded the train, and looked inside; there was no one else on the train! How strange that was! She'd never been on an empty train before. The conductor took her ticket and then below they heard a hollering:

"Wait! Don't leave yet! I'm coming!"

A young man scrambled up the steps, breathless. A bead of sweat ran down from his short, russet brown sideburn into his ear. He wiped it away impatiently.

"Phew! Thought I'd miss this train!" he sighed.

She took a seat, watching the young man catch his breath. He took a seat across from her, glancing out the window. Having nothing better to do, she decided to introduce herself.

"Hello," she said. He turned to her quickly looking rather nervous, and he smiled charmingly at the sight of her.

"Hello, my name is Smitty, may I ask yours?" he asked, while standing up to shake her hand.

She took it, noticing it was a bit clammy. She resisted the urge to wipe her hand on the side of her jeans. She let go of his hand quickly, and smiled politely.

"It's Calliope," she said, "You know mothers - always trying to give you the most unique name possible. They never think how hard it might be to write it when you're in kindergarten." she added, embarrassedly when he gave a slightly surprised look. She got this look often when she said her name.

"Well it's a very beautiful name! Just keep reminding me, and maybe I'll know how to pronounce it forty years from now." He joked. She laughed politely.

Calliope wondered briefly if he had a fear of trains, for he was constantly glancing out the window, and wringing his clammy hands.

"So, what brings you here?" she asked, getting curious by his behavior.

He looked startled by this question, running a hand through the unruly shock of wavy russet hair that spilled over his forehead, but he soon gained his composure.

"Oh, you know, this and that, trying to start fresh. It's funny, I really had no idea where I was going, but I heard you mention a town, and you seemed pretty confident about it, so I decided I'd give it try. Do you know any of the sights there, or anything?" he asked.

She looked apologetically at him. "Oh, um, I really just picked it because of the name; I've never been there before." She said, hoping that the place wasn't a deserted town. It wouldn't do too well if he was led to a disappointment with her.

He smiled shakily, looking more unsure of himself now. She felt a little guilty of adding to his nervousness, so she smiled warmly at him.

"I'm sure it'll be fine, the name was certainly inviting," she said, trying to calm his nerves. "So do you have a fear of trains or something?" she continued, not really comfortable staying silent and waiting for him to start hyperventilating.

He looked at her perplexed, "What gives you that idea?" he asked, running his hands through his sweaty hair.

She looked at him incredulously, 'He's a little slow, isn't he?' she thought wryly to herself.

"Oh, I don't know, you seemed, a little nervous." She said, trying not to give one of her sarcastic remarks that she usually gave.

He shrugged, "Well, it's not really the train; I guess I'm not used to change much." He said slowly, picking words carefully. She nodded, knowing she was a bit nervous also, just not as, err…..expressive?

"Where are you from?" she asked, it was hard to discern where he came from, because neither his accent nor attire gave any clue. He stared at her, looked up briefly as if he was thinking, and looked at her apprehensively.

"Oh me, well, um, I was originally from California, a small town in California," he said, looking out the window quickly. Her eyebrow arched quizzically as he strained over her innocent question.

"What was the town called?" she asked, interested. California was one other place that interested her, besides New York. He looked at her and ran his hand through his hair for the millionth time.

"It was, err, Tran-, Tran…son…dale, Yeah, Transondale." He said slowly, squirming under Calliope's calculating gaze.

"Really, I never heard of it." She said, trying to hide her suspicion that he was lying, from her voice.

"Yeah, um, Transdale is a very small, unknown town." He said, his voice getting off-key for a split-second.

"I thought it was Transondale?" she said, narrowing her eyes slightly, he looked at her, wringing his hands even more.

"Yeah, that's what I meant to say, I tend to forget names easily, never did too well in school, you know." He said laughing abruptly. He then cleared his throat and looked out the window, once again.

She shrugged, feeling she was lucky that he wasn't an old guy who told his life story until you were sleeping. She took one last glance at him, wondering for a minute if his name really was Smitty. She then took out a book from her bag, thinking that it was better than forcing a conversation with a guy who would most likely bite his finger off if he chewed his nail any more times.

Before she could finish a page from her book, the young man's voiced pulled her away from her reading; she looked up, mustering a polite smile,

"Excuse me; do you have a pen or something? Sorry if I'm bothering you, it's just I'm not myself today. As you pointed out, I'm very nervous and need something to do with my hands, and-," he was talking quickly, and seemed as if he would be going on forever, so Calliope interrupted him by swiftly throwing him a pen.

He fumbled to catch it, but missed it, and watched it roll under the seat. He kneeled down, looking under the seat, and he groped blindly for the pen, stretching to get it. She rolled her eyes, got up, and tapped him on the shoulder. He looked up and she handed him another pen. He smiled apologetically and went back to his former position, of sitting down by the window.

She would have laughed, if he wasn't so irritating. She had a feeling that this would be a long trip, as she watched him shakily fill in a crossword puzzle. She glanced down at her book and began reading again. She wondered how long this train ride would last for. If it lasted long enough, she figured she might be able to finish reading her book.

After almost a half an hour, she sighed and closed her book gently. She adverted her eyes from gazing at the man and looked at the scenery outside her window instead. All she could see were quite a bit of trees and shrubs dotting the landscape. It began to dawn on her that they hadn't pulled into anymore train stations. That struck her as a bit odd. Surely, there should be other stops, especially when this was supposed to be a sleepy town that no one went to. Just when she was placing the book back into her bag, she heard the young man mumble something to her.

"I didn't quite catch that. What did you say?"

He stopped scribbling on the crossword puzzle and slowly looked up at her. He had mesmerizing hazel eyes. Amber flecked with green. "I was just wondering, why are you going to Glen Aisling?"

She arched a quizzical eyebrow at him and then thought for a moment. She could have sworn that he had already asked this question. She peered at him and said, "Well, mostly to get a new start in life. I never really thought about it."

"What I meant was if you actually cared about the place?" he asked softly. There was something strange about the tone of his voice, and he gazed at her as though her answer was the most important answer in the world.

She gave him a long look and brushed a long lock of reddish-gold hair away which was threatening to fall onto her face. She pursed her lips and stared up at the train's ceiling. She really didn't know what to say about that. He was asking the oddest of questions. Why should he care anyways? It's not like her answer would have any effect on him.

"If I think about it, I do care a bit. If I didn't I wouldn't have chosen the place," she replied, glancing back at his face.

"But didn't you say that the reason you're going there is because of its name?" he said, that strange tone still present in his voice. It sounded almost as though he was pleading with her for something.

"Well that is true, but then again this is the place I'm going to be starting my new life at. It'll be like a new home for me," she stated, as a small smile spread across her face.

"Oh, I get it. So you care now because it's the place you chose for your new start?"

She nodded at him, with a slight smile. At least she got that over with. Hopefully he'd quit asking her more questions. She saw him turn back to his crossword puzzle. His hand was still shaking, as she watched him write in some letters with the pen. She wondered exactly why he was so nervous. Was she an intimidating person? She hoped not.

As he was working on his puzzle, Calliope opened her bag and began rummaging through it. This train ride was making her hungry. Hopefully she had something to eat in there. She sighed, for she wasn't having much luck finding anything. She frowned and then bit her lip. She knew she wasn't dumb enough not to pack anything to eat. Her fingers then stumbled upon a small package. She pulled it out and read the packaging. It was a fun-sized bag of m&m's. She groaned and tore open the package. Well it was better than nothing. She popped one in her mouth and then held the package out to the man saying,

"I think chocolate might do you good. You may have some of mine if you want."

"Erm, thanks, that is very thoughtful of you," he replied, smiling shyly.

He held out his hand and she poured several of the m&m's into it. He ate them all rather slowly, but she still noticed a rather hungry look in his eyes when he had finished. She took one more of the small candies out and then handed him the package. He looked up at her with a questioning look, but then said,

"Thank you. You're very kind."

"Don't mention it," She replied, trying to find a more comfortable position in her seat.

The ride had been silent for what seemed like hours and "Smitty" wasn't looking anymore relaxed. Calliope wasn't used to quiet having lived in New York. She looked up from her book and stared at Smitty. As she studied him, she realized that he was really quite handsome – fidgetiness aside. He was taller than she was. He had a boyish face which looked a bit impish. He dimpled when he smiled. She sighed heavily causing him to jerk his head up to stare tensely at her.

"Yes?" He asked, looking curiously at her.

"You're not really from Transondale, are you?" She nodded smugly at his chagrined look. "So… what gives? Are you starting fresh too?"

He nodded slowly in reply.

"I was just wondering what you're starting from," She said. "I'll tell you a bit of mine if you tell me some of yours."

He averted his eyes into space and opened and closed his mouth a few times, like he was thinking very hard about something.

"Uh, well, you see, it's kind of hard how to put it," He stammered quietly. "I just made a lot of mistakes and so, um, here I am." He smiled up at her, hoping for some look of acceptance, but he only met puzzled eyes.

"I hardly find that a reasonable explanation," She stated bluntly as she stared at the young man incredulously.

The man fidgeted uneasily in his seat. All this moving the man was making was making her perturbed.

"Well, err, Miss Calliope," The man started. "I'm sorry for your, um, dissatisfaction, but that's the way it went." He shrugged his shoulders curtly and hastily found an interest at the passing scenery out the window.

She stared at the man once again with a disbelieving face. "That's not fair!" She snapped. "People always want a new start because their lives suck. That's the way it goes! You know, fine, fine, don't tell me." The man let out a breath of air.

"But if you don't tell me your story, I won't tell you mine," She smiled smugly and went back to reading her book. She was expecting some sort of sob story to reach her ears any second but nothing came. She discreetly looked up from her book to stare at Smitty. He had the face of a truly relieved person!

She closed her book with a sound thump, which caused the young man to jump, and stared heatedly at Smitty. "I'm just trying to start conversation, okay?" She said slowly, but with much fury behind it. "Now tell me what you're doing on this train!"

She was not helping the situation. The man gulped and stared fearfully at Calliope. She snapped out of her blind rage and stared guiltily at the man.

"Sorry, I do that sometimes," She sighed restlessly and started playing with the tattered end of her book.

"Well, just to lighten the mood of things, I guess, um, it wouldn't hurt to tell you my part of the story," Calliope looked up suddenly, Smitty was actually talking?

"I'm only doing it because I sometimes, um, explode with anger too," He said rapidly.

She nodded slowly, still gawking at the fact he was finally talking a little more casually.

"I am actually from Glen Aisling," He said. "I ran away about five years ago to get away from certain personal issues."

"Like a girlfriend?" She interrupted suddenly.

He gave her a look, causing her to smile apologetically.

"Sorry, I'm just so happy you're talking," His eyebrow arched quizzically. "And that you're starting to tell me the truth." She added quickly, trying to dig herself out of the embarrassing hole she was stuck in.

"As I was saying," he continued, "I'm from Glen Aisling. And no, the personal issue did not involve a girlfriend. Although if it did, I'm sure she wouldn't have made the situation any better. You see, my town is like a big family. Everybody knows everybody. I, being a stupid and stubborn teen, thought the whole family-town thing was terribly embarrassing. I was rude to the towns-people and pulled many childish pranks on the tourists. Then I pulled the biggest and most dim-witted prank of all, I let a horrible beast loose into the town that destroyed many crops and homes. I was satisfied with my doing until, until, my brother was injured by it. I couldn't dare face anybody after that so I caught the next bus to New York and stayed there for five years." He finished with a heavy sigh and a tired gaze out the window.

She was engrossed in his tale and absorbed every word he spoke. She stared at him for a few minutes before finally talking again.

"Then what happened?" She asked excitedly.

"Nothing," He replied still gazing blankly at the swiftly passing trees. "I stayed in New York for five years, growing dreadfully insecure, and so, now I'm here." He shrugged and they stayed silent for several more minutes.

Calliope sat blinking at him. What an anticlimax! Well, she guessed it didn't matter, really. "I'm sorry," Calliope said suddenly to cover up her extreme disappointment over his story, "I'm sorry about your brother."

"He wasn't horribly hurt, but he did probably break a bone or two," Smitty exclaimed. "Stupid, little brat now that you mention it. Probably provoked the beast anyway." He smiled warmly.

Calliope laughed, "I have a little sister, but I consider her the only bright spot in my world, not a brat." She hung her head, suddenly missing her.

"You have a sister whom you miss. Then, why are you not going home?" Smitty asked gently. He tried to steel himself from trying to tuck the length of burnished gold that had fallen over Calliope's eyes behind her ear.

Calliope looked up quickly, almost as if she sensed his thoughts and frowned, "Yes, yes. I did promise to tell you about my story. Didn't I?" She shrugged dejectedly, "Well, there's not much to tell. I am the black sheep of the family. Even when I was trying to right, it ended up wrong. I remember being 5 years old and my dad telling me that I was always going to be bad, so I made sure to live up to his expectations," she smirked. "Anyway," she continued, "I have an older brother that is the god of the family, and I was forever being compared to him. He pretty much made my life miserable. Anything he did wrong was blamed on me, since I was the bad one anyway. Well, the bright spot in my life was my sister Aisling," she said this while grinning. Now he knew why she liked the name. "She was born when I was eight and adored me from the start, no matter what my family thought of me. I would teach her things…" She sighed at the memory.

"Anyway, so, when I totally bombed out in New York, I knew I couldn't face them."

Smitty nodded and looked thoughtful, "Well, eventually you'll have to deal with all of these things. You know that."

"Okay, like, what is with everyone and their Confucius Says crap to me? First the old man at the ticket counter and now you," she groused grumpily.

"I'm only saying – "

"Yeah, yeah, I know what you're saying, but I don't want to hear it right now."

"Okay," Smitty sighed and looked back to his crossword.

"Look, I'm sorry… I just… Oh, never mind," Calliope went back to looking out the window, and then frowned as her previous realization came to mind, "Hey!" Smitty looked up from his paper. "Don't you think it's weird that we haven't passed another train stop anywhere? We've been on this train forever and I'm getting way hungry."

Smitty shrugged, "Yes I've noticed it."

"Well, don't you think that's strange?"

"Weirder things happen."

The girl shook her head at her odd companion and then turned her head as the conductor came bearing two submarine sandwiches and two sodas on a tray. "Hello folks, thought maybe you'd be pretty hungry by now."

Calliope looked thunderstruck as she took the food from the man, "Yeah I was just saying to Smitty here how hungry I was… Hey wait a minute! I don't remember there being a dining car on this train!"

The conductor laughed. He was a broad, barrel of a man with thick gray whiskers that bobbled when he spoke or laughed. His hair sprouted in wiry tufts under his blue conductor hat. "Well, Missy, I keep extra food around for long commutes in the back." He chuckled and disappeared through the door that connected that passenger car to another, not giving her anymore time to throw questions at him.

"Hey wait!" Calliope called as she stood up and opened the door, but the man had disappeared. How could such a large man move so quickly? She looked back at the sandwich and the soda as though they were going to grow legs and attack her. How did he know that her favorite soda was Dr. Pepper?

"Okay!" she hollered, "This is getting way too creepy for me! I am wanting OFF this train!"

"Relax," Smitty soothed. "Why don't you just try the sandwich? It's really good."

Calliope's eyebrows raised as Mr. Nervousness himself was trying to comfort HER. The irony of the moment was almost more than she could stand. Calliope eyed the sandwich. She didn't want to eat it, but she was starting to feel a little bit ill from lack of food. "God, I hope I don't end up like Persephone," she sighed as she took a bite of the food.

Smitty just laughed. She chewed the first bite carefully, and convinced that it wasn't laced with food poisoning, she ate the rest.

Smitty made her curious. Why was he so odd? He started fidgeting again under the weight of her stare, as if he thought she was about to attack, and she wanted to say "Relax!" but she thought that he might jump out the window, if she raised her voice above a decibel.

Getting bored of staring at him, she looked at her book but the words sort of ran together. Not really feeling like reading she contented herself by looking out the window. She tried to spot animals in the deep green mass of trees, but she could barely spot a mountain, much less a rabbit.

She never knew how boring a train ride could be, it was almost as bad as those irritating road trips her family used to take. "Almost" was the key word. They'd sing inane songs and play mindless games that they made up; it used to drive her nuts. She used to will the road to grow smaller.

She started staring at Smitty again, absently listening to the quiet rumble of the train. He seemed to have finished with his crossword, for he was fiddling with the pen now, with a distracted look in his eyes. She sighed wearily, anxious to get off this train to stretch her legs a bit. Smitty had said Glen Aisling was a small town. She started imaging herself living in a small cottage, with a little garden. She knew this was just the start of another one of her fantasies.

With her luck she's probably living in a hut full of mosquitoes, trying to gather something that actually grew in her so-called garden. She sighed again, causing the young man to glance at her, well, he was already glancing at her like every minute, but it caused him to glance at her off his pattern.

"Is something wrong?" he asked, looking slightly concerned, which was a feat, an emotion other than nervousness!

"Is it nice there, I mean, do they accept new people?" she asked, tracing a circle on the seat next to her. He looked at her with a far-away look in his eyes.

"Well, it's my home. To me, it's so beautiful, it's almost magical." When he said the last part a strange gleam skittered across his hazel eyes, it made Calliope smile, and helped her relax a bit, as she reinvented her fantasy.

Abruptly the train started to slow down. Calliope felt a rush of excitement as she hastily packed her bag. The man put his crossword away and handed her pen back. The train stopped, finally, and a voice came over the intercom, giving the instructions to the borders, something you'd expect. Calliope checked herself in the reflection of the window, trying to make herself look presentable, Good first impressions were always a priority when meeting people, something she learned in her dismal show business career. She ran her hand through her hair a bit, and headed for the door.

The doors creaked open, and she quickly stepped out. She felt a rush of cool clean air. She was bit unsteady on her feet, but she didn't mind. She was off that train! When Smitty got off, she saw a true smile grace his face, he seemed to be happy to finally reach home. She passed by the ticket counter and saw someone reading an old tattered novel that looked vaguely familiar.

She went up to the ticket-seller to get a better look at him. When he looked up at her, she almost fell backward in shock. It was the old man from the other station, she was sure of it, the one who sold her ticket. 'What was he doing here?'

"Uh, Excuse me, how did you get here?" she breathed, a bit frightened.

"Here?" the old man asked while tucking his pen behind his ear and leaning forward to peer at her. "What do you mean? I've been here since 6:00 this morning!"

Calliope frowned uncertainly, "But, I could have sworn that you were the same man at the station I boarded the train from."

"No, Miss, wasn't me."

Smitty tapped her on the back. "Calliope, the fogs have rolled in. It will be hard to see anything in the town. But, there's a small bookstore nearby that we might visit until the weather clears up. Aidan Ferguson, if he still owns it, is a nice man who'll make sure we're taken care of. But, he's… a little odd, so, be nice."

The young woman blinked at him. Smitty was calling someone odd? Dear God! Would she be able to bear it? If he thought this man was odd, this man must be close to insane! "Well," she commented, "I guess we have no choice do we? It's either here or there if the towns as fogged in as you say."

She'd noticed the fog billowing in as well as soon as they arrived at the station. It wisped under the doors in smoke-like tendrils. She shivered as she made her way to the exit, her cerulean blue eyes growing heavy with sleep. This had been the weirdest day of her life, by far. She certainly hoped this would turn out to be a nice, normal small town.

As they opened the door, the fog enveloped them until they could barely see each other. "We'd better stick close," Smitty said, taking her hand. She moved to pull it away, but, shrugged and let him keep it. Knowing her luck, she'd get lost out in the wilderness thinking she was heading to the convenience store. She might as well let him lead her.

The pale light of the nearby bookstore winked at them through the fog, and they headed towards it like two desperate moths. As they grew closer, she noted that the bookstore was an old converted stone barn. She'd seen a few pictures of them growing up. Her father had a passion for antique architecture. Within the gray stone wall she almost thought she could spy faces. She always was trying to create the fanciful out of the mundane. As they came to the door, she saw it was a beautifully stained red oak, engraved with ivy. On the face of the door there hung a wrought iron bell. It clattered stuffily when they opened the door, as though it resented being wrung. A middle aged man glanced up from his desk and then jumped up whooping loudly.

"Smitty! You little snip! Where have you been?" the small man grabbed Smitty up in a tight bearhug. Calliope grinned at the sight of it. The man could have been a leprechaun. He had the brightest red hair she'd ever seen and green eyes that lit up the entire room. He was thin, and seemed even more hyperactive than Smitty, if that was possible. Finally, he took note of her.

"Well then…" the man said, "Who might you be?"

The young woman grew shy. "I'm, uh, Calliope… Mr. Ferguson."

The man grinned, "Fine! And which Calliope were you to have been named after? The circus instrument, or the muse?"

Calliope blushed, "I'm really not sure. I never bothered to ask my mom."

The man blustered, "Never bothered! Do you not know that names mean something, lassie? Well, your name, whichever way it might be, means adventure, drama, poetry, and a bit of whimsy to be sure. And don't you be forgetting it!"

Calliope laughed uncertainly. The man was certainly odder than Smitty, but, she liked him. He was a barrel of passion. She wondered how his small form held it all in. "Mr. Ferguson…" she began.

"Please! Call me Aidan."

"Aidan," she continued smiling shyly at his enthusiastic friendliness, "We need somewhere to sleep for the night. Smitty thought you might be kind enough to take us in…"

"He did, did he?" Aidan glared at Smitty fiercely for a few moments, but suddenly dissolved into laughter. "Well of course you can! Smitty can sleep down here in the store, and you can have the guest room upstairs."

Aidan motioned Calliope to follow him, and led her up stairs with a highly polished, teak railing. He opened a door to his right on the small landing, and turned on the light. The room was a plain affair. It held a battered oak bureau and a tarnished brass bed with cherub finials. A round rug made of coiled rags lay at the side of the bed, and a copper colored lamp with a green shade gave the room its light. A tattered crazy-quilt covered the bed.

"It's not much, no, but, it's someplace you can lay your head until the morning," he said apologetically.

"Oh no!" she exclaimed happily, "This is great! You can't imagine the little crackerboxes I've been living in. This is a palace!"

The man chuckled and left her there with a wave, saying, "Well, if you be needing anything, let me know. I'm just across the way."