The Midnight Runaways

Just a small town girl
Living in a lonely world
She took the midnight train going anywhere…

Andrea Faren engulfed herself with the endless piles of homework stacked on her desk—and the desk itself was hardly noticeable under the paper and books. Usually, she ignored the piles of elongated math equations and tedious AP biology terms. She usually disregarded the complicated words of Shakespeare and the political ways of Machiavelli. She usually did everything in her power to ensure that she did everything last minute, albeit as correctly as possible. Tonight, however, was a completely different matter.

As much as she hated homework, she hated hearing to the incessant arguing of her parents in the room next to her. It didn't help that the walls were thin in their small apartment, or that their door was open. She tried to drown them out using every possible tactic—loud music, television, sleep, and now the homework. She could always drown out people when she was focused, but somehow, she could never completely block out her parents.

"You're a failure, Karen. What the hell do you think you're even trying to do? I bring the money in, you're supposed to listen. You're my wife, damn it, and you will follow my instructions."

"Oh, be quiet, Daniel. You're no great man yourself. While you go slave over at that job of yours, I'm left to look over Andrea and my own job. You won't even look at her! My business may have fallen through, but I'm not the only failure."

It would go on like this for hours on end. Multiple times, Andrea had tried to call her friends for a night out, or just to come over. Almost every time, her friends were busy. They were either out with their boyfriends, or they were doing something that Andrea didn't want to do. Sometimes she thought that she could get a date, even just for one night, but everyone always says that the hardest critic is yourself.

You're too plain to get one. Your hair is brown, plain brown. It just hangs. You can't do anything with it. Erica has nice hair. It's a nice, soft auburn. It's much better than a plain brown. Your eyes are brown too—like mud. You don't have pretty eyes like Janelle. Janelle has nice blue eyes like the ocean. And the skin? You're too pale. Hanna has a nice skin tone. She has a light tan. Who'd want to go out with you, anyway?

Finally, she gave up. Andrea dropped her pencil on the desk, grabbed her coat and wallet, stuffed her cell phone in her back pocket, and walked out the door. She called out, "I'll be back later," to her parents, but she was sure that they didn't care. They never cared anymore so as long as they didn't have to go to the police station to pick her up or something of the like. Then again, her father reasoned that she was eighteen—she could do whatever she wanted being the legal, responsible person she was.

Heading off to the train station, she thought about what she could do. Tired of calling and being rejected for plans, she just thought she'd go to the next town over. The last train of the night was scheduled for 11:55 PM from Redford to Sterling Heights. There had to be something to do there.

Just a city boy
Born and raised in south Detroit
He took the midnight train going anywhere…

James Redding was a train to Sterling Heights and he had no idea why. A faint smell of alcohol rode on his breath, and he was well aware of that fact. He wasn't drunk—he knew that for sure. Two beers weren't enough for that. To add, he had consciously added the conductor the tickets with ease, and got onto the train without stumbling. He was also thinking clearly, although the reason why he was on the train eluded him. It was on a whim, and a very strange whim at that.

Then again, he also knew that he wanted to get away from the party over at his friend's house. Bradley Montgomery was well known for his lavish parties when his parents were out of town. James, although popular, was just not into the partying scene. He would much rather enjoy a cup of coffee with a close friend. Then again, he was also a people pleaser. If Bradley wanted him over at a party, he would go. The thing was, he wouldn't stay. He had stuck out until about 11:30 PM. When he said bye to a very drunken Bradley, he got into his car and drove aimlessly around Detroit. He didn't want to go home to an empty house.

And thus, his great train adventure began.

A singer in a smoken room
The smell of wine and cheap perfume
For a smile they can share the night
It goes on and on and on and on

Andrea entered the music club. It was the first building she saw when getting out of the train station. The club, Sherrie's, was a place for people twenty-one and older. Being eighteen and completely out of her mind, she decided she'd use the fake ID her friend made her once so she could go buy beer for a party. She walked up to the bouncer, put a pathetic yet calm face on and waited for validation.

The bouncer was a big man, about six two and definitely unfriendly. He looked at her, then at the ID. He gave a grunt in response, handed her the ID, and let her in. She didn't think twice as she entered the club. The first thing she saw was smoke. Almost everyone inside was smoking, and it made her eyes water. For a second, she thought about going back, but then she remembered her parents. Suddenly, she wanted a shot of vodka, maybe Grey Goose.

Or maybe several shots of Grey Goose.

She walked up to the crowded bar, found a seat, and told the bartender what she wanted. The bartender must have been a bouncer at some time because he seemed to be the same build as the bouncer she just past.

Andrea looked around. Her attention focused on the stage across the club. On stage was a local band, or at least she assumed it was local. Their name, The Baggy Cats, didn't seem to be a record-making name. It happened to be a blues band, as she distinguished the upbeat trumpet from the saxophone. It seemed to be a rendition of older blues songs, but she couldn't exactly place her finger.

By the time she looked back at the bar, she didn't notice that her shot was there. She downed it, and then looked to the entrance, just in time to catch a man's eye who happened to be glancing at her.

Andrea thought he was good looking with black hair and strikingly green eyes. He was tall and lean, but not too skinny. He wore jeans, running shoes, and a polo shirt with a black leather jacket. He smiled at her.

For an reason unknown to her, she smiled back as he walked over. He sat down at the bar next to her, and ordered two shots of Grey Goose.

"You a fan of vodka?" she inquired, surprised that he ordered it.

"Who isn't?" he asked back. The shots came around, and he gave one to her. "So, what brings you here?"

"What doesn't bring anyone here?" she asked, a smile playing on her lips. She downed the shot the same time he did.

"Well, we aren't going to get anywhere by answering questions with more rhetorical ones. Let's start over. The name's James Redding, and yes, I am a fan of the Grey Goose."

She laughed. "Hi, nice to meet you. I'm Andrea Faren. I'm not sure why I'm here—well, let me take that back. Okay, I'm here to get away from my parents but I don't know why I'm here here, as in, I don't know why I ended up here. I just got on the last train and let it take me anywhere."

James was slightly taken back. Here was a girl who left on an impulse, like he had, and they ended up in the same place. Interesting. "And why are you trying to get away?"

"Oh, you know. Fights and whatnot. Completely irrelevant. What brings you here?" she asked in return as she asked the bartender for another round of shots. The bartender gave them a weird look, but complied anyway. What happened between customers wasn't his problem nor was it his interest.

"Eh, stuff. My friend had a party, and I didn't want to be there," James said, shrugging.

Andrea wanted to talk some more, but she couldn't open her mouth. Instead, she downed another shot and closed her eyes. It was quiet for almost a second, until James spoke.

"Hey, are you okay?"

"Huh? Oh, yeah. I'm fine. I'm just tired is all. I'm tired of school, tired of my so called friends, and tired of my parents fighting. Either get the divorce or stop arguing," she said. She didn't know why she kept rambling, but she kept going and going until she was sure she had talked James' ear off.

Throughout the night, they had talked about themselves and bought rounds of shots for each other. They bonded like strangers do and under the influence of alcohol. As they talked, Andrea found herself liking him more and more. It was a new experience for her, bonding with a stranger. She usually kept to herself, not opening up. Now, she was finding almost love (as the alcohol made her think) in the night with James Redding.

Hours later, she checked her phone. It was 3 AM and she needed to get home. As she voiced the thought to a very drunken James, he laughed boisterously.

"Well," he drawled. "I unno 'ow we're 'upposed to get home either, Drea," he called her. He grew fond of that nickname somewhere in the middle of the conversation and she didn't seem to mind.

The bartender looked at them and asked, "How'd you two get here?"

"Train," they both answered before laughing again. This caused the bartender to roll his eyes.

"And of course you two idiots would take the train. Look, here's some money. Take a cab to the motel and then go home tomorrow. Got it?"

"Yes, sir!" Andrea said, getting off the train and drunkenly walking out. They managed to get a cab to drive them to a motel. They checked in with the help of a nice manager, who seemed used to putting up drunken people for the night. He was also kind enough to hand James a bottle of Advil for the next morning. They said thank you quite loudly before they both collapsed on the bed. They were both tired—and frankly, the things drunken people usually did on the bed was rather tiresome.

The next morning, Andrea woke up to find James looking down at her. "Come on, sleepy head. Your parents have been calling and I am definitely not getting in trouble for kidnapping you," he joked.

Groggily, she shook her head. "No, don't worry about it. We're both eighteen so whatever. Ugh, this head ache." Two Advil pills were promptly shoved into her hand.

"Look, Drea, we really should go. I don't know when the next train is for your place or for mine." He laughed.

He held out his hand, and she took it willingly. They took another cab to the train station after paying the motel. They paid for their ticket separately. Andrea's ride was first while James had to wait another half hour.

She turned around to say good-bye. James gave her a hug. As they pulled back, he also gave her a slip of paper.

"Hey, don't stop believin'," he said as she boarded. "It'll get worse before it gets better," were the last words she heard from James.

She cocked her head to the side. She looked at the paper and on it was James number.

Maybe her midnight adventure left her with a little something after all—and much more than just streetlights and people.

A/N: So, here's a little something that I just whipped up quickly.

The major inspiration for this short story was a song from Journey—Don't Stop Believin'. I used the first two verses as an intro and I just put little lines from the lyrics into the story. Hope you enjoy.

Oh, and I do not own Journey or any of their songs, nor do I own Michigan or any of the cities mentioned.

Also, Sherrie's is a place I made up. If it exists, I wasn't aware.

Please R&R!

-Kae