Bruce Jamison watched as the commuter train approached his station. He looked around and saw that all of the people waiting to board the train were staring at the train as if mesmerized by the approach of the huge beast that took them into New York City at this time of the morning, Monday through Friday. Bruce had been riding this train for seven years now; ever since he and Beth had moved to Connecticut. Bruce had met Beth at a friend's party and they had hit it off right away. They had lived in New York City for the first five years of their marriage. For the first couple of years, after moving to Connecticut, Beth had driven him to the train station. He couldn't remember when or why she had stopped driving him to the station; she just didn't take him anymore. These days, he drove his car to the station and parked it there all day.
The bitter January wind gusted and several of the passengers turned away from the wind. Bruce pulled his knit cap down over his ears and inwardly cursed the sharp wind... It was still dark and the sun had not imparted any of it's warmth on the biting wind. Bruce's stomach seemed to twist inside his body and a bit of bile spilled into his throat. He pulled the breath mints out of his pocket and popped two of them in his mouth. The mints burned his tongue as they dissolved in his mouth. He took a sip from the throw-away cup that held his first cup of coffee of the morning; the hot liquid burned his tongue. The burning was magnified by the irritation of the breath mint. The breath mints were with him throughout his day to mask the smell of alcohol. Bruce never drank during the day but he was afraid that someone would smell alcohol on his breath from the night before.
At night, after he left the office and arrived at the station in the city, it was usually twenty or thirty minutes before his train arrived but lately that was enough time for three martinis. After he got home and ate dinner he would go into the study and work for a while on the cases that had been assigned to him and have another drink or two, sometimes more if the case was grinding on him. By no stretch of the imagination could anyone call him an alcoholic. He never let alcohol interfere with his work and he didn't take a drink during the day. Even at the power lunches he drank coffee or iced tea. Most of his fellow lawyers would swear that he didn't drink. He had promised long ago that he would never be like his father.
Brice Jamison had passed his bar exam on the first try. The law firm that had recruited him right out of law school had assisted him with tutors and time off to study for the exam. He repaid them, in spades, rapidly becoming one of the best corporate lawyers in the city. His reputation drew clients to the law firm like a magnet. Bruce quickly had his own staff working for him. His salary grew along with his reputation. He had planned to work a few years to get his feet on the ground and then start his own practice but the money that he was making now was just too hard to turn away from. For some reason, partnership in the firm always seemed just a millimeter away. Right there but he couldn't touch it. Bruce told himself that it was because the firm was huge and the older partners were greedy.
The train slowed to a stop in front of the platform, pushing a bit of the frigid January air ahead of it. There was a rush to board the train and Bruce held back, knowing that there would be plenty of seats. Since this was one of the first stops, there were always plenty of seats. Bruce got on the train and began to walk toward his regular seat just as the train started to roll. He slid over to the window and looked out, into the half-light, at the Connecticut scenery slipping past the window. As it usually happened when he started his trip into the city, he got the feeling that something was wrong with his being on this train. He really didn't like New York City that much.
A movement in the aisle caused him to look up. A distinguished looking man, with a full head of striking silver hair, sat down next to him and nodded in greeting. Bruce smiled politely and opened his New York Times. The words printed on the paper didn't interest him and he drifted from one news article to another before folding the paper and putting it on his lap. He looked out of the window again and saw the eastern sky beginning to get a little lighter. The sun would almost be up when they pulled into New York.
Bruce heard words but he didn't really hear them until he realized the the man sitting next to him was talking to him, "Uh, I'm sorry. I didn't hear you."
The man smiled slightly and nodded toward the front of the train, "That woman, sitting at the front of the car reminds me of a woman that I knew many years ago. She was the wife of a friend of mine. That woman has the same inner beauty that my friend's wife had."
Bruce gave the man a weak smile and turned to look out of the window; hoping that the man wouldn't continue talking. He just didn't feel like talking to a stranger this morning.
Bruce had never talked to the woman that the old man had indicated but he had heard someone call her Jennifer once so he figured that was her name. He had heard someone talking to her about one of the fashion houses so he thought that she might be in the fashion industry.
"Are you married?" the man asked.
Bruce turned to look at the man, "Yes, two children."
He hoped that the additional information about his two children would give the man all of the information that the man wanted to hear about Bruce. Bruce wondered where the man got on the train. He had never seen the man before.
"Ah yes, children," the man continued, "God's reward for putting up with the trials and troubles of life. Man's grasp on immortality."
"My friend and his wife," the old man continued, "oh it was so many years ago, they were so much in love. It was like God made Tom and Sarah for each other and that no one else in the world would have suited either of them. I'm afraid that if they hadn't found each other that they both would have remained unmarried."
Bruce smiled politely and looked out of the window again.
He realized that the man was talking again, "They had two children. They were smart as they could be. Everyone knew that those two children would rule the world one day. They were two of the most pleasant children that ever walked the earth. Teachers used to cry when the children moved to the next grade. Circumstances kept them from reaching their full potential though."
Before Bruce realized that he was walking into the man's trap he asked, "What happened to them?"
"Heredity happened. You see, Tom's father was an alcoholic. The drinking and the weekend beatings drove Tom's mother off when he was eight. His father transferred the beatings to Tom after the mother was gone. Tom withdrew into himself and never told anyone about the drinking and beatings. He quickly found that it would be best if he avoided having friends over to his house. Soon he avoided making friends completely. Tom took every opportunity to stay out of the house and away from his father.
Tom was the type of person that didn't have to study. He got straight A's in every class. If ever anyone was meant to go to college it was Tom. It just wasn't to be though. Tom ran away from home at sixteen, lied about his age and joined the Army. He was sent to Korea and he won several medals. He was wounded and spent time in the hospital in Arizona."
Bruce had turned to listen to the man's story, "No, I meant what happened to the children you were talking about?"
The man continued as if Bruce had never spoken, "It was in Arizona that Tom met his future wife. Sarah had been raised by her father. Her mother had been killed in an automobile accident when Sarah was an infant. Sarah's father was a fine upstanding man until Sarah started to blossom out as a woman. He would only drink once or twice a year but on those few occasions he would abuse her shamefully. He was very repentant when he sobered up. He would cry for weeks after it happened and apologize to her over and over, but the damage had already been done to Sarah's soul. Sarah began to drink when she was in high school. She never got drunk and she never drank more than one or two at first. She got into casual sex, searching for the love that she never found at home. When she met Tom she felt that she had met the man of her dreams. He was quiet and didn't drink much and he loved her. Before too long she found out she was pregnant with Tom's child. Sarah's father signed the consent form allowing them to be married."
The man paused, "I'm sorry. I'm bending your ear. Please excuse the ramblings of an old man."
Bruce smiled and turned to the window. He could fill in the rest of the story for himself.
After a few minutes Bruce turned to the man, "What happened to Tom and Sarah's children?"
.... There is more of this story ...