The steady rocking movements of the train comfort me as the clickety-clack of the rails lulls me into a peaceful rest. The wind brings in the cool air of the night as we travel on across the country. As I close my eyes and listen to the in and out breaths coming from Ian, who is asleep next to me, I absorb a feeling of freedom. Freedom from the strict rules of my life at home. Freedom from the harsh realities we face every day. Freedom from everything.
"You're still up," I hear Ian say to me. This pulls me out of my wonderings and into the present.
"Yeah, I couldn't sleep," I answer without moving my gaze from the passing trees.
We sit in silence for a few minutes until I feel Ian grab my chin and turn my face to meet his. We have been together for months, but I still smile every time I look at him. This time is no different. He smiles back and leans in to kiss me. I don't think I could ever get tired of kissing him and I doubt I will ever regret running away with him.
As he kisses me, I reach out and pull him closer to me, trying to memorize every detail of him. I take a deep breath and breathe in the smell of pine needles from his hoodie, mixed with the slightest stench of the motor oil that stains his old baseball cap. As my hands roam his back and shoulders I feel the muscles that come from a life of working outdoors. Even his hands have the rough calluses that come from working hard.
I pull away from him first, but miss it immediately when I stop. He smiles down at me and I look into his green eyes that stand out so bright in contrast to his tanned skin.
"So where do you think we are headed this time?" I ask.
"Somewhere near the coast I am guessing. I can smell the slightest bit of salt from the ocean and I can feel the wind changing a little," he replies to me. It's funny how he always seems to know where we are.
"So you think we will spend much time on the beach?"
"Oh yeah, we are gonna stay there."
The thought excites me to my core. This time last week, I never would have dreamt that I would be riding a train cross country or planning to sleep on a beach with no worries. I may have even been terrified of the though. But, being here with Ian and having this feeling of complete freedom and rightness, makes me not worry. Sure, I don't know where my next meal will come from, or how we will get money to make it if we need anything. Or what would happen if one of us got really sick. But, none of that matters right this second, because right now I am on a high of happiness and I don't want to come down yet.
"Abby, you should get some sleep. I'll wake you up when we are close," Ian whispers to me, pulling me away from my thoughts.
"Promise?" I ask.
"Hey wake up, you have to see this," I hear as I try to pull myself out of the amazing sleep I was getting.
As I open my eyes, I immediately regret it and a groan escapes my mouth as I put my hand out to block the brightness of the sun.
"We're here!" I can tell he is smiling from how he says that.
"Here? Where exactly is here?"
"The beach! It's not California, but it is a beach, and we still have just as much fun."
I try to wake up more, and rub my eyes to get the sleep out of them, before standing up and grabbing my backpack full of belongings. It's relatively light compared to what I thought I needed to bring. No hair dryer, no bag full of different shoes, no huge container of cosmetics. Just the bare essentials.
I follow Ian as we jump down from the rail car, which seems to be stopped for the time being.
"So where do you think we are?"
"I'm not completely sure yet," he answers while looking for some sign to indicate at least what state we are in.
"Then for all you know, we could be in California?"
"No, I know we aren't there. This train was headed south, not west."
I follow behind him as we venture away from the train in search of a sign to tell us where we are. Looking around though, everything seems different compared to home. The ground, the trees, even the smell is different. More woodsy than I am used to. Nothing like the combined scents of trash, car exhaust, cigarettes, and food that fills the city.
After walking and looking for signs, we eventually make it to the edge of the cities and stores that line the beachfront. Bathing suits and surfboards line the windows of the shops and the breeze from the ocean is absolutely amazing. Without saying a word, we both look at each other then start walking towards the sand and ocean that is calling our names.
My feet sink in the soft sand as I make my way towards the water. Before I have even made it halfway, I feel Ian's fingers lace with mine, and we run towards the water together. It is freezing and feels amazing on my sore feet. But, we can't play forever.
"Where are we going to sleep?" I hear myself ask as I look at the numerous hotels that line the beach. We will never be able to afford even one night in one of them.
"Right here on the beach."
"But what about shelter? Water? Food?" He can't possibly think that the sand is a real substitute for a hotel room.
"Abby, calm down. I promise it will be ok. You wanted an adventure and I am trying to give you the adventure of your life."
"I guess that any place is ok as long as we are together." I hear myself say. And I mean it.
Before I know it, Ian has found two beach chairs to sleep in, and we are sitting and watching the sunset fall over the ocean. From here, it almost looks like a waterfall at the edge that the sun is falling down. It's incredible. As I get a warm feeling in my chest from the sight, I lean over against Ian and feel his arms wrap around me.
I don't know where this path will lead me, or how long it will take to get there, but I have no regrets for taking it. Because right now being held in Ian's embrace and watching the sun sink down below the edge of the earth, I feel right. This will be the best adventure of my life.