4:00 a.m. – continued
Valentine spent the next half hour squirming around, trying desperately to make herself comfortable for a nap. She had her head, ear down, facing the aisle when she felt a tap on her shoulder. Startled, she jerked upright and turned to the apologetic looking guy next to her.
“Sorry,” he said, his voice oddly musical, as though he could be a really great tenor if he sang. “I was just going to ask if you wanted to trade seats with me. So, you know, so you can lean your head against the window and get some sleep.” He quickly raised his hands, palms toward her. “Don’t worry. I won’t steal anything from your bags. You just look tired and I’m not, so I just thought you’d like to sit here instead.”
She blinked at him a few times. It was probably the most generous offer she’d ever received from an absolute stranger. He was unwashed, looked scruffy, and obviously hadn’t shaved in at least a couple of weeks, but his eyes were gorgeous and looked honest. She squirmed slightly, realizing she was actually attracted to this guy.
But why not, she asked herself. This was the last day of Earth. Why couldn’t she find someone at least tolerable to spend the day with? Or at least part of a train ride? It wouldn’t kill her any more than the Earth exploding would.
“Well?” the guy asked, a frown creasing his face, his eyes narrowing slightly. Apparently she’d been taking too long to decide this. “Do you want to switch or not?” Okay, now he sounded impatient. “Lady?”
Instead of answering, she held out her hand. “Valentine.”
“Excuse me?” the guy asked, looking a little taken aback.
Valentine moved her hand towards him a little bit. “Valentine. My name is Valentine. Most people call me Val, but then they start to think my full name is Valerie. Just call me Valentine, okay?”
Tentatively, the guy reached out and gently grasped her hand, his own palm slightly rough and his finger tips feeling like they had spent some time strumming on a guitar. “Nice to meet you, Valentine. I’m Cooper.”
They shook a couple of times before he released her hand.
“So, about that seat trade…?” he asked, looking a little uncertain.
“Oh! Um, no thanks. I’m not really that tired.” She laughed a little. “I usually like to sleep when I’m bored.”
He gave her a bright smile. “Since you don’t want a more comfortable seat, I guess I’ll just have to entertain you, then, so you’re not bored.”
She returned his smile. “I guess so.”
“Are you heading home for the end of the world, too?” he asked.
She nodded. “Yeah. I wasn’t going to, but my mom kind of broke my heart about it. I’ve been away at college since September and haven’t been home since the winter break.” She shrugged. “I guess I should also be home for the whole end of the world thing.”
Cooper nodded as he finished rolling up his earphones to put them away. “I hear you. I ran away from home a couple of years ago, right after I finished my first year of college. I haven’t been home since, but, with the world ending and all, I figured I may as well. There isn’t really any love lost between me and my parents, but I do miss my sisters, annoying as they are.”
“You have sisters?”
“Yeah. One older and one younger. The older one is a journalist for the big city near us and the younger one is in high school.” Cooper shook his head. “I feel bad for her. She’ll die as a high school student. How sad is that?”
Valentine shrugged. “That depends. Does she like high school?”
“I don’t know,” he said, scratching at a spot just above his right ear. “I haven’t spoken to her in two years. She just finished her junior year, so she had just finished her freshman year when I left home. What about you? Any brothers or sisters?”
She laughed. “Boy do I! Two older brothers and three younger sisters. How my parents managed that split, I have no idea. Actually, there was an older sister, but she died before I was born. My oldest brother was in law school and the other one just finished college. Two of my sisters are in high school and the youngest just finished seventh grade.”
Cooper nodded, looking like he was digesting that information. “What were you studying in college?”
“Anthropology. I was planning on being an archaeologist, but I guess that’ll never happen now.”
Cooper began to drum his fingers on the table, but softly enough so he wouldn’t wake the couple sitting across from him. “That’s a cool field.” He shook his head. “This is one effed up world. I can only imagine how many parents regret having had kids now, especially if their kids are still really young. I thought dying as a high school student was bad. But after seventh grade? Geez. Kid probably hasn’t even had her first kiss yet.”
Valentine laughed nervously and looked down as she toyed with a stray thread on her sweater. She could feel his probing eyes on her, wondering if those piercing blue eyes could see straight into her soul.
“Wait, you haven’t even had your first kiss, have you?” he asked her.
Well, shoot. This man really could see into her soul. It made her squirm a little. It was bad enough she couldn’t stop fidgeting with the things she was wearing. Her nervous fingers were probably making her look a little twitchy and she probably looked like she had some kind of problem.