True Winter Tales: Today's pick
By Catherine Lodge
Running frantically with coat, parcels, scarves flying in the wind, Jessie made it down to Union Station in a breathless state, just in time to catch the Ontario Northlander. Her train was scheduled to depart Toronto at 5:00pm. Rushing towards the platform she suddenly stopped, listening to the dreaded announcement. 'Train Departures delayed indefinitely due to inclement weather'. She mumbled something under her breath. Just her luck. It hadn't been an easy task to get ready for the trip home. Last minute shopping, wrapping Christmas gifts, a week's supply of clothes, all stuffed into her satchels. And then, there was that last minute crisis back in her Riverdale flat. The heat was off and it was freezing. She had left her fiancé to deal with it. The furnace was on the fritz so he agreed to stay behind to let the repair man in. It couldn't be left off, it was too cold and without heat the pipes might freeze.
The snow was falling that Christmas Eve in 1977. Jessie and hundreds of others were stranded at Union Station that night. She turned to head for the closest pay-phone to make alternate plans when she saw him behind her in line. He was smiling looking down at her, amused she thought, at her ruffled state. But there was something about him that drew her in. "Can I help you get your stuff together" he offered. "No honestly, it may not appear so but I'm fine, really. I can manage". He persisted; she finally relented. Following his suggestion, laden with parcels they headed for the quaint little pub upstairs in the station. They got settled at a table and ordered a couple of beers. "No harm in this", she was convincing herself. After all, he seemed harmless enough and it was just an innocent little drink with a stranger who was in the same boat as she was. And after all, it was Christmas Eve.
But it wasn't so innocent, not really. It was like something out of a novel. From the moment their eyes met that night she knew she was in trouble. Two hours later with the train underway, they were wrapped in each other arms. By Barrie he had her engagement ring off. He urged her to stay on the train with him, by-pass Bracebridge, continue en route to North Bay with him. It was an impossible situation. She was promised to another, had family waiting, she didn't even know him. He got off the train with her at her stop, and as the snow and the wind whirled around them on the platform, he slipped the ring back on her finger and kissed her for the last time.
Her brother-in-law was waiting for her there. He smiled as she got in his truck and as they watched the train pull away into the distant snowy night, Jessie sat there beside him with tears streaming down. He didn't ask any questions. He never has.
Catherine Lodge is from Pickering, ON