Angels, Lovers and Songbirds – Chapter 49 – Love Train
As they followed the porter along the platform they got their first sight of “the train against which all other luxury trains are measured” It was a magnificent sight and was like stepping back in time to the heyday of Art Deco and a more gracious and elegant age of travel.
The porter loaded their bags onto the train and the steward helped them to their vintage double cabin.
While he was settling with the porter and the steward Kayleigh excitedly explored the cabin.
It was set up, as a lounge area with a banquette sofa and a small table and in one corner she found hidden behind a door was a luxurious wash station, a washbasin with hot and cold water, plump fluffy towels and a selection of toiletries.
The only thing they didn’t have was their own toilet as that was situated at the end of the carriage.
They started to get themselves settled in when Kayleigh said urgently
“Have you got your tablet handy?”
“Yes” he replied, “it’s in my bag”
“Great” she said “I want to Skype the girls”
She rummaged in his bag and hurried outside and down to the platform.
“We depart in 5 minutes Madame” the steward called after her and Jack followed her out along the corridor
“5 minutes only monsieur” the steward said to him
“No problem” he said “she’s just a bit excited”
“Look where we are Gemma” she shouted as she aimed the tablet at the train and panned along the full length of the beautifully liveried rolling stock.
The steward came to the door and tapped his watch so he guided her back towards the train.
“We’re going on the train now” she shouted to her friends as Gemma had been joined by Sarah, Hannah, Elise, Martina and Carole.
Kayleigh gave her friends the full tour of the cabin up until the train departed and then she said
“I’m so excited I need to pee”
She would have taken the tablet in with her if Jack hadn’t taken it from her
“Your friends don’t need to watch you pee,” he said and turned the screen towards himself and said
“Hello Jack, I’ve never seen her so excited” she said
“I know” he said, “I don’t know how I’m going to calm her down”
“She was so excited she didn’t say where you were going,” she said
“Well I haven’t told her yet,” Jack told her and quickly checked Kayleigh was out of earshot
“We’re going to Venice first, staying for three nights and then we’ll take the train back via Prague where we’ll stay for two nights”
“How wonderful “Gemma said, “And Kayleigh doesn’t know?”
“Not a thing” He replied then he heard a sound from the corridor and stuck his head out the door just in time to see Kayleigh closing the toilet door.
“That’s Kayleigh coming back”
“Ok well we’re just about to board the ferry,” she said just as Kayleigh arrived back
“Oh are you going?” Kayleigh asked
“Yes we’re about to board” Gemma said
“Bye bye darling have a lovely time and take lots of pictures, love you both”
“Bye Gem” Kayleigh said, “I love you too”
“Does she know where we’re going?” she asked him suspiciously
“How would she know?” he asked and was spared any further interrogation by a knock on the door and when he opened it, it was the steward
“Dinner is being served in the dining car whenever you are ready” he said
“Thank you Pierre” he said and closed the door
“Right let’s get dressed” Jack said
Half an hour later they made their way to the “L'Oriental” Dining Car, a Birmingham built Pullman car beautifully decorated in the Art Deco style, where they were wined and dined on a sumptuous four-course dinner.
When they sat down in the elegant carriage Kayleigh said
“I don’t want much, I’m far too excited to eat”
Well four courses and a lot of wine later they waddled their way back to their cabin, which in their absence had been transformed, into a cosy bedroom with the banquette sofa now having given way to two single bunks.
They were both too tired, too full of gourmet food and too drunk to christen the bunks in the manner in which they would have liked so she said
“Bags the top”
But he had to help her up into the top bunk and within ten minutes they were both asleep.
The next morning just after first light Kayleigh had to get up to the toilet, and when she returned to the cabin she quietly squeezed into Jacks bunk where she kissed him awake.
While they lay in the post coital afterglow cuddling on Jacks bunk they looked out at the magnificent scenery of the Swiss Alps, then a few minutes later there was a knock on the cabin door and when he opened it, it was their breakfast being delivered by the steward.
After breakfast they washed and dressed and made their way along to spend the morning in the Bar Car and met some of their fellow travellers and chatted over coffee and enjoyed the beautiful scenery of the Alps.
Shortly before midday the train arrived at the Hauptbahnhof in Innsbruck, Kayleigh and Jack decided to get off the train to stretch their legs and enjoy the mountain air and the lovely spring sunshine.
It was about half an hour later when the train pulled out of the station.
They had re-boarded the train in the Lalique car, which was where the on-board boutique was located, because he wanted to buy Kayleigh something that would be a lasting memento of the trip.
“You don’t have to buy me anything” she said, “I’m never going to forget this trip”
But he insisted that they should buy something that would be both a memento and the first thing for their home together.
They settled on a piece of hand blown French crystal in the form of an angel in remembrance of Katie Watson.
But much later he slipped back when she was sleeping and purchased a beautiful songbird.
But after they had purchased the crystal Angel, Kayleigh suggested they return to the bar car before lunch but Jack had a different idea and took her back to their cabin, and once inside he said
“Kayleigh I want to ask you something”
“I’d rather have lunch” Kayleigh retorted
“Lunch can wait, it’s important” he said
“No you can’t have the top bunk” she giggled
“I’m not interested in the top bunk” he said
“Good let’s eat”
“Kayleigh Robinson nee’ Parkes, sweet natured and beautiful love of my life, will you please sit down and be quiet while I’m trying to ask you to marry me” he said
“What?” Kayleigh exclaimed and sat down hard on the banquette
“I want you to marry me, so will you?” he asked but she said sat in silence for the longest time until she said
“You want to marry me?”
“Of course” he said “so will you marry me or not?”
“Yes, Yes, and Yes” she screamed and threw her arms around his neck.
Jack dug in his pocket and tucked in the corner he found the cheap little ring he bought from a flea market in Paris while Kayleigh was shopping with the girls.
It was only a cheap piece of yellow metal costume jewellery but he gave it to her and said
“This is just a symbol, we can buy the proper ring together in Venice”
“I’ll keep it forever” she said and kissed him
“Does that mean were engaged” he asked
They were still kissing when the Steward knocked to say lunch was now being served so they followed him to the dining car and enjoyed a delicious and leisurely three-course lunch to celebrate their engagement.
As he watched a glowing Kayleigh sipping her wine he was overcome with love for her, he was so lucky to have her in his life, and now she had agree to be his wife and he said
“I love you”
“I love you too,”
After lunch they decided to take coffee in their cabin, while they were in the restaurant, the bunks had been stowed away and the banquette sofa had been restored and that was where they sat as they gazed out the window at the spectacular scenery as the train travelled through the Italian Dolomites.
As he sat holding her hand he thought back to the previous June when he hadn’t even made the move to Turnoak, it had been a bitter sweet time although definitely heavy on the sweet.
But they had lost Katie Watson, who was one of the angels, and Kayleigh had had a health scare and then her husband died after a long illness.
But his life had changed inexorable and it had been touched by some wonderful people, Kayleigh being chief among them.
But he had also touched others’ lives in a positive way as his love affair with Kayleigh developed and he nursed Katie in the final months of her life.
Quite apart from Kayleigh and Jacks love story there were those on the tour bus who were all loved up and they were not alone in Jacks circle, his gardeners Emily and Davina had also found love with the Rooney brothers, the church organists Anne Peters and Ian Riley were playing from the same hymn sheet and owner of the local riding school, Lily Soames, had Nurse George Dallas well and truly in harness.
Nor were they the only engaged couple in their circle, Martina was to marry Paul Massey and it wouldn’t have surprised Jack if his and Kayleigh’s engagement was merely the tip of the iceberg.
The finished their drinks just as the train pulled into Verona’s Porta Nuova station.
Which was when Jack said
“I have a surprise for you”
“Another one?” she exclaimed “You have already spoilt me so much”
“It’s just a little present” he said and handed her a gift box tied up with ribbon
Kayleigh took it from him and put it on her lap and undid the ribbon, and after removing the lid she slowly opened the folds of tissue paper and then she gasped when she saw the beautiful Lalique Chrystal songbird.
“It’s beautiful” she said “Katie always called me her songbird”
“Yes she did” Jack agreed
“When she was near the end she made me promise I would sing in public again” Kayleigh said with tears forming in her eyes
“And did you?”
“Yes but I only said what she wanted to hear” Kayleigh admitted “but I keep hearing her voice, reminding me”
“You too?” Jack asked
“Yes” she said and hugged him.
“Be the songbird Kayleigh, be the song bird”
So they both explained at length the occasions in which Katie communicated to them, either audibly of visually while the train was in the station but as the train slowly departed they knew it was time to finish packing in readiness to disembark by finishing their packing.
When everything was done Jack held her in his arms as they crossed the Venetian Lagoon and she said
“I’m going to do it”
“Yes I’m going to do it for Katie” she confirmed “I’m going to sing at the Waterside Club”
“That’s wonderful” Jack said and kissed her
“Will you let me sing at the club?” she asked almost as an after thought
“Of course I will”
“Good because that’s the only place I want to sing” she explained
“But you have to be there with me”
“I never want to be anywhere else than with you” Jack said and she kissed him as the train pulled into Santa Lucia station.