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The train ride at French Lick, was a two hour tour through mind-numbingly boring Indiana countryside.

Harold found himself nodding off here and there, kicking himself for not bringing a book to read as he was jolted awake by a flying Nerf football. After the last game of 'nail the counselor' he realized that he would be forced to stay awake and endure the endless clack of the wheels and the sunlight that glared in his face.

When Melanie moved forward, seat-by-seat, from the back end of the coach, he was surprised to find that his seat had been her destination. She moved in quietly, without much fuss, and smiled at him.

"You looked like you needed an ally in the war."

Harold shrugged and looked forward at Billy Montgomery and his green and purple nerf football. He nodded.

Mel had been hired on a few weeks earlier and Harold had only brief smatterings of friendly conversation with her. He had described her to his friends as a "plain Jane". She wasn't a supermodel, but pretty. She had brown, sometimes frazzled looking, hair, clear hazel eyes, and had the type of petite form that many might call 'boyish'.

"I hate this train ride." She said. "I'm surprised the kids haven't been worse. Last group of kids threw gum in my hair."

"Yuck." Harold said, then looked forward to Billy. "I just wish Thomas would keep his under a tighter leash."

The football flew across the car and landed in Mel's lap. She let out a tiny cry of surprise.

"That's it, Billy." Harold snatched the ball from her lap and held it in the air. "You'll get this back when we get back to camp." He tucked it between his leg and the metal wall.  There was a groan of displeasure from the front.

Mel smiled. "They hate you for that."

"Well, they'll just have to." He muttered, angry, glaring at the back of Thomas Franklin's head.

The next instant it went dark and the children screamed in terror.

"Calm down, calm down." He heard Thomas shout from the front of the car. "We'll be out of it in a few minutes."

Harold had been on this damn ride about ten times and had hated the long ride through the dark. The tunnel entrance always came up unexpectedly, instant blindness. It was terribly black and the cold air seeped into the car. In a few moments he felt as if he were flying into some kind of oblivion, slowly losing strength.

He stiffened and clenched his hands.

Beside him, he could feel Mel move in her seat, and then he felt a hand on his arm.

"Are you Ok?" he asked her. He blinked several times trying to see if there was a difference between open and closed, there wasn't.

He heard her breathe. "I forgot this was coming." She gasped.

Her cold hand had frantically clenched on his bare arm just below his short sleeve and he could feel her tension. He moved his right hand up his left arm until he felt her smooth, cool fingers loosen. He transferred her hand from his arm to his left hand.

"It’s ok." He said, smiling uselessly in the dark. He tried to make his voice smile but wasn't sure if that worked either. He patted the back of her hand with his, and then left it there. "It won't last too long."

His heart was fluttering from his usual fear but now there was something unexpected. There was a primal feeling of protector and a primal fear of the dark.

"I never liked dark places when I was a kid." She said. There was a strange sound to her voice, a tinge of hysteria, a tone of intimacy. "I had an uncle who used to watch us when we were children. When we were bad he locked us in the basement."

Harold nodded, again realizing that he had no way to convey his empathy to her. He squeezed her hand a little.

"We had this well out back of our house when I was a kid." He said. "My grandfather had capped it years before with a cement disk." He closed his eyes and pictured it in the black. "When we were kids, my brother and I managed to force the cap off and we tried to play up on it."

He heard her breathing seem to slow into less panicked gasps.

But he went on.

"My brother accidentally knocked me into it."

"Oh my god." She tensed in his fingers.

"I was ok, it was only about fifteen feet deep at that point, and they got me out of it an hour later when they got home." He paused, feeling vertigo as the train moved forward into the black. "I just remember the rush of the air past me and how the mud felt at the bottom. It was full of bugs and mildew. I've always imagined deep places in the earth smelling like that."

She squeezed his hand, then he felt her thumb move across the side of his hand, back and forth.

It was very cold now but Harold's face burned. He turned his head to look at her but it was blackness. He could feel the heat from her body, could feel the air move from her more relaxed breathing.

"I used to do tandem lights when I was six." She said. "When I was scared at night I would go down the hall to my parent's bedroom to sleep with them. I would turn on the night-light next to my bed, then walk to my room's light switch and turn that one on, then turn off the nightlight." She laughed. "Then I'd turn on the hall light and go back to my room and turn off that light switch. My parents slept at the front of the house so the street lights always came in through their bedroom window. When I got to their room at the end of the hall I'd turn the other hall switch off and went to bed."

Harold laughed. He could hear the relaxed memory in her voice as she spoke this.

"Once, my mother would not let me into bed with them. She acted like she was asleep and didn't move when I asked her. I had to go through the whole tandem light-switch backwards that night. I never did it again after that." She paused. "But I still have that night light."

They sat in silence for several moments; Harold savored the feel of her hand against his and didn't know why. There was something reassuring about being afraid but not alone. He smoothed his hand over her skin again and felt her relax more.

He looked up again and realized that it wasn’t as dark as it had been. He called this the tunnel twilight, a slowly growing glow.

The darkness slowly made form to be dim grey seats and still children in them. He realized even the kids were quiet as the ink diluted into dim grey, slowly letting the colors bleed into the green seats and the red roof.

He looked at Mel and seemed to see her age backwards; her frizzy hair melded from dark grey, to light, mousy brown, to her more natural colors. Her skin seemed to blush with color as the light grew and grew.

They emerged into the sunlight and everything was radiant. Her face was rich tanned glow and her eyes seemed green with flecks of gold.

She smiled back at him and this made him remember that she could see him too. She could see him staring at her beauty.

But their hands, still held, no longer seemed to convey the feelings of fear and reassurance. In the dark their hands were fine lines of communication across a starless night. Now that they were in the light, they seemed only hands.

Mel looked down at her fingers in his and he felt her move.

They both blushed, furiously, and withdrew the lines between them.

"Thanks." Mel said. She raised her hand to shielded her eyes from the sunlight, her voice had lost its intimate tone and he could feel her slowly move back. "I just hate the dark."

Harold settled back into his seat. "Me too." He said, then turned back to the monotonous landscape and smiled, his reflection clearly visible in the bright light.

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