The train whistled as it started its long journey west, and Joe couldn't help but think about all of the possibilities that lay ahead.
Thoughts spun in his head...
"What will my future hold?"
"Will I finally find what I've lost after all these years?"
He knew that there was no way to know until he got there, but one thing was certain: tomorrow everything would be different.
The train glided across the landscape at a steady pace, lurching and braking as it neared stations. The distant mountains shimmered in the morning light, their peaks bathed in pink-gold bands of pale sunlight.
Joe gazed out of the window and thought about how he would soon be seeing her again for real. He could barely wait to get off the train though he had yet days before his arrival.
They should have been in Denver two hours ago but they were delayed by an accident on the tracks on either side of them which left no way for trains to get through so all had been put on hold until it was cleared up again.
There was nothing else for him to do but sit back with his thoughts and enjoy what little scenery there was outside – if he could see it that is.
The train was becoming more and more crowded, the cabin filling up as passengers disembarked to stretch their legs or go in search of food.
Joe saw an elderly woman knitting diligently at one end of the carriage while two young women played cards together at the other. He saw a young man with a large suitcase taking up two seats.
Everyone around him was leaving their homes behind, going somewhere new and different.
Nearby, Joe couldn't help but notice a little girl with her head resting on her father’s shoulder, mouth open wide in sleep.
A car attendant came through saying they would be moving again soon.
So he closed his eyes for just a moment and thought about about how people were always going somewhere: his sister moving away with her new husband to Missouri, friends staking their claims in the Oregon Territory or Southward in Santa Fe...
There seemed so many opportunities out there – opportunities pulling everyone he knew and loved away from him - everyone that mattered to him. But most of all, pulling away the person who mattered most to him, his daughter.
But now, aboard this train heading west toward Denver that was all about to change.
Joe had left behind his law practice and life in Chicago, what there was left to leave behind that is.
His wife passed away shortly after their daughter's birth. Most of his relatives and friends had either left long ago as well - either seeking out their own opportunities or finding their final rest.
Joe's Law practice was now solidly in the hands of the younger generation of partners (and likely the better for it). They wouldn't be missing Joe anytime soon.
There wasn't much that Joe even felt like he was leaving in Chicago anymore.
No, Joe was sure that what was left of his future lay at the end of this train track. A future with her.
The train whistle blew again and slowly chugged back to life. As the last stop drifted away in the distance behind them, Joe drifted into his memories.
There were times Joe had seen her watching him from afar: first as an toddler playing on the hardwood floors while he stole a few moments away from work to play with her; then later stomping together through mud puddles after thunderstorms chasing frogs – always looking up expectantly when she found something new or interesting with those wide blue eyes like, even then, she had a thirst for adventure and was glad to share it with me.
In those moments, Joe knew he was the lucky one.
But as she grew up, Joe's luck began to fade.
Sure, he did fine in a traditional sense. His practice weathered many storms and he remained in good health.
But the storms his practice faced required him at the helm to keep things running. To keep food on the table for himself and the families of those who worked with him. He couldn't responsibly leave things in that condition. He was tied down in Chicago.
While Joe remained anchored in place, his daughter had nothing holding her back. Nothing powerful enough at least to resist the pull she felt by the adventure in the west.
That's why it wasn't long before she set off with nothing but a train ticket and a suitcase. She was going west to find her future - to claim her adventure.
The whistle blew hard, jostling Joe out of his thoughts. They had arrived and the excitement was building in Joe as he quickly gathered his things and headed toward the door.
Joe stepped out of the train and into the bright white sunlight his eyes hadn't yet adjusted to.
His eyes finally adjusted to the light, and he found an answer to his troubles staring back at him. Eyes wider than the sky and just as blue with a thirst for adventure.
Those eyes, now more weathered and knowing, yet still with a twinkle that seemed to say she was excited to have her father back with her.
I hope you enjoyed it!