BY KELLY BOWERS

Seventeen-year old Blayne walked slowly up the trail. He scuffed the roots and sticks on the dirt trail as he walked and the needles of the occasional dead spruce branch fell on his head and the shoulders of his dark blue T-shirt. Blayne kicked a small rock, his face set in a concentrated, yet mildly displeased frown. He wondered when his life had started to go off track.

Two months ago, he had had a normal life with his parents, Ron and Maya, who loved each other more than life itself, his little brother, Shane, and Blayne’s very own, handsome, energetic, springer spaniel puppy Roy, who he loved, well, almost more than life itself.

They all lived in their Saskatoon home at the end of a cul-de-sac.

But Dad didn’t love his Mom as much as they thought because his Dad met that lady, Amelia, and he ran off with her. His Mom cried … a lot and often. Shane threw himself into his video games and Blayne turned to Roy. Roy always listened; he would curl up on the bed beside Blayne and look up at him with his intelligent, understanding, eyes. It was the gift of quiet.

After a while, his Mom sent him and Shane up north to live with an aunt and uncle he had never heard of. She wanted to get her life back together in Saskatoon. It was a whole new place and a whole new school, where he didn’t know anyone. To make it worse, Blayne wasn’t allowed to bring Roy with him because his aunt was allergic to dogs.

Silently he cursed his life and threw a stick into the trees, noticing that it was 8 p.m. and he could actually still see the multitude of tall, thin, pine and spruce trees that were all around him. He was reminded again that this wasn’t home.

His mind drifted back to his more recent troubles and he sighed softly. His grades were suffering badly and the school staff kept encouraging him to talk to the nerdy “high-waisted pants and sweater-vests are still cool” counsellor.

Blayne already knew why his grades were falling: the emotional baggage from the “Amelia Affair” was weighing him down and occupying his mind almost constantly. It definitely did not make remembering things easy when all he remembered was the red-headed Amelia waiting in the car for his Dad.

He could admit this emotional baggage problem to himself, but there was no way, ever, that he would admit it to anyone else; especially not to someone who would want to analyze his feelings on the matter.

Blayne was so deep in thought that he didn’t notice the railway and he swore as he pitched violently forward.

After picking himself back up, he looked back at what he tripped over. The old railroad ran innocently along the ground, surrounded by small clumps of young trees and shrubs. The brown metal was spotted with orange rust stains and small, withered leaves.

Blayne stepped into the middle of the tracks and a gust of wind swept down around him, swirling the leaves and exposing the brown tops of the rusting spikes.

On impulse, he slipped off his skate shoes and tugged off his socks. He stuffed his socks in his shoes and he stepped tentatively onto the track with one foot. The metal was cool and slightly rough under his toes. Blayne brought the other foot up in front of the first and started off down the track; wobbling slightly.

Blayne’s world narrowed to the width of a railway tie, until his only concern was putting one foot in front of the other.

He no longer cared about his schoolwork, the nerdy counsellor or the school staff that kept bugging him. He no longer cared about getting a new girlfriend, new friends or the car his parents promised him. He no longer had a mother who cried, a father who left or a brother who was slowly drowning himself in video games. There was no longer a handsome, empathetic, springer spaniel puppy named Roy or a now-broken family that lived in a house in Saskatoon; no eccentric aunt and uncle; no strange new house, no strange new school, no red-headed Amelia and no thinking.

In this world there was only Blayne, walking barefoot down a rusted old railway with his shoes in his hands and the wind ruffling his hair.

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