Monday Rewrite: Railway Girl

She stirs the coffee in front of her until the froth has dissipated and it looks nothing special. She watches the trains going in and out, in and out. Trains fascinate her, the people, the bits of luggage they carry, the bikes, the prams, the children… can’t help wondering about their stories. Where they’re going, where they’ve come from, who’s waiting for them. She’s imagined the most extraordinary things, spies, agents, adventurers, lovers, wanderers, inventors. That girl over there for instance, with the bright rainbow coat, frayed and blotted around the edges. Her hair platted with tiny bits of silk. Her rucksack daubed with little illustrations. Is she about to change the world, or running away from it, or just wandering? And him, the wide man with the poodle in his arms. Why? Why is he carrying that poodle? A present for someone? Or maybe he’s stolen it. Or perhaps it’s a distraction when he really has wads of stolen money under his coat. She sips her coffee, doesn’t care that it’s lost its life. So many people, so many stories. Have they seen what she’s seen? Do they know what she knows? Do they glance her way and wonder as she glances at them? Probably not. And she realises something. You can be hurrying across a dull and bustling railway station and have no idea who you are racing past. Not giving a second glance to the next ordinary, unimpressive person who carries treasure.

Another train. Another sip of tepid coffee. Another swathe of people. Grim and cheerful. Dull and bright. Wise and silly. More stories more lives. Have this lot seen what she’s seen? Do this lot know what she knows? And there he is. No fanfare. No sudden stopping of time or grinding of life’s gears. He just steps down and looks lost for a moment. Throws his head this way and that as he wonders if he will… hopes he might… see her there. And suddenly everything changes. His face, that severe mask, lights up and becomes human once more. His eyes bright and wide. The colour splashing his cheeks. He lifts his bag and it seems suddenly lighter. He crosses, bumps into three people, apologies even though they don’t respond. Waits for an ageing lady to dawdle in front of him, then finally, he’s there, in front of her. And her heart twists and turns and thumps and bounces inside her. Happy yes. But conflicted too. She can’t help grinning like a Cheshire cat, of course she can’t. Just before she tells him that she’s pregnant, in spite of the fact that they have never slept together. In spite of the fact that she has slept with no one at all.

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