Chapter 6 – 08.16 Birmingham to Leicester InterCity train


She almost didnt make the train this morning,her usual careful routine somehow disrupted by internal flux.
At 7.45 she found herself in the kitchen, a shoe in her hand,unsure as to why she was even in there.
She laughed, made the early onset Alzheimers comment in her head and wamdered back into the bedroom, suddenly doubtful about the outfit for this morning, choosen as useful the night before and hung up carefully on the bathroom door.
The trousers were just too dull, grey pinstripe, wollen, picked up on the sale rail in Jigsaw. She had bought them because they felt grown up, sensible, proper work trousers for a proper work job, but looking down at herself now, she felt a moment of something, she didnt have time to really analayse the feeling, discontent perhaps.
Looking frantically around the bedroom for a quick fix to this wardrobe malfunction,there wasnt time for a complete re-think, but better shoes would help, her purple Converse, funk up the outfit. She grabbed them, aware of the unmoving lump under the duvet
“Ali,gotta go, I’m late”
There was a mumble, muffled by pillows
“Don’t forget to get cat food”
Thdere is another mumble,which might or might not be some kind of assent
A hand unwraps itself from under the cover and stretches itself towards her, she grabbed it, kisses the fingers,the hand,as if independent of a body moves towards her face
“no” she says ” No time,see you tonight”

com·mut·er (k-mytr)
n.
1. One that travels regularly from one place to another, as from suburb to city and back.
2. An airplane or airline that carries passengers relatively short distances and often serves remote communities and small airports.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved

And she was gone, keys,bag, banana and out the door, she looked at her watch, 7.58, she was 10 minutes behind schedule which of course would mean that for the first time in a week that the bloody train would actually leave on time.

She made it to the station with exactly 90 seconds to spare, just enough time to notice, again, how the regular commuters all stood in exactly the same place each morning, in the 6 months she had been doing this journey she had initially tried to buck the trend, consciously choosing a different spot on the platform each morning, but recently she has found herself standing almost but not quite opposite the in door for the Lemon Tree cafe, she rationalized that this meant she was usually directly in line with the doors of the second of the carriages and managed to ignore the fact that she knew this.

com·mut·er (k-mytr)
n.
1. One that travels regularly from one place to another, as from suburb to city and back.
2. An airplane or airline that carries passengers relatively short distances and often serves remote communities and small airports.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved

The train arrived and coffee less she managed to grab a two seat space to herself,secure in the knowledge that she could probably, by dint of some hard staring, keep both seats for herself until Nuneaton, after that even the pretense of Tourettes would not stop someone heaving themselves down next to her and squashing her against the window.

She stared out of the window,in that state between daze and awareness and then suddenly she was absolutely shocked into the here and now.

There were 2 dogs on the track, big brown dogs, some kind of dobermans. One was lying on the track and horribly the train choose that moment to stop so that she was directly opposite them and she could see that it was dreadfully injured, its back end mangled, maimed, clearly hit by an earlier train. It was panting, in distress and the other dog was just standing next to it.

Leah stared in horror, she didn’t know what to do, around her other passengers were beginning to register the event outside, people started talking to each-other, no-body really knew what should happen, how they should act.
Somehow it was the waiting dog,the uninjured one that made it so so much worse.It added some terrible human dimension to the tiny tragedy.

She stood up, craned her neck along the track hoping to see someone,anyone out there, but the track was deserted,just the dying dog and his or maybe her companion standing guard.

The whole carriage was shocked into an immediate camaraderie, a couple of women were weeping, a man, booted and suited was on his mobile phone trying to contact the police. People talked in whispers, their faces shocked, faces grayer than their usual winter commuter pallor.

com·mut·er (k-mytr)
n.
1. One that travels regularly from one place to another, as from suburb to city and back.
2. An airplane or airline that carries passengers relatively short distances and often serves remote communities and small airports.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved

Leah looked at the dogs again, and then for some reason she did not completely understand, she started taking photographs on her phone.She snapped both dogs together, the injured dog on his/her own, the guardian dog, she couldn’t stop herself, she took 10, 20, 30 photos, a frenzy of recording.

The train jolted, started moving, it passed close to the two dogs and horribly the injured one tried to move away, its companion leaned into it and although she hated herself, Leah took another photograph.

As the train gathered speed the passengers folded back into themselves, I-pods were plugged in, mobiles pinged and chirped, laptops were unwrapped and the usual silence or what passed for silent on a commuter train fell on the compartment.

com·mut·er (k-mytr)
n.
1. One that travels regularly from one place to another, as from suburb to city and back.
2. An airplane or airline that carries passengers relatively short distances and often serves remote communities and small airports.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved

Leah tried to read her book, but the face of the injured dog stayed in her mind, its expression baffled, pained, confused. She took out her phone and looked again at the photos again, trying to understand what had prompted her to take so many when the obvious thing to do would have been, like the suited and booted man, to try and get help for the poor animal. She wasn’t sure if she actually liked the person she had become in those few minutes. For a few seconds she tried to convince herself that she had been trying to capture some truth, a piece of photographic verite and then the irony hit her, as if she could occupy any moral high ground around honesty.

She flashed back to the morning, Alis’ slim hand, nails painted a luscious aubergine, each finger weighed down with a silver ring, the desire implicit in her sleepy reaching out.

Alis’ name had made her dishonesty so easy. Friends, colleagues simply assumed and she had choosen not to correct them. She was happier to allow them to believe that she was shacked up with some Asian guy than to present the simple and in 2012, hardly shocking truth that she was stupidly, madly in love with another woman.

Leah was not a lesbian, she had seen lesbians, big, burly, not like her, not like Ali, not like them at all and so she could not tell anyone because then she would be a lesbian and that could not be right, so she kept quiet, hugging their love close to her, letting it keep her warm on her daily dull commute.

com·mut·er (k-mytr)
n.
1. One that travels regularly from one place to another, as from suburb to city and back.
2. An airplane or airline that carries passengers relatively short distances and often serves remote communities and small airports.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved

The train stopped at Nuneaton and Leah realized that the shared moment was over, all the passengers shuffling on now would never know what had happened just a few miles down the track. She couldn’t help herself, but looked at the photos again, was almost tempted to nudge the man who had neatly inserted himself into the adjoining seat and like anyone she had ever shared a train space with, manged to take just a fraction more than his fair share of the space.

She wanted to poke him, get his attention, speak to him, make him look at the photographs, but luckily sanity kicked in before she made a complete fool of herself.

The rest of the journey she spent staring out of the window, the landscape already dully familiar after only 6 months of making this journey.

The workday passed in its usual workway.
She considered showing the pictures to her colleagues, but something made her hold back, unsure as to how they would react, worried about what it would say about her. As the afternoon dragged on, she found herself returning not to the images of the injured dog, but the one of its companion, scared, confused, but for reasons neither she or she suspected the dog itself could understand, staying when it could so easily get away.

She tried to ignore the uneasy feeling the photograph gave her.
Texted Ali, suggested that they met up in town, went for a few drinks, made a night of it.

The journey home was the usual commute, she didn’t get seat until Water Orton and the train stopped for a baffling 13 minutes outside Hinckley at a spot where the train track and road run parallel. As she looked out of the window, she stared at a row of cars, 20 or maybe even 30, all stuck behind a slow moving tractor.

Suddenly, on a whim,she scrolled through her address book and found the number for her best friend from college. She choose the photo of the guardian dog and quickly, before she could analyse it too carefully, she pressed SEND.

com·mut·er (k-mytr)
n.
1. One that travels regularly from one place to another, as from suburb to city and back.
2. An airplane or airline that carries passengers relatively short distances and often serves remote communities and small airports.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved

About cathi rae

50ish teacher & aspiring writer and parent of a stroppy teenager and carer for a confused bedlington terrier and a small selection of horses who fail to shar emy dressage ambitions. Interested in contemporary fiction but find myself returning to PG Wodehouse when the chips are down View all posts by cathi rae

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