Saturday, 7 June 2014

Short Story: Open Road

Standing here on the open road, my home far behind me and my future way in front of me, I have never felt more at peace than I do now. Here. In the middle of this wide and empty road. Not even the chill from this icy winter's morning can snap me out of this revere I'm in. I open my eyes, adjust the strap of my heavy laden carry-all bag that is digging into my shoulder, grab hold of the handle of my small, bright orange wheelie suitcase and begin my long walk to the local station. Some of the money I have saved up from working tirelessly at that Godforsaken pub with those old leering men that only become more unbearable to be around when they are drunk, the always busy local pharmacy and the ever-so quiet public library burns in the front pocket of my jeans; tempting me to throw caution to the wind and call a taxi to drop me off at the station and enjoy a few brief moments of warmth. But I stave off this idea and remember my goal. It's not like I haven't done this before. 

God those days were unbearable.

I didn't have enough money to pay for both my house bills and bus fares into town to go to work so I always had my early morning "workouts" to keep me in shape. I had to make do with two small  meals a day that could barely be considered actual meals so I didn't have to worry about putting on any weight. I am just lucky that my skin and hair are manageable because it does not take a lot to tame them which meant I did not have to waste the little money I had on the countless beauty products that are out there. Even shopping for clothes took a back seat and the thought was only entertained when deemed necessary. My house-mates had given up on inviting me to nights out eating or dancing away in clubs in the city because to them I was an anti-social miserable girl that cared for no one and certainly had no plans of having fun. But I didn't care what they thought of me... or shall I say I learnt not to care. My savings for the open road was the only thing that kept me going. 

And that day has finally come.

Standing at the platform my train is expected to arrive at, I run through the list of things I will  have to do once I get there as my nerves kick into overdrive, forcing me to believe that I have forgotten something. The doors of the train open up shortly after it arrives at the platform allowing the maniacs that were once in it to force themselves out of the carriage and bump repeatedly into me. I managed not to lose my temper and quickly got on the train to find my seat. Now that I have gotten to the right carriage and located my seat, I look for a suitable luggage rack to stow away my suitcase and then make my way to my aisle seat. I stop dead in my tracks when I see who will be sat next to me for the next leg of both our journeys. It was the impatient grunt of the person stood behind me and in front of me that forced me to sit down in my seat. I made sure not to make any sudden movements that might alarm the sleeping passenger who I'm now sat next to. Breathing so quietly, I fear I may not be taking in the required amount of oxygen I need to get by in life. I try to sneak a look at the person sat next to me in such a way that no one else will be able to tell what I'm doing. This proves to be very hard especially when the sleeping beauty turns in its sleep and deems my shoulder worthy enough to rest its head upon.


The train has set off now but it seems we may have left my heart back at the station as I cannot detect a heartbeat. How is it this stranger, although he does not feel like one, is able to have such an effect on me and isn't even lucid? Surely that is not right! I clench my teeth, reign in my hormones and carefully nudge him back to his side of the train. I let out a big sigh of relief when it does not look like I have awoken him. I quickly get out my ticket out my pocket and wait for the conductor to walk by so that it can be checked and stamped. A little boy sat at the table not far from me catches my eye when he tugs at his mother's hair and laughs with pure glee when her curls spring back into place. There is something so honest and almost unreal about the love his mum has for him and he for her that sends a formidable sense of calm straight through me I have no choice but to relax.

'...please don't forget to take your luggage with you'.

The booming sound of the conductors voice over the speakers brutally wakes me up from the best sleep I have had in a long time. I open up my eyes and allow them to adjust to the harsh lights within the train. I then become painfully aware that my head is resting on something that keeps moving up and down slightly. I sit up quickly, which is a bad idea as my neck is not in its best state, to find that I had been using the shoulder of the guy sat next to me as my person pillow. My eyes open wide in horror at the sight of the drool trail I had left behind. To say that I'm mortified is an understatement. The pain in my neck doesn't register immediately as I wipe the trace from mouth and chin and apologise profusely to the gentleman whose head I had nudged off my shoulder many hours ago but let me rest mine on his for God knows how long and is now grinning at me from ear to ear for a reason I do not know.

'Jen, it's ok. Honestly it is fine. It's nothing that a bit of water and soap can't fix'.

I frown in confusion. How does he know my name? He chuckles as I assume he knows that I don't know who he is. He gets up which in turn makes me get up. I look around to find that the train is practically empty. How did I not notice this? I watch him as he reaches up to get his luggage from the overhead storage space, puts on his coat and makes his way off the train.

He turns round and says, 'You coming?'

I must be dreaming... I go get my bright orange suitcase, secretly glad that it still where I'd left it, and followed this familiar stranger who knows my name off the train. He says nothing as we make our way to the main part of Piccadilly station. I try to lose him as the place is crawling with people who are itching to get to their various destinations and those awaiting the arrival of their loved ones because I don't feel all too smart walking with a man I do not know. And despite the almost packed vicinity I have never felt more alone especially now that I managed to give him the slip. But the familiar stranger takes hold of my hand which as surprising and highly anticipated that gesture was, caused me to withdraw my hand quicker than one could blink. I caught a glimpse of the frown that was on his face when I looked up at him which was now replaced with a slight smile. He cocked his head towards the escalators and that's when I saw her.


I ran over to my childhood friend like there was hot coal beneath my feet and where she was was a pool of cool water. She hugged me so hard I feared my ribs would break but I was thankful for it.

'I see you have met my brother. I completely forgot that you guys were catching the same train'.

'Brother?' I said. I turned to see the familiar stranger drop his bag to the floor to hug his little sister.

'It seems Jen does not remember me Beth', he said with a chuckle.

Beth looks at me with a raised eyebrow and I shrug my shoulders in response, totally embarrassed by this but I try not to let it show. She shakes her head and giggles.

'To be fair Mark, she hasn't seen you in over what, 8 years?'

He laughs and nods in agreement. We make our way to Beth's car I cannot believe the situation I have found myself in now. Reunited with the only friend from my former life that I am still in contact with who so happens to be the sister of the guy wearing my saliva on his very nice and expensive coat that is walking beside me with his hand slightly grazing mine with every step we take towards the car causing the butterflies in my tummy to do all kinds of tricks. He offers to drive us back to Beth's which gives us the chance to catch up slightly in the back of the car. Beth fusses over the fact that I am wasting away and I am silently hoping to catch her brother's eye in the rear view mirror. When this does happen I look away so quickly I almost give myself whiplash.

 But I am so glad I did.

The sight of the open road before us makes me smile because I know that at the end of it, I will be able let go and truly embrace life. I grab hold of Beth's hand and whisper, 'Thanks for this B'. She pulled me into another bone-breaking hug and says, 'You are welcome babes. I am just glad that you finally came to your senses and decided that this was the best idea ever imagined'. I smile and say, 'It is in't it?' Mark catches my eye again in the rear view mirror and winks at me which makes me smile even more. He puts on the radio and you won't believe what song blares through the speakers.

If that it isn't a sign, I don't know what is...

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