Simon entered the train station with a bouquet of flowers in one hand and a hand-made sign in the other. In red, big, bold letters, the text spelled out a female name. Arielle. He looked up at the clock above the tunnel leading down to platform number four and then down at his wristwatch. The first one had just struck 4 o’clock while the latter was two minutes ahead. Placing the flowers and sign gently on a nearby bench, Simon adjusted his watch to have it match the big station clock down to the second. He cleared his throat, picked the flowers and sign back up, and headed towards platform number nine.
Passengers poured in and out of platforms. Two teenage girls giggling and gossiping walked up the stairs while a middle-aged woman rushed past them. Her voice was hushed, and her mascara smudged. An elderly man took his time descending the stairs as he felt them with his cane first. For a brief moment, Simon paused and looked around in an attempt to spot a familiar face, but quickly remembered the real reason he was there. He gripped the bouquet and sign tighter. He was there for her. “Arielle,” the name rang in his head.
He made his way down the series of stairs and hallways onto platform number nine. The bench nearest him was occupied by a pretty young woman. A blonde with legs for days. Simon's first instinct was to smile and wink at her as he approached the bench. “I hope I didn’t actually wink at her,” he thought to himself nervously. Unsure of what to do next, he kept on walking until he was well past that bench. Then, he turned around. The woman was focused on her cell phone, typing something feverishly just as she did when he entered the platform. Simon breathed a sigh of relief.
A single navy bag rested on bench number two. “Should I call someone?” Simon wondered. There was no one standing near the bag. “It could be a bomb,” he realized. As he approached the bench, he held his breath. “Could you imagine me dying today like this?” he smirked. “Thank you for watching my bag, Miss. I really had to use the toilet,” a silver-haired woman said to a young girl as she approached the second bench. The young girl grunted in acknowledgment without taking her eyes off her phone screen. The old lady smiled at Simon and sat down next to the navy bag.
Thankfully, the last bench was not occupied. Simon sat down and looked at his watch. 4.07 pm. He was early and had plenty of time left until she got there, and he was glad. He preferred to be early rather than late. Placing the sign down next to him and the flowers on top, Simon pulled out a newspaper from his jacket pocket. “An 18-year-old girl murdered by a taxi driver,” read the headline. Simon shuddered and placed the paper back in his pocket. It was supposed to be a good day without any bad news. He and Arielle would finally reunite.
For the next 20 minutes, Simon thought of the good ol' days before Paula transformed from the woman of his dreams to one of his nightmares. During the first years of their marriage, they would spend the summer days riding bikes in the countryside and having picnics in the most beautiful of spots. Sometimes, they would even make love afterward. Paula enjoyed the thrill of potentially getting caught while doing the deed in the wild. Simon did not mind the risk if it brought his body closer to hers.
Then, when their child was old enough to pedal, they took her on rides, too. They were the perfect family. Until they weren't. As the years went by, Simon and Paula argued more and more, unable to agree on anything.
"I'm moving back home," Paula said one day when Simon came back from work.
"Ok..." he replied, in shock.
"Is Daddy coming with us?" a girl of about seven asked Paula.
"No, sweetie," Paula replied, grabbing her daughter's hand.
"But whyyyy?" the little girl asked, trying to free her hand.
"We don't have time for this right now. The cab is waiting," Paula announced and pulled the girl towards the door.
"It's best this way," she added before exiting the house.
That was over ten years ago, but Simon still remembered it like it was yesterday. The loving eyes of his daughter and the hate-filled eyes of his wife. He had not been the perfect husband, but he had done everything to be the best father. That was the last time when he saw Arielle. He figured that today he would look for brunettes, but quickly realized that she could have dyed her hair any other color. "Thank God for the sign," he thought to himself with relief.
Even though the train was scheduled to arrive at precisely 4.30 pm, it did not enter the station until 4.36 pm. It was six minutes late. “Are trains ever on time?” Simon asked himself but did not bother to answer. After all, he knew the answer far too well. He dismissed his negative thoughts rather quickly. He had to focus on his mission at hand. He was there to pick her up, and nothing else mattered.
As people stepped off the train, Simon made his way through the crowd, raising the sign above his head. His heart skipped a beat when a young brunette looked around as if she was lost. With her eyes on him, she stopped and smiled. "Is it her?" he asked anxiously. Smiling from ear to ear, the girl ran towards him and then past him, into the arms of a young man. They kissed passionately and then walked out hand in hand.
A few minutes later, Simon was the only person on the platform. His smile turned into a frown. With a deep sigh, he placed the sign and flowers on bench number three and walked away.
Simon entered the train station with a bouquet of flowers in one hand and a hand-made sign in the other. “Would she still be alive today if I wasn’t late picking her up from the train station that day?” Simon asked himself like he did every Friday afternoon for the past three years.