It had been over two months since Paul saw Laura last time. “Where is she? Is she Okay?” he asked himself, worried about her wellbeing. It is written in our genes to think about bad events when we don’t see a family member or friend or hear from them for an extended time. The closer the relationship, the greater our worry is. But Laura wasn’t his family or friend. Paul didn’t even know her real name. Laura was the nickname he had given her.
More or less, it was about five years ago when Paul noticed Laura for the first time in the metro. Her charming beauty immediately attracted his attention. Yet, even after five years, he could remember Laura and her trendy attire as if it was yesterday. She wore a stylish khaki double-breasted lapel collar overcoat over a white button-up blouse, a black tweed mini skirt, and knee-high black suede boots, an outstanding feature among the train’s passengers. She sat on the opposite side of the train carriage, facing Paul, deep in her thoughts, not seeing Paul’s stare or just ignoring his gawp. She wore modest makeup with light red lipstick, which matched her short blond hair and pale white skin. She was the most alluring commuter on that train, or at least that train carriage. Her beauty mesmerized Paul, and for all the thirty minutes ride from his local station to the CBD, he secretly watched her and admired her beauty and style. She was his dream girl, the girl he’d fantasized about all his life.
The CBD station was his destination. But in his bad luck, she didn’t get off at the station. Paul subdued the urge to stay on the train, to follow her. After all, Paul was a gentleman and didn’t like to stalk a woman.
For a few hours after arriving at the office, Paul was still thinking about her and her stylish clothing, cute face, flawless body, and upper-class demeanor. “The beauty on the train,” he concurrently named her. It was a busy day at the office, working with a few demanding customers, so he forgot all about her by the lunch break as if it was a dream. And the euphoria Paul felt by seeing her all faded into thin air.
The next day, Paul immediately noticed her on the train. This time she was standing on the other side of the train’s carriage, hiding among the crowd of passengers. The story repeated, and Paul saw her every day on his way to work. Soon, seeing her become part of Paul’s life. Every day, hoping to see her, he woke up, dressed, and left home on time to not miss the train, to see her one more time.
Her chic style gradually influenced Paul’s view of fashion. Paul, who didn’t care about fashion and believed spending on brand goods was just a waste of money, began buying and wearing stylish brand clothing. In three months, Paul’s image transferred from a minor office employee to a junior manager and later to a senior manager. It also positively impacted his self-esteem, giving him his first promotion. All because of the mysterious lady on the train.
One lucky day, when the train was packed with morning commuters, the synchronized crowd going to work, Paul accidentally found himself beside her. She could easily be 175 cm tall, a few centimeters short of himself at 180. “A perfect match!” he thought. Then, for the first time, Paul’s nostrils filled with her heady scent, the intoxicating smell of Jasmin flower, the perfume she wore. Paul immediately fell in love with her perfume. That day, he spent some time in a David Jones department store perfume section on his way home. Finally, Paul found what he was looking for with the help of a saleswoman, an energetic and helpful pretty red-haired young woman.
Interestingly, the perfume’s brand name was HER. “Is this a sign or just a coincidence?” he thought, wanting to see a sign there. He paid $150 and bought the perfume as a present for his wife.
Charlotte welcomed the unexpected present, appreciated her husband’s lovely gesture, and immediately splashed a generous amount of perfume on her face and neck. By her action, she unwantedly became a surrogate for the woman on the train. Charlotte smelled like the woman Paul secretly admired.
It was over a few months since he had seen her on his way to work. But who was she? What was her name? Where did she come from? What was she doing? Paul had never talked to her. So, after days of thinking, he finally named her Laura, after Laura Smith, his high school sweetheart. Paul initially imagined her as a scientist and later a fashion designer. He finally chose the second option. So, in his imagination, she transformed into Laura, a locally renowned fashion designer.
One day, nearly after a year of seeing each other at the same time on the same train, Laura stopped ignoring Paul and responded to his subtle non-verbal greeting, just a soft nod, with a smile. And this trend continued for another four years. Paul had lost count of how many times he kissed her, caressed her soft skin, and made love to her in the private corner of his mind. Paul had silently opened his heart to her and told her all his secrets. The secrets he had told no one else before.
For the first time that Monday morning, Paul couldn’t locate Laura on the train. So he vainly walked between carriages, but Laura wasn’t anywhere to be seen. Though it was odd not to see her, Paul imagined her getting a day off. Laura wasn’t on the train on Tuesday, Wednesday, and the rest of the weekdays. Not seeing Laura made Paul desperate. He wanted to shout, “where are you, Laura?”
So over the next two months, Paul got on earlier and later trains, hoping to see Laura again. But Laura was nowhere on those trains as if she hadn’t existed except in his imagination.
You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.
Having just read two of your stories, I recognize you have a distinct voice. It is minimalistic, and the characterization here evokes yearning that becomes obsessive. I was surprised to discover the main character had a wife, and I thought his finding the fragrance was a powerful way to demonstrate that his daydreaming about Laura had become a shocking obsession. Well done.