Barb and Tom got off the ferry and walked over to the sign that listed the times the boat came in and when it left. “2:30,” Tom said, setting his wrist alarm. Barb nodded. She flung her beach bag over her shoulder, grabbed her husband's hand and they walked towards Manly beach.
It was September 2000, and the Summer Olympics were being held in Sydney Australia. Tom's brother and his Ozzy wife lived in a suburb of Sydney and were kind enough to host Barb and Tom for the Games. The couple saved up for 4 years for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and they were making the most of their trip.
Today, a visit to Manly beach was on the agenda. As they left the wharf, they headed down the Corso, a road lined with shops. Tom led Barb into a beach shop and purchased for her a wide-rimmed sun hat. He put it on her head, smiled, and they went back out onto the street.
Manly Beach was pretty deserted at this time. Most people were out at Bondi, enjoying the Volleyball competition. This made for a relaxing and fun time in the sun. The couple played in the surf, tanned in the sun, and even did a little snorkeling. Eventually, Tom's wrist alarm went off and Tom said it was time to head back to the wharf.
It was 2:15 when they arrived at the wharf. Tom looked at the sign again and groaned. “What is it, Tom?” asked Barb as she joined him at the board. “No, it can't be,” she said. “I swear this sign said the ferry leaves at 2:30!”
“I thought it did too,” reflected Tom. “That's why I set my wrist alarm for 1:45, so we would have plenty of time to get here.”
“So why does the sign say 1:30?”
“Barbie, darling, I don't know. The sign says the next ferry leaves at 3:00. This will give us enough time to make it back to Circular Quay so you can catch the train and I can meet my brother, Terry. Let's not worry about it, we will be fine.”
Barb smiled at her husband and grabbed his hand. “You're right, sweetie,” she said calmly. “We have plenty of time.” They walked over to the wharf and sat down on a bench to wait for the next ferry.
The ferry arrived on time and soon they were boating towards Sydney Harbor. The couple stood on the rail, the cool wind wiping through their hair. Once in the Harbor, the ferry traveled straight to Circular Quay and the passengers disembarked and headed towards the train terminal. Tom was going to travel with Barb on their first train, but they were to separate at the station where they had to switch trains. Tom was going to head deeper into Sydney to meet Terry, while Barb was taking a train out to the suburbs where she was to call Terry's wife Shelly, who would then pick her up at the station.
In no time at all the train pulled into the Circular Quay station and the two got on. The train was crowded with commuters headed home. They managed to get a seat together and they spent the ride talking about the fun day they were experiencing. “Are you sure you don't want to come with Terry and me on the ferry boat trip through Sydney?” Tom asked Barb.
She shook her head. “No. You wanted to do something special for him since he was kind enough to let us stay with him. Remember? Besides, Shelly and I have plans for the night too.”
The stop came soon and the couple got off and headed towards different platforms. Tom gave Barb the proper change for the payphone and asked her if she had the phone number. Barb nodded. “Remember,” he said, “the phone is on the outside of the station. If you leave the platform area you will need another train ticket to get back in. Do you have enough money if that happens?” Barb nodded again. Tom gave her a long kiss on her lips and then headed to his platform. The train was just pulling in so he had to run to catch it before it left.
Barb stood quietly looking out onto the train tracks. The schedule said the train she was supposed to catch would be there in 5 minutes. Barb glanced around at the other passengers standing on the platform, waiting to get back to their homes. Most of them were in business attire, some holding briefcases. She then looked at the clock mounted above the railway station door and noted that she still had 3 more minutes to wait. Her stomach growled and Barb looked longingly at the shop outside of the station where she could see candy for sale. A quick inspection of her wallet revealed that Barb did not have enough money in it to purchase another ticket. Disappointed, Barb was forced to ignore the rumble in her stomach and watch for the train.
15 minutes later Barb realized the train was late. Things like this happen from time to time, especially when an event such as the Olympics throws a wrench into an already busy schedule. Barb glanced around at the other passengers and noted they were getting restless. She walked over to a young woman about her age.
“Hello,” she said cautiously.
“Hello,” said the other woman. “You're an American, aren't you? Are you here on Holiday?”
Barb smiled. “Yes, my husband and I are here to watch the Olympics.”
The woman nodded. “They have been pretty exciting so far, haven't they? Are you enjoying Australia?” she asked.
“Yes, very much,” Barb said enthusiastically. “We have just been to Manly Beach.”
The woman smiled. “I prefer Manly to Bondi any day,” she offered. Barb told the woman how she and Tom had missed the ferry and how she was supposed to be on an earlier train.
“If you wouldn't mind answering, are the trains usually late here?” Barb asked.
The woman shook her head. “No, not this late. I imagine it has something to do with the extra usage that is going on due to the Olympics.”
“At what point should I be concerned?” asked Barb.
“I would say after 45 minutes we should be worried,” the woman offered. Barb sighed deeply.
Barb reached out her hand. “My name is Barb,” she offered. The woman took her hand and shook it. “Emma,” she replied.
“I am pleased to meet you, Emma.” They stood in silence for a few minutes. “Emma, are you headed home now?” asked Barb.
Emma nodded. “Yes, and it has been a long day today. To tell you the truth, I am really not in the mood for a delay this evening.”
“What do you do, if you don't mind me asking,” prodded Barb.
Emma sighed. “I am doing my residency at Concord Hospital,” Emma said.
Barb nodded. They both stood in silence, occasionally looking at the clock on the railway station wall.
An hour and a half later, still no train. Barb fidgeted anxiously. What was delaying their train? Emma looked around, also uneasy. “This is not normal,” she said, her voice tense. She spied a railway employee on another platform. “Wait here, Barb,” she directed. “I see someone over there who might know what is going on.”
“OK,” Barb said quietly. Emma hurried over to the other platform. Soon she returned, a concerned look on her face. “What did you find out?” Barb asked.
“The last train on this line was derailed a few stops from here. They are trying to figure out how to get our regular train through while they are doing cleanup. It's a mess so they have halted service for a while. I understand there were some injuries, some critical” Barb's face turned pale. “What's wrong?” Emma asked.
“I was supposed to be on that train,” Barb whispered. “Emma, if we hadn't missed the ferry from Manly, I could have been one of those people who was hurt.” Barb's knees buckled under her and she sat down hard on the ground. Emma squatted next to her. “It's OK. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly,” she said as she took Barb's pulse. Barb looked at Emma, her eyes wide. Emma let go of Barb's wrist but held her hand.
“Barb, do you believe in Angels?” she asked. Barb nodded, her eyes still a little dazed. Emma went on, “Barb, I think you missed that ferry for a reason. I think your Angel altered your perception of the time on the sign so that you would miss your ferry and then the train.”
“But Tom saw it too! As a matter of fact, he saw the time before I did.” Barb said numbly.
“I think that was part of the plan. If you both saw different times, then you would have taken the first time just to be sure. You had to see the same time for this to work. Barb, you have a Guardian Angel.”
Barb shook a little as this realization hit her. Were Guardian Angels real? Maybe it was better not to think about it. She turned to Emma. “Did you find out how long they think it will be before the next train gets here?”
Emma smiled. “Yes, in about 10 minutes.” As she spoke, they could hear the train chugging down the tracks and an excited whoop erupted from the passengers waiting anxiously. Emma put out her hand and helped Barb to her feet.
Soon they were on the train and headed out of the station. The train followed its course, dropping passengers off at each stop. Barb couldn't tell where the accident had happened since she wasn't familiar with the regular route. Emma left her after 4 stops and wished her a safe journey. Barb thanked her for her assistance and wished Emma an improved day.
Barb arrived at Camden Park station and exited the train. She made her way out of the railway station and found the nearest phone. Pulling out her sister-in-law's phone number, she put the coins in the phone and dialed the number. Shelly's stressed voice answered the phone.
“Shelly, this is Barb,” she said.
“Thank God!” Shelly's relieved voice replied. “I am so happy to hear your voice!”
“I am sorry about the delay....” Barb said sheepishly.
“Oh no! Don't worry about it B. The accident is all over the news! Where are you? Are you hurt?”
“I'm at Camden. I wasn't on that train, Shelly. We missed the ferry and took another one. We were delayed because they had to clear the tracks.”
“I'll be right there!” Shelly said and she hung up the phone.
Barb walked over to a bench nearby and sat wearily down. She tried to wrap her mind around what had happened. She looked up to the sky and mouthed a silent “Thank you” to her Guardian Angel just as Shelly pulled up in her blue Forrester. Barb climbed in and they headed to Terry and Shelly's home, each of them talking excitedly about the scary events.
When they arrived at the house, Shelly poured them each a glass of Riesling and they sat down to watch the Olympics. Shelly offered to make the pizza they had planned to eat, but Barb said she wasn't hungry anymore. The boys were attending the Finals of the women's pole vaulting event and the two women were hoping to see them in the audience shots. It seemed that the coverage kept getting interrupted by news breaks regarding the train derailment. After the 5th time, Barb asked Shelly to turn off the television. “This is getting on my nerves,” she said. “I don't really want to think about what could have happened anymore. Why don't we make that pizza and eat it in the kitchen?”
“OK,” said Shelly. “More wine?” The women got off of the sofa and went into the kitchen to make the meal. By the time the pizza was done, they had opened a second bottle of wine and were in pretty good spirits. When the men finally came home, the women had finished three bottles and were both giddy.
Tom looked around the room in surprise. “What happened here?” he asked Shelly as his wife flung herself at him and went limp.
“We are unwinding from a rather tense evening,” Shelly explained.
“Why?” asked Terry as he picked up an empty bottle.
“Didn't you hear? The train Barb was supposed to be on was derailed. The whole process of cleaning off the tracks delayed the next train by over two hours and those people waiting for it were given no information about what was going on. Once she finally got here, the news kept interrupting the Olympic Coverage so we finally turned it off so we could forget about everything.” She pointed to the bottles. “I think it worked for her...”
Tom held Barb in his arms and pulled her close. Tears welled up in his eyes at the thought that she could have been hurt.
“Barb says she's got a Guardian Angel protecting her,” Shelly explained.
Tom nodded. “I'm inclined to agree with that,” he said as he held her. They decided it was late and Barb should go to bed. Tom brought her to their room and helped her get ready. As he pulled the covers up on her, she smiled and said “I love you, Tom.” He bent over and kissed her forehead. “I love you too.”