“Sorry, is this seat free?”
Clara’s hands were shaking again, so they were subtly enveloped between her thighs and the harsh fabric of the train seat and one problem was solved, as the stranger now seated beside her nodded absentmindedly. As the train creaked away from the platform, her hair fell into her face, but the pattern of her jeans was definitively impressed upon the backs of her hands, and she had no desire to move them just yet. Limited in her movement, she settled with her only option of entertainment for the short journey; reading the stranger’s book strategically over his shoulder. Two pages in and the train again creaked to a stop while Clara stood up, gently peeling her numb hands away from her trousers as she went.
Her feet fell quietly into step with the man with the book, and she watched his bag as it bobbed in front of her, concentrating hard on the colour so as to avoid catching the eye of one of the crowd around them. The gates seemed to approach Clara rather than the other way around, and she wished she could stand to the side for a moment, if only to catch her breath, but the bright orange bag bobbed along in front of her, carried along by perfectly shiny shoes, and she forced herself to follow it.
Fishing the ticket out of her front pocket was, as anticipated, not a challenge; it had been placed there at the very beginning of the train journey in order to make access to it as easy as possible. Clara knew that anything could go wrong, and if it could it probably would. Because she was certain whatever bad-humoured demon was in charge out there found her trials amusing, she was not surprised to watch the ticket that had been so nicely nestled in her hand, fly spinning across the floor.
She apologised quieter than she would have liked, she thought when thinking inevitably back, and leant down to reach for it whilst a shiny shoe slipped out of nowhere and landed gently on it. She smiled politely as she removed her ticket from the hand that had joined the foot and continued her work of avoiding eye contact with the people around her, all of which would now surely be watching her as she attempted to stand up straight again, but even the bones in her back seemed to be cowering from shame.
“Now for my best attempt at invisibility” She repeated to herself as she stalked through the crowd, her teeth grinding and her tongue now seemingly permanently stuck to the roof of her mouth. Just to get to the door where she can be out on the street where she hasn’t embarrassed herself in front of anyone yet. A mini fresh start, just like all the others she had endured today, and it was still morning according to the golden clock watching her from the end of the street. “Now for my best attempt at invisibility”.
As Clara fought on along the pathway, that same shiny shoe clapped its way along a little behind her, breaking its pattern just once to block the path of an impending plastic bag that was shaking its way past him. The bag remained there, gripping to the pavement, as Clara continued on her trek unhindered. The light turned red and Clara’s feet, which had been impatiently shuffling at the crossing for too long for their liking, sprung into life. But the shiny shoe in the corner of her eye stayed firmly put and the hesitation gave the cyclist time to spin past, as Clara’s toe touched the edge of the road.
Clouds covered the sunshine, leaving grey in its wake which passed along the road in waves over Clara’s head. The dull light dampened Clara’s mood somewhat further and she resorted to her usual remedy for a scary day - an impromptu trip to the shop. Challenge enough, but could be made worth it with the addition of ready chopped fruit.
A minute later and she was perusing the shelves of a corner store with meshed windows and a blue sign over the door that was missing a corner. The shoulder of her bag was suddenly just too tight for her to get it off effectively, and the zip was of course on the wrong side. Which side was she meant to queue on? And why had she not thought about that before she got to that stage? But before she could get there, a shiny shoe stepped out in front of her and aligned itself sideways with the counter. Clara stood behind it.
Her bruised hands were sweating in preparation for the transaction and she wondered whether she could possibly remember how to calculate. Could she carry everything in one hand or would she need to use up time stood in front of the workers, hoping against hope that she could fit the food in her bag first time around. Would she have to inevitably fumble with the zip that would break just in time and would she misunderstand what the worker was saying to her. The shiny shoes were making their way away from the counter mercifully slowly and Clara stepped forward.
Clara pondered over how other people seemingly had more hands than her, as she shrunk out of the way of the next customer, hanging her bag over her elbow and bending her thumb in ways it was not built to bend as she attempted to maintain control over the change in her hand. The door was getting closer - was it automatic, she could not remember - and her hands were still both busy. Did she have time to pour the change into her pocket or would she end up facing the door with no hands available. Would it be a better plan to push the door with her hand that was full of change and hope it did not need to be pulled. Or should she use the arm that was balancing her bag and live through it inevitably falling to her wrist, so that she had to dangle it through the door awkwardly.
Clara did none of those, as a shiny shoe paused in her path, resting against the bottom of the door, leaving an open archway into the outside. Clara smiled.
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