She told me to wait here.
Here, by the train station, where people in grey coats bustle out of the revolving doors. People with dark looks, with leather briefcases. It’s as if they’re all extras plucked from some London Documentary. Except, we’re in Shrewsbury, and this train station is a few metres away from a castle, the castle around which we took a guided tour.
Me and you. My sister.
And Dad, of course. Dad, who is off buying you some clothes. Bright pinks skirts with frills. His favourite as well as yours. You two like to play dress up, like to scamper about the house. Sometimes, you convince me to join you.
You told me to slip away while we were in the bookshop. You told me that Dad wouldn’t notice my absence. She knew how much I hated clothes shopping, so I retreated to the benches outside the station, watching people scuttling across the pavement, checking their watches every minute or so.
A yellow sky, almost buttery, above me. People jostling each other to be the first through the doors. A small crowd of youths, teenagers, which is what I’ll be in three years’ time, gather outside the entrance, waiting for a cab. I watch, fascinated as they preen like Peacocks, flicking their hair, shimmying their hips, bouncing on the spot. Another girl reaches into her handbag – a large black one like Mum used to have before she walked out on us when we were six – pulling out a wand of lipstick. Blood red, like my knee when I threw myself from the swing in the park. I didn’t cry, even when my skin split.
My sister called me a freak. But she cries at Bambi, at a paper cut.
Maybe she’s the freak.
The girls laugh at something. Not at me. In fact, they barely notice I’m there, even when they waltz past towards a black cab on the street corner. One of them knocks my plastic bag full of books onto the pavement. I call out a name – one of the rude words my sister taught me – but they don’t seem to hear.
Carefully, I hop off the bench – my feet don’t reach the pavement when I’m sitting on it – and pick up the bag. Check that the books are alright. My friends.
Even they don’t seem to speak to me today.
Shivering, I draw my jacket tighter around myself. It’s a paisley jacket, on of my sisters unwanted birthday presents. She gave it to me because she said it made her look too much like a boy. Dad agreed. On top of my yellow blouse, which is dotted with Toucans – my favourite birds – it’s a little off-putting. Makes me sink into the brick walls of the train station.
Perhaps that’s why no one can see me.
Slowly, leaving my bag on the bench, I stand up. Shuffle to the entrance of the train station, where people dressed in black suits, grey suits, blue suits, red skirts, high-heels, rush from WH Smith to Upper Crust, though they never seem to emerge with anything. None of them look like you, sister. Instead, they all power-walk sternly from one granite slab to the next, running to platforms, barely looking away from their first-class carriages. The wall-clock above them might as well be invisible.
Someone brushes my shoulders. I whip around with a smile. It could be Dad, or my sister. Even though I know it isn’t. Instead, the sensation vanishes, replaced by cold air. I turn around to find a woman in her thirties, trying to shove herself through the doors, struggling to haul ten bags of clothes. I ask if she wants any help; she doesn’t seem to hear me.
Slowly, I move back towards the bench. I have no phone and I’ve never liked the sensation of a metal or leather watch on my wrist. My sister has both. A small black flip phone, like a secret Agent and a golden watch.
The skies shift to an unsettling grey. Luckily, I’m seated under a canopy. If the rain comes, it can’t touch me.
Gradually, yet at lightning speed, people flock to the train, dragging suitcases of every shade. One woman drags a plum suitcase behind a plump child. A young man who is nearly run-down by a cab slithers in through the doors, oblivious to my advice that wearing headphones in a train station maybe not be the smartest thing he’s ever done.
After all, accidents happen.
When I slip back into the station to check the wall clock, I realise I haven’t seen my Dad or my sister for over four hours. While I know Dad enjoys doting on her, I can’t remember the last time I was apart from them for this long.
As more faceless passengers push past my vision, running towards the doors, I head out into the street. Grab my bag and begin to shove through the featureless masses.
My sister will likely be at the Darwin Centre, the big department store on the main street. That’s where her favourite clothing lines are. She likes Debenhams because of the range, Gucci because of the tailoring. She loves clothes from Primark because she knows exactly how underpaid the people who made them are. She wears faux firs, large black coats, leather skirts. Dad lets her do whatever she wants, including telling me to wait alone at the train station.
Carefully, I pick my way out into the street.
The cobbles are boulders beneath me, threatening to send me sprawling.
When I do fall, one or twice, no one seems to notice.
And I see them. Emerging onto the street, from the tall, pillared building with a marble statue of Charles Darwin at the head. I call out to them, to my sister, to Dad. Neither of them seem to hear me.
And I’m drowning in bodies. Shoppers, buskers with their monster guitars, the necks curling around my ankles.
I’m left grappling on the cobbles, dirt smearing my palms.
Perhaps waiting in the train station had been the right idea.
My lips curl into a smile. Or. I have another idea. After all, I am much smarter than my sister.
And my Father.
Step by step, ignoring the elbows which jostle me, the shoulders barging into mine, threating to knock me to the ground, I walk somehow undisturbed to the train station.
No one notices the little girl, barely the size of an umbrella stand, wander to the nearest carriage. First class. Only the best for me.
For the queen, Cleopatra Burgess.
No one notices as I slip onto the train.
And when the ticket officer comes around, I don’t even bother to hide. He just assumes I’m someone’s daughter, heading to London on a day trip.
I smile as I sink into obscurity.
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I really love the way you interpreted the prompt. The way you described the setting of the train station and every single event that was happening almost made me feel like I was there with the character too! You added such lovely descriptions and details which made the story much more interesting and fun to read. Really included the " show, not tell " strategy for this entire short story! :D Another point which I really wanted to emphasize was the way you added the breaks and separations between paragraphs within the story. That made eac...
Wow!!!! This story is amazing. The talking about the sister is really funny. Keel writing. Would you mind reading my new one? Thanks.
well done. Superb fiction.
I really love the way she just seamlessly moved through the crowds and onto the train she wanted to be on. Pretty as you please, not a care in the world. It takes me back to a place in memory. Lovely, It really was an enjoyable read.
Hey Eve. Good story. You have some solid bones there and do a good job conveying the unnoticed girl in the crowded station. I would offer two suggestions: be careful transitioning from talking to the reader to talking to the sister. It can be an effective tool, but can also be confusing. And I would suggest looking for other ways to say that other characters couldn't see or hear our heroine. I counted the phrase "seems to" all six times she couldn't be seen or heard. Other than that, it's well done. Can't wait to read m...
Hey, Eve would you be kind to watch the first video it's on Harry potter. https://youtu.be/KxfnREWgN14 Sorry for asking your time, I would ready your story
This was a captivating read. I love your descriptions. Hope the little girl ends up alright in the end. Beautiful writing style!
Even though I've never been to London, I oddly related to Cleopatra (I'm pretty sure that's the narrator's name, right? Not the real queen of London). Great story. I love the way she talks about her "freak" sister - it made me laugh since my own sister is very much the same. Keep writing! ~Adrienne P.S. Would you mind checking out my stories? Thanks!