She couldn’t quite believe her eyes. He matched the description - blue jeans, yellow and red tartan shirt, weather-beaten brown Timberland boots and a chequered blue cap. It had to be him. The only other person in the waiting room was a young mother, looking weary and vexed by her over-enthusiastic and boisterous twin boys causing havoc with their toy cars and planes. The scene evokes a feeling of nostalgia for her. She would play with her cousin as a young child, and would often be forced to play his choice of amusement rather than hers. He refused to play with dolls and host pretend picnics, yet she was relatively happy to play with his cars (so long as he recognised she was in charge here, not him). She smiles and checks her watch - she was there at the right time yes? On the right platform? She ticks off one by one, the mental check-list to reassure herself that she hasn’t missed him elsewhere.
This didn’t make sense. The man she was currently sitting opposite had a warm smile. His chiselled cheek bones drew her in with a rugged sense of adventure. She felt just by looking at him, that this wasn't the monster her recently acquired friend had described. She realised, that through her musings he had turned his attention to her. His expression changed. Then he walked over to her and manoeuvred himself beside her on the bench. This can’t be good.
“ I don’t mean to be rude” he whispers, at an uncomfortably close proximity to her face, “but you have something stuck in your teeth, here.” He indicates with his hand. She turns and promptly sweeps her teeth with the end of her jumper. The friction of the wool on her teeth makes her squirm, and it occurs to her she has always fallen for these foolish antics. She was always the dumb kid at school who did whatever the bully commanded, just to be acknowledged. “Eat this spider, and I’ll give you ten pounds,” the leader spits, the group cheering around her with intermittent gasps and looks of horror as she does exactly that. In one gulp. That showed them! But whilst enjoying the fleeting excitement of feeling that so-longed-for acceptance and belonging, she’s pushed to the ground and all and sundry erupt into laughter. Why am I always so gullible?
Momentarily, this feels the same. And yet, to her wonderment, there was indeed something stuck in her teeth. Damn you, tasty and succulent tandoori chicken bites!
He was still there. His smile had broken into a animated and hearty laugh. He seemed almost embarrassed to have not only brought this to her attention, but to have allowed his masculine and valiant facade to be slightly undermined by his juvenile reaction. Now able to be examined more closely, she observes that his smile appears not only warm, but kindly, tender, inviting. For a moment she’s transfixed on his eyes. The deepest brown eyes she’s ever drowned in. They are suggestively drawing her in.
He places his hand on the edge of her knee. “This is my train, coming now. I don’t usually do this,” he hesitates, “in fact I’ve never done this...but here’s my business card. Call me?”
He withdraws before she can even respond. She watches him briskly walk onto the platform and manages to restrain her impetuous temptation to run after him and fall into his arms as they embrace, like some romantic, mushy novel. Get a grip, Bella.
Oh damn! I forgot to pass him the message!
By now he’s out of sight. Other passengers are bustling past him and she struggles to identify him in the crowd as they all weave into various seats and get comfortable for the journey. The piercing whistle echoes throughout the platform and the train begins steaming into motion.
Now what is she going to do? Her friend had given her very precise instructions. It wasn’t much to ask: Just tell him. Then leave. They were to then meet in half an hour at the local college cafe. But she hadn’t completed her mission. She sighs in defeat.
She glances down at the business card. It conveys a wooden hut workshop within a tranquil and picturesque scene of countryside. “Carl’s rustic workshop” she reads, “unique, made to measure and FSC approved”. Her friend had never mentioned he was a carpenter?
Her friend will be waiting for her, What is she going to say? “Sorry sweetie, you recall that incredibly difficult decision you made and begged me, in amongst your tears and weeping, to pass the message to him that you’re breaking off the engagement? (A lousy way to do it, and something that she wouldnt have usually agreed to, but he sounded like he was deserving of nothing less than a heartless announcement from a stranger , and so had effortlessly agreed, on the promise of cinema tickets for this weekend). Well, I’ve fallen head over heels for him... we’re running away together. I’m sorry.” She imagined the scene in her mind. To her surprise it didn’t feel too dreadful. She’d only known Lauren a few months after all. She could change her number. She could finish her final essay and send it in remotely.
Are you mad? What are you thinking?! You don’t even know the guy!
Somehow, despite the voice of reason telling her that listening to her irrational heart would only lead to tragedy , her mind was made up. Yes it’s crazy, but sometimes you have to be spontaneous. Sometimes you have to just go with that heart, no matter how treacherously misguided it is. Maybe the best decisions in life start right here - in going with what you feel, rather than what you think you know.
She‘s by now, trembling with excitement. It’s that moment in her relatively short life, that offers the ultimate cross-roads. This is it, she’s doing this.
She taps the number into her phone, whilst exiting the room, dodging a group entering, a plethora of highly strung teenage girls, accompanied by shopping bags galore and excited conversation in excess. As she swerves her way out onto the platform, she doesn’t notice a man entering the room, wearing a tartan shirt, blue jeans, brown boots and a cruel, deceitful smile.