A short story about a woman meeting her lover after a long separation.
As she walked she thought about him. She felt the cold air on her face, its frozen fingers through her hair. Her scarf fluttered behind her, like washing on a line, catching against a tree’s low hanging branches. A single frail leaf remained; its rough edges caught against the wool fibres. A group of school boys, all in their blue uniforms, sat on a wall at the edge of the park, laughing and smoking cigarettes stolen from parents. One wolf-whistled as she passed by, and the others joined in with assorted jeers, each growing more confident from the others’ shouts. She ignored them, laughing inside at their juvenility. She listened to the sound of her footfalls as she walked. Her heeled boots tapping rhythmically against the cold, unforgiving pavement as she slowly got nearer to her destination. Slowly, slowly she came to the train station; that majestic building not only where trains arrive and depart, but where people meet long-lost relatives and their fate. Where love is kindled and love is lost. Where friends laugh, where excitement buzzes through the air like electricity, where deals and farewells are made. Brief encounters, fleeting meetings, brush against a stranger, catch someone’s eye, think you see someone you know. It bustles, everyone has somewhere to be, someone to see, something to do. She enters the station, becomes one with the crowd. She is pushed along by the tide of people to where she wants to be; underneath the large clock, with beautiful hands and simple roman numerals. She leaves the rushing crowd, so much like a train itself, and stands beneath the clock to wait. She thinks of him who she is to meet here today, and smiles. She is early by a few minutes, and she passes the time away with thoughts of him. She can see him in her mind, as clearly as if he were standing in front of her, as if it hadn’t been nearly a year since she’d seen him. She could see his dark wavy hair, his smiling eyes, very much the windows to his soul. She saw the curve of his lips, full and enticing. She could feel his kisses on her lips, his arms encircling her, his breath in her hair. She roused herself from her reverie and looked up at the clock. The hands had moved a few inches or so. She looked away from the all-seeing face of the clock, moving her gaze to the crowd. She watched the people there. There was a man standing not too far from her. His face was lined, with worry and frustration. He removed his flat cap from his head, revealing a head of thinning hair. She watched as he scanned the crowd, looking for someone as if he believed by looking hard enough, this someone would suddenly appear, as if by magic, in front of him, smiling, arms open for him. The station had begun to get less busy as passengers boarded and others left. It seemed much quieter now. The lack of people made the building seem as though it had given up trying to impress and it seemed slightly dull. The man still stood there, a few feet from where she was. She heard it before he did; the quiet hushing of a train in the distance, above the noise of the city’s streets outside and the chatter of the remaining people. As the train got closer to the station, the noise got louder, filling the main hall with echoes. There was a sudden rush of noise as the engines died and the doors of the train were thrown open by people wanting to get home. Women called to their husbands and lovers, mothers to sons, daughters to fathers, sisters to brothers. The men found their families and left, laughing and catching up on days, months, gone by. It was a sea of uniformed men, each of them another link in on the armour of their country. She watched reunions and craned her neck to search for him, and as people met and left together, she began to worry, to panic, wonder where he was. The man who had been standing near her suddenly beamed with a mixture of pride and pure happiness, for he’d spotted his son in the crowd. The lines were gone from his face as he held his son close to him, as though he was a little boy again. He was just a little boy in the father’s mind, his little boy who brought home crude pictures for him and begged for bedtime stories. Son laughed as Father ruffled his hair, and they went away, went home talking at great speed. She smiled at seeing her brief companion meet the one he’d been waiting for and see his happiness. She followed Father and Son with her eyes until they were lost in the sea of people. A voice called her name. She turned, and searched, and heard it again. And there he was, beside her. His hair slightly longer, his smiling eyes held a glimmer of sadness, but all in all he was barely changed. She tried to take him all in at once, gulping in details like a drowning man would for air. Then his arms were around her and she could feel him, feel his solidity, his realness and she smiled, never to stop.
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