Hailey skulked lukewarm coffee from the luminous pink travel mug her mother had sent last Christmas, and eyed the aisles of the juddering train over the rim. At the crack of dawn, she'd climbed aboard alongside three hungover young men returning home from a bachelor party, a trim, perfumed woman in a waist-defining pencil skirt, and a hobbling old lady who'd required help getting her sturdy little travel-case from the platform to the train.
All of these had vanished elsewhere, except for the former, who had perched herself by the window across the aisle from Hailey. Every so often her beady blue eyes would catch Hailey's, and they would exchange a strange but connected smile of acknowledgement. As though the lovely old woman knew that Hailey didn't mean to stare, but that her raging tendancy towards daydream often caused strangers discomfort.
Shaking herself, Hailey placed her coffee on the table, and tried to return to reading her book. But she found the parade of characters that wormed past her every time the train made a stop more compeling, and she found it hard to care more about the events within the fictitious covers in her hands more than the never-ending web of prose that swarmed all around her.
08:25 now, she noted, throwing a glance at her message-less mobile phone before dumping it back next to the pink travel mug. Not so much as an "Are you alright?" text from Monty; not one phonecall from her aunts at the other end of the country. Nothing. She may as well have been a parcel that had been dumped onto public transport and forgotten about until it reached its destination.
Like a bag of rubbish.
Strangely enough, she mused, I don't feel like rubbish. For someone heading to her estranged parents' funeral - Another quick, apologetic smile with the travel-case lady - I feel quite empowered.
Stop staring at the old lady, Hailey scolded herself, rushing to hide once again behind the travel mug.