Girl who makes the biggest mistake of her life.
“Come on, we’re almost there.” She grabbed her suitcase from the rail above her head and heaved it off, letting it fall to the floor with a muffled thump. They were travelling to Dumfries; her new home, and he, not bearing to see her go alone, had been kind enough to come with her, he would see her off the train and stay on it while it took him back to Cornwall. They had spent almost the entire train journey conversing about any random thing, not really talking, just passing the time until the inevitable, while avoiding the delicate subject itself. The silence that had been upheld since Newcastle was broken when she announced their near arrival to the station.
He picked up her suitcase and laid it gently on the seat next to him. The look on his face was almost painful, it hurt her to see him so dejected and remorseful and his eyes were dull and guarded the door to his soul. She was not used to this; he was a happy, positive person full of mischief and never seen without a smile lighting up his smoothly carved features. He was breathtakingly handsome and she was so lucky to have him as a friend. Even when they were young he was attractive, meaning there were many other kids vying for his attention and companionship, but he had eyes and time only for her, strange seeing as he was at least a year older. After a while the other students learnt not to try and steal him away from her because it never worked. He commented so on a number of occasions.
A few years later and they were still as inseparable as they were then; you rarely saw one without finding the other in tow...until now. Her mother had told her that she didn’t want to look after her anymore and that she was to live, from now on, with her aunt in Scotland, far away from her truest friend. There she was to stay until she was old enough to leave home for good at 18, she had just over a year to wait and from what she knew of her aunt, no connection to her old life would be allowed, even if it was him. Apparently it was better for her that way.
She noted that he had brought a small bag with him, what he used it for was a mystery to her for he had not opened nor mentioned its use for the entire time they were on the train. This unsettled her as she thought she knew everything about him, from each movement he made to whatever his eyes revealed him to be thinking; everything. He was sitting opposite her and was staring at her with those dazzling green eyes containing a look she hadn’t seen before and didn’t recognise, this made her all the more puzzled and decided she needed time to unravel his secret in private. She stood and headed in the vague direction of the door; keeping her gaze fixed to the floor and muttered something that sounded vaguely like an excuse to go to the loo. She hadn’t noticed him matching her movement and was surprised to find him blocking her only way out of the train compartment. She was forced to raise her head and meet his gaze. The unfamiliar look had grown in intensity and she began to feel disconcerted.
“Can I get by, please?” She asked, turning her head away from his burning look and pressed her hand to his chest in an attempt to push him out of the way, yet he remained where he was. Through his warm chest she could feel the pounding of his heart increase in frequency as it beat harder against her hand and she was close enough so that she could hear his breathing become shallower and faster. It was only when she looked really closely at him that she realised what he was telling her, she almost laughed with the simplicity of it all, yet she was still bemused by the sadness hidden behind the passion. She smiled knowingly at him. This seemed to be sufficient confirmation of her feelings and he quickly lowered his face to hers, as if he was scared she would reject him.
His lips were warm, gentle and oh so soft, putting only the smallest amount of pressure upon hers, giving her the opportunity to pull away and regain her composure if she wanted...but she did not. Her astonishment that their relationship had ended up like this was almost as great as his own. She could feel the relief flood through him when he discovered she welcomed him and her insides melted at his touch as his hands crept around her waist, enfolding her in his arms; stroking her back. He coaxed her mouth open (although there was very little coaxing to be done) and their tongues moved together comfortably as if they had been doing so forever. She moved her hand from his chest to his neck and pulled him closer, while the other entangled itself in his unruly hair. There they stayed for a number of minutes, lost in each other until he slowly but firmly pulled back from her.
“Well,” he said, “now you know.” A sly smile curled the edges of his mouth and she found it impossible to resist. She pushed her face up to his in the hope of kissing him again but they were disturbed by the tannoy announcing the train’s arrival into Dumfries station. Frantic, he made up his mind and asked her outright, “Run away with me.” The answer must have been written on her face as he went on to say, “We can stay on the train until it passes someplace we fancy and make a new life together. Why do you think I brought a bag of my own? It contains all my savings, I’ve been planning this since I found out you had to leave but I’ve only just plucked up the courage to ask. Please? I love you and couldn’t bear to be parted from you!” His expression was one of desperate hope, he didn’t expect her to say yes, not really, but he was trying all the same. “I have a friend in Leicester who owes me a favour, we’ve known each other for ages and contact fairly regularly, he knows how bad life is for me at home and has always offered refuge if it got too much, he wouldn’t mind me bringing a fr...you.”
Her heart was screaming ‘Yes, go with him it’s what you want’, but her head was contradicting, ‘You can’t. What about money? What if it doesn’t work out? What will you do?’
It was tearing her apart.
It all got a bit too much for her and she felt tears running down her cheeks. The train whistled and came to a halt; she had minutes to make her decision. “I can’t,” she protested, “I can’t do it, it’ll never work, it...” she tailed off, unable to find another excuse. The light in his eyes – that had been rekindled so strongly when she kissed him – died, all smidgen of hope withered away into nothingness, leaving a gaping hole in his heart. It would have been easier for her if he had been angry or cold towards her, but there was nothing. Sorrow reflected in his eyes as he drew back from her, hurt and disappointment echoing in the background of his agonising stare. He stepped back from her; the distance between them seemed as large as the Grand Canyon.
“Is that what you really feel? What you really want?”
“No,” she whispered, “I’d give everything I own if it meant I could do as you ask, but it is not the right thing, nor the sensible thing. It won’t solve any problems we may have, it will only create more! That is why I break my own heart,” she stifled a sob, “deny myself of the only thing that could make me happy, and reject the only thing that has any importance to me: you. You must know my words to be true.” She stared at him with openly streaming eyes and dared him to defy her logic. His gaze had softened and he came towards her again, but cautiously, with open arms. She collapsed into them and cried freely onto his shoulder while he tucked her head under his chin and stroked her hair. “I’m sorry,” was all she managed to utter.
On the departure platform, she stood surrounded by the few bags of luggage she had and watched as the train began to pull away. She began to run in and out of the scattered passengers, abandoning her belongings in her haste to keep up with the train, she fixed her eye on the one window where she expected him to be. The train sped up and the tears began to fall thick and heavy down her face as the engine stole him away from her and out of her sight, but she kept on jogging alongside it until there was no more platform left. She watched until the train had become nothing more than a dark speck on the horizon before finally giving in to her overwhelming emotions and crumpling onto the hard, concrete floor, sobbing her heart out.
The station taunted her, reminding her of the mistake she had made every time she walked past it to and from school. She cursed herself regularly for being so stupid and cursed the reasoning that made her turn him down. There was an alternative route around the old building but she’d dare not take it in the hope that one day, when she passed by, he would be standing in the station doorway, leaning casually up against the brickwork and smiling his wicked smile; waiting for her. She always had an up-to-date train timetable upon her person, so she could keep an eye out for the trains from Cornwall or Leicester, sometimes even skipping classes or going out late at night just in case there was the slightest chance...
She was an outsider and labelled as an anorak by her fellow classmates for being so interested in the coming and going of the trains. However her obsession had nothing to do with the machines themselves but with a possible passenger. They didn’t tease her for it because of how she never smiled; she was the lonely angel. They didn’t even make fun of the way she reacted when a certain name was mentioned, how her eyes lit up briefly and she sat up straight, spinning around to confront the person who had said it and then sinking back to a more depressing state than before when she realised no one meant him.
Every night, his emerald eyes burned in her dreams, accusing and condemning, blaming her for her own unhappiness. It was all her fault. She ruined everything.
The days turned into weeks, the weeks turned into months until the months added up so a whole year had passed, and still no sign of him. She was finally allowed to leave on her eighteenth birthday, she was waiting at the station for a train but this time it was not for him, it was so she could escape the place that had tormented her for so long with the memory of her foolishness and the upsetting life she’d chosen for herself. She didn’t care where it went as long as it was far away.
Maybe she’d start in Leicester.
She had packed her bags the night before and left as soon as the morning sunlight hit her window, not even waiting to say a proper goodbye. The only evidence of her ever being there was the small note she left on the hall table, thanking her aunt for her hospitality and asking for forgiveness for the way she acted while lodging there. She didn’t give a reason.
When the train pulled up, she was lost in her disheartening thoughts and it took her a few moments to discover that she was required to get on board. When she slumped onto the faded fabric of the hard, ancient seats, she closed her eyes and let her imagination run wild.
Just as she bent down to retrieve the same luggage she had brought with her, a hand grabbed the handle of her satchel at the same time she did and tried to seize it from her. She yelped and attempted to pull it out of the firm grasp, not bothering to look at its owner. She struggled some more and finally managed to yank it free, only then did she look up at the person towering over her.
She froze. It was him.
He had changed a little but it was obviously him, the same grin, the same bright green eyes, the same good looks. She couldn’t believe it, she stared at him, the bag dropped from her hands and thudded to the floor but she didn’t notice; nothing could have torn her gaze away from the face that she recognised immediately yet somehow were different. She straightened up to her full height and noted his mild surprise at how much she had grown since they last met. She reached out a hand tentatively and traced the smooth contours of his face with her fingers, trying to convince herself that this wasn’t another of her fantasies. He closed his eyes and leaned into her hand when it cupped his cheek. He opened his eyes once again when she stopped caressing his skin and he whispered to her;
“It really is me.”
Finally, the ice that had suffocated her heart for so long shattered into tiny little pieces, and she tumbled into his arms once again. He accepted her and held her close. Seeing her again was like the dawning of a new day that lit up the world and feeling her so near let him know just how much he had missed her. Both were crying unashamedly, gripping each other tightly as if they were never going to let go.
When she calmed down she drew back and looked up into the amazingly gorgeous green eyes that belonged to the most amazingly gorgeous man in the world and said,
“Why didn’t you come for me?”
“I wanted to.”
“But why didn’t you?”
“I didn’t think you’d want me to, I thought you’d want me to stay away so you could live your new life without a reminder of the old.”
“I wanted you! I spent ages standing on this platform in the freezing cold looking at all the incoming trains, whatever the weather, whatever the time, in the hope that you might be on one.”
“Why did you do it?”
“Isn’t it obvious? I love you.”
A sad smile showed upon his face, “You know,” he said, “That is the first time you’ve ever said that to me.” Her first impression was that he must be wrong, but then she replayed their final private scene together in her head and discovered it to be true. He had said it to her but not the other way around. Regret was etched in every detail of her features and he immediately felt guilty, he could see that regret had become a common expression and a regular visitor, telling him just how much she had suffered for her decision. That in itself tore his heart apart...again. He was about to apologise for his remark but she beat him to it.
“I’m sorry, but I’m telling you now. I loved you then and I still do.” She turned away so her back was to him yet he only needed to listen to her voice to tell that her smile was creeping back to make itself at home – probably this was the first occurrence in a year – when she said “Well now you know.” He stepped towards her and encircled her in his arms from behind, she leant back into his body and for the first time in months she felt right at home. She tilted her head when he pushed it aside with his to kiss her neck and a warm feeling spread from the pit of her stomach to envelop her whole being, making her heart pound against her ribs and her breathing become rough.
She raised her head and stepped out of her trance to find her eyes wet with tears.
She looked out the window only to see herself reflected back at her. She was astonished by what she saw: a gaunt and pale – almost sickly – person watching her. For the first time in ages, she saw herself as others saw her and hated it. She hadn’t let herself go that much had she? She spent most of the journey studying the imposter that had taken over her body while her mind was focused on the past and made a decision. One last hallucination, one last delusion, one last chance to picture things how they should have been before she kicked herself into shape and let the past go. She would let the old hopes, the old dreams become rusty, forgotten until they withered away to be left where she should have left them...in the past. She knew that she would never be rid of them, only buried as deep as they would go, but she wouldn’t let it bother her anymore. Not after everything she had been through. She closed her eyes to pay her final respects to the ghosts.
She opened her eyes only to look into his expression of desperate hope, he didn’t expect her to say yes, not really, but he was trying all the same. “I have a friend in Leicester who owes me a favour, we’ve known each other for ages and contact fairly regularly, he knows how bad life is for me at home and has always offered refuge if it got too much, he wouldn’t mind me bringing a fr...you.”
She felt as if she had been here once before, but this time, she knew the chain of events, she held all the cards. They were standing in a compartment on a train that was just entering Dumfries, the boy she had been best friends with for years had just revealed to her his feelings and she realised she loved him back. They had just shared their first kiss. She was moving to live with her aunt, but he had offered her a way out; a better life with him.
Her heart was screaming ‘Yes, go with him it’s what you want’, but her head was contradicting, ‘You can’t. What about money? What if it doesn’t work out? What will you do?’ But for some strange and surreal reason she did not feel anxious or hurried, only a sense of cool and control. The train whistled and came to a halt; she had minutes to make her decision. She knew the answer as soon as he had said the four special little words: ‘Run away with me’. She stood on her tip-toes so that her mouth was exactly level with his and leaned her forehead against his, the tips of their noses barely touching. She just stopped herself from getting lost in the seas that were his eyes long enough to whisper,
The first thing she saw when she dragged herself out of this wishful thinking were two bright green orbs observing her with a bemused glint to them.