“How did I meet Emma? It’s a good story actually. Emma do you want to…?”
Taking a moment to go back to that fateful day, Emma started…
As we pulled into the station, I was wondering which train would leave first, for I’d observed on previous journeys that this is where two lines converged, with trains pulling in on opposite sides of the same platform. As the first two stations on the route are the same before the line goes on to split, commuters – you know what they’re like, ever in a rush – make a dash across the platform to get onto the train which leaves a minute or two ahead of the other. I’d not studied the timetables in order to work out which was which, so I was on alert to follow the dashing suits.
Having made the cross platform dash, I pulled out my tatty old paperback I could squeeze in a few more minutes of reading before reaching my stop. But my peace was disturbed when an impeccably be-suited woman caught her high heels in my laces as she tried frantically to exit from the moving train. Fortunately, another passenger (Emma gesticulated at Bill) grabbed the woman’s flailing suit jacket and pulled her to safety. Nevertheless the door swung open with a crash, for she’d had reached the handle with her desperately flailing fingertips.
“Get that door shut!”
Unbelievably, I obeyed instinctively, only later recognising the military tone of the passenger who had his arms wrapped firmly around the crying woman, holding her back. With the door shut, the fight went out of her, and she burst into tears.
“Deal with this! Err… please deal with this.”
Yes, I recognised that this other passenger felt I should be handling the crying woman for no reason other than that I shared her gender. I threw him a look but, seeing he’d positioned himself to block any more ill-considered exit attempts, I accepted my lot, grubbed around in my rucksack for a tissue and waited. Between sobs we heard…
“I left my journal on that train… One minute it was in my hand, but when I got here, it wasn’t… I must’ve put it down on the seat as I went to get out.”
“No need to go leaping out of the train. You can get out at the next station, wait for that train to arrive, get on it again and reclaim your journal!”
I knew was making sense, of course, but I really wished he’d drop that military tone, as it had started the woman off again.
“No, it’s no good… My boyfriend was sitting on the same seat as me and he’ll pick it up.”
Jumping in before military man – as I now thought of him – I suggested “but that’s good surely. He’ll keep it safe for you.”
Much to my horror, the sobbing unexpectedly descended into wailing, and I couldn’t avoid the raised eyebrows and somewhat smug expression appearing on military man’s face. Responding with a shrug and a wry smile, I settled down to waiting till the wailing subsided, which it only did as they pulled in to my station.
It turned out all three were getting off at the same stop – the final one before the line split. Military man opened the door and got out, offering a hand to first the crying lady and then to me. I’ll admit I tried to be annoyed at that, but couldn’t because I could see he was visibly struggling not to laugh. We fell into step alongside one another watching as our charge answered her mobile phone. Hearing raised voices coming from both her and her phone, we’d – as one – tried to step around her and speed past, but she flung herself at us, in flood of tears once more.
Even the gentleman, the military man (Emma made air quotes as she said that) steered their charge to a nearby bench and settled down to hear the sorry saga…
“He’s read it… Well enough of it.”
“He’s seen what I wrote about that guy I spent the night with last night… And that bloke from the weekend… And…”
As one, we stood up and left her to her recitation of indiscretions. As they walked away, I know I was shaking my head and trying to keep from laughing but him, good old military man only laughed out loud once we’d got through the exit. I’ll admit I joined in, and we did laugh in a decidedly uncontrollable manner for a while, getting all kinds of looks from the other passengers as they streamed past us. When we’d finally managed to stop, he introduced himself and asked if I fancied a drink. Turned out I did, and I seem to remember suggesting that pub down by the river.
Bill picked up the story, for they’d remained in that pub until closing time as, despite their many exterior differences, it transpired they agreed on the important stuff.
“So, do you think it’ll make a good addition to my speech?”
“What, how some random’s woman’s journal of indiscretions brought you together – I should say so!”
“You can have it for your speech, but only if you agree to wearing a kilt!”
Bill knew he was beaten. Emma had been trying to persuade him on that front for the past week or two. He suspected he’d been well and truly set up.
© Debra Carey, 2021