Monday, 26 June 2023

'A love story in three parts' by Jinny Alexander


That Day

The 2.05 from Euston to Carlisle will change at Crewe. This, Benedict knows. 

Benedict doesn’t know that between trains he’ll meet Imogen on the stairs, struggling with her battered leather suitcase.

He doesn’t know he’ll carry it for her, over the footbridge to Platform 4, or that he will notice her hair is neat and shiny as the conductor’s brass bell, or that her perfume will mingle with steam and coal dust to linger in his clothes.

Benedict doesn’t know he will lift her suitcase into the luggage compartment before slipping away to his pre-allocated seat on another train, where he will gaze out of the dusty window and look straight into her eyes.

He doesn’t know she will squash her freckled nose against the glass of her own dusty window, or that as their trains pull away in opposite directions, his heart will leave with hers.


Seven Days

Benedict spreads marmalade on Sunday morning and the toast is the colour of her freckles. He shakes open the paper but sees only her face on every page. 

On his way home from work on Monday, he notices her in every fawn-coloured coat on the platform.

When he sniffs the sleeve of his jacket on Tuesday, the scent of her perfume is fading.

On Wednesday, his tea goes cold as he studies the weekend timetable.

On Thursday, he books a ticket.

On Friday, he agonizes over which hat to wear; which coat.

When Saturday comes around – seven days since they met on the footbridge – he boards the 2.05 Euston to Carlisle, and alights at Crewe, where he will wait and hope that she will be there.


A broken teacup

Perhaps, today, she will come.

He’s about to leave as the telephone jangles in the hall.

Great Aunt Agnes suggests High Tea in a pretty bistro on the edge of Oxford, that very afternoon. Benedict, truly fond of Agnes, acquiesces, albeit with a pang of regret for a chance lost.

The 2.05 from Euston continues northwards without him.

Kisses bestowed on Aunt Agnes’s papery cheeks, Benedict sips tea, seated opposite.

Directly behind Agnes, afternoon sun bounces off coppery tresses Benedict last saw three weeks ago. A dainty china cup waits, forgotten, halfway between its chintzy saucer and his open mouth.

As Agnes turns to look, her napkin flutters to the feet of the copper-haired girl, who dips, retrieves, swivels, and proffers the errant linen towards Agnes’s waiting manicure.

Glancing upwards, Imogen notices Benedict, her open mouth mirroring his.

His teacup falls, as more than the napkin passes between the tables.

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