I’ve wanted to share this opening scene since the words first rolled off my fingertips, but I wasn’t allowed, I was allowed, I wasn’t…and finally, I thought, I’m just going to go for it.
This book is painfully close to my heart. I’m finding it incredibly difficult to write. Not because I’m struggling with what to say, more, what I’m saying is so close to the bone for me. But I hope all the emotion, pain, heartache and anger will shine through the pages. Anyway, I’m rambling now so I’ll leave it there and well, here, see what you think.
UNEDITED AND SUBJECT TO MINOR CHANGES
Fourteen Years Ago
‘Miss, Miss. You can’t sit there.’
I look up at the man rushing towards me, shouting. He’s wearing a yellow, high visibility vest and an old-school walkie talky hangs off his belt and crashes against his hip as he hurries. He must work here, at the train station, I think. Maybe he’s a conductor or something.
I look back down at the loose rubble between the train tracks and continue to swing my legs from side to side over the edge of the platform.
‘Are you bloody crazy,’ he says, reaching me and tapping me on the shoulder. ‘Get up, will you?’
I tilt my head to one side and take in his face. He’s in his mid-fifties, I guess. His thin-on-top grey hair and the tired lines around his eyes emphasise his worried expression. He needn’t be concerned. I’m not going to jump under a train on his watch. I’ve thought about it, I won’t lie. More so in the last few days than I ever have before. But I don’t have the balls for it. Thinking about it is all I ever do. Besides, I don’t need to jump. I’m already dead inside. The guilt has eaten me alive.
‘Please, Miss. There’s a train due in less than five minutes. You’ll lose your legs. And that’s if you get lucky and the train doesn’t pull you under completely. Will you, for the love of God, stand up?’
I press the palm of my hands on the ground by my sides and slide my arse back along the cold concert beneath me. The backs of my calves scrap against the edge of the platform as my body drags my legs to stretch out flat in front of me. I keep shuffling backwards until I’m behind the yellow line. The train won’t touch me now.
Other commuters have started to stare. That’s just normal, I know. They’re curious. I would be too in their shoes.
The middle aged man stays beside me. I really wish he’d leave, but I know he won’t. It’s obvious he still doesn’t trust that I won’t dive in front of the train as soon as it arrives. He’s giving me far too much credit.
‘I won’t jump,’ I finally say.
He reaches his hand out to me and I surprise myself as I take it. He pulls and my legs automatically scramble to stand up.
‘There we go,’ he smiles. ‘That’s much better. Where are you headed?’
‘Eh…Greystones,’ I say, spluttering the first town that comes into my head.
‘Ah, okay. You need to be on the other side of the tracks, then. This side heads back into the city.’
I force a redundant smile.
‘Are you in a hurry?’ he asks.
I shrug. ‘Nah, not really.’
I’m not going to Greystones. I don’t know where I’m going. Or even if I’m going anywhere. But I do know where I’m not going. Home.
‘It’s just…I’m on my break in a few minutes, and it gets fierce bloody lonely in that little shack.’ He points towards a small, porta cabin with STAFF painted in handwritten letters on the door. ‘I’ve decent tea in my flask, if you fancy a sup. I’d be glad of the company.’
I want to tell him that he’s wasting his time on me; that he won’t talk my troubles away. I’ve done something terrible. No amount of talking can help. But, hell, maybe this is his good deed of the day. Maybe his days are as empty as mine and he really would enjoy some company. Who am I to deny him that?
‘Okay,’ I nod.
‘I’m Danny,’ he says, extending his hand as his smile reflects the friendliness in his voice.
‘Emma,’ I reply, shaking his hand.
‘Pleased to meet you, Emma. I’ve a feeling we are going to be good friends.’
This stranger is even crazier than I am, I decide, looking him up and down.
‘C’mon, love. That tea won’t drink itself. And your train will be here soon.’
The text message comes from a number I don’t recognise. A friend or relative of Danny’s, perhaps. Maybe someone has taken it upon themselves to text everyone in his contacts. I’m glad, otherwise I may never have known.
Just to let you know Danny passed away yesterday.
Funeral service @ St. Michael’s on Friday 5th.
Call for directions if needed.
No flowers please, donations if desired to hope.com
I half-fill the kettle and flick it on. I’m not sure I even want coffee now, but my hands feel like they need to do something. I haven’t seen Danny in weeks. I haven’t been getting the train as often as I used to. I’m trying to drive to work more. My driving test is looming and I need the practice, despite morning traffic being a bitch and almost constantly landing me late for work. I concentrate and try to remember the last time Danny and I spoke. It must have been at least three months ago. Certainly before my wedding. He didn’t look sick then. Why the hell didn’t he tell me?