As the 8:10am train rolled into the crowded station, she could see the stairs that led up and off the platform on to the concourse. The stairs that she was minutes away from climbing to meet ‘him’ for the first time. She craned her neck in an attempt to see the top of the stairs, but the last 6 or 7 steps were just out of her eye line. She felt sick. With fingers that were stiff from the nervous wringing she had inflicted on them during the 3 hour journey, she fumbled with the strap of her bag as she got to her feet, nearly spilling the contents all over the carpeted middle of the carriage. As the passengers formed a queue of sorts down the aisle between the seats, the train came to a sudden stop with a hiss of compressed air, thrusting each standing passenger into the one in front, like a line of unstable dominoes. Newton should be proud of his work, she thought to herself. It was a thought that would have amused her had she not been so anxious, like a child outside the headteachers’ office, awaiting the fate that follows a playground infraction.
This was it, the moment she had been waiting 6 months for. It had been the longest 6 months of her life, each day and night seeming to stretch into eternity. But, in the same instance, this day had arrived too quickly, stealthily sneaking behind her before crashing into her and propelling her forward, like one of the standing passengers on the braking train she was about to alight. She felt as though she hadn’t had enough time to prepare, to rehearse everything that she would do and say when she finally stood before him, the man that she had only been able to love from a distance, until now. She stepped on to the stone platform, worn smooth by the passage of years of rushing feet, and after taking a long, shaky breath, she started towards the stairs. ‘I’ll wait for you at the top, my darling’, he had written in his final message to her the night before. Now, for better or worse, that time had arrived. She mounted the first step slowly, attempting a composure she was a million miles away from feeling.
She cast her eyes downwards as she took each yellow-edged step, her hand sliding clumsily over the handrail, its red paint chipped and scratched as though it had seen many a battle. She didn’t want to look up too soon, she didn’t want him to see how nervous she was or how scared she felt. As she was approaching the last 6 steps she lifted her eyes to look at the space above the final one, steeling herself for the rush of love and attraction that she knew she would feel as soon as their eyes met. Those feelings, however, didn’t materialise because the space to which she had raised her hopeful gaze was empty. She could see into the concourse properly now, could see he wasn’t at the top, as promised. Pushing past a late looking commuter in a wrinkled business suit, she flew up the remaining steps, her heart sinking further with each one. Looking around wildly, she found that he was not there. He had not come to meet her at the top of the stairs……..