The Passenger

Mazzy rushed towards the closing doors and threw herself at the gap, her plastic bag full of clothes barely making it through. She put her hands on her knees and bent over trying to steady her breath. The train began to leave the station and she stood up and leant back against the cold glass of the door. 

She closed her eyes and let the rocking of the train on the tracks soothe her soul, the memory of her temporary exodus to London slowly faded. It was fitting that the disaster ended in the horrific experience of morning rush hour. Everyone had told her that it was a mistake, that seeking the bright lights of London, with nothing but a dream, was the thing of films, and not the fun kind.

The lights and shadows played through her eyelids and she opened them, took a deep breath, and straightened her yellow dress. She slowly walked through the sparsely populated aisle, steadying herself as she walked by gripping the back of the seats. Unlike the self-involved commuters and their uniforms of black, blue, and grey – the few people in the train carriage wore normal clothes.

Mazzy wondered if all the people on the train leaving with her were city rejects – they were the splinters being ejecting them from its flesh. She found a seat behind a woman with ash blonde hair and quietly sat down. The woman held a phone up to her ear and didn’t appear to notice her.

For a while Mazzy just looked out of the window at the layers of the civilization, a combination of houses, office blocks, trees, and flats. It occurred to her that the wildlife, just as the people, were hemmed in, nobody was ever truly free in London.

The train went through a tunnel and instead of the claustrophobic cityscape, she got a good look at the passenger she’d sat behind in the reflection of the glass. It was clear that at some point she had belonged with the commuters, perhaps 30 years before, her 1980s power suit, padded shoulders, bright pink lipstick.

She was whispering into the phone, so Mazzy leaned forward, curiosity getting the better of her, ‘it was that girls fault really, although I do feel sorry for her’ the woman said.

She couldn’t hear the person on the other end of the phone, who was clearly taking their turn in the dialogue. Looking in the reflection of the glass she could see that on the seat next to her was a handbag, Luis Vitton, but wearing around the edge. At some point this woman had obviously had money. ‘I know, Rupert. These things happen over there’ the woman said with a whispered resignation.

The woman reached into her handbag, drew out a handkerchief and brought it to her face, ‘I don’t know where the passport is’ she said. The person on the other end was obviously practiced at soothing her, as she nodded in silence.

The train pulled into the station and the woman looked up and down the platform, she turned her head and looked through the window of the opposite side of the train. On the other platform she saw what she was looking eased back into her seat.  

She returned the handkerchief to the handbag, ‘Listen, Rupert. I’ve only got one more stop. Then we can go away and put this horrible mess behind us.’ Mazzy resigned herself to the possibility of the conversation ending and leaned back in her chair.

‘They’ll never find out’ the woman muttered and Mazzy raised her eyebrows. The train ground to a halt and the woman abruptly stood up, grabbing her handbag. She whipped around and for the first time, noticed Mazzy sitting there. She glared, clutching her handbag to her chest, then her mouth opened as if to speak.  She turned and strode down the aisle and stepped off the train just as the doors closed behind her.

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