When you are suffering from writers block, there is nothing better than a good old writing prompt! I saw this one and at first, I thought, “well that’s a bit vague…” but that was the beauty of it and now, you couldn’t shut me up if you tried. Here is a short story (or perhaps the beginning of a long one) in response to this wonderful little prompt. Give it a go yourself! I would love to hear what you come up with!
“Write about the last train. “
I get the train to and from work every day. Since I work on the railways, I get free travel – one of the few perks of the job, dealing with the public on a cold platform every day can be tiring and today it is snowing. We very rarely get snow, so we are never prepared for it. I live in Preston in the North West of England, but I work at Blackpool Train Station as a Conductor. Blackpool is what happens when you move Vegas to the North West coast of England and stop its Xanax prescription.
I knew that work was going to be a nightmare before I stepped foot out of my house. With so much snow on the tracks, it’s always an endless cycle of announcing delays and dealing with irate crowds of people who are seemingly convinced that it is all my fault.
I was right. It is now 9pm and I have spent all of my working day standing on the freezing platform with passengers shouting about their problems. Clocking off feels like freedom. I’ve only got ten minutes to wait until I catch my train, the perfect amount of time for a quick escape with Gatsby…
“FOOTBALL’S COMIN’ HOME!” The slurred, out-of-tune chant echoes under the metal roof of the platform. It is the middle of January. Now – I don’t follow football, but I know that the World Cup was last Summer. The last train home always attracts the drunks and they always manage to interrupt my reading.
The train was supposed to leave five minutes ago and it is still not here. I should have expected this after a full day of non-stop issues. The drunk has become irritated as if he had something important to get home to… a bottle of rum perhaps? I just let him entertain himself as I pull my navy trench coat over the collar of my shirt – hoping nobody sees that I work here. Two of my co-workers come over to diffuse the situation and explain what’s occurring to the impatient passengers. I overhear that the train’s estimated time of arrival will be 9:30pm, some of these people will be having to change trains at Preston and will miss their change… In situations like this, we try to get the passenger as close to their final destination as possible, then make the decision to pay for taxis for them or book hotel rooms. But people still act like it is the worst thing to happen to them in their whole lives.
I look around the platform, puddles of melted snow have started to freeze over as the night cools the ground again. If it weren’t for the angry crowd of delayed passengers, it would be so peaceful.
Standing away from everyone else is a tall, striking woman, with her arms wrapped around her long, green coat. She has a book in one hand but is looking around as if to find out what is going on. She has a look of independence, yet something about the way her eyes move makes me want to look after her. I unbutton my coat so she can see my uniform and head over to see if she needs any help.
“Excuse me, Miss, what station are you traveling to?” I try to sound as professional as possible, she is so beautiful – she wouldn’t ever be interested in me so I will just make sure she is alright and be on my way.
She replies, but I didn’t take in a word of what she said. I was so distracted by the sound of her voice, by the misty breath leaving her lips in the cold air, how warm they would be to kiss… She isn’t from around here, not with a voice so delicately well spoken. I snap back to reality, “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.” I half stutter.
“I am changing at Preston to get to Lancaster. Will I make the Preston train?” She replied, looking at me with Bette Davis eyes – as if I have some kind of responsibility for her now and it feels amazing.
I break the bad news that she will not make the train to Lancaster on time, expecting her to be disheartened. She gazes over my shoulder and looks completely unphased by the news as if she is living in another world and this has no impact on her.
“We can arrange transportation from Preston to Lancaster for you if you like?” I suggest. She smiles and nods, in a way that almost seems familiar and without a word from her, I know she appreciated me coming over to help.
Much to everybody’s relief, the train approaches the station and we all make our way onto our seats, the drunk still singing football songs at the top of his voice. I look out of the window and start to wonder whether a guy like me would ever have a chance with a girl like her, but I very quickly settle on the answer being no.
“Can I sit here?” I look up to see the girl from the platform smiling down at me pointing at the seat opposite.
“Sure.” I wanted to sound like I was unphased when really I want to high five myself.
“I like your coat.” She says.
“I like your coat.” I say back, “Green is my favorite colour.”
“Mine too.” She beamed, “My name is Darcey.”
“Like the dancer?” I used to watch the ballet with my Mum growing up, so I have become familiar with some of the names of well-known ballerinas.
“Yes!” Her eyes light up as if me and her are the only two people in the world who know that there is a dancer named Darcey Bussell.
“My name is Abel.” I laugh.
“Like Caine and Abel?” Her eyes lighting up even more, “That’s amazing. Such a rare name nowadays.”
Now I am looking at her like we are the only two people in the world who know about Caine and Abel.
How judgemental of me to think that she was just a pretty face. I examine her with my eyes to see what else I have missed. Her shoes look old, not worn, but as if they were from another decade. Much more sophisticated than the usual platform heels I see girls wear. Her floral dress looks like it could have been borrowed from her Grandma’s wardrobe, but on her, it looks playfully elegant. Her green wool coat looks sensibly warm but is a shade of green that most sensible girls wouldn’t be brave enough to wear. The little makeup she is wearing is applied with perfection, her emerald eyes are framed with a thick black flick above her lashes and her kind lips are painted a deep shade of red. Her fair skin doesn’t need any makeup, there isn’t a single flaw I can see. I catch a glimpse of the book she was holding onto on the platform, sticking out of the corner of her bag – The Great Gatsby.
“Who are you, Darcey?”