|Gina - lover shopping|
|Cassandra - out of job and fiance|
None of these ladies travels by train!
|Olivia - love or her career?|
Public transport is a rich source of ideas and material for writers; as an author of contemporary romantic fiction,when travelling I always have my notebook handy. I observe people - general appearance, size, age, clothing, body language, and when possible over the train noise, eavesdrop on their conversations. Today I'm on a two-hour train journey, wondering about passengers' reasons for travelling on this particular train at this time on this day.
Some other place
She's running down the station steps needing to catch the about-to-depart train, her cream coat flapping open over an aquamarine shirt and tight short black skirt and black pantyhose; she knows the smart effect of this ensemble is diminished by her purple running shoes, but then how could she race down these concrete steps in her usual skyscraper footwear? She has this along with her laptop in the cross-body large square bag bouncing against one hip. In one hand she clutches a coffee and a brown paper bag, and in the other a phone which she glances at too frequently for safety while descending at speed.
The station attendant is waving his departure flag as she squeezes between the about-to-close doors. Dropping onto one of the few vacant seats, she opens the paper bag to reveal a brown-bread sandwich from which a shred of orange peel almost falls out. Regarding this with distaste, she screws it all up and stuffs it into her bag. No breakfast again! She got to bed at midnight after singing at the local bar's open mic session, and had trouble getting up this morning. Then Tom spent ages in the bathroom, and for why? He's working afternoon shift and has no hurry. They were out of milk- again! - and cereal, and she hopes he'll remember to go shopping. While she put her face on, he made her a sandwich but the only thing he could think of - or find - was marmalade. Whoever heard of marmalade sandwiches? He could have taken her to the station if their car hadn't been involved in a minor prang (whose fault?) and was being patched up.
She sips her coffee. Ugh! They put sugar in although she specifically said no sugar. Undrinkable, but what does one do with an un-drunk coffee on a crowded train? And she could have saved several minutes by not waiting for this potion made from last week's dregs. She gulps it down, puts her hand over her mouth, and checks the phone. Yes, the meeting she dreads but hopes might be cancelled is still scheduled for ten-thirty, and so lucky she caught this train as she dare not be late. The draft of a major project she's just completed will be workshopped at this meeting, and if they don't approve then her job could be on the line. She touches the aquamarine ring on her right hand which her grandmother gave her as a lucky talisman.
Taking from her bag her dagger-heeled black business shoes, she examines the heel of one. She noticed yesterday it's not quite straight but she didn't have time to take it to be mended. Going into the meeting wearing running shoes when Snake-in-a-Suit big boss will be watching for any lowering of standards is not an option, but she'll wait until inside the building before changing into her now wobbly shoes.
The airport is only a few stops away. An idea flits around her mind...she could get off there, and buy a ticket to some place where she could sleep in, would not have to wait for the bathroom, own an undriveable car, dash for trains or attend challenging meetings, and can go barefoot. She'd enjoy a decent breakfast, drinkable coffee and later, edible sandwiches.
Most importantly, she'd be talent-spotted singing in a bar.
Women talk too much
Sitting by the window is a man reading a newspaper. He's a senior, tidily dressed in brown cord trousers and beige sweater. His wife nags him to wear more colourful clothes, but he hates clothes shopping and what he has on today is quite adequate for a lunch with an old workmate. Even more that shopping, he hates his current hairstyle, though style is not word he can apply to what happened to his hair. He used to have a respectable amount of hair for his age, until his teenage grandson issued him with a dare. This obliged him to get a black stripe centred from front to back, with the grey sides cropped to within a millimetre of their existence. Apparently such an arrangement has some peculiar name, and he berates himself for being stupid enough to agree to it after a few beers at the boy's eighteenth birthday party.
He taps the newspaper with a blunt-tipped clean-nailed finger. Irritated by a political article, he locates a red pen from his small backpack and edits the piece. Not satisfied with this, he takes out his phone, locates the editor's email address, punches in a sharp message and sends. That will teach them to print nonsense. He turns to the crosswords. Today's compiler always makes the cryptic one even more cryptic than on other days. He likes to work on this, as success with more than half the clues reassures him that his brain is in full working order. Last week he completed this compiler's entire crossword, but he was doing it at home when his wife was out, so no talking and he could concentrate.
This morning he can't concentrate. Two women in the seat across the aisle are chatting. Don't they know this is a silent carriage? He leans across to them. No talking. This is a silent carriage. He points to a notice on the door; although this is half the length of the carriage away from where they are sitting, people should notice it as they enter. See that? Now be quiet. One of the women smiles at him. How dare she smile? She's not taking this seriously. Sorry, we didn't know. He scowls. Now you do. She smiles again. Yes, now enjoy your newspaper. He doesn't know if the means this sincerely or if she's being cheeky.
He tries again with the crossword, but the women with their inconsiderate behaviour have wrecked his attention span and it's too difficult. He stares out of the window at the grey industrial sites bordering the railway as the train approaches the city. He's relieved he can look forward to a lunch in a restaurant by the harbour with this friend who doesn't 'chat'. As they always do on their monthly get-together, they will exchange pleasantries, criticise the government, comment on the weather, and enjoy fish and chips with a bottle of chilled white wine.
He hopes there will be no talkative women at the next table.
Don't lose my luggage
Struggling aboard the train is a woman with an enormous wheeled suitcase going to the airport. She's flying to North America or Europe where - now spring in Australia - winter is closing in. On her shoulder she carries a large cabin bag in which she packed a change of clothes - she doesn't trust airlines to route her luggage correctly since last year her bag from Amsterdam had a much longer trip to Sydney than she did, via Vancouver and Honolulu, while hers was a one stop journey via Asia. This bag also contains an e-reader loaded with Books We Love novels, and a plastic bag holding those items security would like to take off you.
She's satisfied with her choice of travelling clothes for her long-haul flight, navy matching jacket and trousers with a scarlet T-shirt, but already doubtful about these new red shoes with their dizzying
heels. She worries that if she takes them off during the flight her feet will swell and she won't be able to get them on again. She eyes the feet of the young woman sitting opposite her, thinking those running shoes would have been a better option; perhaps she can buy something similar at the airport.
The train pulls in at the first airport station, the International Terminal. She checks the indicator on the train's information panel - oh, not her stop, hers is the next one for the Domestic Terminal. She's going to a wedding on a Queensland island and her wheelie bag contains a wedding present of a patchwork quilt she's stitched herself. She's feeling a bit apprehensive because her ex will be there. Since they broke up a year ago, they keep in email contact, and lately she's picking up vibes that he's interested in reconciling. Her own reconciliation vibes are screaming for action. They both like red, and among clothes appropriate for a sophisticated tropical resort she packed a scarlet and black silk off-the-shoulder dress that she will wear with the shoes she has on now, and - in the cabin bag - delicious brand-new blush-red nightwear...