My messenger bag was swinging, to and fro, and it was banging my back and hips as I ran down the two flights of metal steps from the station bridge to the platform. The train conductor had one foot already inside the carriage as he waved me towards the open door nearest to the staircase. I ran on board, waving to thank him and, as I spotted a pair of empty seats, I heard the doors slide shut with a hiss and a bang behind me, and the buzzer signalling the driver that it was safe to drive away. I hefted my bag off my shoulder onto the aisle seat and sat next to the window.
On the facing window-seat, a woman of about my age, mid-twenties or so, sat looking at me and smothering a smile with her hand. There was an open magazine on the table between us.
“You cut that fine,” she said.
From what I could see of her above the table, she was a smartly dressed, attractive redhead wearing a white roll-neck sweater under a black jacket. She had a local accent.
“Yes,” I said, “the next express service won’t be for another hour,”
“What’s your rush?” she asked.
I pulled a handkerchief from my pocket and wiped the sweat from my face.
My chest was still pounding as I took a couple of deep breaths.
“I’m a writer,” I explained, and I want to make sure that I can get myself a spot in the library as soon as it opens.”
“Oh!” she said, “What kind of writer?”
“A writer-cum-photographer who’s currently doing some genealogy research for a book.”
“Mmm! An actual writer, photographer and researcher? Are you famous?”
I said that I wasn’t famous at all and asked her about her journey. She told me that she had an appointment at the hospital.
“Nothing serious, I hope?”
She raised an eyebrow and twisted her mouth. I raised both hands in surrender.
“Sorry.” I said, “We writers are inveterate nosey-parkers.”
“You’re forgiven. It’s only a check-up. Probably nothing. I’ve been having these headaches for a while, sometimes bad enough to make me vomit. I saw my GP and he’s referred me for this appointment.”
“Sounds unpleasant. I hope that they can sort it for you.”
She smiled and went back to reading her magazine.
When we reached Liverpool, I wished her luck as she was alighting. She turned to thank me then went on her way. Now that the table wasn’t in the way, I could see from behind that her long, slim legs were clad in black bootleg trousers over black pumps. I was tempted to walk a bit faster to catch her up, but I didn’t want her to think that I was making a nuisance of myself.
Later, by mid-afternoon that day, I was on my way back home. I arrived on the appointed departures platform to the sound of unintelligible platform announcements, train movements, whistles and crowd noise. A lot of people were waiting. The train I wanted had arrived but the doors were locked while the staff prepared it for its journey.
My mind was still busily thinking about the family trees I’d been looking at. A voice from my side broke my concentration – I recognised the voice and her accent. It was the young woman from my outward journey. She was asking whether I’d found what I’d been seeking. I turned to her and smiled.
“Hi,” I said, “You needn’t have waited. Have you been here long?”
“You cheeky bugger,” she said, “I’m sorry I woke you up now,” but she was laughing as she turned away.
“I’ll start again,” I said, “Fancy meeting you again. How did you get on at the hospital?”
Given that this short story – located mainly in Liverpool – will be in five parts, my photos accompanying the episodes will feature scenes from that city. I took today’s early morning shot in Liverpool Lime Street Railway Station in September 2015.
I used my first ever dslr camera – a 16 MP Pentax K50 with an 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens. The EXIF data are 1/15 secs @ f/3.5 and 20 mm. The ISO was 800.