Flash Fiction. 707 words. Complete. CW: Discussion of domestic violence and suicide.
Five strangers are waiting for the last train on a bitter winter night. One of them is Nat, a bubbly young college student who had just started her second semester at the local university in her hometown. She was trying to engage in conversation with the man beside her, an older gentleman by the name of Hector. He had dedicated his life to his work as a professor before he had retired and normally did not mind an enthusiastic student, but was tired, and so his responses were half-hearted.
On the other edge of the bench was Olive. A few years older than Nat, she was currently on maternity leave from her job as an accountant and held her baby Josie closely nestled underneath her coat, doing her best to keep her warm but still able to breathe. This weather was far too cold for a baby. Where was the train? She wondered. And why won’t she just shut up?
The fifth person waiting for the train was not particularly bothered by Nat’s chattering and Hector’s half-hearted replies because they had no way of hearing any of it. The music blasting through their headphones was at a level that many had warned them would one day cause their eardrums to bleed out, but on the rare occasions Nikita turned off their music to listen their response was only a shrug. As it was, everyone else on the platform could easily hear the echoes of Bastille radiating toward them, even as Nikita stood at a sizable distance from the others.
Eventually, Hector began to warm up to Nat. She reminded him of his own granddaughter, who was in her senior year of high school, and would soon be going to college herself. Soon they started swapping stories about books they had read, and discovered that they were divided as to which among the works of Toni Morrison they liked best, and they both agreed that the 1995 BBC mini series was the best adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Soon Olive had been drawn into the discussion, because in her heart she was a writer and a poet, and she could not resist joining in once Nat brought up Audre Lorde as her inspiration for becoming a creative writing major.
Hector was cut off in the middle of an enthusiastic sentence about having once met Lorde when Nikita interrupted them, actually taking off their headphones and asking “do any of you know when the train will get here?”
All of them paused for a moment, thinking again of the train. It had slipped from their minds, like quicksilver, impossible to grasp.
“No, I don’t,” Nat went as if to grab something from her pocket and frowned. “I don’t have my phone.”
“And mine only plays music. No data. And the time hasn’t changed in all the time I’ve been here, and neither has the battery life. Where were you? All of you? What’s the last thing you remember?” Nikita demanded.
“I — I was crossing the main road that separates my assigned housing from the main campus,” Nat whispered shakily.
“I was in bed, I had just laid down to sleep with my wife — is this, are all of you a dream?” Hector asked hoarsely.
“I was in my house.” Olive swallowed. “My husband — he was angry. He said he knew Josie wasn’t his daughter, that I had cheated on him, and he wanted to — had had a gun and –” tears started to stream down her face.
“It’s what I thought,” Nikita nodded solemnly. “I was — my family doesn’t — I’m not what they wanted. What anyone wanted. So, I took the only way out I thought I had. I thought the world wouldn’t accept me for what I was, so I left it. I don’t think that was my only choice, I think there were people who could have helped but,” Nikita swallowed. “I wasn’t in the right place to see that. And now it’s too late. Now I’m just waiting for the train. We all are.”
Suddenly, they heard the blaring of a horn, and Nikita stepped back closer to the bench and away from the edge of the platform, as a train gently pulled into view.