It was a game, really. Samantha looked closely at the posters as the train jolted. As it accelerated quickly, she tried to read as much as possible before the advertiser's snappy words and glossy pictures blurred into one long, frenzied montage of colours. What were long attractive legs encased in nylon became part of a tin of dog food and the roof of the Albert Hall. Then blackness and the sudden jolt to the eardrums as loose windows, sliding doors, and carriage couplings rattled and banged with an almighty crash when the train entered the tunnel. Darkness enveloped her like a cloak she couldn’t remove. The lights flickered and in a milli-second all eyes focused on the nearest light source, probably for reassurance, she thought.
Samantha smiled at the ‘Smoothies,’ as she called them – the city slickers in pin-stripes. There was always half dozen or so standing in the aisle, each holding onto a hand strap above them while they gripped an attaché between their ankles and read a quarter-folded newspaper held in the other hand. As the carriage swayed, the smoothies leaned across the aisle in unison like a row of dancing poles. Uninterested in their surroundings, two ‘fifty something’ women talked non-stop. Both were wearing long coats, one white and one blue. They sat facing the aisle. Each held a plastic supermarket bag full of groceries on their lap. Samantha looked through the jigsaw of bodies at the woman with mauve-tinted hair. The carriage swayed again, this time, more violently. The woman gave one of the smoothies a stern look as his foot tapped hers. Glaring, she tugged at each of her gloves, in turn, looking for all the world as though she intended the man harm.
A loud female voice suddenly broke above the general hubbub. Samantha guessed her to be in her twenties and by the dress sense, an office worker. She sat neatly, one leg over the other, in a black suit and white blouse, her short hem revealing just enough thigh without being indecent. Bleached hair that drooped over the left eye, as the stylist intended, flicked up and down rapidly as she blinked. Her voice attracted the quick disapproving looks of the older women but much longer stares from most men within a few feet of her. Unphased by the stares and her public revelations, the young woman was still talking as the train pulled into Liverpool St. Station.
Samantha joined the throng of tired faces and aching limbs fighting to squeeze through the ticket barriers and up the stairs to the main station. The stream of humanity finally poured onto the main concourse like an army of ants and dispersed hastily in all directions. The clock hanging above the concourse showed 6.15 p.m. Her train left at 6.35 p.m. Samantha started to walk but stopped abruptly. A figure stood by her platform gate – her father. Her face drained. He was dead…wasn’t he?
Writing order: Suraya Dewing (NZ), Gabrielle Burt (NZ), Hemali Ajmera (India), Ray Stone (Cyprus), Sumanda Maritz (South Africa), Donna McTavish (NZ), Ken Burns (NZ), Rosemary Wakelin (Aus), Anna Zhigareva (Scotland), Jasmine Groves (Aus)