The 06:38 Train
'We apologise for the late running of the 06:38 train service to London Euston. This is due to the low rolling stock.'
Brie had heard that apology so often she could recite it on beat with the train station announcer. It was a Wednesday morning, and the train had been late every day for the week.
Monday morning, they had apologised for the late running of the train caused by weekend maintenance works that overran. Tuesday morning, they apologised for the late running of the train caused by shortage of staff. Today, it was a low rolling stock.
Brie turned to 'Mr Voguish' next to her on the station concourse and mockingly said. 'Its low rolling stock today!'
'Yes!' he replied.
Just as amused as Brie for the delay to the train, he smiled and quipped. 'Should we expect insufficient tracks tomorrow?'
She chuckled and replied, 'We don't want to give this train service any additional excuses.'
Brie had been getting this train service for the last five months following a timetable change in September. It was now January and the only reliable clockwork service this service provided was that it would be delayed. If not delayed cancelled. There is a 06:33 train service, consistently on time but its schedule arrives into Euston after the 06:38. If the 06:38 is no more than twelve minutes late, and intermittently it has been, (unless cancelled) continues being the better of the two options.
It was a religiously dark and frost-covered January morning. The silence as she walked through the path girded with naked branches on either side - untroubled. Until some cyclist would come hurtling past dinging their bell and breaking the peace. The light from the said bicycles would cause the grass to go a glistening silver and crunch under her feet as she moved off the path for the cyclist to pass. Even in that level of darkness, she could still see an airy white light over the lake. It was almost celestial.
The timetable change meant Brie was now catching a later train (if only by a few minutes). Interestingly she continued turning up at the station at her usual time of 06:30 for a train that was routinely delayed. It was during these additional minutes of 'dolce far niente' that Brie began to notice some of her fellow commuters.
'Mr Voguish' was now on his phone discussing the renegotiations of a contract. Newly in the business of renegotiating contracts herself, Brie habitually eavesdrops on such conversations, listening for anything she could learn. He walks off to the coffee bar but not before glancing back with a quick wave to her.
They had passed each other several times before, coming through the double doors at the station. His impeccable dress sense, his love of wearing double monks and that insatiable fragrance he wore caught Brie's observation. He once held the said double doors open for her when he saw her coming. But it was one night around half-past nine, that she had her allure of him cemented. They were both disembarking the train to go home, he noticed it was her, stepped back and allowed her to get off first.
To say she was thunderstruck would only be the beginning of the storm. Brie almost fell out of the train.
'Thank you' was all she could muster, in fear that anything else she said would have lead to blind embarrassment.
'You are welcome, have a good evening' he replied.
Thanks, you too! Brie responded, suddenly picking up her pace as if to get away from the situation. Her excuse being a taxi was waiting.
A taxi was indeed waiting. Brie got into the backseat of the car, sat down and deliberately bashed her head against the headrest in front.
'Idiot. Idiot. Idiot.' - she muttered under her breath.
Before that chanced meeting, she had week in, week out concocted a plan to bump into him at the coffee bar and accidentally spilling her coffee. Of course, she had never been capable of executing it.
She perceived he worked somewhere the likes of Canary Wharf. He wore an elegant and classy Glashuette Senator watch in rose gold with dark brown alligator straps. Short dark hair coiffed back, he was voguish in every way. He reminded her of her favourite Hallyu star in the Korean drama The K2.
Those mornings she'd happen to catch a glimpse of him in the station were mornings made, despite the train being delayed or cancelled.
She waved back at him. Once again wishing she had garnered enough courage to say more. Just then the 06:38 now nine minutes late was being announced as shortly arriving into platform four. Brie made her way from the concourse to the platform. The shortage of carriages visible both inside and outside of the train. There were only eight carriages where customarily they'd be twelve. Commuters did their best to get up close with each other. So close that as the train hurtled along with passengers swaying side to side, you could almost imagine them doing an Argentine tango. And with that, the gloom of the morning commute dissipated when Brie conjured herself an image doing the Argentine Tango with 'Mr Voguish.'
On Thursday morning, unfailingly, the 06:38 train was once more delayed. This time due to signal failure up north. Friday morning the service was cancelled altogether. She had desperately hoped for a glimpse of Mr Voguish that morning knowing she would be off on holiday for two weeks. Regrettably, he was nowhere to be seen.
Brie had enjoyed two weeks holiday in the Middle Eastern sun and returned wholesomely refreshed. She got up before her alarm and strolled to the train station for 06:30 as usual. And as per usual the 06:38 was delayed but so were the two trains before and after that. The station concourse was overly bustling with commuters. All of whom were now standing like meerkats looking up to the display board willing it to display some good news.
'Oh to be on holiday now!' Brie thought to herself.
An announcement came on. 'Ladies and Gentlemen, we apologise for the disruption to the services this morning, this is due to the overrunning of maintenance services carried out over the weekend.'
Brie revisited the display board, and the delayed 06:26 train service would be her savviest option. She started making her way to the gates only to glance bank and see the service change to cancelled. Just then another announcement came over reiterating the cancelled service. This was promptly followed by the information that 06:33 service would now call at all stops to Watford Junction and then London Euston. Of course this information was received on the concourse with utmost disdain.
Some quick thinking was required. Brie considered getting the 06:33 but the thought of unnecessarily being stuck on a train for over an hour was most displeasing. Besides her love for the good old unfaithful 06:38 now delayed by twenty minutes would not allow her.
The delayed 06:33 had since left, and the concourse was slightly less populated. Brie did a quick scan of it searching for you know whom.
She spotted the 'breakfast couple!' So-called as they appear to have breakfast from the next-door coffee shop each morning. Mr would hold the two cups of coffee while Mrs bites into her cinnamon roll. Arms interlaced as they strolled towards the ticket gates. From their attire, Brie's supposed they worked in IT.
She also spotted Mr Foxhunter. It had been about four months now since she first saw Mr Foxhunter, and although she had satisfied herself that no foxes were being harmed, she could not stop herself from referring to him as such. The smart tailoring of his suits were unmissable in any crowd and so Brie surmised he worked on Saville Row.
Still no sign of you know whom. The 06:38 was now half an hour delayed. Painstakingly making the 06:33 to have been the better choice.
Brie scanned the concourse once more. Three ladies stood in a huddle, coffees in hand and cackling, their bare legs on show in sandals. Brie mused at the temperature on that side of the station, it must be ridiculously warmer than where she stood. And then she noticed their luggage cases. They were clearly off to somewhere warm.
A commuter walks past, and he appeared to have showered in his entire bottle of cologne. He'd be good to sit next to Brie thought.
Just then it was announced the delayed 06:38 was arriving at platform four, and as if being carried on an ocean wave, the crowd was swept through the concourse. The announcement continued to say that due to the overcrowding, first class was declassified.
Brie did her best to get on to the train and inched her way down the aisle. She pulled her phone out, plugged in her earphones and steadied herself among the throng of standing passengers for the journey. She switched on the Korean drama she was watching the night before and continued watching where she had left off. It was about seven minutes into the commute when the train ground to a halt.
The passengers rocked forward and then back. It was on rocking back she sensed the warm liquid running down her back. As she did so, she exclaimed 'Jinjja!'
'Joesonghabnida.' said a male voice behind her.
Brie suddenly realised she had just spoken out in Korean. She blamed it on the drama she was watching, but interestingly the response was also in Korean. It was then she recognised the fragrance.
Brie turned around, not before composing herself, of course, to come face to face with Mr Voguish. There was no escaping a conversation now.