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 apologised for the train's late-running caused by weekend maintenance works that overran. Tuesday morning, they apologised for the late running of the train caused by a shortage of staff. Today, it was a low rolling stock.
She turned to 'Mr Voguish' next to her on the station concourse and mockingly said. 'It's low rolling stock today!'
'Yes!' Just as amused as Brie for the delay to the train, he smiled and quipped. 'Should we expect insufficient tracks tomorrow?'
She chuckled. '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 train company provided was that it would be delayed. If not delayed, cancelled. There's the 06:33 service, consistently on time, but its schedule arrives into Euston after the 06:38. If the 06:38 train 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 cyclist's path to pass. Even in that level of darkness, she could still see an airy white light over the lake. 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 routinely delayed train. During these additional minutes of 'dolce far niente', 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 attention. He once held the said double doors open for her when he saw her coming. But it was one night around half-past nine; she had her allure of him cemented. They were both disembarking the train for 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 car's back seat, 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 to spill her coffee accidentally. 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 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. And so she remained devoted to the 06:38 train.
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. She made her way from the concourse to the platform. The shortage of carriages visible both inside the train and outside on the platform. Only eight carriages, where customarily they'd be twelve.
With the added attraction of having to get up close and personal with their fellow commuters, you'd think passengers would speed up the process. But even glaciers were melting faster than it took passengers to get on. And once on, packed so close that as the train hurtled along with passengers swaying side to side, you could almost imagine them doing the Argentine tango. With that, the morning commute's gloom dissipated when Brie conjured herself an image doing the Argentine Tango with 'Mr Voguish.'
Thursday morning, unfailingly, the 06:38 train, you guessed it, delayed. This time, signal failure up north. Friday morning the service was cancelled altogether. Desperately she had hoped for a glimpse of him that morning knowing she would be off on holiday for two weeks. Regrettably, he was nowhere to be seen.
Two weeks in the Middle Eastern sun had gone by seemingly quicker than it took her to board that Wednesday morning train.
Still filled with devotion, Brie got up before her alarm, got ready and strolled to the train station for 06:30. Either her devotions were to the wrong deity, or they didn't get up before 06:38 because the train was delayed, and 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!' The early start appearing to be a right off.
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.'
Revisiting the display board, the delayed 06:26 train service would be her best option. About to make her way to the platform, another announcement slapped more misery on those early morning commuters. That service had been cancelled. This, promptly followed by changes to the 06:33 service. It was to speed date all stations to Watford Junction and London Euston. Of course, the passengers received this information on the concourse with utmost disdain.
Some quick thinking was required. Tempted to get the 06:33 but the thought of flirting at these inconsequential stations when Euston was the only station she really had time for, was painful. Besides, her devotion to the good old unfaithful 06:38 now delayed by twenty minutes quelled her temptation.
The delayed 06:33 had since left, and the concourse was slightly less crowded. Brie did a quick scan of it, searching for you know whom.
She spotted the 'breakfast couple!' So-nicknamed, as each morning they appear to have breakfast from the next-door coffee shop. 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 since she first graced eyes on him, 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, unmissable in any crowd and she 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 guy walked by her, leaving a veil of his fragrance behind. He must have showered in his entire bottle of cologne. He'd be good to sit next to, if, and when a train did turn up, Brie thought, eyes trailing after him and his seductive scent.
'Ladies and gentlemen, the train shortly arriving on platform four is the 06:38 train service, calling at...'
And as if the announcement was being carried on an ocean wave, the crowd was swept through the concourse. It continued to say that due to the overcrowding, first class was declassified.
Brie did her best to get on inching 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 watched the night before and continued watching where she had left off.
Seven minutes into the commute, the train ground to a halt.
The passengers rocked forward and then back. On the rock back, she sensed warm liquid running down her back. As she did so, exclaimed, 'Jinjja!'
'Joesonghabnida.' A male voice behind her responded.
Realising she had just spoken out in Korean, she blamed it on the drama she was watching. 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.