Early hours, and the train rattles through the dark. Few of us in here: me, but I'm not important, old man few seats up, either sleeping or almost there. Three women with shopping bags at their feet, chatting, all hands and teeth.
In front of me there's a man and a woman. When they got on a few minutes ago they carried the miasma of things unsaid about them. I thought I heard him hiss something at her, but maybe it was the train. Since sitting she's been staring ahead; at first I thought she was staring at me, but even if she was looking at me I soon realised she wasn't. Her eyes are filmed with thought. He has spread his legs and has his hands behind his head. A few times he looks at her, at the side of her head. Her hair is fine and bright and pulled up onto her head. There's the hole for an earring, but none is present.
He leans in and says something to her. She very slowly closes her eyes and reopens them.
Rattle. Stop. Doors hiss open. Close. We whirr up to speed.
He has his hands out now, palm up. Come on, I think he's saying, or something like that. She shakes her head. He looks at one of his palms and then places it on her shoulder. I don't see her move, but something about her changes, as though her lighting as been adjusted.
And we rattle and bang through the dark.
He leans in again. Kisses her cheek. Turns his body inwards. She's still. He leans back and I hear him say, Dance with me, Kate.
Dance with me. She looks down. He starts to sing, a bumbling burr, some folk song I don't recognise. He puts out his hand for her to take and when she doesn't he picks it up in his other hand and places it there. He stands, beckoning her upward.
No, she says.
Dance with me. Kate. Katie Katie Kate Kate. Come on. Dance with me.
She shuts her eyes. This is not a blink. But she does open them and look up at him.
He pulls her up. Her feet work for footing. He grabs her by the waist, takes her into a clinch.
They sway and the train sways. He sings his song.
He stops singing and takes her face in his hand. He moves it so she's looking right at him. Her arms drop.
He seems to tense, and then to give. His legs fold a little. She guides him to his seat and he crumples there. His head lolls onto her shoulder as she sits and she keeps it there.
The train stops and she gets up. He crumples further towards her seat. He's gravity's now. She bends and she kisses his head and she gets off the train. She does not look back.
The train rattles through the dark.
This series sees me work through some Flash Fiction exercises from John Gillard's The Very Short Story Starter. I'll post each one on Twitter using the hashtag #AlexWrites.