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17:09 Train to Paris

I meet her by chance on the 17:09 train to Paris.

She is beautiful, with dark hair and bright eyes, and her curved body is covered in what was probably an expensive designer dress. I have no idea why she isn’t in First Class, with the businessmen in suits.

Instead, she is in the 'ordinary' carriage, sitting across from me, in a t-shirt and jeans. I don’t even think I put gel in my hair this morning, or bothered to shave.

I hide behind my beaten-up copy of Robin Hobbs, and look at her. Her hands are covered in long gloves and are resting on the table between us. There is a sparkling ring sitting over the top of the gloves, on the middle finger of her left hand. She isn’t married. It makes my heart soar.

The trolley caterer comes trundling down the aisle, and looks expectantly at me.

“Do you have any beer?” I manage to ask.

“All out. Only red wine,” he says.

“Oh. Well. Alright then.”

“Two glasses, Monsieur, if you please,” the beauty opposite me asks. He nods and pours us some. I look at her. Of course, she’s French. Of course her voice was soft and richly accented that I fall in love with her immediately.

Instead of hiding behind my book again, I lay it down and sip my wine. I have no chance if I never even talked to her. She is looking at me now.

“What are you going to do in Paris?” she asks. She says Paris the way the French do, with a silent s.

“Tourist,” I manage to choke out, swallowing my wine too fast.

“Ahh,” she says, sitting back and swirling the wine in her glass. “A fancy holiday, I presume?”

“Last minute,” I say. “Haven’t used up my holiday time.” She nods again, and we lapse into silence. I struggle to find some way to keep the conversation going as long as it can. “How about you?”

“I am going home,” she says with a smile. “I have been in London for Fashion Week.”

“You’re in fashion?” I ask, even though the answer is obvious; of course she’s in fashion. She starts to tell me everything that occurred, without the slightest regard for if I cared. I didn’t, but just hearing her talk was enough.

“And with them assigning me so late, I left the train until the last minute,” she laughs, “and there is no room in First Class.” She shrugs as if she doesn’t care, even though I bet she does. She is probably used to the champagne and fine meals that no one here gets. So I pull out a sandwich, and offer her half. To my surprise, she takes it.

The silence of our eating doesn’t last long, and soon enough the train is pulling into Paris station. My heart sinks as the train stops. I help her with her bags, and carry them for her until she finds her car outside.

There is a man waiting for her. He kisses her cheek and takes her case from me, and disappears to the boot of the car.

“It has been a pleasure to meet you,” she says, and the end hangs.

“Oh. Marcus. My name’s Marcus.”

“Marcus,” she says, and on her lips it sounds like the most sophisticated name ever. “I’m afraid the journey would have been a bore without you.” And with that, the man opens the door and she slips inside.

“Oh!” I call, running to spy her through the gap of the closing door. Her eyebrows raise in surprise and amusement. “What’s your name?”

“Adalene,” she replies, and the door shuts.

I stand for a moment, but my thought is interrupted by the insistent buzzing of my phone. I pick it up hastily. “Hey honey! No, the train just got in from London. Where’s yours? OK, I’ll wait and meet you here. Alright, bye. Love you.”

I click the end call, and stare into the traffic, trying to spot the car of the woman I can never have.

“Adalene,” I whisper to myself. With a sigh, I turn and head back into the station.

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