Being Inspired, maybe - 92

A picture paints ... well, as many words as you like.  For instance:

And, then, the words:

Stations, and particularly for me, railway stations had a special meaning.

It was not the practicality of the place, where many, many passengers began or ended their journey, whether to or from a holiday or place of work or something else.

It was not the fact many people worked there, in the cafe, as ticket sellers or collectors, as station assistants helping with the mail, parcels or other types of freight, or just there to assist passengers.

For me, it was a reminder of an ending, an end to the life I once knew and had hoped would last forever.

It was where I said bon-voyage to a very special person, hoping as the train pulled out of the station it was not a goodbye.

Three months later I received a text message that said, basically, she was not coming back, that she had met someone special.

Oddly enough I was at the very same station when I received that fateful text and after a hours contemplation, and a sudden realization that I had mentally prepared myself for the inevitable, and in fact had talked about it with her sister Emily, not three days before.

She had told me then she had received a very strange email from Cecile, almost as if it hadn't been written by her, a prelude to that of not returning home.  She, too, had received a message similar to mine.

We thought it odd, but it was not out of character for her, and although it raised concerns with her parents Emily, and I, thought no more of it.

Not till nearly three months later when both Emily and I received another text, from a blocked number somewhere in England that simply said, "help cee".

'Cee' was a name she had shared with Emily and I and would never necessarily give to anyone else to use, not unless she was very close to them.  Not even her parents could use it.  I had considered it was miss-sent, that it was for her 'new' friend and not me.

Not until there was a knock on the door of my apartment, and found Emily, and a packed bag, on my doorstep.

"Something is very wrong," she said without preamble, then barged past, one of her suitcase wheels running over my foot.

I closed the door and leaned against it.  "What are you talking about?"

"You would have got the same message.  She would not use Cee to anyone other than us."

She flopped down on the best seat in the room, looking tired and exasperated.

"I thought it was miss-sent.  A new boyfriend that's keeping her there, surely she would accord him the same privilege."

"You're joking.  How long did it take you, before she told you?"

I'd known her since grade school, but it was not until we graduated from university, she accorded that privilege.  But she was right.

"OK.  So why did you come here?  If she's in trouble, there's not much I can do from here."

She dug into a voluminous handbag and pulled out an envelope and waved it in the air.  "We're going to London.  Tonight.  Pack a bag.  I know your passport is current, and I've got all the necessary documentation sorted.  You know my dad; he just made a few calls."

I thought about it for a minute or two.  London was a large city and the odds of picking up her trail after so long was remote, even if we received the message in the last 24 hours, nor did it mean it emanated from London, but could be from anywhere.  Obviously, she knew something I didn't.

"You know where that message came from?"

"Yes.  When that message was sent, it was near where she was living.  Dad has been talking to the police over there and said she was not home when they called.  It’s the first place we're going once we get there."  Then, a second later, she said, "don't just stand there, get packing."

It was like an expression I'd heard often, going from one extreme to the other.

When we left it was the middle of summer and coming down from a high of 42 degrees Celsius, to when we landed at just after 6 am to a temperature that was below zero.  We felt the first force of it going up the gangway, then delayed the full force of the weather until we got off the underground at Wimbledon.

Early morning on a workday people were flooding into the station on their way to work, only to discover delays.  We'd seen the snow come, first in a trickle and then a steady downpour that only eased off when we arrived.

It stopped just as we came out of the station onto Wimbledon Hill Road, and from there it was a short walk to Worple Road.  At least, if it held off long enough, we would get to her flat just cold, not wet and cold.  To be honest, the snow was a novelty for us, because where we lived, it didn't snow.  We had to go to the mountains a few hundred miles away for that privilege.

But the fact it wasn't snowing didn't make it any more pleasant.  If anything, the exertion needed to traverse the icy pathways and nearly slipping over several times made it worse.   Emily wasn't impressed that she had to carry her case instead of being able to drag it, and it certainly didn't improve her temper.

For the distance, about a half-mile, it took longer than expected because of the weather and the state of the path.  Added to that, it just started to snow again, lightly at least, but we made it, went inside, and shook off the snow on the ground floor foyer, then went up the stairs to the third floor.

Her flat was 3c and overlooked the main road.

Emily opened the door and we both stood back as the door swung open.

It was not what we expected.

© Charles Heath 2020


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