It was time. The train had arrived at the station in Warwick and now the four children, though they were barely children anymore, were going to meet after ten years of separation.
Hattie boarded the platform, looking gorgeous in a low cut burgundy sweatshirt and skinny jeans with dark blue canvas shoes and a big chestnut coloured shoulder bag. Her hair was tied in a ponytail but a few wisps had come astray and made her look less sharp and angular, more like she was vulnerable. Hattie looked around to see if her siblings had arrived yet. Failing to notice anyone Hattie went into the waiting room to wait for them to arrive. She took out a copy of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations and began to read. It was what she often did whenever she had to wait for someone to appear.
William got off the next train that called at Warwick station. He pulled himself off the train with difficulty, having never been on one since he was eight years old. His baggy denim jeans and grey hoodie made him look older than he was and his clean cut chocolate brown hair added to this effect. In fairness, it did justice to William for in the children’s home he needed to look older, more serious and mature so as to prevent fights breaking out among him and some of the others and to stop brawls between the younger kids. It managed to get him through life. He didn't hesitate once on the platform. He walked straight to a bench at the far end and settled there. William was happy to wait for one of the others to come and find him. He had had enough of running to find people already; there had been too much of that in his life.
Lissa and Fern were the last to arrive for they had to get a bus to take them from the station before Warwick as the train had terminated there. Lissa looked stunning. She wore a strappy lilac top covered by a light cream shirt which accompanied a blue polyester skater skirt and forest green converse shoes. Her hair, which was deep chocolate brown like William’s, hung delicately by her face and framed her as almost equal to perfection. Fern was beautiful too. Her dark purple leggings and oversized All Time Low hoodie made her a picture and the messy bun made her mysterious and almost surreal. The twins shared two backpacks, each one sporting a floral design. They came by the station to find their siblings. They had expected to meet at the station so this was a necessary thing to do.
“Lissa, are you scared about meeting Hattie and William?” asked Fern. “I know it sounds silly but I am; it’s been such a long time and I’m worried I won’t know what to say to them.”
“I am a bit nervous but I think that’s to be expected. We don’t know what they’re going to look like or act like and I know I’ve got an image of them which I don’t want to find out is a misconception. It’ll be good just to go and see. Come on, Fern! It won’t be that awful, I can assure you!” Lissa replied.
They entered the waiting room where Hattie sat patiently waiting for them to show themselves. After taking in the appearance of Hattie, Fern leapt forward gracefully and sat in the seat next to Hattie. She had been longing for this moment for so long and wanted to talk top Hattie face to face instead of over the telephone.
"Hattie!" Fern cried, "How are you? I can't believe this is actually happening! We are finally meeting each other again!"
"Fern, you look so grown up and different to when we left! And I’ve been wondering how you have grown up. I’ve often dreamed that we would like the same things and go on outings together. Is Lissa with you?"
Hattie and Fern scanned the waiting room in search of Lissa but she was nowhere to be seen.
"Lissa came in with me. Maybe she went through to the platform to look for William." Fern tried to come up with a logical solution to why Lissa was missing.
"That's a great idea. We'll go through to the platform and see."
The girls came out of the waiting room and passed a disused ticket office which was boarded up with rusty green panels. As they boarded the platform Hattie spotted Lissa.
"That's Lissa isn't it? The girl with the skater skirt on? She looks just like I did when I was nineteen!"
Fern saw Lissa at the same time as she recognised the guy sitting on the bench near Lissa.
"William! William!" Fern hurried over to the bench, narrowly missing being knocked onto the tracks by a large lady with three toddlers who was trying to go the opposite way.
"William, I've missed you. It's been too long." Fern tried to talk to him again.
He stood up slowly till he towered above Fern but then he lent down and gave her a warm friendly hug. William had become tall like his father and his hug made Fern feel special.
"Fern. I've missed you too. You can't imagine how much." William whispered into her hair.
Whilst William and Fern hugged each other, Hattie and Lissa hugged and exchanged information about the day including where they would be going after they left the train station. They were both clear perfectionists who loved organisation, and were slightly obsessive over it.
All four of the children hugged each other and tried to talk non-stop. They had ten years to catch up on and so much of those ten years had been full of interesting events.
Lissa and Hattie, who had had an easier life in terms of their adopted families and fresh lifestyles, were able to talk the most and felt they could laugh and joke and share everything that had happened. They didn't mind discussing what had been happening with themselves since they were split. It carried no painful memories or hatred for them.
Fern was quieter and shied away from a few of the questions that Hattie asked her. She didn't laugh at much of what Lissa shared with the others; Hattie and William could pick up and interpret that not all had been well for Fern. They did not know all the details but her attitude suggested she had been bullied and had struggled with Isabella and the new family environment. She hung back slightly and felt awkward despite having been so desperate and begging Lissa that they should have a sibling reunion. Fern hadn’t realised quite how difficult it would be to talk about her life since they moved away but it soon hit her.
William was much worse than Fern though. All the others knew was that William had been in a few children’s homes and that it had been tough for him. They didn’t know he had run away but William didn’t volunteer the information. In some ways it seemed that he was ashamed of the way he had behaved almost ten years ago. He asked an endless stream of questions as to what Lissa had done, how Hattie found the experience and how Fern was doing but never did he mention himself. When asked questions that were too direct for his liking he avoided them or ignored them and this was very often, not occasionally.
Lissa felt frustrated with William, this reunion was meant to be about sharing the past, opening up to family and coming to a new beginning but he wasn't treating it as this. She decided to have a few words with him later. She didn’t want him to ruin the reunion; especially when she had tried so hard to make it perfect and to do something to make Fern happier about the whole situation.
In the meantime Lissa suggested that they headed towards the small cafe where they could have coffee and hot chocolate whilst talking some more. Lissa took her chance on the way there to chat with William when they were separated from Hattie and Fern at some traffic lights. Lissa held onto William as he tried to slip across the road before the cars began to move.
"William," Lissa began nervously. "You know how the aims of this reunion were to share all the good and bad things as well as to get back together as siblings? Well, it feels like you aren't trying to do this. It seems like you don’t want to tell us anything."
"Lissa, listen," William interrupted. "Let me explain. Over the past ten years I have been living in a children’s home. We fight regularly and there are many horrific punishments of which I have only endured a few. I ran away from my foster family because I couldn't cope with them and all their fussing after losing my real family, after losing you and Fern and Hattie as well as Mama and Papa. Now I want to forget the home and the sadness and loneliness that it all stood for. There's no reason to burden you with the knowledge of what could have happened to you if you hadn’t have been so lucky. In my opinion you were better off not knowing about it. Especially Fern, since I can tell she has been hurt and I don’t want to hurt her or give her anymore to worry about than she is already suffering with. She seems to care for me a lot and I don’t quite know how to deal with that. It’s a long time since I felt such love as Fern gives to me."
"Oh William. I understand. But if only one of us knew then we wouldn't have to be in the position we are now with me having to casually interrogate you. We can help you to move on, not make you remember and feel terrible." Lissa took William's hand in her own and sighed.
"But it was okay really." William finished, "Don't fret about it Lissa. When I feel ready I can explain it all to you properly and then we'll be on equal standing."
"Sure. You don't have to if you don't want to though." Lissa was beginning to realise why William hadn’t wanted to share it before and didn’t want to push him too hard.
Lissa and William walked on in companionable silence. When they entered the cafe they searched in vain for the others but failed to find them. Fern appeared by their side two minutes later and guided them to where Hattie was seated by a large window. They had the area all to themselves so they could talk as loudly and freely as they wanted. Once again they all began to talk and tried to share news. It sounded as if they hadn't seen each other for at least ten years. But then again, that was the truth!