Rocking to and fro on a rickety, hissing train as it winds through the velvet crush of the autumn dawn; a serpent of light, chugging through the crisp, sharp air as the tang of smoked wood drifts through the carriages; the inhale that spikes through the nose due to the bitter ice encapsulating us all.
Too pretentious, scrap it. I tore the page away from the bindings of my notebook and stuffed it into my gaping pocket, hoping that nobody had noticed my graceless attempts to unfasten it. I highly doubted that anything I did went unnoticed. The entire train, it seemed, was packed with bodies, none of them willing enough to notice the existence of one another, except for me. I had only been aboard for twenty minutes, and already I'd received some interesting looks. One man had even stared. I felt his gaze fall upon my mangled jeans, as his eyes slowly wandered up to examine my face - which looked as if it hadn't seen the light of day in years - and grumbled something to himself. I wasn't listening, otherwise I would've heard what he had said. Music swam through my ears like the gently bubbling stream that passed by my carriage window, but I barely even noticed that I was wearing headphones. My mind could focus on one thing alone: Saint Helena.
I wasn't one of those kids who was brought up in a family who were hell-bent on travelling the globe, nor was I born to parents who had jobs that required their ability to relocate quickly. I was an only child, whose parents both worked from home. I never had to move schools or leave old friends behind, I had remained in the same house for the entirety of my life, and this wasn't necessarily a good thing. I originally hoped to stay at Liberty Hill for my final two years, but when I found myself just short of a maths GCSE, I had to find somewhere else quickly, as Liberty Hill made the wonderful decision to make a C in maths and physics mandatory for applicants to the Sixth Form. Saint Helena was always my backup plan, with an incredible English department, my dream course in Creative Writing and no compulsory maths qualifications. The only issue being that it was almost 9 hours away from my home in Aberdeen. I did have one friend that would be going to Saint Helena, and she was the real reason I finalised the decision. Emily and I had been talking online for almost a year already, and she was the one who told me about the course at Saint Helena. She was the one I was now going to be living with for the next two years, the one I was going to be sharing my life with. We had never met in person, but I had already made my mind up about her, and I just hoped that she would feel the same about me.
These thoughts had already burdened my brain for weeks, now they advanced outwards and expanded like cotton buds in my ears - blocking the entire world around me out. It was only when the man sat next to me stood up to leave the train that I remembered where I was. In fact, quite the opposite was true, as when I looked out of the foggy window at the blur of trees and dotted houses flying by, I couldn't recognise a thing. I looked down at my phone as the time flashed up in front of me. 10:44. How had almost three hours gone by without me noticing? I felt as if I had forgotten something, and in that moment, I wished that the train would grind to a halt and release me from it's confines, watching me run off into the mist to find whatever it was I was missing. This confusion seemed to be the new concern of my troubled mind, and anxiety washed over my frame like a sickness, raising a huge lump in my throat. Trying to breathe quietly in a train that had almost no empty seats when it felt like my throat was becoming smaller and smaller wasn't the easiest thing I had ever done to say the least. I quickly slung my bag over my shoulder and dragged my suitcase into the small enclosed space in between the carriages. I had thought, almost hoped, that somebody would notice and take pity on me, even look up and smile out of embarrassment or politeness, but nobody seemed to bat an eyelid. I was there to provide a distraction from their daily endeavours, and nothing else. Now I was gone and there was nothing to gawk at, they might as well have forgotten that I was even there.
Although I knew nobody had noticed me exit, I still sensed another pair of eyes, as if I was being watched intently, and I had been for some time. I noticed the carriage to the right of me, much smaller than the other, and much cleaner at that. It must've been First Class. It wasn't until a few minutes later that I noticed her, however. She was staring at me with wide eyes and lips falling open. She wasn't really my type, as they say, but I will admit that she was one of the prettiest girls I'd ever seen. Her raven-black hair fell over her shoulder in a braid that landed in her lap, and her eyes, shimmering like blue topaz, didn't seem to flutter when my own gaze met hers. She stirred a little, a red hue appearing in her cheeks that were flecked with tiny freckles, and her hands clenched one another tightly. I smirked. She was intimidated. Looking at her I wasn't surprised. Girls who wear pretty white dresses and Sunday school shoes don't usually ogle at people like me unless they feel intimidated. Still, there was something about the way she looked at me that I never forgot. It was something that I hadn't felt from another person in a long time. In that moment, I decided to ignore it, but I couldn't help but feel as if she looked familiar.
Even after I had gone back to the carriage, I could still catch glimpses of her peering through the glass at me. We exchanged a few weird looks, but other than that I tried to avoid her gaze as much as possible. Like I said before, girls like that didn't tend to stare at girls like me. At least, not for this long. I wasn't even looking all that attractive anyway. My dirty-blonde hair was un-styled and shoved under a hat, and my eye liner - which I had spent only about five minutes on - was smudged, contrasting with the light green of my eyes, my only real cause for attention from anybody this elegant. I wasn't exactly the face of femininity; from the back, anybody would've taken one look at the washed out flannel shirt and the matte high tops and assumed I was a boy. Maybe she thought I was a boy. I thought I would have to go over to her and explain that I was a girl and that I wasn't going to attack her, as she probably thought I was planning on doing. It took a few moments to realise that in doing this, I would be probably be asked to leave the carriage straight away for looking like such a delinquent in First Class. I accepted that I would have to just deal with it for the rest of the journey and slumped back into the chair, averting my gaze to the world outside, which was still coated with a dull film of grey.
The remaining hours flew like the first three, and it wasn't long before the announcement for London Liverpool Street bellowed out through the hollow, metal vessel. Shoving my phone into my pocket quickly, I found the crumpled piece of paper, which I had long forgotten about by now. I took one quick glance over the scrawled writing and re-folded it carefully. The content of the writing wasn't actually that bad, but I had already decided that I didn't want to continue it. Stepping out of the train, I noticed the raven-haired girl standing a few metres away, watching me as I placed the piece of paper on a near by bench and walked away languidly. It didn't take a genius to know that she had already run over to inspect it, and I turned around to flash a weak smile before disappearing around the corner.
I didn't expect to ever see the girl again, and I didn't think that I would ever remember why she looked familiar. If there was any way of me remembering in that instant, it was shrouded. Meeting Emily was the only thing I could think about now. My heart rate quickened as I felt a gentle smile peel across my lips, a genuine one. I stepped lightly, dancing across the marble floor towards my new life. Towards my newfound freedom. Towards the girl who wasn't just "pretty" or "elegant", but towards the girl I had somehow managed to fall in love with.