The Train: Epilogue.

by | Oct 15, 2023 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

In his distracted state, he’d failed to notice the tiny black figure standing by the plot.

The big man let himself into the tiny council house, ducking his six-foot four fame to enter. He dropped the massive Christchurch Cricket Club bag in the hall.

“Hello! I’m back!” He listened. Momentarily. Nothing.

Picking up the bag, he slung it over his shoulder, mounting the stairs three at a time. The landing smelled of fresh paint and wallpaper paste. Every room resembled that of a showhouse. Except his own. The posters were still adorning the walls and, although stacked neatly, all of his paraphernalia of childhood remained. The  Newcastle United bedding was freshly laundered. Ron dumped his bag on the bed and briefly inspected the other rooms again. He took the stairs in two giant leaps and made for the kitchen.

A white folded piece of paper was propped against the sugar bowl on the table. He sat down, unfolded the note, and read it.

Ron refolded the note and pushed into the pocket of his tracksuit bottoms. He was on a mission and would deal with it later. He checked he had his keys, crouched through the front door and headed out. Several people waved at the big man in the black tracksuit. One or two shouted.

“Champions!”

“Well done, Big Fella!”

“Here’s Kiwi’s finest””

Ron nodded and waved back. He turned the corner and headed for the Large wrought iron gates of the cemetery. He strolled towards the newest part of the graveyard, indicated by the abundance of flowers and shiny marble memorials. As he walked the service road, he passed a huge black Mercedes limousine. The plates were unfamiliar and the letters in a foreign alphabet. A red, green and black flag fluttered on the bonnet. The engine was running and he could just make out  an elderly man with a swarthy appearance sitting at the wheel.

Ron tapped on the window. The smoked glass slid down silently and the man turned towards him, smiling, showing his unenviable collection of yellow teeth. The young man inhaled the stale smoky air of the limo.

“Could you turn off your engine please? Consider the environment.” Ron said to the man politely.

“Of course, I’m very sorry,” the driver replied in a thick Middle Eastern accent. He immediately wound up the window, before Ron could acknowledge his apology. He continued on his way, glancing back at the giant saloon, which now stood silent.

He spotted the familiar maroon marble headstone and steeled himself. His heart began to thump. It was two years since he’d visited and the emotion was raw. In his distracted state, he’d failed to notice the tiny black figure standing by the plot. As he drew closer, he noticed that it was a woman in formal Arab dress. He couldn’t remember the name but the single garment covered all but her face and was pulled tightly around it. She wore black aviator sunglasses and the only departure from the blackness were her white and yellow converse and a ruby brooch pinned to the left hand side of her chest.

Ron nodded at the woman, who returned the gesture. He kneeled at the graveside, brushed a few dead leaves from the top of the stone and righted the vase that had tipped with the weight of the new carnations. He spread out the flowers evenly and stood back up. The gold inlay words were simple.

Here lie the remains of a poor stranger who sadly took his own life. Followed by the date. Underneath was a quote by Albert Camus, “Deciding whether or not life is worth living is to answer the fundamental question in philosophy”

Ron lifted his arm and stroked the stainless steel bracelet of his watch. “Take care Brett. We will always be grateful for what you gave Mam.”

The tiny woman turned to him in a jolting motion, staring between the watch and Ron’s face. She removed the sunglasses, pulling a few strands of hair from beneath her hijab. Her face was not old but nor was it young. He couldn’t have guessed her age to save his life even though the stray hairs were the colour of fresh snow on the northumberland moors.

Ron pointed at the errant filaments wafting against the blackness of the scarf. Immediately, the woman pushed them back under the material. It was then that Ron recognised the brooch. Although almost double the size, the ornament was identical to his mother’s pendant.

“Samia?” Ronn uttered, staring into the face of the woman.

“Yes. You knew him?” The woman replied.

“I was the last one to speak to him. He told me all about you. The happiest days of his life.” 

Through his own emerging tears, he saw those of the woman. She was, indeed, young. Probably a few years older than himself. Some terrible curse had fallen upon her like the ravages of several decades.

“Would you hold me please?” She glanced back in the direction of the limousine. Before Ron could answer, she stepped towards him and wrapped her arms around his waist. Initially, Ron raised his hands in the air. However as she squeezed tighter, he brought them down around the figure, resting his chin on the black cloth covering her head. Underneath the vestment, there was virtually nothing. The trace of tiny bones held together by goodness knows what.

The woman released her grip and stepped away from the young man. Turning to the grave, she bowed her head and said something in a foreign tongue. She then turned and almost glided back towards the Mercedes. Ron looked down at the marble stone.

“She came, Big Man. She came.” He nodded then felt in his pocket for the note. He read it again as the black car reversed out of the cemetery.

Welcome back son, If we’re not here, we’re round at auntie Sue’s. She had a girl and she’s gone for your suggestion of Samia. Come over if you want otherwise see you soon.

Congratulations, Champion!

Love Mam and Dad xx 

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