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What Happened Next...

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Introducing Gopali Chakraborti Ghosh's new column..."What Happened Next". The column which will bring you back for more!!
In Gopali's words "The short story is a form that is now enjoying a revival but has always been a part of mainstream literature. The stories in this column are not based on a particular event or person but on a conglomeration of both fact and fiction, to entertain, to bring a smile to your lips and most importantly perhaps, to make you wonder- "what happened next?

 

 

Stood up

She went as quickly as possible down the stairs at South Kensington tube station. The crowd in front resolutely refused to budge; only one set of escalators was working. It would have to be today. It took at least 12 minutes to get to the front of the queue and then step on to the escalator. By the time she got to the bottom of the steps beyond the escalator and turned right, the trains doors had shut and was ready to leave, in fact as her hand went out to touch the “open” button, it had started to slowly grind out of the station, groaning and creaking its protest at another long journey….

 

Jonathan had been sitting for over 45 minutes at the same seat watching trains go by and checking his watch alternatively. The personnel who worked at TFL gave him sidelong glances as they went about their jobs; their glances became slightly pitiful as they realised that whoever he was waiting for was not going to come; it was the greatest ignominy of them all, being stood up on Valentine’s day. To be honest he did not care the least what people thought of him, this date was so important it was going to be worth the wait; he had waited over 15 years hadn’t he? Well she had to come; after all a promise was a promise. It was becoming colder as the night progressed and many glanced more than cursorily at the man sitting on the corner seat, his extraordinary good looks and height calling attention to himself. As the trains wheezed and rushed in and out of the station, women with or without partners looked at him; a good looking man on his own, sitting by himself while trains came in and out of the station was not ordinarily seen; it evoked rampant curiosity and he did not look like a down and about or a drunk.

 

“She ain’t coming, is she?” Through fumes of cheap beer he heard the man standing near him chuckle slyly; annoyance crept across his face but he reined it in. The clock on the station wall moved; it was nearly nine p.m. and the whine of passing trains reminded him that it was almost two hours past the time she had said she would come. She was not. That was evident, very evident that she had changed her mind. After all a chance encounter on a FaceBook group page and a few short messages did not mean she would keep to her promise. Perhaps she had even forgotten it was this tube station they had decided to meet at.

 

The trains were still very full; full of couples of all sizes, shapes and colour. He could hear the busker with the harp, a middle aged man of Chinese ancestry in a little alcove above the stairs who was probably having a field day raking in the coins. The tremulous strains of   “Green sleeves” floated down to him; he smiled wryly thinking that the subject of the song had given its composer a run for his money before giving in. The melody decided him; he stood up, stretched and looked at the overhead display for the next train; it was due in 2 minutes.

 

It was very crowded when the train came in and he half thought that he would miss this train and get the next one but there was no point was there? He needed to get home to a large bottle of Johnny Walker Black label and oblivion. In that order. Making his way in, he went towards the doors opposite the open ones. There was some space there. As the doors began closing, there was another little tumultuous rush of people hurtling down the stairs desperate to get the train. The doors opened again and more bodies squeezed in; the doors shut firmly. He put his arm up to brace against the first jerk of the train and saw that a woman had reached the doors and was desperately pushing the “open” button. In almost slow motion he saw the familiar dark eyes under arched brows, a little tired, but the same. The train began to move forward inch by inch and at the same moment Jonathan’s fingers latched around a small protuberant lever. Without conscious thought, almost without volition he saw himself pull the lever.

 

 

A sharp whistle in the driver’s compartment made him alert to the fact that emergency brakes were being automatically applied; a red lever had been pulled in carriage 2B.

 

She stepped back over the yellow line in disappointment as the train began to trundle out of the station. This was worse than what she had imagined it to be. Being late was one thing but to completely renege on an arrangement was unforgiveable. Then to her utter amazement as the last carriage disappeared in the tunnel, it seemed to brake, and the train began to back into the station like an ancient primeval antediluvian serpent returning to its lair. It stopped and she could see men in TFL uniforms come running and to her horror, accompanied by policemen with loaded machine guns. There was the muted buzz of walkie talkies transmitting electronic chatter. Most of the people on the platform came to a standstill taking it in with bewilderment and surprise. The doors opened and she saw a man being led out.  As the police went forward to speak to him she saw a pair of handcuffs being snapped on.

 

The TFL men  were questioning the tall man. The policemen were shaking their heads and then the man suddenly said “Ask her; she came fifteen years and two hours late and I waited. It is Valentine’s day today after all”. She turned to see Jonathan. He had waited; she heard familiar words, softly float back to her

 

 “And to my word I shall be true/ I shall not fail that rendezvous”.

 

“Madam, will you confirm what the gentleman is saying? You will have to come to the police station with us and complete the formalities and I am afraid there will be a hefty fine, sir” The last was to Jonathan. He was smiling and as they released the handcuffs, he stepped forward and caught her hand, their fingers entwined briefly and then they were being led up the stairs. The harpist began to play “Green sleeves” again.

 

 

The room was filled with long dark shadows where the dying flames of the fire could not reach. It was almost two o clock in the morning and the firelight caught the diamonds of the eternity ring on her left hand as she turned to hold the hand of the sleeping man.

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 About the Author : Gopali Chakraborti Ghosh was born and educated in Calcutta (India), the city that inspires much of what she writes. She studied English Literature and currently works as an English teacher in a secondary school in the North West of the UK. which has been her home for the last 20 years. She enjoys films, music, reading and ‘people watching’ because often a stray incident sparks off a new story.Apart from short stories, she writes poetry and anything else that may take her fancy.

Image Courtesy : www.stephenwiltshire.co.uk 

 

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breathless as i read this ..

breathless as i read this .. will come back and keep coming back for more .. beautiful, moving read ..

I agree with the comment

I agree with the comment above! what a beautiful story this is! I love this column.
Surabhi

apurbo

Beautifully written story..

Loved it

What a fantastic story teller you are!

Surabhi

Thank you so much for that generous comment - much appreciated

All those who read and commented

What can I say but a huge thank you from my heart for your warm and lovely comments

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