Brief Encounter

{The plot of the classic David Lean film slightly updated…}

The announcement was clear and to the point.

“All services to the south are delayed by at least a further thirty, that’s Three Zero minutes. This is due to overhead line problems near Penrith.”

I thought to myself, ‘another bit of bad news after a totally shitty day. What more could go wrong?’.

It was nearly 6pm on a cold damp December night, a week before Christmas. I’d been to yet another job interview in Barrow. That had ended at 3pm. The train from Barrow had broken down just as it left the station. Then the replacement service had terminated here instead of Lancaster. As a result, I’d missed my connection to Birmingham from Lancaster. Then my bad day had been made even worse when I received an email stating that I had been unsuccessful in my job application. I knew that I was ideally suited to the job but… my status went against me despite all their cheap words about equal opportunities.

Thankfully, the Station Café was still open. I gave even more thanks when clutching my cup of coffee, I found an empty table. I really wasn’t in the mood to share the day with anyone.

I pulled out my copy of that days ‘I’ newspaper and tried to concentrate on the puzzles. Neither the Sudoku nor the Crossword was making much sense. My mind was just not on the task.

I tried really hard to concentrate and shut out the world around me but even that didn’t work. Suddenly, I found that I had a companion at the table. It was a woman about my age. Something seemed familiar about her but I pushed it out of my mind as I tried hard to solve at least one more clue to the crossword.

“Fourteen Across. The answer is Astana,” came the voice from the other side of the table.

I looked up and saw her smiling face.

“Eh?”

“Fourteen Across. Relocated capital city, six letters beginning with ‘A’. Astana. It’s the capital of Kazakhstan. Before that it was Alma-Ata but the President moved it to the middle of nowhere on the steppe because that’s where he comes from.”

I looked down at the paper. It fitted.

“Thank you,” I mumbled.

After filling it in, I looked at her again. Then I remembered where I remembered her from. It was Caroline Price. We’d had a brief fling in our last week or so at school. She’d gone off to University and I.. I’d dropped out of sight. My face must have given my recognition of her away.”

“What’s up? You look as if you have seen a ghost?” she asked.

“N … No. I haven’t.”

‘Bugger’, I swore to myself, my stammer was back for the first time in years.

“Well, you do seem vaguely familiar.”

Then she paused for a few seconds before a huge grin appeared on her face.

“Well, you are just about the last person I ever expected to meet again.”

‘Shit’, she has recognised me.

“I’m Caroline Jackson, pleased to meet you,” she said offering her hand over the table to me.

“Er.. Yvonne Ed… Edwards,” I replied with that stutter again.

“Well, you have changed a bit since we last met haven’t you?” she asked with a smile.

“Yes. I suppose I have.”

“What are you doing in this neck of the woods? It is a long way from the Sixth Form College isn’t it.”

“Y.. Y… Yes it is,”

That did it, I had to leave.

I folder up my paper and stood up from the table.

“I…I… I’m sorry I have to go.”

She took my hand.

“Where are you going to go to? There are no trains south yet?”

I gave in and sat back down.

As I did so, she reached into her handbag and pulled out a flyer.

“I’m off to see my Daughter play in a recital in Manchester,” she said proudly as she handed me the flyer.

The event was being held at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.

“She’s the principle Violinist in the Chamber Orchestra,” she added with obvious pride.

I passed it back to her.

“She must be good then?”

“Yes, yes she is, she got a full scholarship.”

At that moment, the Station Announcer came to my rescue.

“The train arriving at platform 1 is the delayed 16:25 service to Lancaster, Preston and Birmingham. Passengers for Manchester should cross to Platform 2 where your train will be arriving in five minutes.”

“I… I guess that th..th..this is us then?”

“Yes. Well, it has been nice meeting you again,” she said sadly as we stood up from the table.

As we parted on the platform, she came close and whispered in my ear,

“She’s your daughter you know.”

“W… W… What do you mean?” I stammered.

“From when you were Pete and we had a little fling in the woods off of Lewes Road.”

The memory of that night filled me with horror. Firstly because I fumbled around trying to put the condom on, then it had come off inside her and finally because… I knew it was just wrong and I shouldn’t have done it. I never imagined that it would lead to this.

I had to turn and walk away before I burst into tears. I never knew. No one had ever said … A one night stand and …

Just then my train arrived. I was soon in the safety of the warm carriage where I sobbed for most of the journey south. Now I’d had two ‘brief encounters’ with her in my life. What surprised me was that she never showed any anger towards me but it really hurt that she’d deprived me of seeing the daughter I never knew about until today growing up.

[To days after Christmas]

Christmas for me had been a non-event, nothing new there then. I’d been working on both Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Being single and alone it was easy to volunteer to work over the holidays to allow those more fortunate than me to spend time with their families. Mind you being a Hospital Cleaner is not a very rewarding job especially if you get the short straw and get assigned to A&E. Cleaning up after drunks is not my idea of fun. Still, beggars couldn’t be choosers. Despite having two degrees, finding anything but a menial job was next to impossible. I was waiting for the day when I could change my birth certificate and not have to disclose to prospective employers that I was once a man.

I was just finishing the washing up when my door bell rang. I wasn’t expecting any visitors so I couldn’t help but wonder who it could be.
I wiped my hands and went to the door. I could see through the frosted glass that there were two people standing outside.

I opened the door to find Caroline and a beautiful young woman standing there. Both were clutching presents in their arms. I knew in an instant who it was. She was almost a mirror image of myself.

“Hello Yvonne, I’m Stephanie your daughter.”

[The End].

[Authors note]
Yes this is soppy and all that. I started writing it after seeing Brief Encounter for the first time about 10 years ago. I came upon it the other day so here it is.
Yes I know it ends abruptly but what happens next is down to you dear reader and your imagination



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