I don’t use trains that often, apart from if I’m meeting someone on one for us to go somewhere together or I’m visiting someone who lives more than ten miles from me (I can’t drive yet). I’m definitely more of a bus girl. And today I realised why.
It’s Saturday. My Mum has been working overtime today and will be knackered so I’ve told her I’ll get the train from town to the nearest village – Brough – to where we live so she only has to drive a couple of minutes to pick me up instead of driving all the way into Hull. I supposedly finish work at 6:30pm but I actually finish at around 6:40pm. (I’m a Saturday girl shop assistant and we have to wait for all the customers to leave before we can.)
I get on the first train to Brough – the 18:53 train to Sheffield that should get me there in about ten minutes.
I phone my Mum from the train and ask her to be at Brough station at five past seven. She’ll be there then, she tells me.
Throughout the train, the train announcer trills that We Will Shortly Be Arriving In Brough. I get up and wait by the train doors closest to me. A girl around my age with dark hair joins me. The train stops at Brough.
The doors’ “open” button doesn’t light up. I wait a moment, frowning, then press the button. The doors make the juddering sound they usually do before they open.
But they don’t open.
Passengers from the train walk by the window. I press the button again.
The doors don’t open.
Again, I press the button.
The doors don’t open.
The train starts moving. The dark haired girl turns to me and asks what has happened. She has a strong European accent. I shake my head and tell her I don’t know, thinking of my Mum waiting for me in Brough station’s car park. I gesture to her and race down the train to the train conductor’s cabin. I knock on his door and he appears, long hair tied back.
“WetriedtogetoffatBroughbutthedorrswouldn’topen,” I say in a rush of breath.
He looks from me to the dark haired girl and tells us he’s sorry but he can’t stop the train or turn it around to take us back to Brough. He tells us we’ll have to get off at the next stop – Goole – and get the next train from there back to Brough. He tells us we won’t have to pay for a new ticket as long as we explain the situation to the conductor on board.
The dark haired girl asks how they’ll know we’re not lying. The train conductor offers to write on our tickets proof of what has happened. He takes out a pen and we hand him our train tickets. “PLEASE CARRY – DOOR RELEASE PROBLEM AT BROUGH”, he writes in shaky handwriting as the train keeps moving.
I phone my Mum.
“I’mstillonthetrainthedoorswouldn’topenandI’llgetoffatGooleandcomebacktoBrough,” I tell her.
“Wait a minute,” she tells me, and I hear her mutter something to my sister who must be in the car with her. “We’ll come pick you up from Goole,” she says, “we’ll phone you when we get to Goole station”.
I ask if she’s sure but she assures me she is so I thank her and hang up. So much for saving her time and energy.
I tell the train conductor that it’s okay, my Mum will come to pick me up. He gestures to the dark haired girl and asks if there’s any chance my Mum could drop her off home too so she’s not waiting by herself for the next train.
“I’ll have to ask my Mum,” I say hesitantly, thinking of Don’t Talk to Strangers and axe murderers and people who look nice before they the pull out a knife and start slicing skin.
“I’m sure your Mum’s a nice lady, she won’t mind, will she?” the train conductor tells me. “You two will be best friends by the time this is over.”
I give him a weak smile and tell him that I’ll have to ask my Mum.
“Great,” he says, “just make sure you two stay together”. Then he tells us it’ll take about another ten minutes to get to Goole and goes back inside his cabin.
Me and the dark haired girl sit awkwardly at a free set of four seats with a table between us. The dark haired girl tells me her name is Maria and she’s only been in Brough for two weeks. She tells me that it was her first time in Hull and that she’d been shopping and holds up her bags from Primark and Marks and Spencer as proof.
I tell her my name is Sophie, that I’m on my way home from working in a shop.
Maria tells me she’s from a little village in Spain near Barcelona and she likes Brough because it’s quiet. She tells me she’s studying Fine Art at University and that she’s in England until the end of September as an au pair for a family in Brough.
I tell her I’ve just finished University and that I graduate soon.
Maria asks what I studied.
“English and creative writing,” I tell her but she doesn’t understand what I mean by “creative writing”. I try to explain, telling her, “Writing stories and poetry,” and she nods.
“Like Shakespeare?” she asks.
“Erm, not really,” I tell her.
She tells me it’s hard to understand me because I talk so fast. I try to slow down without sounding patronising. It’s difficult.
We Will Shortly Be Arriving in Goole the train announcer trills. We stand up and wait by a different set of train doors this time. My heart is pounding as I press the doors’ “open” button but thankfully we’re able to step out onto the platform at Goole.
Me and Maria walk over to the station’s car park.
I phone my sister. Her and my Mum are nearly at Goole, she tells me.
“Do you think Mum would mind if we took a girl back to Brough?” I ask her.
“What girl?” she asks me.
“We just met,” I say, “she was on the train too when the doors wouldn’t open.”
“WHAT?! You don’t even know this girl?” My sister shouts. “No, we can’t give a lift to some strange girl. What if she’s a murderer?”
“Can you just ask Mum? The train conductor asked me to ask.” There is the sound of mufflled talking and then:
“Fine, Mum says that’s fine.” My sister says grumpily.
Me and Maria wait on a bench for them to arrive. About five minutes later, they do.
As we walk up to the car, I can see my Mum and sister looking bemusedly at Maria.
“This is Maria,” I tell them. They say hello. Maria says hello back.
We get in the car.
Once we’re on the motorway, my Mum asks Maria if there was anybody waiting for her at Brough station and if she’d like to phone them. Maria frowns then tells my Mum that she’s fine, she’s got lots of layers on. My Mum pauses for a moment, looking confused, and tells her that that’s good then.
Maria brings out her camera from her bag and asks my sister to take a picture of me and her to show the family she is staying with.
My sister takes the camera and the press of a button later there’s me and Maria smiling on the camera’s screen and Maria is saying she hopes this surreal story will make the woman she works for laugh.
About ten minutes later, we drive into Brough and drop Maria off outside the house she is staying at. She kisses both my cheeks, thanks me, my Mum and my sister and waves goodbye.
We’re a little further up the road when my sister turns to me. “When you said you met some random girl I expected some crazy psycho. But she was nice.”