Pendulum — chapter thirty

“The end”

Eve arrived at the train station well before her train was due to leave. In her mind she couldn’t leave soon enough, and she had booked the first available ticket back to the city after visiting Bailey’s grave. Her mother was not happy she was leaving, but there was nothing she could do to stop it.

The extra few days Eve had been forced to stay with Catherine were awkward and miserable. She’d told Eve how sorry she was about Bailey, but Eve was intensely sceptical of her words. She kept to herself until she could leave, and they parted on amicable, but cheerless, terms. Catherine had even offered to pay for Eve to fly back to the city. She politely declined, preferring the train — which would give her more time to try and get some much-needed sleep.

It was a brisk afternoon, but the countryside was once again being treated to a beautiful palette of colour across the sky. The platform was virtually deserted — with just a few overly eager passengers who had arrived early and were now trying to keep themselves warm in the bitter wind. Eve gave the obligatory polite smile as she walked past them, pulling her suitcase behind her.

As she got to an empty seat at the end of the platform she sat down and cupped her hands, breathing into them deeply. Eve looked one way down the line and followed it all the way under a bridge and beyond as the tracks eventually merged into the horizon. She looked the opposite direction and was stopped immediately at what she saw. The train line disappeared into some storage sheds and then resting behind those was a group of three abandoned carriages — the ones Bailey had told her about.

Placing her suitcase safely enough behind the seat, Eve began walking off the platform and down beside the train line. She wasn’t quite sure how to get inside, but she could feel something drawing her there. She made her way past the storage sheds and it was equally deserted. She reasoned the workers must have already gone home for the day. As she got further down the line she could see that it did indeed become blocked off by wire fencing, but looking carefully there was a loose section sticking out just further down the way, just as Bailey had described. She approached it cautiously, before lifting it up and sneaking under, hoping no one had seen her.

She marvelled at the train carriages left there. They were like shrines to decades of railway history, and she could see why Bailey had romanticised them. Eve studied the first carriage, and there it was, the label just like Bailey had said: Carriage ‘AS 616’. At a stretch, she was able to pull herself up onto the step at the side. She made her way inside slowly, trying to take it all in. It was definitely a soul-searching environment, perfect to Bailey’s requirements.

The aged feel gave it a sense that it was passing years of knowledge and wisdom onto anyone inside it. As she looked at the cracking walls and the battered seats scattered everywhere, Eve also thought it was a perfect place for someone to deal with a life destroyed. She knew then that she was in the right place.

She slowly walked the length of the carriage, looking at every inch of it. She saw Lucy’s name still faintly visible on the wall at the opposite end, and she felt her own internal defensive wall begin to break even further. As Eve moved in closer to inspect the carving, she felt the floor under her foot give way slightly. She looked down and stepped there again. A piece of floorboard moved and her heart stopped. Eve knelt down and, taking in a deep breath, she grasped the piece with her hand and pulled it away. Staring back at her was a solitary piece of paper with the words ‘For Eve’ written on it. She pulled it out, her heart beating faster now.

She painstakingly opened the paper. The handwriting had that instant familiarity to it, the kind that hurt deep inside. She began to read, taking every word, every letter, in with the utmost care. She let his words swirl around her. They were profound, haunting and comforting all at the same time. She felt the façade she’d put on finally disappear completely, and as she finished reading she lost control of all the sadness she had been holding in.

She turned and leant back against the side of the carriage for support. The tears now began to fall freely, and it all came crashing down on her as she read the final lines over. She pulled her knees close to herself and hugged them. His words were beautiful, but it was true — he was gone forever, and she was alone again. She put her head down, closed her eyes and blocked out the entirety of the outside. She was left with the sound of the arriving train, which pierced the silence of the impending darkness.

… Bailey watched the doctors and nurses slowly disperse, and he couldn’t bring himself to look; he didn’t want to know if she was gone. He thought for a second again about the nurse he had knocked over in his desperation to get here. He hadn’t meant it, any of it, and although he felt helpless there, he truly was helpless now. He decided he had to do it. He had to look back and see who it was.

The scene seemed peaceful, and a strange feeling abruptly came over him. He couldn’t explain it, but he felt somehow free. As though the slate had been wiped clean. He knew he was living in his imagination. He knew he was dreaming this, but the dream suddenly felt so real. It couldn’t be though — reality was all but gone. He continued to peer through the glass and into the operating theatre. Surely he could not be made to say goodbye like this.

He readied himself as he finally looked in disbelief at the body that lay before him. Unexpectedly, there she was … standing in front of him — not Eve, but Lucy. He didn’t understand. He was overjoyed to see his sister again after such a long time, but where was Eve?

All of a sudden Lucy spoke. “You will see her again one day,” his sister said. “But today you and I are reunited.” It suddenly dawned on Bailey. The person he was looking at behind his beautiful sister was not Eve, but himself. He was the one lying there. He’d lost Eve just as he thought, but he was not farewelling her — she was farewelling him. He couldn’t believe it. He wouldn’t. But seeing the delicate face of his sister before him, he knew it was true. He could not turn back.

Bailey thought about what he had written to his dear Eve, and he was content. He wouldn’t change a single word. Time was precious; every second he would remember forever. He was left with the knowledge that even for a brief moment in time he had been happy again, and more importantly to him, so had she.

For Eve

You are my friend. You are my soul.

You are my life.

You’re all I’ve ever wanted.

But maybe you’re right; maybe it’s all too hard.

Because I’ve realised I never knew what hate was; I thought I hated a lot in my life — only now do I truly know what it is.

I hate a past I can’t redeem,

I hate a future I fear to dream.

I hate a life forever broken,

I hate a farewell never spoken.

I can’t change things. I can’t fix it.

I can’t go back in time.

But thank you for showing me what I had searched for all along.

Thank you for showing me what happiness is …

Your beautiful face, resting against mine,

The feel of your breath etched a perfect moment in time.

Your hand, linked with my own,

Held with it the hope we’d never let go.

So much time had passed. In an instant you changed it all.

But in that same instant it can all be taken away.

I came so close to happiness.

I came so close to saving you.

I’m sorry I couldn’t do it.

I’m sorry it wasn’t our time.

But thank you … for saving me.

The End

Copyright © 2017 Nick Duhigg