Droplets of rain streamed across the widows as the train raced through the suburbs. The carriage smelled of warm rubber and damp steel. It whipped past the backs of council houses, high rises and once stately Victorian terraces, their gardens now filled with multi-coloured wheelie bins, sunbleached garden furniture and paddling pools half-full of rotting leaves.
Feeling the cold, she pulled her coat tighter across her chest as she looked out of the window. She thought about her husband.
He’d be getting home at five thirty, as always on a Friday. The police would be called of course, but her note, however short on actual answers, was clear enough. No serious amount of police time would be wasted on what was, as the officer would lament with a well-rehearsed weariness, “a regrettably all-too-common occurrence nowadays, sir.”
The train continued past rows of tiny little houses, just like the tiny little house where they had spent the past twenty years. The house that – however much she decluttered and rearranged the furniture – always felt like it was getting smaller.
She thought about the nights she’d lain awake wondering “what if”; then she remembered how, little by little, what if became how, then how became when. Eventually, when had become now.
The houses thinned out as the train snaked further into the countryside before suddenly disappearing into a tunnel. She continued to look out of the window but saw only her own reflection, criss-crossed and distorted by the pipes and wiring tacked to the uneven surface of the tunnel wall. She lay back in her seat, lulled by the rocking of the train and drifted off to sleep.
Droplets of rain streamed across the window as the train raced through the suburbs. The carriage smelled of warm rubber and damp steel. She was woken by an announcement on the PA system. Ten minutes to Gare du Nord. She slipped off her wedding ring.
Married in Hastings, she would repent in Paris.