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Iced Coffee - Sam Tate

The carriage was already packed when the couple got on the train, a landscape of grey apathetic faces on their way to work. The pair took a quick glance around and made their way to two free seats. The woman removed her handbag as she sat and placed this by her feet.

They were in a world of their own and were not to be disturbed by the bustling that surrounded them. They held no phones, laptops, newspapers or any other means of distraction that flooded the surrounding carriage, only two, half-drunk, coffee cups that they placed on the table in front of them.

“It’s been years. Not weeks, not months, years.”

The speaker was a woman of an age that did not match the anguish and defeat that strangled her words.

“You know I want this. More than anything else in the world.”

She placed a hand on his shoulder. The gesture was light and seemed void of feeling. His shoulder shuddered involuntarily to the touch and her hand moved back to resting on her lap. It lay there for a moment before reaching for one of the coffee cups. A look of hesitation flitted over her eyes and she took a moment to inspect the cups before settling on the one with Iced written on the white lid in the hurried scribble of a coffee shop barista.

“I just,” she sighed. “I just don’t have anything more to give.”

Her companion did not move or make any attempt to reply. He was sat so still and silent that he became opaque. Her hurt words drifted through the ghost of his form and condensed on the carriage window in a cold distortion of the passing objects.

The carriage jumped suddenly having passed over an uneven track. The shudder was not enough to stir most of the passengers, yet, the man’s shoulders visibly tensed, and a short, pained breath forced its way from his lips. He turned towards the window and protectively raised a hand to his face, ashamed of the soft but clear shaking that had taken over his shoulders and back.

He started to cry.

“Please talk to me.” Her voice was desperate and barely audible over the rumblings of the other passengers but even so, the whispered words struck heartbreak in those who heard them.

The woman’s face was contorted in pain and the ugliness of the emotion took a physical form in the creases and cracks that strangled her tired face.

The speakers in the carriage announced that the train would shortly be pulling into the station. It was still far from the final stop and only a few of the passengers made towards the sliding doors.

The woman made one final glance towards her companion as the train pulled in and the doors opened. Her eyes were tired. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. The man appeared not to notice. In a shaky movement, the woman stood from her seat and made her way through the now closing doors. She did not look back.

The scarlet handbag that had been sitting under the table fell onto its side. An open pill bottle rolled out from its red lips, scattering snowy-white pills across the aisle floor.

A short while later, the attending train guard entered the carriage. She was making her last rounds through the train. Her eyes were drawn to the far end of the carriage. The floor was now tainted a dirty white colour where the pills had been crushed and spread by passing feet.

She walked towards the mess before starting back in fear as her eyes fell upon the man still sat in the seat. The fear was quickly displaced by irritation at this unexpected hinderance.

“Sir, the train arrived fifteen minutes ago. You need to get off.”

He made no move to leave.

“Sir,” with some exasperation now, “I must ask you to leave. All the other passengers have departed, and the train is no longer in service.”

Still, the man remained where he was and she quickly became annoyed.

“Right. I’ve asked you nicely and unless you want me to get the police involved…”

Her words trailed off and she felt her body freeze up. The man was not blinking. Panic overtook her small frame as his silence became suddenly eery. Without another breath, she had made her way off the train and was running for help.

Silence overtook the carriage and the man’s dull eyes stared coldly out the window. Before him were two coffee cups; one had a word scribbled in a black marker on the lid.


Image Credit: Kristine Camacho

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