He ran through the train station, bobbing and weaving through the thick of the crowd, clutching a bouquet of vivid orange tulips in his hand. He held them in front of him like a talisman, his arm outstretched. He couldn’t bear to think what would happen if he didn’t make it.
What if the train left early?
What if he couldn’t find her on the platform?
He ran. His knees lifting high, sweat running down his brow, panic masking his face.
She wouldn’t leave him. Would she?
It wasn’t his fault that he felt so much, loved so hard. If she was left with a mark, it was just a physical reminder of his passion. Of how much he felt for her. He’d explained that before, time and time again when she’d said she’d go. Explained it till she said she’d understood.
But this time she’d actually gone and done it; packed her bags and left the house an echo of what had happened last night.
He knew as soon as he got home that she was gone. He could feel the absence of her, a negative space. He’d retraced her steps online and found her one-way ticket to Paris. Paris! If she got there, she would be lost to him, he knew.
He pushed his way up the escalators, shoving people roughly aside. He couldn’t let her leave.
He made it to the platform. Direct train to Paris, 19:15, non-stop. It was packed with kids and dogs and people waiting and milling and reading and talking. A cacophony of sound that he heard as if from underwater. She was nowhere in sight.
The train pulled in, the passengers streaming on board, the tired and weary trying to disembark in peace.
There! At the far end of the platform, he’d caught a glimpse of her auburn hair. It had always reminded him of the sunset. He was out of breath, a stitch in his side, but he gathered his strength and raced towards her.
“Julia!” he yelled.
People looked at him like he was crazy, annoyed as his jostling kept them from boarding. They weren’t interested in his drama; they wanted to get home, to start their vacation, to get on with their lives.
This was taking too long. Half the passengers were already on the train and he still hadn’t reached her. He’d seen her clearly this time, too far away, handing the conductor her ticket.
Suddenly, she turned and looked him straight in the eyes. Maybe she had heard him. Maybe she had sensed that he was there. He stopped to catch his breath, holding the flowers out to her like a peace offering, the corners of his mouth edging up into a cautious smile.
“Julia,” he said. See how I came for you, said his eyes. See how much I love you.
She turned from him and boarded the train. He blinked. She’d seen him, hadn’t she? What was she doing?
His confusion had cost him precious seconds. He started running again – he would take her off that train. Talk some sense into her. Get her to see that home with him was where she should be.
Finally, his legs burning, his chest heaving, he reached the car that she had boarded.
“What…?” he said, barely registering the burly man standing in front of him as he craned his neck, trying to catch another glimpse of her.
“Your ticket, sir,” the conductor repeated.
“I…I don’t have one.”
“I’m sorry sir, you must have a ticket to get on board.”
“Can’t I buy one on the train?” he cried desperately.
“I’m afraid not, sir. And I’ll have to ask you step back, the train’s about to leave.”
He looked past the uniformed man, considered jumping on to the train, but the conductor seemed to sense how unhinged he was and firmly moved him aside. His eyes continued frantically searching for a sign of her on the train.
But he couldn’t find her, and eventually the train chugged her away, leaving him alone on the platform, the tulips wilted in his outstretched hand.