Brussels

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic


Emma sets off on a summer break only to find her friends are not the friends she once had...

Submitted: August 03, 2018

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Submitted: August 03, 2018

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Arrival

The clock struck 14:00 at the Eurostar terminal. Emma quickly kissed her friend Janet goodbye on the cheek and joined the long queue ahead of her. As she dragged her case along behind her, she knew that it felt light compared to her current state of mind.

"Can you all just queue in a straight line please?", screamed one of the check-in staff members.

Emma sat down on her case as the boy in front of her stared in shock. He was about 14 years old — his cheeks were rosy and his eyes still. Emma couldn't help but notice his odd socks and red sandals. He was wearing an orange rucksack that clashed with his sandals. 

"Mum, mum!", he shouted. That girl is sitting on her case... Can I sit on mine?"

His mother quietly declined his request.

Emma looked at her watch. The time was 14:45. The train was departing at 15:04 — and it was always said to be a relatively punctual service. She stood up, grabbed her case and looked around her. The boy and his mother had become but mere shadow-like figures in the distance and it was at that moment she realised there was no justice in the queuing system — though that she should have noticed before. She quickly caught the attention of the one member of authority overseeing the crowds and asked if she could skip ahead. But the answer, as always, was no. It's always no.

Departure 

"I said I kindly wish to pass through. I have four minutes to spare!", said Emma impatiently to the beady-eyed passport checker.

"Next time, you'll be lucky to board at all!", he replied.

Emma ran up the stairs to the platform. The last time she had boarded the Eurostar was from Waterloo with her father. 

"Dad!", she cried exasperated. "Where are you? I could be doing with your help right now."

"You're an arse", he retorted.

As the train pulled away from St Pancras Station, with only two minutes to spare, Emma put her sunglasses on as the tears strolled down her face — the same sunglasses she had used to mask her distraught gaze as she sat by her dad's bedside the day before he became an angel. The very same sunglasses she had worn on the train home from Euston on the day of his death as she mourned his loss and raised a glass of wine from the train carriage she was sitting in to the heavens above. 

"Glass of wine madame?", said the stewardess who had greeted Emma with a warm but fake smile as she had desperately clambered on board the downtrodden-looking 15:04.

"I wouldn't say no...", said Emma as she reached beneath the right lens of her well-travelled sunglasses to wipe away the tear that was sitting on her eyeline before choosing which crease to enter down the right side of her face destined to reach her mouth to leave behind a mild taste of salt that reminded her of the salted bacalao she used to eat every year in the Algarve while on holiday with her family.

She raised her plastic wine glass and toasted the floor this time.

"Dad... If my sister was right and you did go to hell... I hope you're on fire. I love you."

Entrée en gare

As the train approached Gare du Midi, the memories of the traineeship came flooding back. Emma replayed the faintest-most-overused phrases in her head "Let's meet at the Grand Place...", "We are ex stagiaires of the European Commission and we have earned the right to be proud...". 

María was waiting for her at Gare Centrale. Her phone rang as she stepped down from the train, interrupting the sound of Brel's cosmotic voice. The sun was beating down on the track through the stained glass windows of the station. But the mood was somber.

"I know I'm always late but I'm on the underground — I'll be there shortly. And can't wait to see you either..." she trailed off as María hung up abruptly.

Emma disembarked the underground at 18:37. The tramps who once filled the tunnel at Gare Centrale when she had arrived in Brussels with her father almost 10 years earlier had left no trace. 

"I'm here. Where are you?", said Emma hesitantly. 

"Staring at you from across the road. I'm tired...", said María viciously.

Emma looked around but there was no sign of María. A gust of wind ripped her papers out of her hand.

"Typical...", said María.

"I know. I'm just an arse.", Emma retorted.

Heure de départ

Emma arrived at Gare du Midi and the queues weren't as long as they had been on the way out. There was no sign of the boy with the odd socks and the red sandals and the orange rucksack. The path she and her dad had walked was filled with new stagiaires arriving accompanied by a parent — sometimes two. The Commission doors had remained shut, unopen to the general public. The days of "Un thé vert s'il vous plaît" were over. Happiness had turned to sadness. The translator that once was had become an artist in pursuit of a new career path. As Emma made her way to the train, she glanced down behind her into the empty space she had filled only moments before.

"Dreams are only dreams until they become a reality but the reality is quite different from the dream... I'll keep dreaming but whenever others have ceased to dream, something inside them dies... Question is: do I raise my glass or do I reduce it to smitherines, set the tequila on fire and cite J.P. Sartre "L'enfer, c'est les autres!"?

The train pulled out of the station as Emma reached down to pull up her odd socks. She took off her red sandals and placed them neatly next to her orange rucksack on the nearby storage unit.

As she drifted off, the faint murmur of a stewardess could be heard in the distance:

"Glass of wine, Madame?"


© Copyright 2018 Chica. All rights reserved.

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