High Barnet 4 mins.
Four minutes, then.
Nicholas walks to the end of the platform, where the train will come in at, oh, about 35 miles per hour. Four minutes to dwell on how he got here.
“Trade like a professional with Square Mile Index”
“Cheap Finance Guaranteed for Homeowners”
From where he stands, an artfully placed tannoy hides the indicator board, so he walks back along the platform.
High Barnet 5 mins.
OK, it’s going backwards.
Nicholas had spent the day in the British Museum, and then walking around Hyde Park in his suit, and was careful to take his normal train home. The house looked beautiful in the spring sunshine when he arrived. Hannah greeted him in the garden with a kiss, and brought him a beer from the fridge. Jack was running around kicking a football. Kate, not usually demonstrative, broke off from planting her patch of garden, and ran to give Dad a long, slow hug. Almost as if she knew.
He closes his eyes to blank the pain.
High Barnet 4 mins.
He couldn’t tell Hannah that they would lose the home she loved so much, the home on which she had worked so hard. Not that she would be angry with him: she would be affectionate, supportive, forgiving of his stupidity, and he couldn’t ask that of her, he didn’t deserve it.
Merton, smooth and confident, trying to do sympathetic:
“I’m afraid they have insisted on last in first out.”
“The way things are at the moment…”
High Barnet 2 mins.
That was quick. Nicholas feels his heart thudding in his chest. Nearly time. “A person under a train.” In the past, he has smiled ruefully at this detail so readily supplied to explain delays. Well, there will be delays this evening.
“Such a nice evening, I’m going for a little walk.” And a little Dutch courage.
A mouse runs along the track.
Jack’s face is there, freckled, likeable. On some level, Nicholas liked to think he was a bit of a hero to his boy. Not any more. You screwed up, mate.
“If this margin call is not met within 7 days, we will be forced to liquidate your portfolio.”
And the neat little solicitor, adding the charge to the mortgage deeds:
“Mr Harris, I really should advise you…”
A group of French students walk past, talking loudly.
High Barnet 1 min.
He moves purposefully back to the start of the platform. Maybe 45 seconds now. Detached, he pictures what will happen: flesh, blood, bone and muscle all one to the weight of speeding metal and glass. Momentum = Mass x Velocity. Problems solved. Does the apple fall to earth, or does earth fall to the apple?
Now the rails twang, and he chooses his spot, let’s see, ten feet from the mouth of the tunnel. For Your Own Safety Please Stand Behind The Yellow Line. He feels the rush of stale air. A rumble, barely audible, grows to fill his head in seconds. He sees the reflected yellow light growing on the walls.
Ready to Leave.
At last a blur of silver and he starts to go.
He hears a French girl screaming “Non!”
He remembers how Hannah looked when they first met.
For an instant, he looks the driver in the eyes and sees fear. He checks and stumbles: the front carriage catches his shoulder and sends him spinning backwards into the wall.
Then numbness with pain, white sheets, bright light. Hannah’s hoarse voice:
“Nick, you silly boy. You silly, silly boy.”
Her hand around his fingers. Feeling right.
(winner, Chorleywood Literary Festival 2009 Short Story Competition)