Chapter 10: Isla
Isla felt relieved when she saw that Miss Solicitor was back in her usual position on platform four. It had been ten days since the ball incident. It was a distant memory so far as Milly was concerned, but each day, Isla thought again of what had happened and what might have been, and she was aware of the absence of Miss Solicitor. She noted that Miss Solicitor looked somewhat more tired and drawn than usual and wondered if she had been ill after all, rather than enjoying a holiday with her no doubt sickeningly handsome other half.
As she approached the spot where Miss Solicitor stood, she wondered if she should say something. Should she note her absence; welcome her back?
No, that would be too strange – almost stalkerish. But she should perhaps reiterate her thanks to this stranger for potentially saving her daughter’s life. She had been profuse yet muted in her thanks on the day it had all happened. She had been so shaken, and her words were swept away in the crowds. Or maybe she should say nothing. Nothing at all. After all, that was the London way wasn’t it? In London you could spend hours every day stood next to the same person, catching the same trains and the same colds and yet never exchanging even the most basic of pleasantries. To start a conversation now would surely be breaking some sort of urban code. Or maybe Isla would welcome that? Maybe just one person could stop being faceless and nameless on the daily commute that took Isla away from her home with her daughter in tow. She went through the motions each day and she tried to keep things light and fun for Milly’s sake but it was hard to be fun, to feel fun, when in truth you were running away.
This strange daily ritual kept her safe and kept her daughter safe, but it also made her feel a little lonely, like she was constantly fleeing from the world. Never did she feel more isolated than when she was surrounded by people whose names she did not know, whose stories alluded her, though many of their faces had grown really rather familiar over the past few months. Maybe Miss Solicitor had a name, and a story she might be willing to share. Maybe she could be tempted out of her normal routine of alighting at Queenstown Road to join Isla and Milly to have a hot chocolate at Clapham Junction or to come and play on the swings or fly a kite.
Isla laughed aloud at the absurdity of her train of thought. Of course a nameless stranger would not want to join her and her daughter. Why would she? Doubtlessly Miss Solicitor had no end of other things she should be doing with her time in any case.
Isla was jolted from her reverie by her daughter’s voice.
“What are you laughing at Mummy?” asked Milly earnestly.
“Oh, nothing darling I’m just thinking silly Mummy things” she told Milly, but Milly was insistent that she wanted to know just exactly what her Mummy had been laughing about. It struck Isla that maybe her laughter was not a sound her daughter was very accustomed to hearing. Laughing wasn’t something engaged in often. The thought saddened her and so she explained to her daughter that she had been having a silly daydream where the very smart important looking lady with the blue briefcase came and drank hot chocolate and flew a kite with them.
“But what a silly thing to think” said Isla to her daughter who was listening intently “Of course she wouldn’t want to play with us, I’m sure she has far more important things to do.”
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Thank you for feeding back each day. I’m building in your edits and suggestions to the version held on my local machine so the initial raw version will remain here. When I’ve got questions, I’m going to ask them each day – don’t feel obliged to answer them, but if you’re happy to they’ll help me as I try to craft the story. If you have questions or observations I’d be keen to hear them too.