Chapter 11: Dee
Finally, having felt well enough to venture from her bed, Dee was firmly rooted in her usual spot on platform four. She was both horrified and delighted to find that nothing had changed in her absence. The world had continued in just the same way as it always did. The same people inhabited the same spots on the same platform. She had been gone for ten days but she got the impression it would have made no difference if it had been two days, or a hundred days.
Life continued like clockwork for herself and so many of her fellow travellers. There was no escaping the routine and monotony of it, and so they passed in and out of each other’s’ lives seamlessly each day. The routine reassured her and she was pleased to see all of her familiar fellow passengers and found herself wondering if they had noted her absence, as she would surely note theirs were they not to turn up for a few days.
She had been stood watching the world pass by for ten minutes or so when she saw the little girl who’d lost her ball, but thankfully not her life, beneath the train the last time she’d been here. She knew the little girl well – she watched her every day. There was something about the innocence of children that really appealed to Dee. They saw the world through fresh eyes every day, never tainted by the pain or misery of the day before but rather approaching each new day – each new hour and minute with wide-eyed wonder and a willingness to embrace every moment and its endless possibilities.
The little girl always stood out like a shining jewel in this dusty old crown of jaded commuters. She seemed more young, more vibrant, more dynamic more… child-like than she might in another situation, simply because she was surrounded by weary middle aged commuters in their beige coats with their beige lives and their lack of joye de vivre. The juxtaposition of their muted tones and conversations with her vivid colours and laughter made her appear so very alive.
Dee often wondered about the young girl and her mother, always so stylishly dressed and chattering away together. Dee imagined the places they had been all day – play dates with other kids, to the park or the zoo. She imagined their days to be full of fun and laughter and that they were on their way home when she saw them at the same time each day. Dee imagined them happily rushing home to have tea with Daddy and to regale him with tales of their adventures that day. She pictured the joy in his eyes and the knowing glances he and the little girl’s mother would exchange as she tripped over her words in her excitement to recall the day’s events. Dee imagined how the little things would take on huge significance in that special way they do with children of a certain age. How the endeavours of a woodlouse in the park or a ginger tom petted on the street or a noisy bin lorry could be the cause of great celebration and in depth storytelling.
Dee wished for a moment that she were that mother, that the daughter were hers and that she could find deep joy in life’s little things again, inspired by this beautiful girl, always smiling, brown curls bouncing. Dee noted that her ball had been replaced but that the little girl clutched the new ball firmly to her chest, unwilling to risk losing it to the train tracks Dee supposed, and perhaps a little fearful that another wrong move with her ball may result in her being rugby tackled once more.
It must have been terrifying for her, Dee realised, being thrust to the ground by a stranger when she was so clearly absorbed in her own little world and really quite content with her lot in life, intent only on catching up with her ball. She imagined the happy bubbly the little girl floating through life that afternoon and how she, Dee, had so abruptly popped that bubble. She’d had to of course. Again, and again she’d wondered what might have been. Would the girl really have chased the ball right onto the tracks and into the path of the oncoming train? Surely not, she thought one moment, but then she’d recall yet again how distracted the girl had been. Yes, Dee concluded, she really may have saved the girl’s life.
Dee longed to know how the girl felt about what had happened. Did she understand the gravity of the situation? Did she think that Dee was a crazy lady who went around jumping on children, or was she grateful to have had her life saved?
It’s virtually impossible to know what thoughts go through the mind of a young child, Dee concluded, even if she could speak to the little girl she would be unlikely to get an answer that made a lot of sense. Little kids were special that way, communicating in a way that sounded fully formed and sensible, whilst actually making very little sense at all.
Besides, thought Dee, she could not possibly ask the little girl about her memories of the incident. They had never spoken before ‘that day’ and would likely never speak again. That’s how things were in London. No one spoke to each other. She rather liked it that way. You most definitely didn’t go up to other people’s children. People were so paranoid these days that harm would come to their children that there was no way a stranger could comfortably walk up to a child and strike up a conversation with them for fear of being labelled a paedophile or a child snatcher.
It was just as Dee was resigning herself to the fact that she would likely never converse with the girl, that the girl came running up to her.
“Look! I got a new ball!” she exclaimed. And Dee remembered how it felt to smile.
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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.
As always, I enjoy the way you describe the inner thoughts of people. It occurred to me today that, by having short chapters devoted to each individual character, you are establishing the relationship between the two women wordlessly — so far. Each day we get to see how their thoughts are corresponding.
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I didn’t plan it at all to the relationship quite naturally evolved. I’m enjoying revisiting it now and adding to it and it’s lovely that other people are reading along too. It will be nice to bring it to some kind of conclusion…
It’s virtually impossible to know what thoughts go through the mind of a young child- for some maybe, but not for you Pooky as your descriptions of Milly’s actions and thoughts, her way of playing, of clutching the ball to her chest and above all the film you create of her is so sensitively done. So believable and so right that you take the reader there via their own imagination and memories coupled with your own. I honestly can’t describe my sheer joy at the last line when Milly speaks to Dee; masterful! Thank you for making my morning again.
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I’m not sure I could do that now! I think that I imagined Milly when my girls were that exact same age! I am enjoying her now though and hope to build on her some
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So does this mean a series of books so that you can use the girls again when Milly is 10/11? I’ll look forwards to that 😉