Chapter 36: Isla
Isla had felt her connection with Dee deepening for some time. This feeling had been inexplicable and without grounds as the two women shared time each day, but little of themselves. Each was guarded in their conversation and never did their talk stray into grounds which touched on emotion or personal experience. And yet, she had felt drawn to this woman. This woman for whom she would not have spared the time of day a few months back. This woman she had seen catching the train every day in a hurry from one part of her perfect life to the next.
Isla reflected for a moment on just how wrong she had been about Dee. As Dee’s story unravelled, beautifully, painfully, and spooled in shades of grey on the platform floor between them, Isla began to understand. She had misunderstood this woman badly. She had judged her and as a fellow human being, she had failed her; but she felt that on some level they had been drawn together. Each of them was battered and broken in different ways; Isla’s abuse coming from Simon, Dee’s from her traumatised mind, but each was trapped, unable to break the cycle of abuse and suffering the consequences each and every day.
They sat there, on the bench on platform four, for hours. Milly slept on and on gently; her beautifully delicate snuffles and snores punctuated Dee’s story periodically, reminding each woman that there was good in the world; that no matter how it felt, there was always a reason to carry on.
Isla’s arms were long since re-covered with her clothing, but the bruises were still visible to both women who could vividly picture them despite the layers of fabric that bound and hid them. For the first time in all these wretched years, Isla had let her mask slip, and now that Dee had seen what lay beneath, she would never be fooled by that mask again. This thought terrified Isla who feared she may lose the one friend she had in the world, but as Dee told her story, and Isla felt like she was hearing a version of her own truth, she became increasingly sure that finally finding the strength to be honest would be the making, not the breaking of this unusual relationship.
With every word that Dee spoke, Isla felt a little closer to her. As the time ticked by, the women grew closer both physically and emotionally, looking to the passing world like two lovers curled together, sharing sweet nothings whilst awaiting their train. But many trains passed and neither woman made a move to leave. Neither had a place they wanted to go.
Isla did not want to return home to her abusive husband, Dee did not want to return to her eviction letters and the home she would soon lose. And so they stayed on platform four and Dee talked and Isla listened until they had run out of talking and listening, and then they just sat in silent companionship whilst people with normal lives and normal homes and unabusive husbands hurried by, home to their perfect lives. Or did they?
Perhaps, Isla thought, everyone has a story to tell – the simple stories we wrap around the strangers that we see are just that; stories. Sometimes the truth would be too hard to guess, or too unpalatable to imagine.
It grew late and eventually Dee and Isla agreed they must each go home, more for Milly’s sake than their own. It was always easier to make the right choice when Milly sat at the centre of it. Dee and Isla grasped each other tightly before they parted and each searched the other’s eyes desperately for signs of acceptance and hope. Acceptance they found. The hope was in short supply.
Both women were desperate. Neither knew where to turn, but each felt a little stronger having shared a part of herself with the other and as they held each other close and long, a tiny seed of hope planted itself between them and each felt that with the other’s help she might be able to nurture that seed and help it to slowly grow.
A sleepy Milly interrupted the moment, joining in the hug, grabbing each woman’s legs and snuggling in tight.
“I’m tired.” She said “Can we go home and start again tomorrow?” her sleep addled turn of phrase tickled Isla who answered
“Yes, yes of course we can. We’ll start again tomorrow. That’s just exactly what we’ll do.” And with that she kissed Dee’s cheek, squeezed her hand and gave her a sad but determined smile which promised that they would, indeed, start again tomorrow.
[View all chapters shared so far here]
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.
Some lovely expressions. I suggest you change the second grounds in Paragraph 1 to areas and add a hyphen for sleep-addled in the penultimate paragraph.
done and done – thank you!
You have done a remarkably good job with the telling of the last 3 chapters. Your ability to move the story along in a believable, authentic way is admirable. I want to find out more and am hoping there is a way for things to work out for all three.
I was particularly struck by the sentence which said it was always easier to make the right choice when Milly sat at the center of it.
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thank you Sharon 🙂