Friday, April 12, 2013
One Moment, One Morning by Sarah Rayner
If you like to read women's fiction, this is the one for you.
Lou is pretending to be asleep, but out of the corner of her eye she is watching the woman opposite put on her makeup. She always finds it fascinating, watching other women do this, constructing themselves, on the train. Lou never wears make-up, really, other than for very special occasions, and although she can understand it saves time, she finds it odd – choosing to make the transformation from private to public persona whilst commuting. It takes away the mystery, covering the blemishes, thickening the lashes, widening the eyes, plumping the cheeks, surrounded by people. And on the seven forty-four to Victoria, Lou is surrounded by people: most of them silent; many of them asleep, or at least dozing; some of them reading, and a few, a minority, chatting.
The woman on the seat adjacent to her, separated by the aisle, is one such person. Lou has her iPod on, softly, so she can’t hear what she is saying, although from the tilt of the woman’s head, it’s clear she is talking to a man to her right. Lou shifts in her seat, adjusts her parka hood, damp from a cycle ride through drizzle to the station, so as to view them better round the fur lining. They are married. Matching rings, circling fingers circling cardboard coffee cups, betray this. The woman, Lou decides, is around forty. Lou can’t observe her full on, but she appears to have the sort of face Lou likes. Her profile is interesting, attractive, if with faint traces of a jowl; her hair a thick curtain of chestnut brown. From what Lou can see of him, her husband is not quite as good looking; he is heavyset, greying – Lou reckons he is ten years his wife’s senior, maybe more – but his face is kind. There is a gentleness in his expression and the lines around his mouth, deep crevices, suggest he likes to laugh. The woman leans affectionately against his shoulder. Before him is a thick paperback, the latest best-seller, but he’s not reading it; instead he strokes her hand, slowly, softly. Lou has a small pang of jealousy. She envies their tenderness and the way they show it without a second thought.
The train pulls into Burgess Hill. It is pouring now, and weary commuters shake and close their umbrellas as they board. There is the sharp blow of a whistle to hurry them, and as the doors slide shut, Lou returns her gaze to the young woman opposite. Now she has finished applying shadow to her eyes, they have more emphasis: it is as if her whole face has acquired definition, an edge. Except the lips, still pale, appear bereft. Lou thinks she looked just as good without make-up: sweeter somehow, more vulnerable. Either way, though, she is pretty. And her hair, a mass of Fusilli blonde curls, is so ebullient, so springy, so different in texture from her own spiked and mousy crop, that Lou wants to reach out and touch it. Lou watches as the young woman turns attention to her lips. Suddenly, the young woman stops, Cupid’s bow comically half pinked in, like an unfinished china doll.
Lou follows her gaze back to the couple; the man has unexpectedly, embarrassingly, vomited. All down his jacket, his shirt, his tie, there’s a stream of frothy, phlegmy milk, and bits of half digested croissant, like baby’s sick. Lou unhooks one earphone, surreptitiously. ‘Oh, Lord!’ the woman is saying, frantically wiping the mess with the too-small napkin that’s come with her coffee. To no avail: with an infant gurgle, the man pukes again. This time it goes all over his wife’s wrist, splashes her chiffon blouse; even, horror, lands in the curtain of her hair. ‘I don’t know—’ he says, gasping, and Lou sees he is sweating, profusely, repugnantly, not normally at all. Then he adds, ‘I’m sorry . . .’ Lou is just thinking she knows what it is – the man is clutching his chest now – and she sits bolt upright, any pretence of discretion gone, when, boof! A thud and he lands, face down, on the table. And then he is still. Utterly still. For a few seconds – or so it seems – no one does anything. Lou simply watches his spilt coffee, follows the beige trail, drip drip drip, along the window ledge, down the side of the cream Formica table and onto the floor. Outside, rain-drenched trees and fields still whoosh by.
Then, pandemonium.Read more here.