By Carl Summers
Through the train window Amanda watched the English countryside roll by. Her last trip to London was with her parents four years earlier when she was ten. It was better then. Now she was alone, except for Maggie.
A black and white kitten slept on her lap. She was a Christmas gift from a sympathetic school chum. Amanda hoped Maggie would sleep the entire trip. ‘Won’t Trevor be surprised!’ she thought. He didn’t know she was bringing Maggie. But he also didn’t know she wasn’t eighteen, or that she planned on staying.
As the train jostled past small towns and rock fenced farms, Amanda began reflecting over the previous year. Her mother had died unexpectedly in early spring. Her father began spending more time at the pub. That’s where he met Elsa. By fall they were married. Elsa had insisted.
That’s when it all started, she thought. At first, she and Elsa got along fine. Then, Elsa became more and more demanding. Not only of her, but also her father. Amanda wondered if that was why he had started working the late shift.
Because of Elsa’s constant demands and complaining about her appearance, among other things, Amanda cropped her hair short. It was all the rage at school. Besides, it set her apart from Elsa and her long “out of a bottle” dishwater blond hair. Her boyish looks now provided her a naive sense of security.
Richard Doyle saw the contention between Elsa and Amanda when he arrived home each day. But, being a peaceful bloke, he was unwilling to say or do anything. To avoid the conflict, he started working the late shift. That way he would be gone evenings when the two were together. It was his peaceful solution.
When Richard worked the late shift, Elsa went to the pub and Amanda began an online friendship with Trevor. Trevor was a twenty-two-year old chef from Nigeria. Amanda told Trevor she was an eighteen year old waitress from Portsmouth. It was partly true. She was from Portsmouth.
When the train reached Petersfield, Amanda began thinking about the accident at the shipyard. Her father was severely injured before Christmas when a crane dropped a heavy load. Amanda and Elsa rushed to the hospital where surgeons operated to save his life. It would be a long recovery. The good news was he would live – but be paralyzed.
Amanda remembered how Elsa nagged her father to get his papers in order. “Just in case something else happens”, was the way she put it. Richard dutifully updated his insurance and also put Elsa’s name on the house.
Then the something else did happen. At the end of February, Richard Doyle died. Doctors weren’t certain, but said it was probably pneumonia. Amanda was devastated. She consoled herself with Maggie and her online relationship with Trevor. Elsa went to the pub.
Soon, Elsa began dating Greg, a former shipyard worker. Rumors circulated that Greg was fired after an accident for failing to operate a crane properly. Amanda hated the way Greg seemed to smirk at her when he came by for Elsa. She was always glad when they left. It gave her time with Trevor. But she always dreaded their return.
In the wee hours on Sunday mornings, Amanda would hear the front door crash open. The two would burst through laughing and talking loudly. They would stumble through the living room falling down and knocking things over. “Shush, we mus’n wake Mana”, Elsa would slur out in a loud whisper.
Plugging her ears would not drown out the muffled sounds from her parent’s bedroom. The two always slept until way past noon on Sundays, and then expected her to have breakfast ready. It had become too much for Amanda. In desperation she devised a plan.
The school term was ending soon, but she told Trevor she would take a week off from her “restaurant job” for a visit. They would meet at Piccadilly Circus close to where he worked.
To recognize each other, she would wear black and he would wear white. Amanda remembered the little joke Trevor had made. “You will be like salt in a pepper jar and I will be like pepper in a salt jar.”
She could hear his foreign accent through the text. “Oh, you are so clever, Trevor”, she had replied back. That thought made her laugh aloud waking the black and white kitten along with the two sleeping nuns in her compartment.
The train was late reaching London station that Sunday afternoon. Unsure of her surroundings, Amanda wandered toward Piccadilly Circus after asking for directions, then taking a double decker. Eventually she departed the bus on Reagent Street and ran across the first two lanes.
She noticed a street photographer taking pictures of her in the median as she waited for oncoming traffic to pass, but she was too tired and hungry to care. Sobered with apprehension, she felt Maggie struggling to get free. The next car flew past. Amanda darted across with Maggie clutched in her hands.
The photographer had noticed the bed roll. ‘A girl of the streets,’ he thought not realizing he had captured innocence at a crucial moment. He would never know she was not just a girl crossing a street. She was a girl crossing from a desperate past to an uncertain future.
Amanda rounded the corner where Reagent Street merged with Piccadilly. It was dark and she had to reach Trevor before the fog and drizzle turned to rain. He promised he’d be waiting.
Ahead of her was the green ice cream stand just as Trevor described, and along side was the iron light pole! Suddenly he appeared in his white chef coat. He was waving wildly and she waved back.
“We made it Maggie!” she cried as she rushed forward to the embrace of Trevor’s outstretched arms.