Chapter 3

As usual the last minute rush filled the train. Jane was still looking out of the window watching the last people running, smiling at the expressions on their faces.  She saw the two men at the barrier standing for a few seconds looking at the train as it slowly started to move then they turned and strolled away. The doors clicked as they opened and shut with people moving along the carriage. Then a voice said, “Mind if I sit here?” Standing clutching a gold coloured weekend bag and light brown satchel bag the lady with the long dark hair and red lipstick was looking casual with a neat wide smile that kind of crunched up the corners of her mouth. Her head tilted slightly and she was tapping her foot almost absentmindedly and looking questionably at Jane’s Tote bag sitting on the seat.

Looking round Jane said with a small smile, “Sure. No problem.” Then seeing where the lady was looking said, “Oh I’m so sorry. I’d forgotten about that.” She picked up the bag and put it down by her legs against the carriage wall so she could still move about a bit.

“Don’t worry,” said the lady, letting out a sigh and stretching as she swung her gold bag up to the rack that was getting quite full.

She sat down with a bit of a bump and grabbed the knees of her faded jeans, lifted her hips a touch and wiggled the jeans down a bit. Getting comfy. Then slightly pulled out the bottom of her white blouse and smoothed it down. “Sorry, I’ve got to be comfy,” she said, “I hate tight jeans when they pinch, don’t you? Specially on a long journey….You going far?” she said, smiling at Jane.

“Honiton,” said Jane looking at the lady and studying her slim face and seeing smiling brown eyes with a touch of makeup and the large gold coloured earrings just visible as she moved her head and her hair swayed, “then a cab to Sidmouth. Honiton’s the nearest station. I'm having a few days off. Hopefully it’ll stay sunny.”

“Forecast’s good so maybe it should be nice all week. I’m off to Sidmouth as well. An impulse thing after I saw the forecast. I quit my job recently and I’m looking for something else.” A lie. Her ticket was for Exeter but she could of course get off the train anywhere.

Jane said, “That’s a coincidence. Where are you staying?”

“I’ve not actually got anything booked. I’m hoping to sort something out when I arrive.” Another lie. She was booked into a Hotel near the station in Exeter but did not mind not going there. She had said to the girl on the phone, a girl with one of those dreamy sort of voices that made you feel they were somewhere else. She had imagined the girl sitting behind her desk sending a bored look at her chipped red nails flicking the pages of a cheap girlie magazine as she spoke. She had said to her that she wanted a room with a view. The girl had replied with her vacant voice that it was a city centre hotel and did not have views. And she had called her darling and Amy hated being called darling especially by dreamy girls. So she had asked if the room had a window and the girl had replied rather indignantly of course it did. And that darling again. Amy had raised her voice a bit, maybe a bit too much but the girl was asking for it. She had raised her voice and said that if it’s got a window it must have a view, mustn’t it? She just did not want to look at a wall. 

Jane said, “I remember. You were standing in front of me by the information boards. I was admiring your bag. The gold one. It’s really neat with the wheels but still all squishy. Mine’s just an everyday carry-on bag.”

“Yeah I’ve just got it. It’s real light and easy to handle. I really like it…. Say it’s a long trip and we’re stuck here, aren’t we? So Hi, my name’s Amy,” she said with a really friendly smile and flashing those brown eyes.

“Jane…. Do you live in London?”

“Yes, I’m out south, the Wandsworth, Putney area. It’s nice there. I’m quite near the river.”

“I’m in Holland Park, nowhere near the river but I like it there.” 

“Holland Park eh, an upmarket place is that. What d’you do to afford a Holland Park place?”

Laughing, Jane said, “Testosterone. I work in a testosterone fuelled environment. Pumped up men with pumped up egos.”

“Mmmmm, that sounds like some sort of job. Tell me more. I like a real fit and pumped up man.” And that was not quite accurate. At the moment she hated most men. Bad experiences.

“It sounds glamorous but it’s actually a bit mundane really. I work with sports people. Mostly men and mostly footballers and rugby players.”

“Like I said, it sounds like some kind of job. What are all these footballers and rugby players like then?”

“Oh they're mainly just normal people. Some are a bit stuck up themselves. They all have the same thing in common though. They’re at their peak of fitness and skill level but want to do better…..”

“And that’s where you come in?”

“Correct. I get inside their heads and improve the only thing left to improve.”

“Anything else?....You know what I mean, don’t you?”

“Yup and I don’t mix it with work. That’d be one hell of a bad move. They want to improve and it won’t work if I mess with their emotions. How about you being out of work?”

“I’m in between jobs. That sounds better, doesn’t it?”

“Why’d you leave whatever it was you did?”

“Advertising. Just needed a break from a hectic life. Let’s just say I was working in a male dominated office and….well you know. I have some cash saved and I’m going to spend it wisely. On me.”

The phone in Jane’s bag buzzed and sang a tune. She reached down and fished about. Her hair fell over her face so she held it back with one hand but she could not find the phone so lifted the bag onto her lap. The buzzing and tune stopped. Then the text arrived alert beeped. Opening the bag the first thing she saw was the brown envelope which she pulled out.

“What’s this she said?” almost to herself.

“Not yours?” said Amy

“Nope. I wonder how it got there,” and she put the package on the seat between them.

Digging down a bit into the bag she pulled out her phone and scrolled to text messages, “It’s just my taxi driver saying I left my scarf and he’s going to post it through my mailbox next time he’s passing.”

“So what's this all about then?” said Amy, picking up the envelope and handing it to Jane.

“Must’ve been put in my bag at the station, It couldn’t have got there anywhere else. I went straight from my place to the taxi then to the station.”

“You going to open it?”

Jane looked at it, feeling it all over, “I don’t know. I think I might leave it for a while. Perhaps it’s something I don’t want to know about. Maybe I’ll look at it at my hotel.”

“Which hotel are you staying at?” said Amy with genuine curiosity.

“The Grand. Up on the hill on the west side of the bay. Why?”

“Oh nothing really, just I was thinking of trying to get in there. What you think? Are they busy?”

“I really don’t know. I would’ve thought they wouldn’t be full though. It’s only April after all. So worth a try perhaps. It's a nice place. I stayed there two years ago. Upmarket and very accommodating.”

“Well I’m going to Sidmouth anyway. Shall we share a cab? Makes sense.”

“Sure, why not. Then you can see about a room at the Grand.”

Amy looked at Jane feeling very pleased the way everything was going. She watched her. She had turned her head to look out of the window as the train left the station. Amy thought everything was working out much better than she had hoped. The next few days would be interesting. If she could get a room at the Grand and stay close to Jane Somerton then that would be very satisfying for sure.

Jane was watching the houses fly by as the train passed through the London suburbs. The rows of terraced houses looking tatty backing onto the railway line. This was a poor looking area of London for sure. She thought about the folder sitting in her suitcase. The paperwork she had accumulated and the photographs. In particular the photograph of her Grandfather. A tall strong good looking American GI with sergeant's stripes with a smile that said he was happy to be standing next to the woman. A tall leggy woman, slim and good looking with long blond hair. Her Grandmother on their wedding day. 


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