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No Trains On Sundays

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No Trains On Sundays

December 1986


 

Sirius pulled down the sleeve of his jacket and wiped the condensation from the train window; peering through it he watched as the sodden countryside whipped by.

“Here you go mate,” he looked up to a steaming coffee cup held in an outstretched hand, he took it and James sat down in the folding seat opposite him, wrapping both hands around his own cup and blowing on it gently; the steam rose and hit his glasses fogging them up completely and he grinned at Sirius. The train was packed, everyone North of Newcastle seemed to be returning to London for Christmas. Luggage was piled high on the racks and over-spilled into the aisle, an errant four wheel suitcase had steadily been approaching them since the last station and Sirius slid forward in his seat to nudge it back into place with the toe of his boot. The two young men had found the fold-down seats in the partition between two carriages and, to Sirius’ bemusement, James had, quite matter of factly told him that, as they were so very well positioned this was the perfect moment to reignite their rivalry of ‘Platform Hopping’. Sirius was down three to one, the combination of his inane need to look cool at all times and his recent knee injury had led to the faster, and far more enthusiastic James to race ahead in the league. Sirius had watched as James eagerly darted from the train door to the nearest wall or sign on the platform and back, dodging suitcases, pedestrians, and the very unamused conductor who had glared daggers at the two every time he passed them on his travels up and down the train. Sirius rubbed his knee unconsciously and sipped his black coffee.

“Still hurts then?” James asked, nodding his head towards Sirius’ leg.

“Nah, not really, Sirius replied, “twinges a bit sometimes but it’s alright.”

“Well, the next station’s tiny so you should be fine,” James winked. “Unless you want to forfeit?”

“Never,” Sirius replied, grinning. He looked over at his friend who was finishing the last dregs of his no doubt disgustingly sugary drink and smiled to himself. He and James had been friends since the first day of secondary school, when James had stood up for him for the oversized three piece suit his mother had forced him into. They had been inseparable ever since, he had had reservations about applying for, and then being accepted to the same University but now he wouldn’t change it for anything. Despite the fact that without James, his knee would be in perfect shape as it was he who had dared Sirius to climb to the top of the University founder statue and place a pair of reindeer antlers on its head. The dare was completed but on the way down Sirius had slipped on a patch of ice and jarred his knee. He couldn’t stay mad at him for long though, without James he would be staying in halls alone for Christmas as it was to James’ they were heading, a Christmas tradition dating back to Year 10. James’ family had accepted him wholeheartedly into their family and he had finally been able to experience a normal, functional, loving family, so far removed from the family he was born into.

“Why are you staring at me?” James inquired, raising an eyebrow.

Sirius felt his cheeks warm as he tried to find the words. “You ever think about how we’ve been friends for like, a decade?” he finally asked.

“Mad isn’t it? I’ve been waiting for you to pop the question for, ooh, at least half that time,” James replied. Sirius chuckled and took a sip of his coffee, glad that the moment hadn’t become sappy and uncomfortable. “Um…speaking of which,” James paused, he adjusted his glasses, pushing them up his nose, a tell tale sign Sirius knew, that he was looking for the right words. “I’ve been thinking and, well… I think I might…um.” Sirius leant forward slightly in his seat to make sure he could hear his friend over the rattling of the train. “Well… I think I’m gonna ask Lily." James finally said, glancing up sheepishly.

Sirius furrowed his brow, “Ask her to do what?”

James rolled his eyes dramatically, “To…marry me.” Sirius sat back sharply making the seat hinges creak, his lips formed unspoken words as he processed the information. Lily had been James' girlfriend since First Year, they had met, to Sirius' dismay in Freshers week. James had become instantly besotted, tactlessly joining every student club and team she was part of, attending every rally and fundraiser she organised, meanwhile never shutting up about the gregarious French literature student with the fiery red hair. He had pursued her doggedly for several months, much to Sirius' embarrassment and her aloof bemusement. Sirius, couldn't quite see what the fuss was about, nonetheless, had had encouraged James through the book club reading assignments and helped him paint signs and banners for whatever bleeding heart cause Lily had contrived to eradicate that week. It wasn't until Sirius had bumped into her, just before Christmas, at an LGB mixer that he had categorically barred James from attending, did they actually get to speak heart to heart. Sirius, half drunk on Baileys had sung James' praises and earnestly asked Lily to give the poor man a shot. He had woken the next morning to a splitting headache and a frantic James jumping on his bed yelling something about an upcoming date. Needless to say, the following Christmas had been almost unbearable.

It wasn’t until Sirius looked back at James did he see the fear in his eyes. “You think it’s crazy, I know you and Lil have not always seen eye to eye on everything but honestly I think you’re both too stubborn to see just how similar you are and…” James blurted out.

Sirius interrupted him before he could continue. “Mate, mate, mate what are you on about?” Sirius stood and stepped unsteadily towards James who also got up, “that is bloody incredible!” Sirius wrapped the somewhat startled James in a hug.

“You reckon she’ll say yes?” James asked as they separated.

“She’d have to be mad not too, mate, honestly I see the way she looks at you and it’s obvious she’s just as madly in love.” James beamed and sat down, Sirius turned and took his seat. “You two are insufferable you’re so in love, reminds me of the way your parents look at each other.” James made a face but Sirius continued, “Well I can’t exactly use my parents as the yardstick by which to measure affection, they look at each other like…,” he paused as the conductor marched through the compartment between them, the portly man glared icily at James, “…like that,” Sirius finished and they both fell about laughing.

The train began to slow as they approached the next station, Sirius finished his coffee and slid the empty cup into the bin in the wall next to him and looked out of the window. “So shall we say if you make this it’s a draw, you are an invalid after all,” James asked motioning at the looming station.

“Come off it mate, you’ve just told me you’re gonna get married and now you want me to play Platform Hop like we’re 13 again?" Sirius rolled his eyes and smirked, settling down into his seat and propping his legs against the opposite wall mutinously.

“Come on, think of it as an early engagement present, for old times sake,” James countered, pushing Sirius’s boots away from his shoulder.

Sirius sighed and stood up, the train was almost at the station and he could see the fine misty rain they had been passing through for the last few hours was heavier now, large rivulets of water ran diagonally along the glass and a cold wind forced its way through the gap under the door. “Fine,” he sighed again, more dramatically, “where to?”

James stood behind him and peered out the window, “To the sign and back,” he said, indicating with a finger to the sign that hung above the waiting room of what had to be the smallest station Sirius had ever seen. The train clanked to a halt and Sirius pulled down the handle and jumped onto the platform, he glared at James as his shoulder-length black hair dampened immediately over his face. He turned and bolted towards the waiting room, crossing the platform, up three steps and under the station canopy; he jumped up and smacked the wooden panel with his hand and turned on his heel. Something under his foot gave way and he threw out his hands and caught himself on one of the wooden pillars that held the platform cover, his knee twisted and he swore loudly. He began to limp back towards the train but just as he got to the door it swung closed, he looked up, annoyed that James would try and sabotage him only to see the jowly red face of the conductor glaring down at him, he heard a click and the face disappeared only to be replaced a few moments later with James’. Sirius scoffed and reached for the door handle, he tried turning it but it wouldn’t budge, he looked back up at James with alarm and twisted it harder but it remained firmly in place. Sirius looked down the length of the train but all the other doors were closed as well, wide eyed in disbelief he looked back up as James jimmied the window open but that too was stuck in the frame and only allowed a two inch gap at the top. “What the hell?” Sirius yelled over the wind, “try your handle,” he shielded his eyes from the rain with his arm and saw James furiously tugging on the handle on his side of the door.

“It’s locked, I can’t open it,” James answered through the gap, “try another door!”

Before Sirius could make a move towards one of the closer doors he heard a whistle and the grind of metal on metal as the train began to move. “Shit!” Sirius yelled again, “what the hell am I going to do now?”

James yanked at the window once more and it fell into place, the train began moving off. “Catch the next train to Paddington, I’ll try and wait for you there” James said, Sirius nodded, limping as he tried to keep pace with the departing train. “Call my parents,” James called, “oh, and Sirius… will you be my best man?”

Sirius almost stopped in his tracks, “this isn’t really the time James,” he quickened his pace as the train gained speed, the platform was coming to an end, he raised his voice, “but of bloody course I will you mad git!” James’ grinning face receded as the train pulled away from him, he saw a hand wave out of the window and he waved back, half laughing he turned back towards the station.

His face fell immediately, this station barely looked like it was used every 50 years let alone was provided with regularly scheduled trains to the capital. He limped over to the covered area and sat down on the lone bench, he rubbed his knee and practiced stretching and bending it, it twinged painfully and he groaned. He walked over to the entrance and went to open the door but, naturally, it was locked. Cupping his hands against the glass he peered inside, the building was comprised of two rooms, one had a cracked black and white linoleum floor with a row of chairs lined up against two walls, and the other was the ticket office, the window which connected these two rooms had a screen pulled down with CLOSED stamped onto it. Sirius started to panic and made his way as quickly as possible to the other side of the building where another locked door greeted him, from this door he could see the ticket office more clearly and could see a dim light filtering through the blind. “Is there anyone in there? Excuse me?” He banged loudly on the wooden frame of the door. Nothing stirred inside for a few moments until the screen twitched and a face peered out, Sirius waved and the screen dropped back down. “Fuuucckkkk” Sirius hissed, he wiped his hair out of his face and turned out towards the road, peering up and down it he could see nothing but grey walls of rain. He leant his back against the door which abruptly gave way. Sirius found himself sprawled at the feet of a moustachioed little man who peered at him over thick lensed glasses.

“Can I help you young man?”

Sirius recovered himself, scrambling back to a standing position, “Uh yeah, when’s the next train to London?” he asked.

The little man’s face flickered with confusion and looked Sirius up and down, “That was the last train of the day,” he said, ushering Sirius out of the door and locking it behind him.

“Wait, so there's no trains coming through here tonight?”

The man made a motion half-way between a shrug and a head shake, “Next train is the…,” the man paused, “the 10.13 to Leeds, Monday morning."

“And the next one to London?” Sirius prompted.

“The 14.11, now if you don't mind…,” the man started towards a suitably little black car, parked nearby.

“Wait!” Sirius called after him, “Is there anywhere I can stay? I don't know anyone here!”

The man paused, playing with his keys, he pulled the collar of his jacket in against the rain. “There's a pub with a phonebox, about a mile up the road,” he gestured, “they're open late tonight, someone might be able to help you there.”