Clack-clack. Clack-clack. Clack-Clack.
Swooooosh. A gust of wind from the passing subway cars picked up in the tunnel causing a small tornado of dust and debris to dance about the terminal. She waited, earbuds in, book in hand and concentration undeterred. This version of the underground was not that much different from the one she was accustomed to back in her own hometown across the pond. She knew she would miss home, but with the encouragement of her brother, she had finished training in a matter of months. Before she knew it they had sent her off to the SSR headquarters in Manhattan. She’d researched it and was currently reading up on the surrounding areas as a refresher; soon enough she’d know it like the back of her hand.
As he tried to avoid the small cluster of people walking past him, he bumped into her with his portfolio case. “Sorry, I’m so sorry.” She was jostled a little, but wasn’t even phased by the interaction. She waved it off, “It’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”
He could tell by her accent that she wasn’t from around here, as a matter of fact, it was blatantly obvious. He was used to people not being from around here- tourists or those that have relocated, accents worn down a little through the years. She dressed and carried herself almost like a native, but her accent gave her away. He glanced at the book in her hands trying to gauge if she was a student or no, but the book had an indecipherable cover. The pages within were marked with sticky note tabs in various colors, and from the angle he was at, he was able to see the a few words were highlighted. His glasses weren’t helping. He got closer, but she still remained as immobile as a statue. He couldn’t help but notice her profile with her hair pulled back into a loose bun: the angle of her nose, the curve of her lips, the contour of the cheek bones, the deep hue of chocolate brown that colored her irises.
He tried clearing his throat before he made any attempt to speak, “So, if ya don’t mind my asking, you from around here?”
She was mildly baffled by his persistence. Most people in New York seemed to just keep to themselves, save for the occasional nosey but friendly waitress at the local diner called Angie. “No, not really.”
“Student?” he asked, gesturing toward the book in her hands.
“Need help gettin’ ‘round the city?”
With that she finally gave in and gave him her full attention. He looked a bit disheveled, his golden locks swept this way and that, all sorts of art supplies tucked within his arms. As far as what one might think an art student might look like, he certainly fit the bill. His glasses framed his eyes, which despite the rest of his appearance, were sharp and intense azure. He seemed harmless enough and even if he wasn’t, Peggy could handle herself. With a short sigh she responded politely.
“I guess I could.”
The train pulled up shortly and they made their way onto the car in front of them, Steve tumbling in with his things.
“Let me take that off your hands,” Peggy offered.
“No, that’s…” A few items plopping to the floor as he tried to settle himself into the seat. She grabbed the things, piling them into the seat next to her. Letting out a little laugh, she asked, “Was this your ulterior motive the entire time?”
He pushed his glasses higher on the bridge of his nose, placing the loose items in his satchel, something he should have done in the first place, but opted not to. “Nah, not at all. I didn’t think I’d be haulin’ this stuff around all day.” He couldn’t help but laugh at himself. Of course, it would work out that way, the one beautiful dame, no, woman that he would find on the subway when he was bogged down and he managed to inadvertently coerce her into helping him. “Finals week. Those bum professors givin’ us a shit ton of work to do ‘cause they can.”
She nodded in understanding. If it was anything like getting her A levels had been and passing the tests for SSR training, then she truly knew of the utter pain in the ass final exams could be.
“Must be one hell of a week for you, then?”
“You can say that again. The name’s Steve, by the way. Steven Grant Rogers. Just call me Steve.”
“Pleased to meet you, Steve. Margaret, but I’m not too keen on the name, so everyone just calls me Peggy.”
“Why not? That’s a beautiful name. Margaret. Classic. Gorgeous.” There was an airy tone to his voice. Something about it made goose bumps roll across Peggy’s skin in the most wonderful way, but it was unexpected, so she tried to shake it, hoping he hadn’t noticed. “So where ya headed?”
“Fuck outta here! Me, too. But at this hour?”
“Is there something wrong with that?”
“Nah, Bay Ridge is pretty safe. It’s the gettin’ there that’s a little shady at times.”
“But ya know, that’s what I’m here for.”
“Right. So what about you?”
“Home. My buddy Buck and I share a studio apartment. Buck’s good people; he’s more like blood. But he’s away now. He managed to make it to the Marine corp. On tour currently.”
“Did you ever consider it? Being in the armed forces, I mean.”
“Oh, yeah! But I gotta few physical issues, so they denied me straight away. For now, this is my dream. Always has been.” Steve shrugged flipping through the pages of his sketchbook. He pulled out a charcoal pencil and began doodling, his eyes only leaving the page in front of him to steal a few glances of Peggy.
“How long are you planning on stickin’ 'round here?”
She paused. She hadn’t really given it much thought, she was just eager to be there. To escape the monotony of her own life in the suburbs of her hometown. She couldn’t really see herself doing anything else with her life, not that she wanted that, but she knew working with the SSR probably wasn’t the end all be all. She shook her head.
“It’s up in the air. I don’t really see myself going back home anytime soon. I have a friend over here which is sort of my motivation for coming here specifically. He’s agreed to let me use his place for as long as I need.”
“Oh,” Steve responded, his mind jumping to conclusions, “Well, that’s… that sounds like a good friend.”
Howard. The man with no home. Hardly. He too was like a relative of sorts. He would help her settle in, but his idea of helping her settle in was typically, “Hey, Peg! Sure you can crash here. Could you take care of a few things while you’re at it? Gotta go!” She shook her head. But there was something about his slapdash ways that appealed to her. A romanticism that she longed for-the ability to do anything in any moment.
“As good as he can be.”
The train rattled against the tracks as the next stop approached. Evaluating the map, she knew they were getting closer, though still a ways off. This conversation would end up being shorter than she had anticipated. Though they hadn’t said much it was more about the idea that any one person in a foreign place would take this much interest in her. Steve seemed truly attentive to what she had to say. What would happen when they parted ways? She was likely never to see him again, much like many of the people in her life. Losing them slowly like small rivulets of rain pulled down by gravity and evaporated in the wind.
As a few people got on and off the car, Steve noticed someone had left their belonging on the seat. He rushed out not even taking a second thought.
“Hey! Hey!” He shouted, pushing his legs hard against the surface beneath him, “You forgot this!” Peggy realized what was going on and did her best to try to gather Steve’s things and scurry out. Her efforts were in vain. The doors shut and she strained for the button to try and open them again, but nothing was working. There simply wasn’t enough pressure.
“Steve!” Her voice was halted by the glass that separated them, knowing that he couldn’t hear her. “Shit!” she hissed.
He was virtually in arms reach as he pounded on the side of the subway. The train tauntingly began to leave the station. He tried to run with it. “I’m sorry,” she mouthed following him until the last car. “Next Station!” With a hand on his knee, he gave up reaching the end of the platform, running his hands through his hair in frustration.
She slumped down to floor resting on the pole. That must be some sort of record, Peggy. Took all of two stops in a Subway and she already lost him. It would be fine. They’d meet up at the next station. But when she got to the next station, it seems the subway system had other ideas.