The woman in the red coat stood beside her on the northbound platform, it was a feminine coat, cut tight at the waist and flaring out like an ice skating skirt.
Just as Sue was framing the words, ‘Ooh, is that from Next,’ the 10.23 to Manchester Piccadilly arrived and something red flew past her. It was so quick she thought she might have imagined it. But then she saw the white staring eyes of the driver and heard the desperate squealing of brakes on rails.
Footsteps behind her, people running, jostling, pushing.‘What happened? Oh…’
‘Is she? How…’
‘I’ll go and find…’
Sentences unfinished. Sue knelt at the platform edge and looked down to the rails, the crushed Coke cans, crinkly crisp packets and dark stains, red fabric. The front of the engine loomed over her like a tall cliff. Death smelled like the diesel Sue put in the car.
‘Hello.’ Not even a whisper, smaller than a sigh.
Sue pulled the red coat aside and two eyes looked up, black, like pieces of coal in a snowman’s face.
‘Help.’ Sue’s voice wasn’t working, it sounded nothing like the noise she usually heard in her head. She tried again. ‘Help.’
The eyes stared.
‘Don’t you speak, okay? I’ll talk about… I’ll ask questions and you can close your eyes. Once for yes and twice for no. Alright?’
The eyes closed once.
‘Great. I’m Sue… erm… I’m gonna be sacked.’
The eyelids flickered.
Sue looked at the platform clock: four minutes had passed. Everywhere was quiet, it was just her and this pale, sad woman. And then she realised the eyes were fixed on her and she struggled to speak.
‘I don’t care if they do sack me. I hate it there.’
She sat at the edge of the platform and slid down, slowly, carefully, then took the woman’s cold bloodless hand. The blood had gone somewhere more important; the heart, the brain.
‘I love your coat. I had a red jumper the same colour once, but me Mam said I looked like a beetroot. Would you mind if I open your handbag?’
The two coal eyes stared back.
‘To find something with your name on.’
It was a smart black bag. Inside were folders, a diary, a passport. The photo was a good likeness.
The lips flickered but the eyes were smaller than before, like the chips of coke Sue’s Nan used to burn in the stove.
‘Hold on Eleanor, they’ll soon be here and you won’t have to hold my hand anymore.’
Except Eleanor wasn’t holding Sue’s hand, Sue was doing the holding. Eleanor’s skin felt like tissue paper now.
A man’s voice. Footsteps, a paramedic in motorbike leathers.
‘Got to get some fluids into you love, get you through the Golden Hour. The first sixty minutes is crucial. Tch.’ A sigh.
His hand passed gently over Eleanor’s eyes.
‘Patient cannot be resuscitated.’
Sue felt as if something she had never owned had been stolen.
© Sandra Danby
[this story was first published at Ether Books as part of the ‘Flash Fortnight Challenge 2014]
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ENDINGS: a #shortstory about two women, a red coat & the Golden Hour via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2vG