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I'm going to be late. The train comes in exactly fourteen minutes, and I'm twenty minutes from the station. Of course, chances are that the train could always be late, but things like that don't happen to me. Not when it's convenient, anyway.
My feet clack along the footpath in my worn thongs. They cling to the soles of my feet until gravity takes hold, then fall to the footpath with a profound thwack.
A soccer ball rolls past my feet, bouncing and scraping slightly across the uneven cement. I glance up and find two boys watching me as they walk past in the opposite direction, eyeing the strange girl in electric green with a red face, who is most probably late for her train.
The chubbier of the two gives me a subtle nod as our eyes meet. Sorry to disturb your lateness, his look seems to say. There's pity there too, although I'm not quite sure why. Then it occurs to me that it probably has something to do with the slightly desperate look in my eyes.
The boys are long past me now, heading for the spiral ramp up to the overhead bridge. The highway streams past us, thousands of people in thousands of cars, with thousands of things more important than wondering why the girl in the electric green t-shirt looks frazzled. A truck horn toots suddenly, and I jump. The driver grins and waves. Apparently not.
Nine minutes to the train. Something hits my heel, and I watch as the soccer ball goes shooting off past my feet, rolling in the direction I am heading. I glance back, startled, to find the second boy shake his head ruefully as his chubby friend laughs and rushes off. He notices I am watching him, and shrugs apologetically. Sorry, wasn't me.
I grin. "I think your friend needs to practice his aim."
What the hell. I've already missed my train, by now. There's another hour to wait, and the poor guy looks mortified. I wait for him to catch up, and we walk toward the ball together. It is still rolling away, but the momentum is slowly ebbing.
"Oh, his aim is just fine," the boy replies wryly. "Sorry."
"That's all right," I reply, surprised.
The question hangs between us – why did the soccer ball end up there, then? – but we are both too shy to speak it.
"I'm Jack," he says finally, digging his hand out of his pocket and offering it to me.
"Pleased to meet you, Melissa."
He seems relieved. I look at him curiously and he shrugs. "Ben seemed to think I needed a conversation starter."
"Did he now?"
Jack nods casually, hands tucked back into his pockets.
The soccer ball is only a hundred metres away now. I wonder how long we've been walking together: more importantly, how hard Ben kicked the ball.
"So he chose to give you a conversation starter with the weird chick in electric green?"
Four minutes to the train. Jack looks at me strangely. "Er – no," he corrects me gently. "He decided to give me a conversation starter with the girl too lost in her thoughts to notice me."
Oh, right. Sorry. He's perfectly right, of course. I didn't notice him. The truth must be scrawled across my face, because something makes him laugh.
"So you've finished for the day?" he asks.
I nod. "Thank goodness. And you're just starting?"
Jack grins. "Soccer practice. And then class, yeah."
"Glad to see you have your priorities in order," I tell him.
"Mmm. Good fun, soccer."
"Yeah," I agree, privately hoping to avoid our inevitably awkward silence.
Instead, Jack looks surprised, then impressed. "I didn't pick you for a soccer player."
That makes me laugh. "Oh, make no mistake, I have a mean left-footer."
We're metres from the ball now. He smirks, nods at it. "Let's see it then."
I grin and hook it so it lands right at his feet. He seems surprised.
"Nice to meet you, Jack," I tell him.
He watches me for a moment, and then sighs, smiling. "Yeah, see you round – Melissa."
We turn and go our separate ways: me toward a train that I have already missed, and he to soccer practice. As I wander toward the station, I can't help wondering whether I'll ever run into him again. Chances are that I won't. Not that it matters, really.
Have a nice life, Jack.
The funny thing is, The Train I Have Missed is late. As I make my way up the steps to the station, it pulls in, and I get on.
Author's Note: I've had this account for a while, but this is the first time I have decided to post anything. I would love to hear your thoughts: constructive criticism, criticism, whatever – this is all about improving myself as a writer, after all. Thanks so much for reading!!