AN: This is just something I came up with while chatting to a stranger on a train. :)


WHAT IF?

I walked slowly into the train station, bag in hand as I had done every other day of my life. George smiled at me through the glass of the ticket booth as he always did. I would miss that smile. I smiled back, took my same old ticket, and headed towards the platform.

This was probably the place that I would miss the most. Everything about it. From the gum and cigarette butts ground into the floor to the peeling paint on the metal benches everyone was expected to sit on. I would even miss Cravin' – the snack bar where everything tasted a little funny, but you still bought from it anyway. But I would especially miss The Boy - he was quite a good guessing game.

Every day I observed him, but we never spoke. I'm not exactly a shy person, but it was always just so impossible to approach him. He looked around my age (seventeen), maybe a little older. Each day he wore a kind of black suit with varying hooded sweatshirts underneath his blazer. He was always listening to his I-pod, always had the one headphone in, always in his left ear. He carried a heavy-looking backpack over his right shoulder. There was a black 'T' doodled on the side of the thick strap.

I found I could often spend my time wondering about what that 'T' stood for. Tom? Tim? Trevor? ...Trent? Would it suit him? His face? 'T' had quite fair skin. Light blue eyes. Sort of dirty-blonde hair with a fringe swept to one side. Angular features. ...I wasn't quite sure whether it was best to describe him as handsome or pretty.

I looked down at my black skinny jeans and ripped white T- shirt. I twirled a little of my reddish-brown hair around my finger – I wasn't short of split ends. Maybe that was why I never approached him. He was always looking like a little Slice Of Perfect while I was... well, not. You never cared about how you looked before I reminded myself, Don't change for anyone but you. Wow. Good Advice.

I strode up to Cravin' with my new confidence boost and ordered my regular cappuccino with two sugars. The beverages there weren't very good but when it came down to good old English weather (i.e. drizzle) the warmth was necessary. While waiting for the painfully slow trainee to get more milk, I felt someone's presence behind me. It was him. 'T'.

He was probably getting his customary packet of crisps. 'T' was one of those people that have little rituals with their crisps. He would take the packet, wait until both of his hands were free – I-pod in pocket, bag over shoulder – and crumple it a little so that the crisps go small and broken. Then and only then would he open the package and actually eat them.

"You're 8p short."

"Huh?"

The trainee dragged me from my idling thoughts. I stared at the lanky guy in front of me, holding my counted change in his hand. He had a yellow spot on his chin which I had to try very hard not to look at or ask him to pop before I did it myself with a pair of pliers. However, with an incredible amount of inner-strength I forced myself to look into his eyes. They were grey and bored. The spot was more interesting to be honest.

I looked at my change. I counted it myself – The Spot Boy was right. I was missing 8p and I had handed over all the change I had. I needed my paper money for more important things like... well, rent I guess.

I wanted to scream. I wanted to yell in the spotty guy's face. "It's eight bloody pence!" I would say, "Just give me the stupid cappuccino!" I pretended to search my purse, careful not to flash any of the twenty pound notes. I only had enough of those to last me around a month and a half before I got a job somewhere. Spot Boy slowly began to pull the hot drink away from me.

"I... I – just..." I stuttered.

"I think you dropped this," a new voice said, clearing his throat. It was 'T'. As he said the words, I felt him gently push exactly eight pence into my palm. I shot him a grateful smile before fiercely handing over the money to Spot Boy and grabbing my cappuccino.

"Walkers, alright? Plain," 'T'said. His exchange was much faster than mine.

We both turned away.

"Thanks," I mumbled, a little embarrassed.

"It's okay. You know, some people say that eight is a lucky number? It could mean something."

I nodded and tried to take a calming sip of my drink. It was even crappier than usual. Idiot probably spat in it.

Our train pulled up, loud enough to block out any decent conversation. Together, 'T' and I stepped into our carriage and – for the first time ever – we sat together. It was a little strange at first really. Most of the time I get two seats to myself, and even though we were on one side of an empty four in an almost deserted carriage, I felt a little crowded and pressed myself as far as possible against the side.

'T' turned to me and held his hand out to shake. "I'm Theo," he introduced himself.

Oh, Theo... That makes sense, I suppose. I reasoned quickly in my head.

I took his hand. "I'm Jimmie."

"Jimmie," he repeated, still shaking my hand.

Laughing, we both took our hands back.

Theo put his rucksack down on the floor and shoved his I-pod into his pocket. Then he picked up his crisps... How could I help but burst into a fit of giggles?

"What?" he asked me curiously, eyeing me suspiciously as if I had just gone a tad insane.

"Let me guess," I said as I calmed down, holding out my hand for the packet of crisps. He handed them to me, outwardly confused; "were you planning on doing this?" I asked before crumpling the packet slightly then opening it.

"I don't see the joke," Theo frowned, even more confused now.

"You do it every day!" I exclaimed with a dramatic flourish of my hands.

"You've been spying on me?"

I shrugged, unembarrassed with how I had spent my time most days at the station. "In a sense."

Theo grinned and shook his head in disbelief. "So what else do you know about me then?"

"Well..." I started.

And it flowed from there. For some reason I shamelessly admitted to a partial stranger all of the things that I knew about him and didn't worry about what he thought of me. And you know what? There were a couple of things that he noticed about me too. That's right, he even knew how many sugars I took in my cappuccino each day.

I frowned at my beverage unappreciatively. I was hoping that it would be unusually good today for me to remember them by. But I suppose that would have been a lie, wouldn't it? The coffees served at this place are exactly that: cheap cups of coffee. I yearned for something bitter and brilliant.

"You know, it's not going to magically turn into tequila by just staring at it," Theo snickered, "and it is a little early don't you think?"

Still looking at the take away cup, I smiled absentmindedly. "I was thinking more along the lines of vodka, actually."

Theo chuckled as the train reached a stop. It was the kind of sound that naturally eased my shoulder tensions. There are some people who just have a chuckle that calms its listeners - like the steady crash of ocean waves.

The train stopped. Passengers got off the carriage and on the carriage. We moved on.

"I didn't think that my company was that bad," he smiled.

"Oh no, it's not that," I said. "it's just... It might've helped numb the pain, I suppose"

"Of what?"

"Of missing this place. I'm going to miss it all so much." I smiled sadly, hoping he would understand.

"I don't get it," he frowned., "what's to miss really? It's not too attractive... and... Wait - won't you be here tomorrow?"

I looked around me. The train was a rather ordinary one. Inside you could smell a hundred different smells of a hundred different people. Sadly, all mixed together, these scents really aren't the most fragrant. The sides of the vehicle were sullied by various youths. The seats were frayed by various curious infants. The floors were stained and sticky by various coffee-drinkers.

"Well I think in a totally weird way – it's sort of beautiful. I mean, look at all of the different people that you see here every day. I won't miss everything, but I'll miss the sights, the sounds… the sensations."

Theo looked at me a little strangely again; "I think that public transportation is the only way that you will be surrounded by a group of strangers – most of them suffering from serious body odour or a chain-smoking habit – and not be expected to talk to any of them or make any noise yourself, but instead hold an air of polite silence that manages to suffocate you a little bit until it's your turn to leave... But I suppose if you ignored all of that – yeah, your theory's right."

I burst into another fit of giggles. "Well, I suppose your side of the argument makes sense... but I still love the hustle and bustle anyway."

Theo nodded. "I'm going to ask again. Why do you keep saying that you'll miss this?" His eyes seemed to obtain a glint of pleading in them, willing me not to say what I was going to say.

I sighed. "Today is going to be the last day that you'll see me get on this train. In fact, today might be the last day that you'll see me... end of."

My voice cracked on my last words and my vision began to blur. I liked Theo. He was nice and funny and generous and he calmed me and I wanted to see him more. But I couldn't. It was too late.

"What?" he asked, his blue eyes reminding me of those of a lost puppy. "Why?"

"I guess..." I cleared my throat, trying to rid myself from the scratchiness of my voice. "I guess you could say that this is my form of running away. I'm sick of living the way I do, Theo. I'm tired. It's the same routine every day, the same yelling parents every day, the same boring A-levels every day." I took a deep breath after my little rant, waiting for his reaction. He just looked at me, slightly shocked. I took his silence as an excuse to carry on.

"Today, I won't be getting off at my usual stop. I won't be getting off this train until I reach London. I'm going to live with my friend, Eve, in a dingy little apartment, working to pay my rent. I'm leaving everything behind."

The train stopped. Passengers got off the carriage and on the carriage. We moved on.

I waited with baited breath for his reaction. Theo shook his head fiercely. "No," he said. "No. No, you can't do that! God, how old are you, seventeen? My age? What life is it living in some stupid flat in London? Do something with your life! Go to Uni! Get somewhere!" He was almost yelling and people were beginning to stare.

His words made my eyes sting. "This is what I want to do with my life!" I whisper-shouted. "Don't you see that?" I calmed down a little. I couldn't be bothered to be much more acidic with him, "I'm leaving all of this behind because I am finally doing what I want. And I want to be free. I can't wait until I step into that stupid little flat!" I snickered a little at myself, looking down before I met his gaze again. "All I'm going to miss from this place is the station, this train and you. Trust me."

"Nothing can change your mind, can it?" he asked.

"Nope." The train reached another stop. Not long until Theo would leave me. People got off and on the carriage.

"You'll miss me?" he asked.

"Yeah."

I don't know why, but right then the most spectacular idea hit me. If only Theo could come to London with me…

Eve had been my close friend since as far back as I could remember. Our parents had been pregnant at similar times and had decided that Eve and I should grow up together. So we did. Eve was only one year older and it was probably the best idea that they ever had before they turned into Angry Parents and started yelling about everything. Yelling about Eve leaving school. About me threatening to go with her. They would be yelling right now if I'd care to listen probably. I bet they wished they'd listened to me now.

The picture of me and Theo was so clear in my mind: we would wake up in the morning together and set off to work and come home exhausted and happy because we were with the people that we wanted to be with most. And maybe we would fall in love and Theo would still be happy and we knew that moving away was the best thing we ever did.

But that's not how life works. We both knew it. I knew it. Theo knew it.

"Part of me wishes I could come with you," he told me, as if reading my mind; "Part of me wonders what if? …But I can't. I'm off to Brighton as soon as I can. I know that my life has been pretty controlled and I know that a lot of it has been chosen for me... but I still love studying. It's what I need to do for me."

"Yeah," I smiled, "I get what you mean… But, just so you know, if I could just have one wish, I would wish that we could be friends. Proper friends. Really good friends, in fact."

"Why would you wish for that though?" he asked, looking a little confused.

"Because I like you Theo. And if I knew that I would like you so much, I would have talked to you so long ago. And it makes me sad that I'll always have to wonder, what if? Too."

"Yeah," he agreed as the train began a screeching slowing to the next stop. Something pulled at my heartstrings. It was his stop. We quickly turned to each other.

"I'll miss you," he told me.

"And I'll miss you too."

The screeching of the train got louder.

"Think of me when you get to London, okay?" he asked.

"Try and stop me," I giggled

The train stopped.

Something took over me in those few moments as I flung my arms around Theo's neck, hugging him. I could feel the back of my eyes sting, letting me know that there was going to be a real waterfall any second. We told each other goodbye and good luck. And he left.

The train stopped. Passengers got off the carriage and on the carriage. We moved on.

I stayed on for the ride with tears down my face and a sad smile on my lips. People looked at me like they wanted to know what was wrong. I knew none of them would ask. Why talk to a stranger right? But I also knew that if anyone ever did - I would have to tell them the truth… And the truth?

I was counting my "What Ifs?"


AN: Hope you liked it. Please review with critisism etc! :D

Love, love, love,

whirlergirl .x.