Red Line: Alewife In To Boston
She sat, lost in thought, on a bench staring blankly into the deep, dark pit where the subway tracks ran. She was dwelling on the break up, once again, but sometimes she just couldn't help it. It had been months since they had last seen one another and an even longer amount of time since they had last had sex. She was starting to get lonely. Having not made many friends in this area since she had moved, most of her nights were spent with Netflix, social media, and business reports. She had this tendency, as all people do, where after a while of not being with him she would start to forget all the reasons why they were no longer together and she would start to remember all the good aspects of the relationship. She could call him, she reasoned. Just to see if he wanted to hang out and catch up. It wasn't like he hadn't tried to get in touch with her, recently. It had been almost four months which is a reasonable amount of time before considering striking up a friendship with one's ex.
"No." She stopped herself right there on that train of thought. It had been weeks since she'd even thought of him. The only reason she was even thinking about him today was because of that stupid app on her phone. The one that showed her exactly what she was doing on her social media account on that very day a year prior and every year before that since she had become a member. Two years ago today they had attended their last college Halloween party. The picture of them both in their costumes and the reminder of that memory was waiting for her as soon as she forced herself from the bed. She hadn't even finished her first cup of coffee before being assaulted with the memory. The caption had read, "Aren't we adorable? Love you, babe!" He had commented on the photo saying how beautiful she was and that he loved her, too. What a way to start the day. Maybe this was another sign that she was too involved in her phone and her many social media apps. She had been considering cutting back on screen time for a few days now, after it had been pointed out to her how often she had been caught with her face focused on the small hand held device. She sighed as she dug through her wallet looking for an old folded up post-it note that she had come to call 'The List'.
'The List' was something she had made for herself after the initial break up during one of her shifts where she was feeling particularly blue. She hung onto it in the following months as a little reminder to keep herself from going back to him. What had started out as a 'Pros and Cons of being with him' List, had turned into a 'Why not to call him' List after the Pros column had been seriously lacking. She had almost forgotten what pocket of her wallet she kept it in it had been so long since she had needed to look at it. It was more muscle memory that led her to it when she located the small piece of folded paper and read over it repeatedly until the urge to call vanished. The nostalgia was passing but her heart still felt slightly heavy and the air around her felt too thick to breathe. Even though the air above ground was cool, the air below ground was hot. She unbuttoned her coat and removed her scarf to cool off.
The last subway that would come before hers arrived had just pulled out. She blinked her eyes after starting a bit too long at one spot on the shiny, metal surface of the train that had been reflecting the bright fluorescent lights. Her eyes stung and tears began to form as she stood and gathered her things. There were three minutes between the departure and arrival time of her car and the one previous which meant she still had time to grab something to drink from the machine. She walked over to the soda machine and inserted a dollar and fifty cents. She bent down and grabbed her bottle of apple juice that had just been ejected from the machine and glance at the Arrival/Departure timer. She only had a minute until her car was set to arrive. Quickly, she turned and walked over toward the gapping pit to await its arrival.
After a moment or two, she felt a presence to her right. She glanced over to find a man, not even a full two feet away. She turned her head just slightly to admire him. He was good looking. He wore a tailored, navy business suit and shiny black shoes. He was engrossed in his phone, so she stared for a moment longer to notice the little things. How he combed his hair. To the left. His strong jaw with a butt chin. Which side of his body his satchel was slung across. It hung low at his right hip. She let her mind wander imagining how those hips moved when he – He turned his head which caused her to look upward and their eyes met. He had caught her checking him out. She blushed and struggled to tear her eyes away from his. They were the most beautiful color of cerulean and his eyelashes weren't too long, which she liked. Men should not have long lashes. She felt a sense of familiarity staring into those eyes. She wished she could stare at them for a bit longer, but one embarrassment was enough for the day.
She turned her head forward just as the car that took her to work every morning came zooming by bringing a strong breeze that both cooled her body and took her breathe away for a moment. As the car screamed to a halt she took a deep breath before the doors opened and she hurried in with him following closely behind.
He noticed her, a few benches down, the moment she stood up. It was hard not to considering her bright red hair. He had been casually glancing around the station area ever since he walked onto the dock below ground. He was a people watcher and the subway system, like a park or a museum, was the perfect place to watch people. There were so many of them and they were all in such a hurry to go about their day. Hardly any of them pulled their faces away from the screen of their phone long enough to do anything interesting and when they did they were constantly moving from one place to another. He understood. He was busy himself. He watched her walk away from him towards the soda machine near the restrooms. She was tall, with long, auburn curls and wore a sky-blue coat.
She turned and looked at the timer before heading this way. Glancing at the timer himself, he noticed the time and gathered his things. It was time to stand on the platform and wait for the car. His cell phone went off. His roommate was asking if he wanted to go out tonight for a few beers and wings while they watched the game. He weighed his options for a moment. Go out and have a couple of overpriced beers in a loud and crowded sports bar or buy a six pack and stay in where he could relax and watch the game from the comfort of his own couch? Social or anti-social? He texted his response, that'd he'd think on it and have a reply by lunch time. He felt eyes on him and turned to his right. It was her. The woman with the bright red hair. Seeing it for the first time he could honestly say her small, heart-shaped face was stunning. At his movement, her eyes snapped up to meet his. She blushed and gave only a hint of a smile as the train came speeding by. She turned her head away to watch as the train slowed and finally came to a halt in front of them. More people began to crowd around the entrance of the rail car as he continued to stare at her. Now that he was this close to her and able to get a good look at her face she seemed so familiar. The doors to the car opened and she quickly walked through them as he followed her in.
The subway windows were black as the car zoomed through the tunnels. The car itself was brightly lit and full of people on their morning commute. It had been a little over five minutes when the car pulled into the next station. They weren't quite into the city yet and the car was steadily filling up with more people, while few were getting off. He watched as she stood and gave up her seat to an elderly man. She looked around to see if there were other seats, maybe further from the door. When her eyes caught his she smiled and made her way over to him. About a foot away she stopped and set her things down, grabbing the strap hanging from the horizontal bar that ran just above her head. He swallowed as his hand tightened on the bar that ran vertical to his body. He side stepped ever so slightly to make room for her to stand next to him.
He smiled back and she looked away. He stared down at her while they rode for a couple of minutes in silence. He noticed that her hair was wavier than it was straight and it cascaded down her back and chest covering her breasts. They had just pulled up into another station and the doors opened. Few people left the car while many more attempted to cram themselves in. All standing passengers squeezed slightly closer to one another to make room for others. He continued to stare at her as they shuffled closer. She glanced up at him before turning back to the windows. The closer she got to him he began to realize that her eyes were a striking grey and not blue like he first thought. She looked so familiar but he just couldn't put his finger on it. She was still looking out the black windows as he drew in breath to speak but at the last minute lost his nerve. She must have heard his intake of breath because she turned to look at him and smiled.
"Hello. Can I help you with something?" She waited for his response, still smiling up at him.
He almost laughed at how much she sounded like an employee of some department store that he had just ventured into. Instead he smiled back at her. "No." he replied and then looked away. She looked confused for a moment but turned away. There was something about her. He knew that he knew her from somewhere but he just couldn't think where.
"Actually, you can."
"Yes?" She turned back and smiled up at him grabbing the pole, inches below where his hand held. She held firmly, preparing for the doors to close and the car to take off again. Her smile was a little mischievous. Like she knew something he didn't and the joke was on him. The force of the car pulling out cause her body to sway towards his.
He struggled for something to say to her. Anything to break the ice. He could ask her about the weather. No, that wouldn't do either. It was early January in Boston. The weather was always the same this type of year. Cold. He had to think of something before he missed his opportunity and she looked away.
"Do you have a boyfriend?" He blurted out.
Frowning, she looked down and away towards the timer that told them they had seven minutes before they would reach their next stop.
He sighed and mentally chastised himself. That wasn't what he meant, or at least not what he meant to say.
"I'm sorry! That's not what I meant to say. Well, it is what I meant to say but the reason I ask is because you look so familiar." She turned and looked back at him confused. He rushed on realizing he still wasn't explaining himself. "I just meant, if you were a buddy of mine's girlfriend that would explain the familiarity." That sounded like a crappy excuse to find out whether or not she was single.
Her expression changed from confusion to understanding and she laughed at him. The sound of her laughter lightened the mood and he laughed a little too. As the laughter died out her face turned sad. It lasted for a brief moment before she was smiling again.
"I'm sorry. Are boyfriends a sore subject right now?"
She took a deep breath and smiled up at him. "No, not at all. Just feeling a little nostalgic. There was a picture of me and my ex on Timehop this morning from two years ago at a Halloween party, it was very upsetting and just really unexpected is all."
He stood there with his mouth slightly open staring at her with what must be a deer in headlights look on his face. He was expecting a 'yes' or 'no' answer, not a full-on explanation. But something she had said rang a bell in his mind. "That's it!" She looked taken aback by his sudden outburst.
"The Halloween party!" He had finally figured it out. That's where he knew her from.
"The Halloween party?" She still looked shocked and bewildered.
"Yes, that's why you look so familiar." He swung his free hand back and forth between the two of them. "You don't remember?"
"Oh, you were being serious?" She laughed just a little, her smile getting bigger by the second. "I thought that was just your way of trying to find out if I was single or not."
He knew it. "Joe and Nikki's Halloween party, senior year? You were dressed as Poison Ivy?" He watched her smiling, waiting for realization to dawn on her. She stared into his eyes, searching them for answers.
"Do I know you?" she looked even more confused than before.
"Yes! I was Dr. House!" At this point his raised voice was starting to attract attention.
"I remember! John was being an ass and I was sitting on the sofa. You came and sat down next to me. We talked for a good while." By now she was positively beaming.
He laughed. "Yeah, we did. Although for the life of me I can't remember what we talked about." What he did remember was how good she looked in her costume. At the time, he had thought her hair was a wig and that she had make-up to thank for her pale skin. Running into her again now after two years he saw that those were just two of her natural features.
"Well, you made me guess who you were and that took forever." She sounded a little indignant as she placed her hand on her hip.
"Like it was hard to figure out."
"It was! You were wearing a suit with a cane and that was it."
"No. I was bouncing the red ball as well."
"Yeah, but if I had never seen the show I would have never understood the reference."
"Who hasn't watched an episode of House?"
"You never know." She laughed. "I do remember you were quite an ass about it at first."
"Was I? I don't know if I believe that."
"You were." She was smirking at him now waiting for a response.
"Pssh. I'm sure I was just in character. That's Dr. House's only response to ignorance." Wait, what did he just say?
Her mouth popped open, surprised, as if she couldn't believe what he had just said. She shifted her weight, along with her arm, from one hip to the other. "So, now I'm ignorant?" she let out a small laugh and turned her back on him.
He stood there gapping. Why was she being difficult? It hadn't come out right but he didn't mean it like that.
On the last five minutes of their drive the subway finally surfaced for air long enough to cross the Charles River. He saw that the overcast clouds had parted and the sunrise had now turned the blue waters gold. It was very nearly breath-taking.
This just wasn't her day. Waking up and being immediately confronted with memories of her ex would throw any girl off kilter. Seeing a nice piece of eye candy on her way to work. Knowing said eye candy. The day had been looking up, then he had to go and insult her. Now, she was 'ignorant' as well. She knew that he hadn't meant it like that but she was already on edge. Who knew? Maybe she was going to start soon. She can be a complete bitch the week before she starts. Sighing, she looked up from her feet. The car was just starting on the bridge and she looked out of the windows across the water. Due to the weather, they hadn't seen the sun in days and it was comforting to see the light shining across the water reflecting on to all the tall, glimmering buildings that lined the river side. She sighed deeply. She had to smile, she couldn't be sad with a view like this.
She turned back around right as he was about to blurt out an apology. "I'm sorry. I know you didn't mean it like that. I've just had a bit of a rough morning." She let out a nervous chuckle.
"Whew. That's a relief. So, what's your name? It can't be Ivy." The night of the Halloween party they must have talked for at least an hour before she left for the night. The entire time they had called one another their character names. She had been Ivy and after she had figured out which character he was, she had called him 'Dr. House' or just 'House'.
She laughed. "No. It's Kate. Kate Tomlinson. And you? I can't imagine your real name being Gregory House."
Now it was his turn to laugh. "Hah! No! Nothing quite so manly. James Kelly. Pleasure to make your acquaintance. Again." He held out his hand for her in the small space between them.
"Well, it is lovely to meet you again, James Kelly." She went to take his hand but he pulled it back at the last second and went to remove his glove. His hand was cool when she finally held it in her own.
"And you as well, Kate Tomlinson. So, why Ivy? A fan of the comics or have you only ever seen the movies?"
"You'll probably never speak to me again but, I've only ever seen the movies."
She laughed. "I know, I'm one of those!"
He laughed. "It's cool. At least you're not one of those that will pretend like they've read the comics when in all actuality they've only ever seen one or two movies."
"No way! People actually do that?"
She laughed again. "Well, no. I've only ever seen some of the movies and Christian Bale is my Batman. The only reason I dressed as Poison Ivy was because I want to do a couples costume and the ex wanted to go as Batman."
Now it was his turn to laugh. "You wanted to do a couples costume so you chose Batman and Poison Ivy? They are so not a couple."
"Well you don't always have to choose characters that are in a relationship to make it a couples costume, just two characters that relate to each other."
"Oh, I see."
By now the sunlight was gone and they were back underground. Again there was that mischievous smile on her face. By the time they reached their destination the car had filled up so much that they were almost pressed up against one another. She was staring up at him now with those big eyes of hers and he could feel the heat between their bodies.
He swallowed, she did the same reflecting his action. Both gripped the rail a little tighter preparing for the break as the car pulled into the station. The car came to a stop and their bodies swayed closer together. The doors opened and the strange moment between them passed. He cleared his throat as she looked away while they waited for the crowded mass of people standing by the doors cleared.
They exited the doors onto another steaming hot platform. Once they reach the bottom of the stairwell the cold air from above could be felt. She wrapped her scarf back around her neck as they ascended the steps. About half way up she turned to him.
"Would you like to grab some breakfast?"
He smiled at her, internally over-joyed that she offered. "I can't. I have to get to work."
"Oh well." The hopeful light in her eyes went out. She shrugged her shoulders. "Maybe next time."
"Dinner? I mean, I can't have breakfast. I have to get to work. It's my first day and I want to get their early. Could take a raincheck for dinner? Says 7 o'clock?"
They reached above ground, he noticed that the clouds had remained parted and there was still some rays of light spreading through the tall buildings. Her entire face broke out into the biggest smile he had seen from her yet. "I would love to."
He smiled back. "Alright then. Can I get your number so I'll know how to get in touch with you?"
"Of course." She got his number and texted him so he could save hers into his phone.
"So, see you tonight?" he asked once more just to be sure.
"I look forward to it."
It was six fifteen and she was already ready to go. She sat on her couch just staring at the clock. Her stomach was a ball of nerves and her calf was starting to hurt from the amount of time she had spent bouncing her knee. She stood up and went to look at herself in the mirror again. There wasn't a wrinkle in her dress, nor a hair out of place. She began to pace up and down the hall, taking a few deep and cleansing breaths attempting to calm her nerves. She knew why she was so nervous and it was ridiculous.
"We've been broken up for a while now. There is no reason you should be thinking of him. This is in no way a betrayal." On that thought, she looked at the clock again. Six twenty. Henrietta's Table wasn't far away. She grabbed her purse and her coat and walked out into the stairwell, locking her door behind her. Houses up here were different than they were back home. She lived in a three story home and the very top floor was the one that she rented. Each floor below her housed a different tenant and each floor below her was a little more expensive on account that the house didn't have an elevator so tenants had to climb stairs. This didn't bother her. It saved her thirty–five extra dollars a month and her legs stayed pretty toned because of it. She had just stepped out onto the porch when she realized that thinking about her housing situation had totally taken her mind off of things.
She got into her car and drove the short distance between her house and the restaurant. As she pulled onto the lot she looked at the time. Six-forty.
"I wonder if he's here yet." She looked around the parking lot for any sign of him. Nothing. It was cold so she figured she might as well go inside and get seated. She asked the host if a James Kelly had arrived at the restaurant yet and he told her that no one by that name had told the host that they were meeting anyone there. The host asked if she would like to be seated or to wait. She agreed to grab a table and left James's name with the host to let him know where she was seated when she arrived. The waiter came up and asked if she would like anything while she waited, so she ordered a coffee. It took her all of five minutes to down her coffee and when the waiter came to take her mug away she asked for a water. It was now six forty-five and she kept looking towards the door.
Anxiety began to set in again and her mind started to wander. What if he doesn't show? They had texted periodically throughout the work day and everything had seemed fine. She glanced around the restaurant while sipping her water and noticed how many couples were there. There were a lot! There was a big party closer to the center of the restaurant as well but mostly it was just couples. Suddenly anxiety punched its way through her veins and she realized the last time she had been on an actual date had been with her ex. It was getting harder and harder for her to take a breath. It was as if her throat was swelling shut. It was too warm in the restaurant and she felt like her face was on fire. Her dress was too tight and it began to itch against her skin. She had to get out. What had she been thinking agreeing to go on a date? When she and her ex had broken it off it had been because his work load was getting so heavy. He had said he would call her again whenever things at work slowed down. He had been calling her lately and she had been avoiding answering. What was wrong with her? She needed to call him. She needed to get out of this restaurant.
She threw a few dollars down onto the table, grabbed her coat, and walked out. The host looked confused as she walked out but said nothing. As soon as the cold air hit her it was like a slap in the face. She hurriedly dug out The List from her wallet. This panic attack was making everything feel backwards. She needed to calm down. She leaned against a deserted taxi that was sitting outside of the restaurant and closed her eyes. She tried her best to clear her mind and slow her racing heart. She was almost calm when she heard his voice.
"Hey." She opened her eyes to see him in front of her a few feet away looking slightly unsure. "You okay?"
Seeing him didn't have the immediate calming effect she was hoping for. Every inch of her body wanted to flee. At first. She stood there staring straight at him, now a little unsure herself. She knew that this was what she wanted. She knew it was time to move on. She couldn't keep sitting at home every night waiting for something that wasn't going to happen. She smiled at him and this seemed to relax him. He smiled back.
"Me? I got here about twenty minutes ago and decided to have a cup of coffee. I think my nerves got the best of me and I worked myself into a panic attack." She looked at him apologetically.
"Oh, well, that would be kind of cute if panic attacks didn't suck so much." He took a few steps towards her but still managed to keep his distance. "Did you want to go for walk instead? We don't have to eat here. There's a diner down the road if you'd prefer something a little less intimate."
She hesitated with her reply and looked down at her hand still clutching The List. She knew she couldn't hang on. It had been months. She was fine until today and it was ridiculous that all it took was a picture popping up on social media and suddenly she was back to feeling like this. She knew each and every reason that she had written down why they didn't work, why he was an ass, and why she shouldn't call. There was no reason to hang onto The List anymore. The List had become synonymous with her love for her ex and every time she looked at this little piece of paper it was her convincing herself not to love him anymore. She knew she didn't and she knew she needed to let go of this last little piece of him that she had been carrying around.
She looked up at James still standing in front of her waiting expectantly. There was a trashcan on the curb not far away. She quickly moved towards it and tossed the small scrap of paper into it. When she returned to him he was giving her a quizzical look and she reassured him with a big smile.
"I would actually love to do that." She looped her arm in his. "Lead the way."
"Great." He turned her in the opposite direction and they set off down the road. "You know, it was probably the caffeine."
"Oh, definitely. I've been known to have the occasional panic attack myself and I've noticed that since I quit drinking caffeine after noon it has significantly helped. If I want coffee in the evening I always drink decaf."
"Hmm, I'll remember that." She smiled up at him as they continued to walk and talk feeling her anxiety slow release its grip on her and excitement take its place. The feeling of looking forward to this was coming back to her. "So, tell me some more about you."