"Excuse me Miss, is this seat taken?" The voice was soft and deep, and was very British in its slightly apologetic tone.
Rowena, glanced up, the carriage was full. How disappointing.
"It's free," she said without warmth, as she removed her bag from the seat and put it at her feet.
She watched as he placed his belongings on the overhead shelf before returning her attention to her book just as he sat down beside her. When he shifted in his seat the side of his arm brushed hers and she leaned towards the rain lashed window to curtail the intimacy.
Unfortunately, his pale blue eyes, dark sandy hair and kind smile would not leave her thoughts and she shook her head to try and displace the apparition.
"Are you alright?" he asked, concern in his tone.
"Fine," She answered curtly, as the image of her mother warning her of strange men conjured itself. The memory of her mother made her smile unconsciously.
"Going anywhere nice?" The stranger asked casually.
She looked at him curiously before answering. "Um, yes a family occasion, actually, Bertram's Hotel in Kensington."
"Ah yes, I know the place, near the Natural History Museum. I'm actually heading there to meet someone."
"Really, how nice." Aiming for polite dismissal with her comment, she ignored the coincidence, and endeavoured to return to her book, it didn't work, he continued talking.
"Yes, a girl I haven't seen in a while. Well the most beautiful girl I've ever known actually."
Despite herself, her interest was piqued.
"That's quite a claim." At last, she was giving him an invitation to continue, not that her previous efforts to dissuade him had worked anyway.
"Oh you should see her, long brown hair and the loveliest brown eyes, with long thick lashes."
She stopped herself from saying "You make her sound like a cow".
"…And a laugh, which I swear, was the sweetest sound in the world." He spoke with quiet dignity, which was at odds with the passionate nature of the words.
"Sounds like quite a lady." Rowena mused, her initial frostiness beginning to melt.
He paused as if considering her words. "She really is…I just never told her enough."
The simplicity of the statement was overwhelming as Rowena felt the prickle of tears, but she determined to hold them back. "You must have loved her very much." It had been so long since she felt loved like that.
"I do." He said staring at the seat in front of him.
The train rattled along and they sat in silence for a time, she looked down at the open page, but it was no use, she couldn't concentrate on a single word. Thankfully, it was only a short journey from Surbiton to Waterloo.
"Why haven't you seen her in a while?" Rowena eventually asked, closing her book and resting it on her lap.
"I'm not really sure. Life got in the way I suppose. Our interests seemed to lead us in different directions and we somehow lost touch with one another. I blame myself."
"These things are never one sided. She could have met you half way."
"I'm hoping today we can begin repairing our relationship."
"I think you're on the right track."
He turned to face her properly, for the first time since he sat next to her and she met his gaze with a smile.
A voice came over the tannoy system and though the words were unrecognizable to Rowena, many others in the compartment began gathering their belongings for departure. Neither Rowena nor her companion moved, choosing instead to sit in silence until the train came to halt and most of their carriage had emptied out.
The man got up after almost everyone had filed out and graciously retrieved Rowena's overnight bag first placing it in the seat he'd just vacated.
"Do you plan on lugging that on the tube?"
She looked at the bag with some regret, it was two nights away, and as always, she had over packed significantly.
"I don't think I have much choice."
"Considering we are heading in the same direction, would you like to share a cab? It is such a pretty city, and you miss so much on the tube."
Had it been any other man Rowena would have objected, but he was different. She also wanted to hear more about this remarkable woman of his.
Without hesitating, he picked up both of their bags and they made their way to the taxi rank. The queue was short and they were sitting in a warm and comfortable black cab, in no time, beginning their journey to Kensington. The rain was just a trickle now, and Rowena took in the sights, just as she had the first time she visited London.
"Would you like to call the family let them know you're on the way?"
"Good idea. I'll text them." She fished her phone and glasses out of her bag, and then typed in the words "In cab on way. X". She was no good at text speak, but she knew how to get to the point.
As they wound their way towards Kensington, she decided to be a bit more to the point with her companion.
"Is she just pretty?" she asked with some apprehension. She needed to know that it wasn't just about attractiveness. Good looks faded, a relationship needed to have a stronger foundation than that.
"Beautiful," he corrected, "and no. She's the cleverest woman I've ever known too, and compassionate beyond measure."
"She sounds a bit too good to be true." Rowena said doubtfully.
He chuckled. "Oh she can be stubborn and bloody minded at times. For example, before I got on the train we had an argument. We fought over where we shared our first kiss, of all the things to fight about."
Yes, fighting over a first kiss did seem rather silly, but it didn't stop her wanting to know the answer. "So where was it then?"
"Well she'd tell you it was at Waterloo, when I dropped her off after our first date. Which in theory is true. I gave her a peck on the cheek goodnight."
"But you don't count that?" Rowena frowned in confusion.
"No. To me our first kiss was on the way back from Hyde Park. A summer shower caught us by surprise. We sheltered in the doorway of The Natural History Museum on Exhibition Road. She was wearing a navy blue dress and I wrapped my jacket around her shoulders. When she turned to look at me, I knew I was in love with her and I just leant down and kissed her."
A cool wetness, trickled down Rowena's cheeks, as the cab passed the just mentioned museum.
"Only two other memories have ever remained as vivid as that." He said quietly.
Before she could ask what they were, they pulled up outside the hotel.
He paid the cabby and helped her down, before grabbing the luggage.
As they entered the lobby a couple began to approach them eagerly, a petite dark haired woman and a tall sandy haired man, despite their differences they were recognizable as brother and sister.
"Mum, Dad! About time everyone's waiting." Their daughter chided.
"I don't know why you had to train in. Not, when you could have just come up in the car with us." Their son moaned.
"We met on a train." Their father replied simply as he placed the bags on the floor. Rowena doubted her flustered children were even listening to him.
Rowena and her husband's grand plan of recreating their first meeting on the train had gone awry when they'd fallen out over their first kiss. The last thing she'd wanted to do was spend the journey with someone who couldn't remember such an important milestone in their relationship. Then he had to be exactly the man she fell in love with, the kind, sympathetic, silly man that stood next to her right now. He had made far more effort than she'd ever have given him credit for, and more importantly, he was giving them the chance of the fresh start that they so desperately needed.
Rowena turned to the man standing next to her. The sandy hair she still remembered so well was long gone, only visible on their son now. However, her husband retained the same sweet smile. That smile was the reason she had spoken to him on the train journey all those years ago, despite her mother's warnings. Ignoring her children, she asked, "What were the other two memories?"
"When you said 'I do', and the moment you introduced me to our twins. Happy 50th Wedding Anniversary, my love."
Rowena turned to her children. "Sorry darlings, can you take our bags. Tell everyone we'll be there in ten minutes."
"Where are you going?" The twins asked in unison.
She took her husband's hand in her own ready to meet him halfway. "The Natural History Museum, your dad, and I have a first kiss to recreate."
Put your feet up grab a cuppa and enjoy a break with this sweet story x