They met everyday at the same station.
She would board the train three stations back and sit in the second compartment of the train at the corner seat, saving the seat next to her. He would always board the same train at the station at exactly 10:42 AM and stand till the next station before sitting down next to her for a bitterly short journey of six more stations. And so they always spent 12 minutes together, five days a week.
She would slowly flip through the pages of her current book, gazing at the words in the book but also at him every second that he looked away, feeling his presence next to her like a calming meditation that she indulged in before starting on with her day. He would sit there, shuffling the songs on his phone, noting down the names of the books she would read. As if knowing her books of choice would open up her world to him and his, by way of the music that she would listen to with one of his earphone pieces in her ear.
They seldom spoke. Most frequent passengers noticed that. The 12 minutes would seem short to the outsider but passed slowly to them, unfolding a glimpse of a lifetime together before they disembarked for their own separate journeys, counting down the hours till they met again.
But they did know each other.
She knew that he liked his coffee black and shirts plaid, half tucked in to his worn out denims and that he had never ridden a bicycle. He knew that she liked her tea green, hated the rains but loved watching them from her window and always carried a watch with her, not on her wrist but like a souvenir from an old relationship, reminding her that good times are yet to come. And he knew that when she had opened her hair on one morning six months back and let her loose curls fall on her bare shoulders, he had tasted summer in one breath.
Two days before, he boarded the train a minute late, almost missing it with the doors shutting right after he entered. She had held her breath but heaved a sigh of relief upon seeing him. Though, he didn’t sit close to her this time and instead sat down on the aisle opposite her, almost staring at her for the entire duration of their journey. It seemed as if he was capturing every inch of her in his mind. The big brown eyes with the smudged eyeliner at the corners. The sharp jawline that accompanied her bare lips and a tassel of her hair falling out from its restraint onto her right collarbone. Her thin, tanned fingers with slight pink painted nails that almost matched the flush on her cheeks as she looked up from her book and raised her eyebrows at him. He smiled at her, she smiled back.
Today, at 10:41 AM, when the train was entering the station, a scream, followed by a loud banging against the front of the train could be heard after which she felt the compartment floor beneath her go over something, before halting to a stop. Today, the doors remained shut. Today, everyone looked up at each other with a gasp as the realisation of what had just taken place hit them. A tear rolled down her cheek as she clenched her fist and prayed for her premonition to be untrue. A good ten minutes passed before the doors finally opened and an announcement of the event blared on the train speakers. The body had been identified. Today, he never boarded the train.
Tomorrow, she would stand at the edge of the doors, and look up when the train reached their station, waiting for him to enter.
Two days after, she would sit in the corner seat of the second compartment, saving the seat next to her for a memory of a lifetime that she had, but never lived.