(from my book Misplaced)
Julia stood by the train door as it pulled into Beckton station. She had been watching the nearly empty platform all the time as it had come into view. The small train was almost empty, and as the automatic doors slid open, she was the only person to step onto the grey, concrete platform. Walking a few steps forward she turned to look at the train, for no particular reason, and caught a glimpse of herself reflected in the windows. Her smart, bright, summer frock, long hair and long legs looked back, and she also saw, over by the Oyster machine, the man had his eyes on her.
The train pulled away and she turned her head to look at him. His eyes slipped to the floor and he slightly, minutely adjusted his smart, but worn, suit and tie. He shifted about uncomfortably. She noticed a bulge in the right breast of his suit jacket. She walked over, her tall heels clicking on the platform. As she got closer, and then stopped, his eyes lifted, passing from her shiny shoes, over her legs and dress and then their eyes connected.
She looked at the wrinkles on his face and the grey stubble, the worn suit and a pair of, out of place, Adidas trainers. He looked tired. She felt very smart and young before him. He had dropped his eyes, unspeaking, looking awkward.
“So you’ve nothing to say,” she said, angrily.
He was quiet for a moment but then his voice, raspy from little use, squeezed out.
“What can I say?”
“That you are sorry.”
She was annoyed; the man had no backbone.
“And that is it?” she demanded.
The phone rang in her pocket and she answered it.
“Yes Miles,” she listened, “Ok well don’t let them sell until I get back. I’m only in Beckton. Ok. Bye.”
She disconnected and put the phone in her pocket. His eyes were on the floor again.
“Well?” she put a hand on her hip.
“Well… I wanted to say…” he put his hand in the suit breast, pulling at the bulge, “happy birthday Julia.”
The hand came out clutching a teddy bear. She inhaled sharply as her eyes fell on the old bear, as worn as the man.
“Oh my Rupert,” she gasped.
She stepped forward and embraced the shy man.
“I’ve kept it all these years for you,” he muttered.
“Oh Dad, I’m so sorry for being cross, thank you.”