The Milton crush

Short stories

The carriage is packed from Indooroopilly, standing room only. Gaggles of school girls flock on at each successive train station, coolly ignoring the boys from Grammar and Terrace who shuffle awkwardly from one foot to the other with their acne and ill-fitting blazers. Some girls titter behind cupped hands, sharing some salacious morsel about who was going with whom, or who had said what on Facebook. Business men and women ignore them, ignore eye contact, staring, unseeing, into an abstract middle distance as if in a trance.

Out of the corner of my eye, through the cram-full carriage, I observe a pretty, pale young girl. She must be about 15 or 16, with a mass of long chestnut curls and freckles. I probably notice her for her fragile translucent beauty and her calm solitude among the thronging commuters. She leans against the doors with eyes closed, listening to her iPod through small, white earphones, oblivious to the commotion and crowds crushing around her.

Milton. Nearly there. At this stage of the commute, no one is getting off, just more people squashing on. As I watch, she turns paler still. Her face drains of colour. She slumps awkwardly against the door.

The doors open.

It is as if everything is in slow motion. To my horror I see her slide slowly, gracefully even, from the train, out into the path of the jostling commuters trying to board. I strain to see what is happening while struggling to rise from my seat to help her. Her head hits the platform with a thud, but her feet are still inside the carriage, angled up awkwardly. Her school bag and its contents are strewn all about. The crowd steps back from her.

I can only watch on helplessly as she becomes wedged between the train and the platform.

I reach up for the emergency button …