The crowded metro was buzzing with constant chatter and occasional announcements. The cold AC compartments were on the brink of explosion as the train stopped at Times Square station. People pushed and pulled their way in the already crowded coaches as everyone wanted to be home in time after a long tiresome day at work.
Vanessa was sitting on a corner seat reading her favourite novel on her apple tab. She would often look at the display screen on the coach to see which station was it, even though it was quite difficult to see due to the huge number of people on board. She was a bit carefree as her station was quite late on the arrival schedule still the habit of looking at the display screen made her look at it every few minutes.
One after the other stations came, many passengers got out and few came in. Slowly but steadily the number of people was reducing making the display screen properly visible to her. It has been a routine for her to read something or the other whenever she was travelling, especially while coming back home from the office. Her schedule was pretty much the same, 5 days every week for the rest of the year. She sometimes use to jokingly call herself a robot which has been programmed to work in a predefined order.
She was going through her favourite part of the novel where the protagonist was about to tell his feelings to the love of his life. The author was able to capture those emotions and recreate them in the readers, which made it so special. The excitement was getting onto her as her smile kept getting wider and wider till it reached its glorious length.
She was smiling ear to ear when she looked up to the screen again. She noticed her station was just 3 stops away and she still have at least 10 more minutes on her hands. She was about to go back to her reading session when she noticed a young man looking at her with a smile. Suddenly she realized that she was still under the trance of the novel and had a smile on her face too. She was quick to realize her mistake and the smile wore off her like the footsteps on desert sand during a sandstorm.
Derek had joined a bank couple of months ago and had been following the same schedule ever since. It wasn’t that he hated his job but he wasn’t overly fond of job either, it just wasn’t the dream job. Nevertheless, it paid better than most of the other jobs he tried his hands on so he was okay with it., or at least that’s what he told himself. He would often observe people while travelling rather than listening to songs or reading anything. He would imagine what kind of life those people have and that was a better way to kill his time on the boring ride home.
By the end of the initial month at his job, he was able to recognize many people who were regular on the train that he would board back home. Every evening he would board the same compartment and would stand or sit at the same spot or a little here there. Few days ago he had noticed this one girl who he would find sitting on the same spot every single evening. She would always have her headphones on and would be glued to her tab screen, reading.
He would often spend quite a time observing her expression and would try to decipher what she might have been reading. Sometimes she had a very sad face as if on the verge of crying while on other occasions she would smile like a toddler or get very serious. He always saw her eyes stuck either on the tab or on the display screen reading the station name. Her headphones were also her permanent companion. Never had he heard her speak to anyone nor had he saw her do anything else except reading. It had been observing her for quite a few weeks. Now she felt more familiar than a stranger did to him. She was like a silent partner for his journey home every evening.
Today was a pretty hectic day for him as his manager kept pouring in more and more work on his desk as if it was his last day on earth. If that wasn’t enough he was constantly being humiliated for small mistakes which would go unnoticed on a Normal day, but not today. It had been a long and quite tough day for him as he finally got on board the train from Times Square. The crowd was such that he could hardly stand straight. Somehow, he managed to get to his spot and he waited patiently for the crowd to disperse over the course of his journey.
Couple of stations passed and he was finally able to see the girl with the tab sitting on the same spot she always sat. He just kept looking at her. Noticing the excitement in her eyes, the innocence in her emerging smile and the beauty of her flawless way to get so involved in her own world. She had the widest smile on her face as she kept reading something on her tab. Watching her smile was indeed the best thing for him on this dreadful day. Her smile was so contiguous that he too couldn’t control his own.
Suddenly for the first time, their eyes met. They both saw each other smiling and to make the matter worse in their own head she thought that he might take her smile as a signal for him to approach her whereas he thought that him smiling towards her only meant that she would look at him as a creep . They both took it in the wrong way. She stopped smiling immediately which made him panic as a result he too stopped smiling. Her smile turned into angry looks and his smile turned into nervously looking here and there. For the rest of the journey Vanessa couldn’t concentrate on her novel as she was trying to notice how much this guy is stalking her. For him, it was as if the worst day of his life just made a double back flips to score perfect on the worse day competition. She got up as her station finally approached. She looked back one more time giving the man another glare. He just looked the other way nervously.
It was payday for Vanessa but her salary has not been credited to her account. She inquired about the same from the accounts department, which asked her to visit her bank branch as soon as possible. She had no choice but to take a half-day to go to her bank. She reached the bank in the afternoon but it was already lunchtime so she sat down on the bench waiting for the bank employees to return. After almost an hour, she saw everybody returning to his or her official seats. She went towards the customer help desk and showed them the letter the accounts department has given her. The woman on the desk pointed her to go to cabin number 2. Vanessa wasn’t very pleased as she thought the matter wasn’t so big that she has to move from one desk to another but she had no choice so she moved towards cabin no 2.
She knocked on the door of cabin no 2 with a name that read, “Derek Singh, Customer Service”
She entered the office and to her surprise the man inside was the same man who was staring at her the other day. Her expression changed immediately. Derek saw her and he was shocked to see her too. He thought that she was there to give him a word or two for staring and smiling at her. He was getting more and more nervous with each passing second. There was an awkwardly long silence.
Derek finally spoke, “May I help you?”.
Vanessa’s expression didn’t change a bit and she just handed over the letter she got from the accounts department. Derek read the whole letter and started working on resolving the issue. He couldn’t gather the courage to even look at her. Both of them wanted this to end as quickly as it was possible. The issue was far from getting resolved, as some of Vanessa’s documents were incomplete. Derek didn’t want to give her this news as he thought she was already so mad at him that after hearing the news she would surely file a complaint against him. Nevertheless, there was no other choice so he told her everything that had done and what more has to be done to resolve the issue. He looked at Vanessa patiently but she didn’t utter a single word.
It was then that something unexpected happen. She started using sign language to say something. It was then that Derek realized that she was mute and deaf. The girl he had been observing for so many days was mute and deaf. Now everything started making sense to him. Why he never saw her talk to anyone, Why she would keep looking at the display screen to read the name of the station. Derek stopped her from doing the sign language and wrote a note,
“Ms Vanessa, I’m really sorry but I don’t understand sign language so can you please write it down for me?”.
He passed her the note along with a pen and a paper. She read the note and looked at him. Her looks were enough to convey her that she wasn’t surprised.
She inquired about the documents that the bank would require and how much time would they take to resolve it. Derek gave her all the details and assured her that he would resolve her issue as soon as possible. Soon Derek called in the office boy and gave him some documents whose photocopies were required. Within half an hour, he made sure that all her issues were resolved. She looked at her phone and saw the message that her salary has being credited to her account.
She looked at him and smiled.
He looked at her smile, and smiled.
She said thank you and took his leave. He said welcome and couldn’t let go of her from his thoughts.
Derek was surprisingly excited, as he was looking forward board the train to see her there. The feeling was unnaturally overwhelming and was hard for him to control, as every minute seemed like an hour but somehow he managed to live through all the waiting. The working hours finally ended and he rushed to the metro station. He finally boards the train. His eyes searching for a sign of her but she wasn’t there on the seat she usually sat.
“Maybe she sat somewhere else”, he thought to himself as he kept looking for her all over the compartment. She was nowhere to be found and he felt dejected.
*Next day evening*
Derek saw her through the crowd as if she had a special light on her that made her standout in the crowd. She was busy in her own world, reading and imagining. He felt a very different kind of happiness within him as this happiness had a very soothing effect on him, both mentally as well as emotionally. He for the first time wanted her to notice him but she was too busy in her own world.
Vanessa did notice him while he was boarding the train and she did see him searching for someone. Without making it obvious, she observed him staring at her. She was nervous; not because she was scared but because she had stopped hating him ever since he helped her. The hate changed into liking.
She finally looked at him and smiled.
He looked at her smile and smiled
* 2 weeks later *
Now it became a part of their schedule to see each other every evening and smile. Occasionally they would even wave hey-hello to each other. Vanessa didn’t want to start a conversation because it would have been hard to talk as he didn’t know sign language moreover because she was nervous about liking him. On the other hand Derek didn’t want to start a conversation because he didn’t know sign language moreover he didn’t want to make it obvious that he has fallen for her.
* 1 Month Later *
From last one week Vanessa didn’t see Derek on the train. She wanted to know what happened but couldn’t garner the courage to go to the bank.
“Maybe he is working over time or Maybe he got posted to some other branch”, she thought as each thought of her was making her feel worse.
She was missing him even when they both never shared anything more than a smile. She was feeling something for him that just could not be confine by the term liking. She realized that somewhere between his stares and their smiles she had fallen in love with him. From the past one week her eyes were pretending to be stuck on her tab but they were wandering around searching for that one familiar face she wants to see. From past one week she would often see herself standing on the spot where he used to stand.
She smiled remembering his smile.
* 1 more week later *
It has been more than 2 weeks since she last saw him. She somehow made herself understand that some stories never have a happy ending. She stood there on the station waiting for her train. The train arrived and she went inside. Instead of sitting on what used to be her favorite seat she went to his favorite spot. She took out her tab and started reading a sad novel. Somehow reading this novel made her feel okay about her situation. Suddenly she realized that someone was staring at her for quite some time now. She hoped that he would be Derek rather that was a young boy holding a card in his hand. He gave her the card and moved to another coach. She opened the card and it read,
“Turn towards your favorite seat”
She looked towards the seat where she used to sit. Her heart-felt a fresh kick of life in it as her eyes saw the face it had been searching among the crowd of millions. It was Derek. He was sitting there on the same place where she use to sit and read, whereas she was standing on the spot where he used to stand and look at her read. Her emotions were building up so she was about to say something in sign language but stopped as she reminded herself that he doesn’t understand sign language. She looked at him.
He smiled and said,
“Will you go out on a date with me ?” She couldn’t control her emotions anymore as she saw him say those words in sign language. All she could do was nod her head in approval. A tiny drop of tear managed to come out of her eyes. She looked at him and smiled.
He looked at her smile and smiled.
The Girl on the Train By Dee Kay
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