The girl sat on the edge of the bench, leaning forward, with her elbows on her knees. Dressed in blue jeans, trainers and a green overcoat buttoned up, she sucked on a cigarette and looked pensive, slightly nervous, as her eyes flickered up to the timetable above the platform. 36 minutes remained. She exhaled, with the cigarette perched between her first two fingers whilst her thumb picked at the nail of her third finger. Between her feet sat shopping bags of clothes she didn’t really want and certainly didn’t need or could afford, but buying them made her feel warm, made her feel like things were okay for a short while. She wasn’t alone, either. Next to her sat a young boy. He looked about 6 or 7, with mousey brown hair and grey eyes. He hummed aeroplane noises as he waved a small toy car in front of his face. His lip was quivering and occasionally his entire body would shudder from the cold, but he was content. He was totally absorbed in his plastic plaything. His right cheek bore a fresh scar from colliding with the edge of a radiator having been pushed down a flight of stairs. He had been told that it had knocked him out for ten minutes, but he was still unsure what had actually happened. He couldn’t really remember. It was fuzzy to him. Curiously running his index finger over the scar, he looked up at the girl. To a stranger she looked no older than 17 or 18, but he knew that wasn’t true, he knew she was much older than that. He looked at her lovingly. He adored the way she would tuck her hair behind her ear, but he remained unconvinced about her choice of earrings today. Satisfied she was paying no attention to him he quickly observed the rest of the platform before slipping the finger from his scar up into his nose and rummaging around. No luck today, he was empty. He wiped his finger on his leg anyway, just to be safe, but also partly out of habit. He continued to wave the car in his left hand, now preferring helicopter noises even though he found them difficult to do. He was proud when he managed to click his tongue against the roof of his mouth just right. He’d be a pilot someday, he just knew it. He squinted at the timetable, 34 minutes remained.
The kid’s stomach growled. He hoped she didn’t hear it, but guessed she was too absorbed in her own thoughts to have noticed. He wished he could ask her to take him back inside the station to the fast food shop so he could get a cheeseburger. He’d get the kind that came with bacon. Hopefully some chips too. And a drink of lemonade from a paper cup and lots of ice that would make a loud slurping noise when it was getting empty. He could throw the left over ice for the birds or he could play with the plastic lid, pushing the bubbles on it in and out. He always liked doing that. He stayed quiet. He knew it was best not to ask. She’d say something about saving money. He never understood that though; she was always buying clothes for herself but they could never get takeaway food. If she quit smoking maybe they could eat. She lit another cigarette and he let out a sigh.
The girl finished the cigarette and tried to flick it onto the tracks. She failed. It fell lifelessly within a foot of the bench. She pushed her heel into it and ground it along the platform, leaving a trail of broken ash behind it. She stared down at the remains. It reminded her of a slug trail, but powdered and black. It looked like the leftovers of an old, dried lava flow. She continued to look at the mess and pondered it. In truth she didn’t know what it looked like and she didn’t really care. She thought it looked sad and lonely. She took a glance around. Everything looked sad and lonely. She turned back to her left to where the kid was sitting. He had his feet up on the bench and, resting his chin on his knees and hugging his shins, was staring at his shoes. She wanted to reach out and put an arm around him. She wanted to pull him close and place a kiss on the top of his head, tell him that everything would be okay. Tell him that she knew where they were going. She couldn’t bring herself to do it. She couldn't lie, not to him. She had no idea what awaited them on the other end of the train journey. She looked back up at the clock. 28 minutes remained.