The train rattled and hooted its way into the station, brakes screeching as it drew to a halt. Beep beep beep, and the doors opened.
Mind the gap, Elimere thought to herself – it was never said over the PA here, but she’d heard them say it on TV. Accordingly, she was careful to take an extra big step from the platform onto the train. It was not crowded this morning, and she found a seat near one end of the carriage. She pulled the skirt of her school uniform down over her knees as she sat, making a mental note – for the umpteenth time – to ask her dad to have it let down.
He was there again. Elimere’s wandering gaze had caught a familiar face, and she froze in a faux-casual position, staring determinedly straight ahead.
Stations came and went, doors opened and closed, beeping all the while, and the train filled. Still she could feel his eyes on her. It didn’t seem to matter how many people stood and sat between them.
Finally the train pulled into her station – and his too, she reminded herself. Still pretending not to have seen him, she stood and pushed her way to the doors. He was right behind her as she took another big step to reach the platform and strode towards the exit.
And finally she steeled her resolve. It’s now or never, she told herself. This can’t go on. She spun on the spot to face him, confrontational words upon her lips – but he had vanished. Elimere scanned the crowd, puzzled, but if he was still there he was lost amongst people much taller than either of them.
Elimere dawdled the rest of the way to school, chewing her lip, thinking over the problem of The Boy, as she called him in her head. It seemed ridiculous to feel threatened or worried by him; he was so small and obviously younger than herself. But there was something about the intensity of his stare, those dark eyes peering from under a shock of jet-black hair.
School passed as school does; there were fun bits and boring bits, minor triumphs and small losses. An unexpectedly high mark in a maths test cheered Elimere for a while, but all day her thoughts were on The Boy. She wondered for a while if she should tell a teacher, or even the police. But what would she say? There’s a boy who often takes the same train as me. He looks at me. They would ask things like, Has he spoken to you, threatened you, touched you, hurt you? But there had never been anything beyond the stare. That was hardly a crime.
The final bell rang, and still no decision had been reached. Perhaps she would try again to speak to him if she saw him tonight. Elimere’s step was quicker, bolder, on the way back to the train station. Perhaps if she caught an earlier train, he might not be on it, and then she wouldn’t have to worry. That was a cheering thought.
But there he was. It was almost as though he just stayed at the station all day waiting for her! Elimere stopped in front of him. Both were silent for a moment, regarding each other with mixed emotion. “What do you want?” she blurted out suddenly.
The boy just blinked. Once, twice. Then turned and walked away. Now it was Elimere’s turn to stare at his retreating back. She was about to turn away when the boy paused, turned back, and beckoned her with one finger. He didn’t wait to see if she would follow, but began walking again immediately.