Chester to Manchester
Character 1, a businessman in his late fifties on his phone:
'You got the report yet? No? She's probably lost it, you know what she's like. Look, can you see if the flight on Monday is transferable? I might want to come back a day early, see.'
'Brenda? Hello sweetheart. You got the report? Yes, thought you had. These young ones, you know what they're like. Impatient. On my back. You'll send it? Good. Bye now, sweetheart.'
'Marjorie? OK. the flight is booked. I'll be back Sunday...'
Character 2: Silent. I look once and she is in her thirties. I look again and she is older. Her mouth moves saying something to herself emphatically. Her head nods. Yes, that is what I'll say. When I arrive. I'll tell him straight. This time I will. Definitely.
Our eyes meet. We smile. Sometimes I see myself reflected.
Characters 3 & 4: Two men board the train together in matching waterproofs with council logos. Both young, one freshly out of university, I decide, the other one a couple of years older. The older one taps his computer screen describing the site they are ging to visit: the entrances, the possible use, how long it will take them to walk around. Then the other joins in, uselessly; a quiet voice that emphasises all the sibilants. 'What about that entrance there?' 'Won't that be a change of use?' His companion dismisses each one.
Gradually the carriage grows quiet. Red brick replaces fields and then tower blocks replaces the rows of houses. Manchester, Oxford Road. It is raining.