The windows need cleaning. Green-brown filth has streaked itself horizontally across the window pane. Dashes of unrecognisable muck, sprayed, flicked and dotted across the countryside view. The landscape blurred by foliage, thorns, fences, all transforming into beautiful colourful streaks. Like strokes of paint, a contemporary artists need to loosen his focus on the world.
The day is young and unfamiliarly bright. The sun burns brightly through the moving trees, the strokes of white light causing my eyes to squint and quiver in discomfort. Like channel hopping, the images flicker through my eyes, failing to commit themselves to memory. I doze softly, my head banging rhythmically against the glass as the train picks up speed along its bumpy tracks.
I remove an earphone and it sounds like a plane accelerating, getting ready for take off. I hate flying. Every minute passing by gives another tightening tug to the knot in my stomach, as if preparing the noose for a suicide jump. I won’t be flying today. But I don’t care for trains either. I turn my head away from the window, a scruffy man has taken the seat beside me. He has with him a tatty backpack and numerous carrier bags which keep falling sideward on my legs. I shrink away from the stranger who is staring at me, oblivious to the social norms of personal space. I can see dirt under his nails and can smell lager on his breath.
I do not want to engage in conversation, but he starts one up just the same. I force a smile and reluctantly take out an earplug.
“Eleanor.” I say holding out my hand and shaking his grubby outstretched palm. Eleanor is actually my real name; I failed to think of an alternative on the spot.
“Russell.” He says widening his mouth into a toothy convincing smile. I smile back distracting the man from my dress where I am currently wiping my hand. I should feel bad but at the same time I feel it would be unhygienic not to. He asks me where I’m from, what I do and a million other questions that frankly I do not feel like answering to a complete stranger. Many stops have passed by now and I realise I have not asked him a single question back, yet he has continued with his own nonetheless.
“What’s in there?” he asks point to the luggage I’m hugging tightly on my lap. I’ve been nervously checking the whereabouts of a very important document for the last two hours.
“Nothing.” I reply defensively, drawing it closer, as if accusing the poor man of attempting to steal it.
“How comes a young thing like you is travelling by yourself anyhow? Where’s your mummy or daddy?” he asks condescendingly at my apparent wealth and upbringing. He has a strong twang to his voice, a country bumpkin if I ever did see one.
“I’m 15.” I tell him with a finality to my voice much older than my years. He doesn’t know me or my business. I wish he would just stop talking. I put an earphone back in and fidget in the heat. The sun blaring in through the window is cooking me in my layers, I remove my grey cardigan as though it were the tinfoil on a Sunday roast. Not that I would know about roasts, my family doesn’t do roasts, or cooking more correctly, not since they came into money and certainly not since my mother married again. ‘Why do it yourself when someone else can do it and so much better,’ Ted would tell us.
“Because Ted,” I had shouted at him when he’d emptied my saucepans spitefully in the bin. “Because I am more than capable of cooking and unlike you I am not too pretentious to do it myself!” Not the wisest retort I realise now. I check the bruised handprint on my bare forearm; it matches the purple marks on my shoulder and back. It clashes terribly with my elegant cream assemble.
I know Russell has noticed the markings on my arm, I can see him looking although he is trying to look anywhere else. I can see him putting the pieces together. He has the common sense to keep quiet this time. I watch him carefully waiting for the silence to be broken by more questions. It isn’t, he stays silent.
“Where are you going?” I ask, the words bounding from my lips before they have politely registered with my brain first. He looks surprised by the sudden interest. I too am startled by it.
“I’m going to Lettfield Farm.”
“Farm?” I say with a tone of repulsion to my voice which I cannot help.
“Yes, farm.” He laughs looking at me kindly. “My mother’s unwell and can’t look after the place by herself.” He pauses and sighs. “I always new one day I’d come back here. Come back home.”
“I’m running away.” I reply.