[Author’s note, updated 26th November 2020: This is an old version of the story kept here purely for anyone who might have found their way here from Quora. For a more up-to-date version of the (still-incomplete!) story see the Tales of Lyniezia blog, here.]
Part 1: Laura
The wind whipped and howled along the station platform. Laura stood patiently while the tannoy announced the 18:45 train to Menaasa was running late. Another twenty minutes, she thought. Damn it all! Did these people even think of the ordinary passenger before they decided to call a strike? Well, of course not, she reminded herself, not when services and moreover their jobs are on the line, but when you’re cold and tired, when your hair has been so messed up by the wind that even your usual industrial strength hairspray couldn’t hold it in place, when you’d promised to meet your sister at the other end by eight to have time for a drink and catch-up before the taverns shut for the night, any lingering feelings of solidarity are swept away much like the tattered pages of the Neyoven Dajaren newspaper currently sailing past her. And knowing her luck, if twenty minutes became thirty or forty or an hour, so would the eroding remnants of her patience. She pulled her coat tight around her body in a vain effort to stay warm, trying at the same time to stop her skirt flapping around too much in the wind, wondering if the station teemaanten was still open – if it had been at all today – for a warming mug of tea and maybe something to eat. She hadn’t eaten at all since midday, and had been too busy with clients to have a proper sit-down lunch. But nowhere served food this late, aside maybe from the pancake shops catering to those too busy or lazy to make themselves supper on a Friday night before going out to the disco or whatever they were calling them these days, and there was no way she’d miss the train trying to find one. She sighed mournfully. Twenty-nine and she already felt the world was passing her by. Everything was changing, in Lyniezia, in the world. Like never in the past would she have known the trains not to run more than five minutes late, even during the strikes of the ’70s. They might not run at all, but at least if they did they’d be on time. Damn, damn, damn!
So caught up was Laura in the frustration of the moment she might barely have noticed the familiar-faced man, guitar case slung over one shoulder, heavy suitcase in his hands, making his way to sit down on the otherwise-deserted platform opposite. He put the suitcase on the floor, carefully placed the guitar case on the nearby seat trying to make sure it didn’t blow over, and pulled on a pair of headphones which he clutched tightly to his ears with one hand as he fumbled for the play button on his fancy Japanese personal stereo. No mistaking him, then it was definitely Michael – but he had barely glanced at her and failed to make the connection. She thought perhaps she should wave across and try to get his attention, but a nagging feeling of uncertainty prevented her. It had been ten years since they were last together, when he’d dropped out of college to focus on his music career whilst she’d wanted to press ahead, hoping for a proper job and kids and a settled life he couldn’t give her. It had been hard for both of them to accept, and it seemed neither of them had quite got over it. Certainly not him, since he’d written the song Laura, filled with much longing and regretfulness, about her as little as five years ago on the fatefully titled album Who Needs Synthesizers? (It had turned out he did, if he wanted a career in popular music these days, and the record company had unceremoniously dropped him- but that was another story in itself.) She still had that record in her collection; she had collected them all. Nevertheless, it was worth a try to get his attention, and she could at least do with a bit of company whilst waiting for the train that might never come. Working up the courage, she waved maniacally at him and shouted his name- but he failed to notice, being too engrossed in his music as always, and trying to keep the sound of the wind from interfering with it, or trying to stop his precious guitar from falling over on the seat. She could barely contain her frustration at this complete lack of interest. Maybe, she reminded herself, he simply doesn’t recognize me after all this time, especially given how her look had changed from that of messy “rock chick” to the sophisticated, if suitably professional, modista she was trying to be. But that, likewise, seemed hard to believe: they had known each other since middle school, and she had changed far more in that time than in adult life. Or perhaps he was trying to pretend he hadn’t noticed her to avoid any complications. Undeterred by any of these thoughts, there was only one thing for it: cross the footbridge to the other side of the tracks and go right up to him. A slightly daunting prospect given the high winds and the fact she still wasn’t entirely steady on her feet in high heels, something the kirtle-and-hose brigade in her mother’s generation would have said “I told you so” to, but she would not be deterred. There was no way she was going unnoticed by him, though there be the devil to pay for it.
At that point, the station tannoy piped up to announce that the 18:45 to Menaasa would be delayed indefinitely due to a “disturbance on the line”, and corresponding services in the opposite direction would be likewise delayed. Damned protestors, no doubt, she thought. There goes the weekend.