• Liza Stirlinglass

Diversion - A Christmas Story Part Two

Updated: Dec 21, 2020

Part Two

Elaine had booked a window seat facing forwards. The carriage was only half full, with covid precautions keeping everyone not travelling together socially distanced. She squeezed into the seat trying not to touch any surfaces until she had a chance to sanitise them with the wipes she had bought with her. Everyone had been advised to book seats, but it looked like the young couple who boarded just after her were unsure where to sit. The girl was heavily pregnant. Elaine took pity on their worried faces and pointed to two seats opposite her on the other side of the carriage which didn't have reserved tickets attached. They nodded, their heads bowed as if they wanted to be invisible, unseen. She heard them whisper to each other as they sat down. Their language was mystical, in Elaine’s mind their words conjured up a warmer climate The boy who looked barely old enough to be a father, pulled out some money and started counting it. The girl shrugged her shoulders and shook her head. They had less than twenty pounds, was that all they had Elaine wondered. Were they married, where had they come from, where were they going?

The train doors beeped and the guard announced the travel time, stations and destination and finally the train moved slowly out of the station.

Elaine's phone glinted, winking at her as it caught the sun from where she had put it on the table, along with her book and notepad. Damn it she thought, remembering the plea for help from the unknown caller. What harm could it do to try and help? It wasn’t as if she had anything urgent to occupy her mind on the journey. She looked at her call log, she would try to call him back once, if she didn't get through that would be alright, but at least she would have tried. He answered almost immediately.


“Umm hello, it’s the woman you just talked to. Sorry, I hung up, I needed to get on the train.” Why had she called back? This felt awkward.

“Oh hey, that’s fine, I’m sorry I bothered you, it’s just that well I guess my mum wrote down the wrong number and that’s how I ended up calling you. Thanks for calling back.”

His gracious tone and explanation added to her guilt. “Look I didn’t mean to be rude, but I really don’t know how to track a mobile number here. What is your mum’s name, you said she lives in Newcastle?”

“Yes, she moved back there, from Canada.”

“Oh, you’re Canadian?”

“Well, yeah, did you think I was American?”

“Umm, yes, sorry.”

“Hey, no problem, it happened all the time when I was in Europe. That’s why I now wear a little maple leaf badge when I travel.”

Elaine laughed. Her own accent was a bit jumbled, she had been born in Scotland, then lived in Newcastle since she was ten. She now spoke with a lilt and northern overtones.

“So your mum is Canadian?”

“Only by taking citizenship, she’s from Newcastle, that’s why she’s moved back. I was supposed to come and be there for Christmas, but of course, we are in the middle of a pandemic and I’m needed here, at the hospital. It was my idea she got rid of the landline and now, I can’t get hold of her.”

“I’ll try and help, so what’s her name? I don’t think you said.”

“Sorry, it’s Molly Parks. Do you want her address?”

“Yes please, look, this call is going to start costing a fortune. Do you have access to wifi, can you message me via whatsapp and I’ll see what I can do.”

“Sure, hey I really appreciate it. What’s your name?”

“Elaine, Elaine Bennett. And yours?”

“Mark Stuart. Thanks Elaine Bennett, you’re a godsend.”

Elaine clicked off from the call. She didn’t feel like a godsend, she felt churlish.

The text with Mark’s mothers address came in almost immediately. Gibson Avenue. The world really was small, her mother lived in Albert Crescent, just around the corner from Gibson, it would be no problem at all to ask her sister to pop round and get the woman’s correct number.

How does the story continue?

Question: 1) What happens when the sister goes to Mark’s mothers house?

Is everything seemingly well?

Is she ill/can’t answer the door?

Does a man answer, claiming he doesn’t know her?

2) Who are the young couple on the train?

Are they illegal immigrants?

Are they legal refugees?

Are they married?

Join in and have your say in how the next installment shapes up on Saturday December 5th at 8pm:

Meeting ID: 896 1968 6034

Passcode: Diversion

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