• Liza Stirlinglass

Diversion - A Christmas Story Part Three

Elaine’s thumbs worked rapidly as she sent a text to her sister Barbara. Hi Sis, can you do me a quick favour? It’s a long story and I’ll tell you the whole tale another time but someone called Mark from Canada is trying to call his mum Molly Parks. He has the wrong number. Can you go via her house on your way to mum and get the woman’s phone number so I can pass it to her son? Then she typed in the address. Elaine reviewed the message after she sent it. She knew Barbara would have a million questions about who, what, where, when and why. Her older sister was very specific and detail oriented, unlike Elaine who tended to go with the flow, often by the seat of her pants.

Elaine noticed the young couple opposite looking over at her from time to time and at her phone. But when Elaine looked up and smiled they both looked down or at each other. She sensed they wanted to ask her something but were either too shy, or perhaps and more likely, she thought, they spoke no English at all.

Barbara’s answer came back, as Elaine had known it would, with questions. Who was Mark, how did Elaine know him, why did he not have his own mothers telephone number. Elaine rolled her eyes, why couldn’t she just say yes for once? But if she ignored the questions and pushed her sister to do what she asked Elaine knew Barbara would dig her heels in. She typed back a brief explanation, how Mark had Elaine’s number and not his mother’s. She just wanted to help, he was stuck in Canada, working in a hospital. To Elaine’s surprise Barbara pinged back an immediate OK be there in about fifteen, followed by a smiley face. Thanks, Elaine sent back, followed by a smiley face and a heart.

Elaine rummaged in her backpack, regretting not buying a hot drink and a snack at the station, her stainless steel water bottle and the leftover oat cake from goodness knows when were not very appetizing. The train was freezing, it looked as if the weather people had been right, snow was definitely in the sky. She pulled her jacket around her and wrapped her scarf over her legs. As the train sped through the open countryside Elaine cursed inwardly at how slowly actual time was passing. She just wanted to get home. From the corner of her eye she saw the young woman writing on a piece of paper. Her movements were deliberate as she moved the pencil across the paper, as if the marks were important. She folded the paper in half, handed it to the man and nodded her head towards Elaine. He shrugged his shoulders as if to say, are you sure? The woman nodded. With his head bent he reached across to Elaine.

“Please.” he said, holding the folded note in his hand. “Please” he urged again.

Elaine bit her bottom lip, it was a habit she had developed as a child, whenever she was unsure what to do. But the way he looked, shoulders hunched with a worried frown, quickly dispelled her hesitation. She carefully unfolded the paper and saw the woman had written a telephone number on it. Elaine looked back at the couple. The woman placed her hands together, as if she was about to pray, and bowed her head at Elaine.

“Please” she said.

Was that the only English word they knew Elaine wondered as she considered what to do. Clearly they wanted her to make a call for them, but that would mean handing them her phone and what if, well if they were not what they seemed and they ran off with it. Although how anyone, especially a heavily pregnant woman could run off with a phone on a speeding train, did not occur to her at that moment.

The phone pinged, bringing her back to the present. It was from Mark.

Sorry to trouble you but my pager has gone off, I'm back on the ward, no idea when I’ll be finished. Just wanted you to know in case you have any luck getting mum’s number and then you don’t hear from me. I really do thank you. Mark

No bother, Elaine typed back. Hope the patient is alright.

“Baby. A preemie. Gotta run.”

So he was a pediatrician, pediatrics was where Elaine hoped to end up once she was qualified. She loved babies and young children.

Elaine looked over to the young couple, she could feel their eyes following her every move. She nodded her head. “OK.” She hoped they would understand the almost universal language of those two characters. She decided to put the phone on speaker, that way, she could still hold the phone and they could communicate with whoever they were trying to reach. She just hoped none of the other passengers would object.

"As-salam alaikum." A woman's voice answered.

“Khala?” They both spoke at once, the relief on their faces was moving. Elaine felt a small tear drop forming in her right eye watching the couple move closer together, their faces almost touching as they spoke into her phone. The unfamiliar Aramaic language with its rich tones and different annunciations gave her a feeling of warmth, well being. Their faces finally expressing something other than worry.

The young woman pointed to Elaine and back at the phone. “Please” she said.

Elaine wasn’t sure what she meant until the person on the other end started to speak in English. “Hello, thank you for helping my family.”

“Ah, it’s no problem. Are they coming to see you? They seem worried.”

“Yes, they are worried.”

“I see,” Elaine paused, she was beginning to feel involved, if they were worried could she help, but what would that mean?

“Are you politician?”

“No, no I’m a student, nursing. Why? Do you need a politician?”

“I am not sure if they help or not, maybe they make trouble.”

“I see, well I don’t know any politicians. But you can always telephone whoever is in your local area and ask them a question. Where do you live?”


“Right, well if you have the internet, you could.”

“Yes, yes, thank you again. My niece and her husband, they will be fine now. Do not concern yourself.” Her voice changed, closing the conversation down. As if she regretted speaking to Elaine, letting her know there were problems of some kind.

“Alright, well I am glad everything is fine, if… .” but the line went dead before she could finish.

Elaine was about to put her phone on the table when it rang. It was Barbara.

“Sis, I just went to that house, but there isn’t anyone called Molly Parks living there. The fellow who answered the door looked a bit shifty to me to be honest. What have you got yourself messed up into now?

Join in and help shape the next part of the story on MOnday December 7th at 8pm

Meeting ID: 896 1968 6034

Passcode: Diversion

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