bad dream, but actually within an hour, she had caught a taxi, made
phone calls, been to one of Darek’s banks – where she had had a set-to
with the manager and prevailed – had summoned another taxi, and
been stuck in traffic, and jerked out some of her hair, and now was
being set down in front of the central train station. She thrust a large
bill at the driver, a much too large bill, and left him without a backward
glance as he stared after her.
She rushed into the building, scanning the departures board for
possible trains. Behind her the large open space of the hall echoed
with noise and bustle, but she noticed
none of it. An express was leaving in fifteen minutes. It would take her
most of the way – if she didn’t make that one she would have to make
a series of changes on slow local trains; it would be tomorrow before
she arrived. Tomorrow might be too late. Even now they might be
loading Darek on a plane – in which case it was already too late. No!
she wanted to shriek. She had to reach him first; she had to catch that
train. Fifteen minutes, only
fifteen minutes! She tried to calm herself: fifteen minutes – it would be
enough to buy a ticket. But there was a line in front of the wicket.
Cordelia rushed towards it, but before she reached it, just as she was
coming up to it, a party of young people, with large backpacks,
sauntered slowly over, and without a glance at her, joined its tail
ahead of her. Her waiting period had just grown longer by five persons.
She bit her lip. The line moved forward six
inches. She shuffled forward too. Four minutes passed. Then two more.
She was still six persons from the wicket.
Hurry, she thought, hurry, please. But the ticket seller was in no
hurry: she slowly counted out money, talked to her colleagues who
were sipping tea, slowly answered
questions about reservations and connections. The travelers, once
arrived at the front of the line, seemed to be in no hurry either.
Cordelia’s stomach twisted. Three minutes left. She would ask the
people to let her through, she couldn’t bear it; she couldn’t miss the
train. There were only the young people ahead of her.
“Please,” she said, to one. “Would you let me through ahead of
you? It’s terribly important.”
Half the party moved instantly aside, with polite murmurs and
gestures that she was to go ahead, certainly, no problem. One young
woman, however, decided to stand on her rights: “Why? Why should
we move aside for you? It’s important to us too that we not miss our
“But Ania, we have half an hour,” said someone.“But it’s the principle of thing,” she insisted, “if it’s so important,
why didn’t she come earlier? Why does she have to take our place? It’s
“Yes,” said Cordelia, “I agree with you. You’re entirely right. I’m
so sorry, so extremely sorry. I can’t tell you how sorry and how deeply
conscious I am of the impropriety of my conduct. I assure you I will
make every attempt to improve in the future. I am most humbly
grateful to you.”
The young people gaped.
She was at the counter, she was handing over her money and
getting a ticket, wheeling about and scurrying for the stairs to the
underground platforms. The stairs
were long and she went down too fast; if she slipped, if she made one
misstep, she knew, she would be badly hurt – she had no way to reach
for the handrail, with the crutch in her good hand. She couldn’t even
slow down, once she was started, it was sort of like a headlong fall –”
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