Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Next Stop – a short story

By Kamila Rymajdo

Kamila Rymajdo was born in Warsaw, Poland, but has spent most of her life living in Manchester, England. She is currently studying for a PhD at Kingston University and is writing a novel about sex work.

Sarah chewed what was left in her mouth then put the slice down. ‘I thought you were driving me?’ she said. Wasn’t that part of the agreement? Travel was included they’d said. They couldn’t bail on her now! A taxi back to the station would cost at least £20, a third of her measly day’s earnings.

‘I’ve got to take Mandy to her saxophone lesson.’

‘What?’ Sarah said. Now she was angry. ‘But you said travel was included.’

‘The train,’ Mandy said.

‘Well I didn’t know your house would be so far away from the station, did I?’

Mandy shrugged.

‘I’m not paying for a taxi,’ Sarah said, picking up her slice again. Tom looked from his mother to Mandy, then to Sarah, then back to Mandy.

‘I can’t miss my lesson,’ Mandy said.

‘I’m meeting Sam,’ Tom’s mother said.

Tom took a deep breath. ‘Couldn’t you and Sam take Mandy to her lesson?’ he asked weakly.

Tom’s mother looked from Tom to Mandy, then back to Tom. ‘I don’t know, I’d have to ask him. You know he doesn’t like changing plans.’

Sarah could feel her face getting red but she didn’t care. She carried on eating the pizza.

There was a buzz at the door, and everyone stood up except Sarah. Tom’s mother left the room first, then Tom, then Mandy. Sarah took the opportunity to eat more pizza. She would get as much as she could out of these weirdos. She strained to hear the conversation but the walls in this house were too thick, unlike the wafer-thin dividers in her building, an old Victorian house divided into tiny flats. She could always hear her next door neighbour practicing his mixing. He was a DJ, but played the worst type of music, techno. Otherwise, she’d have considered fucking him, he was quite fit.

Tom came back into the room first, followed by his mother, then Mandy, then a big hulk of a man with a skinhead and bad teeth. So this was the best that Tom’s mother could get. Sarah suppressed a smirk.

‘Sam is going to take you to the station,’ Tom said in a quiet voice.

‘Alright,’ Sarah said. She didn’t care who took her, as long as she got there for free.

‘You’d best hurry up with that,’ Tom said, ‘he wants to go now.’

Sarah could see that Sam was perspiring slightly. She hoped his car wouldn’t smell.

‘Where are you from then?’ Sam asked almost as soon as they got into his beaten up Range Rover. It w as dirty, but it didn’t smell much, or if it did the smell was now masked by the cigarette which Sam was smoking. He didn’t offer Sarah one.

‘Manchester,’ Sarah said. This was the downside of not getting a lift off Tom. Sarah was too tired for conversation.

‘Have you lived there long?’

‘My whole life.’

‘Wouldn’t you like to live anywhere else?’

‘Yeah maybe,’ Sarah said. They were out on the winding road now, and the sheep Sarah saw in the field to her right reminded her of the three dead ones she’d seen earlier. Why hadn’t they got rid of them? Or at least covered them up? Nothing about the family made any sense.

‘I’ve lived all over,’ Sam said. ‘I’ve only been living here for a year. I’ll probably move on soon.’

‘Oh really?’ With Tom’s mum?’ Sarah said, realising she didn’t even know her name.

‘No, on my own probably,’ Sam said. He turned to Sarah then and looked at her for too long. It made Sarah blush.

‘Aren’t you happy with her?’ Sarah asked, then wished she hadn’t.

‘I take what I can get,’ Sam said.

Sarah didn’t answer. Although it was unlikely she’d ever see any of these people again she didn’t want to know the ins and outs of their private lives.

‘Have you got a boyfriend?’ Sam asked.

‘No,’ Sarah said, then wished she’d said ‘yes.’

‘Why not?’ Sam asked.

‘Well I’m seeing someone,’ Sarah said, hoping this would shut Sam up.

‘But you’re not serious?’

‘Not yet.’

‘Why?’ Sam asked.

‘Why what?’

‘Aren’t you serious?’

‘I don’t know,’ Sarah said. ‘What’s with all these questions?’

‘I’m just interested.’

‘Well they’re a bit personal.’

‘Sorry,’ Sam said.

There was a silence now, and Sarah looked out of the window, although there was little to see beyond the headlights. She hoped they’d be at the station soon, although she knew from this morning’s journey that there was at least another ten minutes to go. She wished Sam would put the radio on, but asking would no doubt start another conversation, and she didn’t want that. She longed to be home now, see what food she had in the freezer that would constitute a meal, then relax in bed watching one of the films from her Alfred Hitchcock collection.

‘I’ve never been to Manchester,’ Sam said.

‘Oh really?’ Sarah said as unenthusiastically as she could.

‘No,’ Sam said, ‘but I’d like to go.’

‘It’s not far I guess.’

‘Maybe you could show me round.’

‘Maybe.’

‘How about tonight?’ Sam said, again turning to her and looking for far too long, that it not only made Sarah uncomfortable but feel unsafe too.

‘Keep your eyes on the road,’ she said.

‘I know these roads inside out,’ Sam said, but he didn’t look at her again.

Sarah didn’t answer, but her hands were clenched.

‘So how about it?’

‘I’m busy,’ Sarah said, her tone different now.

‘What are you doing?’

‘I’m seeing my boyfriend.’

‘I thought you said you didn’t have a boyfriend.’

‘He’s pretty much my boyfriend. He’s meeting me at the station.’

‘I doubt it,’ Sam said, laughing.

Sarah didn’t answer, instead she swallowed hard, thinking of the contents of her bag. There was her lipstick, her blusher brush, a comb. But it was the wide toothed comb with the rounded handle, not the slim one with the pointed end that you could possibly use as a weapon. She didn’t even have a pen.

‘We’ll be there soon,’ Sam said, like he was reading her mind.

‘Good,’ Sarah said, as coolly as before. She prayed there would be other people at the train station, she knew for sure there wouldn’t be an attendant. There never were at small stations like these.

Finally, they arrived at the car park. There were two other cars there, which gave Sarah a glimmer of hope. ‘Thanks for the lift,’ she said quickly, then pulled the door handle. But it wouldn’t open. ‘Oh fuck,’ she said.

‘What’s the matter?’ Sam asked smiling.

‘This door is locked,’ Sarah said slowly, already expecting his heavy hand to land on her shoulder, then move down to her breast, then her thigh and in-between her legs.

She tried it again, then turned back to Sam, who was staring out of the front window. Walking in front of the car were Mandy and Tom. Sam unlocked the door and Sarah quickly jumped out.

‘We forgot to give you your money,’ Tom said, handing her a rolled up wad of tenners.

‘Thanks,’ Sarah said. Her heart was racing so fast she wasn’t able to say anything else.

‘Your train will be here in a minute, you’d best get going,’ Mandy said.

Sarah nodded. She quickly walked away, across the small bridge to the other side.

There was no-one else on the platform, but the train came within what felt like a few seconds. Sarah got on, and got a seat near the back of the carriage, close to the toilet. She felt sick.

It was half way through the journey that she opened her bag to put the wad of tenners in and saw that there was money already in there. Suddenly she remembered they’d already paid her, at the beginning of the day. She breathed in and out slowly, looking out at the darkness outside.

‘Next stop Manchester,’ said the conductor.



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