Tuesday - 8:23am to the City

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Lawrence's mobile blasted out a particularly bad rendition of In da Club by rapper 50 Cent, and Lawrence was out of bed and in the lounge room answering it before he had even realised what had happened.
"Larry, mate, you awake man?" Ben sounded wired, as though he had been awake for hours, and Lawrence decided that he must be either on some heavy drugs or had been up around the clock, because he'd never known Ben to be out of bed before ten am otherwise. Ben was lucky enough to have parents who could support him through his uni degree, and he had so far managed to make a career out of changing his mind. Lawrence had calculated that Ben had spent somewhere close to seven years studying now, and he was no closer to finishing a degree than he had been five years ago. All this had added up to a lot of late night, drunken parties at Ben's house, and a lot of mornings where everyone except Ben had had to get up and go to work.
"I am now, aren't I?!" Lawrence answered grumpily, "What the hell do you want? What time is it anyway?" As Lawrence grumbled into the phone he glanced at the LCD display on the DVD player and gave a start - it was nearly 8 o'clock already, he was going to be late for work. What had happened to his alarm clock?
"Listen, Larry, did you ever see that chick you were chatting up again?"
"Huh? Which chick? When? What does this have to do with anything? Look, Ben, I'm gonna be late for work, I'll talk to you later, ok?" Lawrence had pulled the phone from his ear and was lining up the 'end call' button with his index finger when a tinny voice squawked from the receiver. Reluctantly, he brought the phone back to his ear, "What?! Ben, I've gotta go!"
"Larry, mate, this is important! Don't hang up on me, OK? Remember the chick you were chatting up on the weekend? Tall, dark hair, built like a peg?"
"Uhh," Lawrence searched his hazy memories of Saturday night, trying to piece together the events that had begun to, mercifully, fade from memory, "Umm. It was a funny name ... Aalia or something? That wasn't it ... but it was like that. Why?" He paused, then added, "And make it quick."
Ben ignored the question, sounding strangely far away now, "Aalia, you reckon? Hmm ... ok, thanks mate. Listen, I'll call you tonight, ok? Try and remember the name for me, alright?"

Lawrence stared at the phone for a second after Ben hung up and the shattered tone of the disconnected line started pulsing in his ear. Then he shook his head slightly and pressed the button to disconnect the call. He had no idea what that had been about, it just seemed as though Ben was on some weird drugs. He possibly was, but he had seemed rather lucid, if a little vague at the end.

Lawrence saw the clock on the DVD machine had ticked over eight o'clock, and he forced thoughts of Ben and the girl from the party from his mind. He dashed back into the bathroom, turned the hot water on, and stripped. Thinking of nothing now but getting to work on time, he jumped into the shower.

He was halfway through lathering himself with soap when the girl's name jumped into his head - Ariana! That had been it! He'd have to remember it and tell Ben when he called tonight, assuming Ben even remembered of course. Feeling slightly better, he finished washing, dressed, and ran all the way to the train station.


Elouise couldn't find a parking spot at the station. Normally when she arrived, there were places right up close, but that was at six o'clock in the morning. By eight, she saw, all the good ones were gone. Kasey was in the car with her, happy because she had, for the first time in years, gotten a lift to the station. Elouise had felt that there had been a certain amount of suspicion from both Rob and Kasey over her decision to go in late today. She had brushed it off, saying she was just too tired after yesterday to go in early. Indeed, her face had been showing the strain of the sleepless night when she looked in the mirror this morning. Whether or not Rob had noticed, she didn't know, although she suspected he hadn't - he didn't generally notice things like that, she thought wryly to herself. What mattered was that she had seen it, and she had subsequently over compensated with makeup to cover it. She suspected by the greasy, heavy feel of the products on her face now, that she looked a little like a fairground clown. If she just opened her mouth and moved her head back and forth, she thought, and almost chuckled in spite of herself and her dismal mood. Kasey turned slightly, and gave her a funny sideways look, and Elouise quickly wiped the smile from her face.
"Mum," Kasey said slowly, like she couldn't find the right words, "Mum, are you ok? I heard you up last night. And you look tired."

Elouise was taken aback, when had her daughter gotten so astute? She felt a little tremor of shock run through her as she realised that her baby was turning into a woman, and she had a fleeting feeling of missing out on something major somewhere along the way. She realised that the pause was growing in the air between her and her daughter, and she struggled to put some words into it, if only to fill the void, "Oh yes, I'm OK," she said, "just tired I guess. I just couldn't seem to get my brain to shut down last night." Elouise gave a chuckle, but it sounded false to her. Like so much else she spoke at the moment, it was just a layer of lacquer over what was underneath, hiding it from view.

Kasey gave a half-hearted, "Hmm. OK then," but Elouise could tell she wasn't convinced. She sensed Kasey want to take the matter up further, but then stopped herself, and she wondered what she was thinking.

Suddenly, a parking spot appeared like a beacon in front of her sedan, and she hit the brakes quickly, and performed a neat reverse park into the gap. The two women, older and younger, got out of the car and retrieved briefcases and umbrellas from the car boot. Elouise locked the car with the remote key, and the two walked side by side down the rough footpath, sidestepping puddles. Neither woman looked at the other, the unspoken conversation hanging between them like threads of silken spider web - too dense to ignore their presence, but too difficult to wrap words around them and make some sense of the emotions. Suddenly, Kasey spotted Brianna up ahead, just about to cross the pedestrian overpass, and she called out to her.

Before racing off to meet her friend though, she turned to her mother, stopping her in her tracks.
"Mum?" she said softly, "I love you. Don't work late today OK?"

Elouise nodded mutely, struck by the depth of the emotion she felt buried in Kasey's words, and on an impulse, wrapped her arms around her daughter, their bags tangling together in an embrace of their own. Elouise could smell the fruity shampoo that Kasey had used in her hair this morning, the hair that was so much like her father's. She vowed to herself that, no matter what, she would be there for her daughter. Regardless of what she decided to do about her tangled relationships, she needed to ensure that she was never less than the best she could be - not for herself, not for her partner, whoever that turned out to be, but for Kasey. She owed her that much.

Reluctantly, Elouise pulled away from the embrace, and the two chuckled as they disentangled the various accessories - bags, earrings, umbrellas and identification tags had all gotten caught up with each other. Once they were separated once more, they smiled at each other and Elouise realised that, although the tension had lifted, Kasey still looked somewhat troubled. Still, Elouise felt marginally more relaxed, and somehow one step closer to a decision than she had been this morning.

Kasey ran ahead to meet with Brianna, and Elouise watched the two, heads together and talking seriously, as they crossed the overpass ahead of her, disappearing into the crowd of commuters that surrounded the station. Yes, maybe she knew what she had to do. She didn't have to decide between two men - she had to decide between a man and her daughter. And, not surprisingly, that decision was a lot easier.


Lawrence tore down the footpath as fast as he could go, praying that the broken concrete, slick with the drizzly rain that had been on and off all morning, wouldn't catch one of his shoes. These shoes were not designed for running in, he thought vaguely, as he watched his black dress shoes with the silver buckles thump the footpath in rhythmic foot falls. His breath was coming in ragged gasps now, and as he saw the pedestrian overpass looming ahead of him, the thought of getting over all those stairs made him feel like giving up. But then he saw Elouise's stern face in his mind's eye, and, knowing there was no way she would miss two days in a row, he used the last of his energy to propel him up the old wooden stairway. As he hit the catwalk at the top, he heard the crackly announcement from the platform, the words with their peculiar inflection common only to pre-recorded public transport announcements the world over, were distinguishable only because he had heard them so many times, "The train arriving on. Platform two is a. City train. Stopping. All stations to. Central." The announcement was cut off abruptly by the rumble of the train approaching, and the squeal of brakes as it pulled in to the station. Lawrence put the rest of his energy into getting down the stairs, and made it to the platform just as the guard's whistle blew. He stepped through the nearest pair of open doors, just as the too cheery warning announcement - "Doors closing! Please stand clear!" - chorused in every carriage, and the doors snapped close with a vengeance. He had made it!

As the train pulled away from the station, Lawrence stumbled slightly with the sudden movement, and grabbed the nearest handhold, which was suspended from the ceiling immediately in front of the double doors. He brushed against someone in his haste, and turned to mumble an apology, realising at the last minute that is was none other than his boss, Elouise.
"Oh! Elouise! Hi!" he said, still breathless, and trying unsuccessfully to not to show his surprise at seeing her in his voice. She was standing on the packed train, holding the dangling handhold next to the one he was hanging from, and her concentration appeared to be on the tiny silver phone in her hand. She appeared to be reading a text message, deep in thought, and she looked up vaguely when she heard her name.
"Hmm? Oh, Larry, hi. How are you?" The question was polite, not inquisitive, Lawrence noted, but answered anyway, in the interests of making polite conversation,
"Oh, pretty good thanks. Running a bit late today," he gave a rough laugh, a quick, "Heh," before he realised how peculiar he sounded. "It's, uh, it's a bit wet outside isn't it? Makes public transport fun, huh?"
Elouise's attention had returned to the phone, and Lawrence noted a slight crease had appeared between her eyes, was that confusion or irritation, he wondered. And was it directed to him, or to the phone?
She looked up again, distracted, and said "Huh? Oh, the rain. No ... I mean, yes, it is wet outside." She looked out the window as though it was only Lawrence’s pointing it out that had made her realise the miserable weather. Lawrence just watched her, her attitude confusing him. Drawing her attention back to the interior of the carriage, she spotted an empty seat and pointed to it, "I, um, might take a seat. These heels ..."
Lawrence nodded and watched as she moved to the empty seat, swaying with the motion of the train. Either she really didn't want to speak to him, or there was something very strange going on in her life right now, Lawrence thought. He turned his back to her and stared out the scratched and misted window instead, watching as the daggy old shopfronts and messy backyards sped past, his brain moving just as fast, wondering why everything seemed so topsy-turvy at the moment.


Kasey and Brianna had wandered down to the far end of the city bound platform before the train pulled in. Mostly it was because they always rode in the end carriage, but today it had the extra advantage that it was out of earshot of Kasey's mother. The two teenagers sat down on the concrete of the platform, away from the other commuters, facing each other across their crossed legs, their school bags dumped unceremoniously on the ground next to them.

Kasey had been filling Brianna in on what had happened yesterday once they parted ways at the station. She told of going down to the local police station in the patrol car, about trying to answer all the questions that she had no answer to. They had checked her shoes, taken a print of the soles for matching and, eventually, had driven the three of them back to the train station, where they had gotten in the two cars they had abandoned there and headed home. In the middle of Kasey’s story, the train had arrived and they had gotten on, swaying from the hand straps in the centre of the carriage. It was busy even in the last carriage on this train as all the office workers who started at nine and most of the school kids caught this one.

When Kasey got to the end of the story, they were pulling out of Central station - only one more stop before they got school, and Kasey leaned in close to Brianna, her eyes twinkling slightly and a little smile playing at the corners of her mouth. Brianna realised that the initial shock seemed to have worn off completely and Kasey appeared to be caught up in the excitement of it all now that she was aware that it wasn't someone she knew, someone she was close to. Now it was just something out of the ordinary, something that not only had given her day off school, but something that would provide her with gossip to last days, possibly weeks. Brianna leaned forward to catch the snippet of information that Kasey was about to impart.
"I know who it was," Kasey breathed into her ear, and Brianna looked at her, eyebrows knitted in confusion,
"You know who did it?" Brianna breathed, shocked yet mystified.
But Kasey shook her head, "No, silly! If I knew that I'd still be down there at the police station, explaining it all to those hunky coppers. No, I mean I know who it was ... who the body was. I mean, I don't know her, but I know what her name was."
Brianna's eyes widened as she realised what Kasey was telling her, and she leaned in close again with the swing of the carriage, "Who?"
Kasey smiled with the increased stature of knowledge before imparting the little nugget of knowledge, preceded by a caveat, "Well, you didn't hear it from me, because I don't think I was supposed to hear it. But I had gone to look for the toilet in the police station, when a young copper - cute too, he was - came tearing into an office, yelling that they had worked out who it was. Her name was Ariana Mathers, he said."
Brianna took in the information, and frowned slightly. This was not the reaction Kasey had expected, it seemed, because she looked at Brianna strangely, her head tipped to one side, "Brianna ... ?" she asked, "What is it?"
Brianna looked up, into her friend's face, and gave a sudden, sunny smile "Oh, nothing, it's just that name seemed familiar. I can't place it though, must be a name I heard on TV or something." she brushed off the momentary chill that had passed over her, when her heart had stopped for a moment as she had tried to put a face to the name. She couldn't quite lose the feeling that there had just been a slight shift in the universe, though. As though something had tipped slightly, and the earth had just twisted a fraction of a fraction of a hair's breadth off course - enough that everything still seemed normal, but was something was just ... wrong.


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