Cyndi had lost both her shoes and stolen a bicycle which she was pedalling with bare feet. Cold, frozen feet that kept slipping. The bicycle was the old-fashioned kind, the type you imagine on a country lane with a wicker basket fixed to its handlebars and a rusty bell that gave a hoarse tinny chime like a person deliberately clearing their throat before they spoke in public. It was certainly not the most ideal or the safest transport home after the clock had struck the last stroke of midnight, but she'd missed the first strike and the further ten that followed. The din – the shouted chatter and the live band – in the club had drowned them out until the band had finished a number and then it was like a plug had been pulled. People realised how loud their voices were as other outside noises began to filter through, and that was when she'd heard what was for her the first stroke and had asked a bartender the time. It's just gone midnight, he'd said, and as this truth dawned out she had fled and vanished into the night, or at least that's how the other party attendees later described her sudden flight.
couldn't believe she was going to miss the last train when she'd so
carefully planned her homeward journey: made sure of its departure
time from Waterloo Station two weeks before the event, and then
re-checked in case of engineering works or unforeseen delays caused
by leaves or black ice on the line. It was such a spoiler to the
evening, but she only had herself to blame. She should have accepted
the invite to sleep over at a girlfriend's and then she would have
had none of this bother, but instead she'd promised her employer she
would be back to take care of the children: two boys aged five and
seven, in spite of it being her weekend off. It wasn't so much of an
offer, but more of an expectation since Cyndi lived in, and her
employer, ironically a human rights lawyer, always got what she
wanted, particularly from au pairs like Cyndi, the naturally good.
Her methods were underhanded, and even though Cyndi saw through her
tricks it was easier all round if she just agreed and if her employer
believed she was manipulable.
this very night, when the clock had gone midnight Cyndi's actions
were not that of the rational, but that of a girl who is always
anxious to please and scared of accusations that she's let others
down or done wrong. She is not a role model for the modern or the
downtrodden because she turns everything into a duty and doesn't dare
speak up for herself, which, of course, sometimes leads to poor
decisions. And this was one such occasion.
haste to get to Waterloo Station, she kicked off her
impulsively-bought, crippling shoes and ran, hoping she might be able
to flag a passing black cab if one chanced by. But the wet London
streets seemed to be noticeably empty and so when she came to an art
installation of bicycles through the ages, she grabbed the least
cumbersome, triggering the built-in alarm, yet still jumped on and
rode, her red hair flying behind her. She bumped over manhole covers
and tried to avoid the gutters and puddles, and made a vain attempt
to prevent her grey silk dress becoming caught in the rotation of the
those moments of frenzied activity, her brain pondered what she would
do when she got to Waterloo for her train was sure to have departed
already. Perhaps she would be able to catch a train part of the
way...and then what? Walk, find a night bus or taxi? Her brain
constantly jabbering dutydutyduty
on a continuous loop.
station neared in sight, she thrust the bicycle into the hands of a
man in a sort of tweed uniform, “Right you are Miss.” He said,
touching his flat cap, “I'll take care of it straight away,”
wheeling the bicycle off as if he were returning a prized horse to
its stables. How odd, she thought, but nevertheless made her way into
the concourse to find herself amongst a throng of people – ladies
with bustles and gentlemen in top hats with porters attending to
their needs. She approached what appeared to be an authority figure,
who having glanced at her Travelcard instructed her to “Follow me.
Quickly please, Miss. The Gone Midnight Express is about to leave.”
The whistle blew as he hurried her to the disused Eurostar platform.
Picture Credit: Cinderella, Edmund Dulac