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The Girl With The Upside Down Heart

Is the love you take equal to the love you make?

‘Is this seat taken?’ asked a quietly spoken man whom Veronica had never seen before. She shook her head, ‘no, go ahead’. The elderly man took his seat and placed a shopping bag between his feet. His hands unfolded a newspaper in front of him as the train began to pull out of the station. He then began to ingest the day’s news. Veronica looked at the Paper’s headline from the corner of her eye. It read ‘Missing Girl found safe and well’. She liked that headline, it made her feel secure; something she hadn’t felt in a long time.

She leaned her head against the cool glass of the window and thought back to the start of her day, which hadn’t been a good one. ‘I just need some space’ said the voice down the phone. How many times had Veronica heard those words before? Wesley was obviously lying to her, as many others had done in the past. And through all those lies, tears and broken hearts she had learned how to define statements such as ‘I just need more space’. What Wesley really meant was ‘I’m too much of a coward to break up with you’. She terminated the call and literally seconds later received a text message from Wesley. It simply said ‘Sorry xx’.

The train trundled out of its pit-stop and onto the next town. Veronica couldn’t help but feel that’s what her life was becoming, a journey from broken heart to broken heart. It was a journey she really hadn’t chosen to buy a ticket for. She didn’t know what it was with men, what made them do this to her, and then she came to the obvious conclusion. It must be her own fault, her own doing. When she received Wesley’s message she held back her tears and expelled every breath in her tiny body into a huge sigh. And then a tearful flood erupted. And now she was sat on this train, tracking back through her past. Howard, Alan, James, Charlie…they had all wanted the same space. She thought maybe they were all sat together in the ‘Let’s get space from Veronica’ club. Maybe they were all exchanging stories and notes about her over a few drinks. Maybe they were all laughing at the silly pyjamas she liked to wear, or at her insistence that the living room furniture be changed around every couple of weeks. Maybe they were all laughing at the amount of love she had thrown at them, the amount of care. Or maybe they were all sniggering at the way they had left scars all over her heart.

The elderly man coughed and turned the pages of his journal. She wondered to herself whether he had broken anyone’s heart. She thought he probably had. She imagined him many years ago, at a dancehall or maybe a nightclub, breaking women’s hearts just for fun. That’s what men did after all wasn’t it? She couldn’t quell her bitterness, she even began to dislike the elderly man next to her; they were all the same, heartless. She thought back to Wesley, and the more she mused on the truth-distorting ‘more space’ statement, the more she realised there had been other similar deceptions. She recalled the growing frequency of the ‘I’m going to be late’ dictum. Shivers went down her spine every time she heard it trip off Wesley’s tongue. She got the translation of that one down quite easily. She knew it meant ‘I’ve more important things to do than be with you’. That one hurt in particular, because it reminded her of the times when Wesley wasn’t late. The times he would take her to dinner, to a movie, or simply curled up on the sofa with her. Yes, Veronica didn’t like that line very much at all.

The elderly man pulled a packet of mints from his pocket. He kindly offered her one. She looked him in the eye as he did so. The windows to his soul emitted kindness, she even traced a small tinge of sadness in there. She accepted, ‘thank you’.

‘I hate trains’ said the man, ‘come to think of it I hate travelling!’

Veronica smiled back at him, ‘it can get tiresome, are you going anywhere nice?’

‘Off to visit my Daughter and my Son-in-law, and their family’.

‘How nice’ she replied. The old man folded his newspaper back up and put it in his jacket pocket,

‘Not really, it can get a bit noisy with the Grand-children at times, but today is a special day and they invited me over to stay’.

‘A special day?’

‘My Wife’s birthday, she would have been eighty-two today’.

Veronica didn’t know how to react to that. Did she commiserate with him or wish him well with his day. He sighed to himself, ‘I miss her more everyday’. He sighed again and then took his newspaper back from his coat pocket and unfolded it again. Veronica could tell he had loved his Wife dearly, and that he still did. How she wished she knew how that felt, to be loved like that. Maybe she just picked the wrong type of men, or maybe it was something more than that. Maybe she had an upside down heart, never meant to be loved. A dysfunctional heart as such. Maybe that’s what it was.

She thought of the other passengers on board as the train moved on. How many of them had been broken hearted? Probably all of them she thought; she could tell the elderly man next to her had been a victim of it. She heard Wesley’s voice again in her head, ‘I just need some space’. How could he do this to her? Deep down Veronica knew she was just as guilty of spouting her own loaded one liners. She knew how much Wesley hated her ‘I don’t like you hanging around with them’ line. And she knew that he deciphered it perfectly the first time she let the words formulate and then spill clumsily from her mouth. Maybe he was flattered at her jealousy; however, she was sure he was irritated to the point of screaming the more she said it. And there were more. Wesley hated her ‘Nothing’s wrong’ gambit. But then Veronica knew that every man on the planet knew what that one meant as soon as they heard it. It was recognised as the passive aggressive comment it was by most men. But it put them in an unwanted predicament. Should they ignore the statement or attend to it? Veronica knew that women said it because they wanted the latter. On reflection she realised how Wesley increasingly chose to ignore her whenever she said it. The alarm bells should have started ringing then.

The train continued to weave its way along the coast. Drops of rain were introducing themselves to the window that Veronica was staring through. She could see the sea, its greyness seemingly reflecting her own sad soul. The elderly man coughed, and then pulled a thermos flask from the bag between his feet.

‘Can I interest you in a cup of tea?’ he asked. Veronica felt his kindness again, and still that tinge of sadness, ‘I’d love one actually, thank you’.

The elderly man poured out two plastic cups of tea. He handed one to Veronica. She cupped it in her hands and gently sipped it. The taste was so familiar, like being home, safe and secure. The man sipped at his, and then gently closed his eyes and reversed his head onto the headrest of the seat.

‘So what about yourself, off anywhere nice?’

Veronica laughed to herself at the question. She didn’t know where she was going to be truthful. She got her ‘love-P45’ this morning, and so she had just packed a bag and jumped on the first train. She sipped at her tea and then looked out of the window as she spoke,

‘Oh I am just going away for a break, to get a bit of rest’. She then sighed.

‘ There is a time for departure even when there's no certain place to go’

She turned to the man, ‘I’m sorry?’

The man opened his eyes again, ‘Tennessee Williams. It hurts doesn’t it?’

Veronica was puzzled at the elderly man’s words, he went on.

‘To suffer a broken heart isn’t always a bad thing, it’s a reminder of having felt the joy of love, however unrequited’.

Veronica sipped the last of her tea and sighed again, ‘I think I have an upside down heart’.

She followed her words with a stifled laugh. The man returned the laughter but with more vigour. He took the empty plastic cup from her. The train rattled on down the coast. As he put the flask and cups back into his bag he spoke again, ‘Never be afraid to love someone. Yes, it may well be that you have fallen in love with the wrong person, but if you stop loving then you will never have that love returned. That’s what you’re thinking now isn’t it? You’re thinking you are wasting your time with love aren’t you?’

Veronica smiled back at him, a small tear formed in the corner of her eye, ‘yes I am’.

‘Time will prove your thoughts wrong’.

Veronica looked back to the window and wiped the small tear from her eye. Her heart may have been upside down but it still weighed heavy with the pain. The rain spat heavily at her face through the glass. She lay her forehead against the cold window pane again. The train was slowing down to its next stop. She looked around to the elderly man, but he was now gone. As the train stopped she heard the beeps indicating the unlocking of the train doors. She looked through the window again. She saw the elderly man being welcomed by his Daughter and her family. And the more she looked the more she saw the love within them all. She saw his Grand-children jumping up at him, his Daughter embracing him, and his Son-in-law taking the heavy suitcase and bag from him. The elderly man turned to face her and smiled. Her upside down heart skipped a beat.

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