He clutched the ticket in his hand forcing his legs to go faster than was possible. He could feel it now, he could feel the train waiting at the station, it's doors stretching to close but not yet, not without him. He had to make it. He could not miss this train. He rushed down the escalator skipping two steps at a time, yes, there it was - the train, the doors still wide open as if beckoning to him to move faster. He was going to make it. He could feel it now. And then suddenly -
"Hey! Look where you are going!"
Before he could decide whether to apologize or shout at the man he had crashed into, he heard the train doors closing. "No wait!" he yelled, but to no avail. The train started with a screech and moved on leaving him behind. He stood there, in the middle of the near deserted station, wondering what he was going to do now. He could feel his heart beating in his chest, he could almost hear it in the silence of the night. Just for a few seconds, he had missed his train, he had missed his chance.
He dragged himself to a bench and sat down with his briefcase. It didn't seem nearly as important to him as it had that same morning when he had left the house without wishing his wife a happy birthday, fearing that if he didn't leave in that very moment and waited for her to come out of the bathroom, he would miss the meeting. After all, everything he did was for her, was for their daughter. Why didn't it feel enough then? Why did he feel like he was going to lose everything he ever had?
He checked his watch, 11:20. The next train was at 11:30. There was no way he was going to make it in time now. He pulled out his phone to let her know that he was running late. It was dead, he hadn't thought of charging it once during the entire day. He cursed himself, and held his head in his hands. It really was over now.
The first time he met his wife, he had missed his train. He remembered being frustrated about work, and feeling like he was going to be stuck in that same minimal paying job for the rest of his life. He had been so lost in his musings that he hadn't realized when the train had come and gone. It seemed like one of those things from the movies, like it was meant to happen, like it was in god's plan. because there in the next train he boarded, stood the most beautiful girl he had the fortune of meeting in his life, clutching at least three bags in one hand and biting her nails with fierce concentration. She always shopped when she was anxious, that was the first thing he had learnt about her. It had seemed sweet at the time and he even enjoyed her nervous prattling when she took out the bill and promised to return all the items the very next day in the first few years of their marriage. Now that he thought of it, he could not remember when she had stopped coming to him with all her guilty pleasures.
He remembered those early days of their relationship when everything was perfect. That first encounter at the train had made him miss his train every day so that he could see her home from music school. Those moments of first getting to know each other, and realizing God had made someone just like him so that he wouldn't be lonely in this world - he could relive it all over again. they had dated for over a year when he had proposed marriage to her. He remembered that exact moment - they were at the theatre watching a dramedy that had the comedy missing from it and she was laughing so hard at some scene only she found funny and he knew, he knew then that there was no one else in the world he would rather go to boring theatres with.
The distant rumbling of the approaching train brought him back to reality. He got up with his briefcase, and waited with the two other passengers in the lonely station. He took a seat by the window, and glanced at his watch. 11:30. Would she still be waiting at their restaurant? Or would she have gotten up, cursed his entire existence and marched home in order to binge on ice cream. She did have a temper after all. He had realized that especially after she became pregnant with their daughter. That was when the money problems started. He had a desk job, and she played at clubs with her college band. He knew they could not support a child with what they earned. And he was tired of being criticized by their families for their poor life choices. So he started working overtime. Those were long years. He worked double shifts, he made his sales, and he gathered more clients. Soon he had his own separate office, his own separate title, but still it wasn't enough. Their daughter had more than what she could ask for; she was healthy, went to a good school, had every other opportunity to become successful in life, but still it wasn't enough. Not for him. He had to be at the top. He had to be the best. No one should be able to look down at him or criticize him again. He was going to ensure that. And he did.
He finally had all he wanted. He was happy. So when Sophie suddenly announced a week ago that she was going home, he fell from the sky.
"What do you mean Soph? You are home."
She laughed. " Jack, honey, this has not been a home for a really really long time. Besides Sara's a grown up now, she can handle herself."
"Wait a second," he said getting up from the bed, "You are serious?"
She looked at him for a while and then shook her head with a small smile.
"Sophie, look at me. I know we have been fighting a little more than often these days, but you don't have to leave. We are a family, we don't leave."
"A family Jack? Tell me, when was the last time you have been a part of this family? Really, tell me."
"What are you saying? When have I not been there for you both? I was there for Sara's sweet sixteen, I organized the whole damn thing! I was there when she gave a speech in front of the school and I was there when you opened your new club and sang in front of a hundred people. Could you not see me Sophie? Do you not see me?"
"Well done, you got all of the days that's circled on the calendar! What about the days that are not circled Jack? What about every day?"
"I work Sophie! I have to go to work so that we can have a better life, so that our daughter can have every thing she wants."
"Wake up Jack! Open your eyes. Our daughter already has every thing she wants. You spend more time in that office than you do in this house, and it was okay for a while, but I am tired, I am so tired of this. You don't include me in your decisions, you inform me that you are in a different city over a freaking phone call, and sometimes you don't even find that necessary!"
"Look at me Sophie. Every thing I do is for you. Don't you see?" he asked, the desperation now seeping into his voice.
"I am not your responsibility Jack, I am your wife. And Sara is your daughter. When are you going to realize that?" she said.
" It's okay, I am going to leave early from now on, I will get to spend more time with you guys. I will go to your shows, I will be better, I promise, It will be okay."
"No it won't. You don't have to do anything. I am sorry. I thought I could do this, but I can't, I am sorry."
She turned away and before she could catch her hand, she slipped out of the room. "Soph, wait, where are you going? Don't you love me anymore?"
The train jerked to a stop. He didn't wait to catch a breath, he jumped to his feet and began running. 11:55. She couldn't possibly be waiting for him anymore. Even if they were in a city that never slept, it was late. She had asked him to meet her, to talk about this, to find out together where they lost sight of each other. And even if it made for one hell of a depressing birthday dinner, she had still agreed to to do this. She still wanted them, she still wanted him. And now, she could be gone. And he could have lost her forever. He ran faster. The restaurant wasn't that far from the train station. It was where they had their first date, that is if he did not count the several train rides and it held a lot of memories for both of them. He cold see it now, he could see the turn in the road that would lead him there. But he was afraid to take it, he was afraid to find out. He wanted to stop right there, take a few breaths and prepare himself for all the situations that could happen, but it seemed like his legs never received the message. For they never stopped. They continued running, and he was there.
And there she was, standing outside their restaurant, looking as beautiful as the first day he had met her. She was turning here and there, searching for something, searching for him, he realized. And he had kept her waiting. For years.
He ran the last few steps to her and as soon as she recognized him, she turned away and started walking, but this time he caught her hand.
"I am sorry. I missed the train, I am really sorry," he said.
"Oh you are sorry? You kept me waiting till 12 in the morning in the restaurant all alone on my birthday and you are sorry?" she asked.
"Soph, wait!" he said running after her, "Sophie please wait for a second."
Suddenly she turned around and crossed her arms across her chest. "What? What can you possibly say to me in one second that's going to change my mind, that's going to erase the last few years you have stayed as a guest in your own home?"
"I love you,"
"I am sorry," she said shaking her head, "that's not good enough." Just as she was turning away he caught her hand again.
"I love you Soph, and I want to be with you. That's all I know. That's all I have. My love for you. And I am sorry that I hurt you, and that I lost my sight of you over the years, but I can't, I can't lose you."
He paused and swallowed hard. "I am not perfect okay? I make mistakes, I take wrong decisions and I forget what's really important. But I never forgot you Sophie. I got too busy painting the picture, but you are the frame. You hold it together; without you, it all falls apart, I fall apart. And I am sorry if that's a ridiculous example; you see, I prepared an entire speech on my way over here but the moment I see you, there is only one thing I know and that is that I love you. Please, just give me one last chance, give us a chance."
She looked at him. He could see the tears in her eyes, but he also knew she was never going to let them fall. Because that's the way she was. He pulled out a box from his case and put it her hand. It was a very small model of a house with 3 tiny figurines standing in front of it. She shook her head.
"It's not my birthday anymore."
"And it's not a gift. It's a promise."
She looked up at him again and his heart stopped beating because he did not understand that look. She put the box in her bag and stepped away without shifting her eyes from him. When she was at least three feet away, she cleared her throat.
"A known record label heard us at the club last night. They think we have great potential, and they want us on tour. It starts next week, and I...I have agreed to go,"
He took a minute to process that. "That's great. Sara will leave for college in 2 days and I will take some weeks off work. It will be awesome. We can-"
"No Jack, you don't understand. I want to do this on my own. I want this for myself. For so long, I have been your wife and our daughter's mother and it was good. But now I just want to be me. I want to not think about all this and concentrate on who I wanted to be and never became."
He swallowed and she paused.
"This doesn't mean that It's over. I heard you. And you heard me. Maybe for the first time," she said. "I just need this, and I wanted to let you know."
He nodded, mostly because he didn't know what else to say. But it was alright. It was going to alright.
'Soph?" he called. "You are the mother of my child, the love of my life and the girl I missed all those trains for. And I just wanted you to know, I am really sorry."
She nodded, "I know."
"I will see you then?"
"I will see you."
She turned around again and walked away this time. But he didn't lose hope. He checked his watch, it was past midnight. A new day. And as he watched her get into her car, he realized it was his new chance. His new hope.