As children, they crossed the overpass every day. They congregated near the 'tin tabernacle' as each of them arrived. They swung their schoolbags, pulled up their white knee-high socks, and lingered as long as they could by the entrance to the overpass.
They talked about antics in the schoolyard the previous day. They gossiped about the boys they liked and the girls they didn't. They compared their bruises and blisters from swinging and twirling on the monkey bars the day before.
Sarah would always have some sweets to share, but she doled them out like party favours to each girl in turn. You knew whether you were Sarah's 'favourite' today by the order in which you received your chocolate drop or musk stick. Or if you got stuck with a black jelly-baby. No one else liked the liquorice-flavoured jelly-babies, but she did. So she didn't mind if she was last in line for sweets from time to time.
They didn't have to catch the train to school. In truth, they didn't actually have to pass the station at all to get there. But they detoured by the station to watch the trains pass by, thinking of where it might take them away from here. They thought the men and women in their suits were so sophisticated and stylish. They wondered at what they might find at the other end of the line, in the city. A destination that seemed so magical and far away from their suburban homes.
They stood on tiptoe trying to see the train as it pulled in to the station and then pulled away. The shorter girls warped the plastic sides of their lunchboxes as they stood on them to see. The steel barriers were set so high they could barely see the train until it was almost gone.
They talked non-stop about how different their lives would be if they lived in the city. How much more exciting and glamorous their lives would be then. Because, of course, one day they would live in the city. One day they would meet nice boys, get married, and be swept away from the dull part of town in which they now lived. But not the boys from their school. None of them were nice. Well, except that one boy.
They skipped across the overpass, realising they'd lingered and chattered too long. They had mere minutes before the school bell would ring out across the train tracks to tell them they were late again. Their teachers would give them stern looks, knowing they'd dawdled, not been attentive. Too distracted by other things to arrive on time and avoid disruption to the class, again. Their skipping accelerated to a run as they imagined the stern words they'd hear as they found their seats in class.
As she stood at the end of the overpass, her mind ran over those memories. In her mind's eye she watched the girls laugh and wave their arms as they ran down the other side of the overpass. Girls full of hopeful dreams of moving on. Girls too caught up in the small things to mind too much about the big things. Yet always wanting the big things. Not the small-mindedness of the neighbourhood they'd grown up in.
The laughter of a group of children approaching brought her back to the moment. She realised her mind had wandered. Waiting for the train, she'd let her mind slip back into the past, not for the first time, and no doubt not for the last.
She caught sight of her reflection in the convex mirror at the end of the overpass, in front of the 'tin tabernacle'. Once again the sight was a little unnerving. She was still becoming accustomed to the change of tone in her hair as she'd let the last of the dye grow out. As her hair colour faded from red to brown then to a light silver, she found herself fascinated by its new colour when she caught sight of it in mirrors. She knew it was her reflected in the mirrored surface, but it seemed like someone else altogether.
Her mind brought back into the moment by her reflection, her ear caught the sound of the bells at the level crossing announcing the arrival of the train from the city. She straightened her sweater; ran a hand through her hair to smooth it. She walked along the overpass. She was still not tall enough to see the train over the barrier as it pulled in. Nevertheless, she raised herself onto tiptoes in the attempt before walking along the overpass to wait for passengers to alight at the end of their journey from the city.