Long, mousy brown hair, shiny and well-conditioned falling forward over her face as if to hide it from prying eyes. Or to hide her intrusive eyes from others. A mature but well kept face with plain, almost masculine, features. Pale blue eyes seemingly looking downwards and reading her book. On closer examination though, you see them nervously flicking up every few seconds as if to take in quick snapshots of her surroundings and the people nearby. Her clothes look expensive but well worn – second hand maybe? She carries a large navy bag which she keeps tucked under her legs with one foot through the handle.

***

She is 35 years old and terminally single. Men seem to smell her lack of hope and craving for criticism so never ask her out beyond the second date. She lives in a world of ‘what if…?’. What if that man looking at me from the next seat is planning to follow me out of the station? Is he going to rob me, or worse? What if the electric fails and we are stranded in a tunnel? How long before anyone realises? What if HE asks me out again? I hope I can say something interesting this time because he looked so bored last time. What if an asteroid really is going to hit the Earth in my lifetime? What if I survive? How will I cope? Her job is nice and ‘safe’. She works in a small, gloomy office dealing with mundane paperwork and mundane enquiries from mundane people. Her one passion is sci-fi novels. There she can escape into other worlds and become a confident person, for a while at least.

***

On her way to the hospital where her father is seriously ill with leukaemia. He is over seventy and her last living relative. She didn’t even know he was ill until yesterday. He was always Victorian in his attitudes, dictating her life – likes, dislikes, friends, job, thoughts. Never letting her go out with boys until she was eighteen, and even then only if they were suitable. They haven’t spoken for years since she dropped out of university in a final courageous act of desperation against her restrictive life. Since then she has had to fend for herself without any family contact and few friends. Her life has been so grey. She needs to get to the hospital so she can try to make up for all the disappointment she must have caused him throughout her life. She sees now that it was all her fault, she should have obeyed her father rather than rebelling. He must have been so upset to have never been able to face contacting her. She must get there before he dies. But what if she doesn’t……?