Historical Fiction

The Woman on the Train by Rupert Colley

“Really, Monsieur Bowen, about my war years, I have nothing to say that could be of interest to you. Except perhaps…’
He sat forward, his pen poised over his pad. ‘Go on.’
‘I met a woman once.’ He raised an eyebrow, a sort of man-to-man acknowledgement. ‘No, no, nothing like that.’ I laughed inwardly. If only it had been that simple, I thought. But no, this woman was to have a far greater impact on my life than any wife or mistress could ever have had.
‘Ah yes, the woman on the train. Of course, this is what our readers want to know – how you feel about it now, all these years later.’
‘It’s strange, isn’t it, how an innocuous meeting can have such repercussions, in this instance, many, many years down the line. She was much older than me for one thing. It was the summer of forty-two. I was just twenty years old. Still a boy really, although at the time I thought of myself as a man.’ I paused.
‘Are you OK, Monsieur?’
‘Yes. Just give me a moment.’
He leant back in the settee and gazed round the room, pretending to show an interest in the landscape paintings I have framed on the walls. Obscure paintings of no value by forgotten artists. Placing my fingertips against my temples, I tried to think. Did I really want to share this story with, in effect, the huge readership of a national newspaper? I had lost everything, pride was all that remained, and now I seemed on the verge of losing that too. I knew that for many people of my generation I was one of those ‘Whatever happened to…’ personalities. Was it not better for it to remain that way; to allow my former achievements to speak for themselves? I would regret it, I knew I would, but that vain streak was too strong to resist. I had had my years in the limelight followed by many more in obscurity. I thought I was old enough, mature enough, not to be tempted by the lure of fame any more. Could I resist one last passing shot at being at the centre of attention, at being the name on people’s lips? No, sadly I couldn’t; this was my one last grab at the chalice of infamy.
‘Monsieur Bowen?’
‘Maestro?’ He sat up, trying unsuccessfully to hide his enthusiasm.
‘You’re right, somehow my whole life has been influenced by, as you call her, the woman on the train…’”