Station To Station

Entry by: writerYNKGHTYLDE

24th July 2015
King’s Cross, Marylebone, Fenchurch, Liverpool Street.
She liked them to be in order.
She held the cards in her hand and placed them on the table next to all the others.
Rain was hitting the window, streaming down the panes in lines, with large, round, blobs, big round drips, on the end, which grew as they neared the sill, like giant tears.
No panoramic view today, fields, moor, estuary all hidden by a murky, rainy haze.
In the room the fire blazed. All golden warmth.
Winter was made for this. Sundays were made for this.
Rona loved these moments, lived for these moments.
She was 12.
It didn’t matter to her that the hands on the big clock on the lounge wall pointed to 2.50pm as it ticked its way lazingly through the afternoon.
In fact she liked it better this way.
Mid afternoon, and here she was in her winter "onesie", all fluffy, dark blue with snowflakes. She loved snuggling up in it. Afternoons on the sofa.
She loved it more when her family agreed to a game of Monopoly. This was a once-a-year moment at best. Usually they all came out with all sorts of excuses to avoid ever even getting to ‘Go’.
At moments like this Rona felt wrapped in warm, comforting love.
And here before her was the embodiment of that love, all her family sitting around a family heirloom, a Monopoly board passed down the generations, complete with fading silver-coloured metal pieces, and ‘weathered’ green wooden houses and red hotels, all without their brilliance, now long-lost, all instead with a slightly dirty, or as Rona liked to put it, ‘loved’ hue, due to the passage of time.
When everyone was settled in their seats, Rona rolled the dice. Five, “Yes,” she said, immediately reaching for the notes, and grabbing King’s Cross from the cards so uniformly laid out. “I love the stations.”
“We know that,” said Patrick, her brother. “We know you love the stations, we know you love the power companies. We know you hate to lose.”
“I don’t,” shouted Rona.
“You do. You’re just a loser,” growled Patrick.
“Stop it,” said Dianne, her heckles already up. Being mum, keeping mum, and playing Monopoly was mission impossible. Even now, even after just one throw, she knew it would end badly, knew it would end in tears. It always did.
The only difference today was that none of them, at this point, apart from Dianne, knew how badly, or how many tears. But it wasn’t Dianne’s turn. She passed the dice.

Patrick’s turn.
Patrick was 18.
He hated Sundays. He hated Monopoly. He hated life.
Patrick wore all black. Drop Dead the logo on his shirt.
The only thing that got him out of bed, even at this stage of the day, was the thought of moving away from his family.
Just a couple more weeks and he’d be gone.
He couldn’t sit in a chair and play a Sunday afternoon board game with his sister and his parents. He thought it might kill him. Literally.
He’d been told in no uncertain terms that if he didn’t do this for his sister he could forget any thoughts of his university rent being paid.
Patrick was playing Monopoly for money.
Make no bones about it. Cash was king. Love had nothing to do with it.
Patrick perched on a cushion. That was as permanent as he was going to commit. That way he was able to square it in his own head that he could exit upstairs, back to the sanctuary of his bedroom, at any point. And that was just about enough of a get-out-of-jail card for him to force his contorted legs onto the cushion, and swing round his feet to touch ground. Anything less, and he would never have even made it into the room. Either that, or he’d have wanted to smash down the walls.
To Patrick, family life was like a giant suffocating snake, slowly, surely, squeezing out every ounce of his individuality, crushing his creativity, strangling his mind, bleeding every last drop out of his contorted body. If he didn’t escape now he didn’t think there’d be anything left of him. Just a pile of black clothes on the floor.
Patrick rolled the dice. “Three,” said Rona, gleefully. “Whitechapel”.
“I know,” snarled Patrick, and let out a huff, as he sank back into his cushion. The sulk had only just begun.

Richard’s turn. He had chosen the top hat. He had to be top dog. He had to win.
He’d been here so many times. He knew it drove Dianne mad.
“Seriously?” Diane would say, looking over her glasses at 50-year-old Richard as he sat in their bedroom refusing to come out until the kids calmed down. Like a sulky teenager himself.
Today, he’d try to be different. Try to be laid back. But he wasn’t making any promises.
It went way back. It went deep.
He’d always been the loser in his own family. Substitute Monopoly or Tiddlywinks for “Life” and you pretty much had it. Richard had been the black sheep. The poor relation. The odd one, who didn’t communicate.
Laughed at for liking classical music and art in a family line hewn from the steel factories and mines. Picked on relentlessly for being different, for daring to think about the wider world.
Bullied by his own family, Richard did what all bullies do, failed to stand up to those who tormented him. Instead he took it out on those he could. Those weaker than him. His own family. The most despicable type of bully, if bullies indeed can be graded. All were just varied forms of low life. Richard one in a long line of them.
Dianne would spend the entire game on edge, sitting on egg shells, waiting for him to crack. Because when Richard snapped, you didn’t want to be anywhere near the firing line.
Richard was all jovial to start. Juggling the dice, making out like he was dancing and joking. Rona was laughing. She loved it when it was like this.
The worst bit was Dianne knew it wouldn’t last. It made the ‘fun’ even more excruciating. Knowing it would come crashing down around all their ears in a devastating outburst of destruction.
For now it was all achingly simple.
“That’s yours Patrick,” exclaimed Rona excitedly.
“I,” grunted Patrick, before adding a long pause and then, in his most exasperated tone: ”know.”
Then came the smirk. Oh the irony, the justice of it. Patrick loved that. “That’ll be 60 pounds, Dad.”
Through the grimace, money changed hands.

Dianne knew there was never going to be a good time to tell them.
More than an hour had passed.
She looked across at her family.
Rona, so excited, so happy, with all the stations in front of her, smiling away in her “onesie”, laughing at her dad.
Patrick far from raising a smile. But still in the room, still in the game. Counting his money.
Richard was winning. He had the biggest pile of properties, the most houses, the biggest wad of money. The biggest grin. For now.
Dianne wondered if they’d even notice if she slipped out of the room.
She got up, walked across to the woodburner, put two more logs on the fire. No-one said “thank you”. She thought she could exit the scene, even their whole lives, without many repercussions.
After 20 years of marriage Dianne, 48, felt surplus to requirements.
Her husband never even noticed her. Never so much as said goodnight or good morning, let alone accompanied it with a kiss.
He was far too wrapped up in his business. Far too busy making money. Far too focused on proving his childhood tormentors wrong. There was no room for anyone else in his life.
Patrick used her as a giant fridge or a giant cooker, alternately, depending on the time of day, depending on his needs.
Rona was the only one who really needed her. But even she was growing up. Even she wanted friends now, more than she wanted family.
This was a blip. This was a flashback because Rona found herself with a free Sunday afternoon and wanted to recreate the past, when they were all younger, and when it would have been more "fun".
Dianne didn’t have the heart to tell Rona those days had gone. Forever.
She had bigger things on her mind.
Dianne rolled the dice. “Seven”.
“Lucky for some mum,” said Rona, all eagerness and enthusiasm.
Dianne tapped her piece, the silver-coloured dog, seven times along the board.
And then, in front of her, in big letters, she could only see one word.
“See what you’ve got Mum,” said Rona. “A Chance, could be anything, could be first prize in a beauty contest.”
“I doubt it darling at my age. More likely to be hospital fees.”
She didn’t mean it like that.
But the words somehow came out.
And then more came out. Tumbled from her mouth like the drips down the window, only chaotic now, blown by a sudden gust of emotion into a pattern not instantly decipherable, scattering across the window, across the room, across the table. Destroying all order, shattering lives into tiny pieces.
They were jumbled.
In no particular order.
With lots of blurting of other words in between.
Rona wasn’t sure exactly what was being said. She knew enough to dread to guess.
Richard and Patrick caught enough to know exactly.
“Cancer. Hospital. Home. Hospice. Weeks. Not Months.”
Then came the tears.