The Primrose Line – Episode 08

Illustration by Ged Fay

It was four o’clock and Nicola was on the platform with Billy, waiting for the last train from Corton to arrive. The single-track line was five miles long, making a round trip of ten miles.

It was a pleasant ride through countryside, and at this time of the year the primroses on the banks on either side of the line which gave the railway its popular name were putting on a spectacular display.

Near Corton Woods, bluebells became more dominant and would give rise to an equally breath-taking display a little later.

This was a big selling point for the Primrose Line, and it had to be admitted that later in the year, when the flowers had faded, there was a noted falling off in passenger numbers.

Corton, as a destination, was a small village and offered little even to the most undiscerning tourist.

There had been ambitious talk about doubling the length of the line to join up with the main railway at Guildford, thus creating a tempting onward route to the capital, as in the old days. But that was a project that would require investment and was beyond the means of the present set-up.

Unless, perhaps, the consortium took over.

Nicola always felt excitement at the approach of a train, and today her anticipation was heightened by the knowledge that David had telephoned from Heathrow, had hired a car and was on his way to Abingly.

There was a whistle and the engine rounded the curve on the approach to the station. The King Arthur-class locomotive was surprisingly quiet as it drifted majestically into the platform.

There was a delicious scent of steam from the cylinders as the pistons made one final effortless revolution and squealing brakes clamped to the driving wheels of
No. 30456 Sir Galahad.

From four green coaches excited children poured on to the platform, racing to the locomotive to get a close-up view.

Nicola saw a man walking along the platform in the fading light and mists of steam and smoke. David!

She caught her breath as he approached, her mother’s instinct telling her something was up. She’d seen that determined walk before, when he was a schoolboy with news to impart.

They hugged as Sir Galahad uncoupled its train and hissed as if with pleasure towards the siding, where it would spend a very comfortable night.

Nicola was vaguely aware of Billy and a team of helpers entering the coaches to clean them ready for tomorrow.

“Mum, it’s good to see you.”

“Tell me that this is more than just a flying visit. You sounded so mysterious on the phone the other day. Is everything all right?”

“Everything’s fine, really good.”

“But you don’t want to spend too long living in a railway carriage.”

“Mum, don’t be silly. I just don’t like trains the way you do.”

“The bright lights of Toronto and posh hotels?”

He shook his head.

“Actually, I’ve been roughing it on a horse ranch.”

She stared at him.

“You? What do you know about horses?”

“Nothing at all. But you’re game for anything when it’s part of the life of the woman you love and plan to marry!”

Nicola used her son’s arms as support and he grinned.

“It’s been a long time coming, Mum, but I’ve never been more sure of anything, or anyone, in all my life!”

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.