...the A501 (A Vignette)
King’s Cross Station was always pretty, I guess. I just walked past it so many times that it just kind of blended into the background after a while. It’s just there. It’s a part of life.
Right now, though, I’m not interested. It’s seven in the morning, sunny, and I am knackered.
Except Murph’s looking at it like it was a well-decorated Christmas tree. And his smile is so big that I can’t help but smirk at it. It only makes me wonder what he sees in it that I’m not.
“Look at the ironwork,” he says, pointing to this, like, half a wheel over the smaller doors. “Look at the details.” Murph’s fingers move up to the arched windows of the station. He looks back at me, grinning. “Y’know, for 1852, they did a remarkable job.”
“Okay.” I didn’t hear what he said. I’m so zonked.
“We just don’t have stuff like in the US.”
“What, train stations?” Because I’m really sure they have train stations. Like Grand Central.
“No, history on display.” He looks at me. “All the good stations, like, for instance, Grand Central – ”
I yawn. “It’s the only one I know.”
Murph smiles and looks at the station facade. “We just, don’t have anything that compares to this, really. All of our stations that are left were either build just before or in the 20th Century, or rebuilt. There’s usually no in between, and there’s nothing like, like this.” He smiles, his eyes closed, as if soaking up the feel of the station. “Admittedly, I’m a little jealous.”
I put my arm on his shoulder. “Calm down, you nerd. You’re gonna need your energy today, anyways.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I see him blush. “Yeah,” he says, quietly.
He asks if I have the tickets. I do, because I don’t trust him to carry them. And because it cost an arm and a leg to get out of work and pay for them. Because, as Murph doesn’t let me forget, he’s broke. It’s his early birthday present.
We get pasties in the station terminal. And we eat them standing by the entrance to the platform. Probably too early for pasties, but they’re warm and I don’t care. I’m peckish, and I’m paying.
Murph eats it slowly, like he’s not really sure how to eat it. Or maybe he’s lost in thought? I don’t know, and I don’t think I should care, either. That’s his business, not mine.
But then he smiles at me. He pushes back his glasses and says, “Thanks for coming with me today.”
“I said I would,” I said, blinking.
“It took you, like, a month to say you would, though,” Murph notes, smiling. And I see dimples. “What made you change your mind?”
I shrug. “Traveling alone sucks.”
Murph’s still staring at me, this glisten in his eyes like he’s hoping I’ll say something else.
“It’s out of the way, too. Like, if you were going to, like, Windsor Castle, no. Farther out, like, Brighton? Maybe. But York’s basically Scotland.” I pause. “I think it’s closer to Scotland than it is London.”
“So kind,” he says, teasing. But he looks away and his ears are pink.
I swallow what’s in my mouth and yawn. Murph’s posture says “relaxed” but everything about him suggests otherwise. His eyes are everywhere. His hands can’t seem to find a good grip on the pasty, and he’s chewing slowly. His ears stay pink.
I just have to ask.
“I’m gonna make it weird.”
Murph looks at me. “What?”
“What do you like about me?” I look myself over, and I’m certain the clothes I’m wearing haven’t been washed yet. “I look like a, like a thug.”
He snorts. “You’re not that,” he insists. “You’re really nice, and I’m not just saying that because I...you know.” He stares out into the waiting room and continues, “You’re a good person. You know, underneath all the snark and sarcasm.”
I smirk. God, I feel good.
“You’re...you. You’re this...this weird cross between the ‘Mr. Nice Guy’, ‘Bad Boy’, and...and ‘Hooker with a Heart of Gold’ tropes.” And then the colour runs from Murph’s face, and he splutters, “Y-you’re not a hooker! Oh my God, I’m so sorry!”
I shush him hard because at least a dozen people just heard this guy call me a hooker. “Just eat your fuckin’ pasty.” I shove the rest of it in my mouth. I say something, but there’s food in my mouth. Murph laughs. “I said I’m too classy to be a hooker.”
“Too classy, huh?”
“Absolutely,” I insist. I do that thing where I stretch out suspenders, except I’m not wearing any, so it’s this weird mime act of acting classy. Murph looks confused by it.
“What’s this?” he asks, mimicking my imaginary suspenders pulling. His eyes go wide and he looks away. “Oh my God, I’m so stupid.”
I’m not complaining.
Our train begins boarding about a minute later, and I toss the pasty wrapper in the bin. “Ready?”
Murph swallows, throws away his wrapper with the half-eaten pasty inside, and joins me at my side.
I grab his hand.
He looks at me.
“I’m only taking it because you’d get lost,” I say.
His hands feel shaking and clammy. Murph looks away and tries to slip his hand out of mine. “Be careful, Tommy,” he warns, looking back to me. “You wouldn’t want to put the wrong idea across, would you?”
I wipe my hand on my trousers. “Probably right,” I say, and my stomach twists. So I wrap my arm around his neck. “Better?”
Murph sighs, frowning. He looks away again.
I stare forward.
What am I doing?