Time by Urte Grinkaite

Retha sits down on the blue seat in front of her. It wasn’t usually this empty on a 7am train to central London, but she wasn’t about to question her luck. A sigh escapes her, tension leaving her shoulders. It had been a rougher morning for the girl, she slept through her alarms and was wearing her socks inside out; she could do with a little rest. 

The train came to a slow halt, metal grinding as the doors scraped open. Crisp wind rushes in and Retha begins to wish she had dressed for the weather, a skirt not doing much against the bitter morning cold. Her eyes drag over to an older gentleman, scrutinizing him. Retha had never really questioned the intentions of her fellow train takers, and she had seen some questionable characters in her time, but there was something about this man that raised goosebumps. Maybe it was the way he checked his stopwatch three times in the space of thirty seconds, or perhaps it was the fact that he looked almost timeless. His greying hair was combed back lightly, golden circle glasses rested on his nose. He adorned a silver moustache, the ends twirled up. He was poised, and quite frankly, he looked Victorian. The man sat down opposite her. His light eyes peered straight into her own, his white eyebrows furrowed a little. Retha thought he looked familiar; she could’ve sworn that she had seen him around before. His wrinkled hand never left his pocket watch, a thin gold chain connecting it to his grey waistcoat. She knew he most likely did not have any malicious intent, yet the grip she had on her red handbag tightened. 

Retha only had six stops left. She needed to get off at Oxford Circus, and she was praying that this man had no business in central London. He sighed, he seemed restless. His hands kept moving about, clutching his watch, holding something in his pocket, running through his beard, like someone trying to speed up time. He wasn’t inherently suspicious, yet his constant fidgeting threw Retha off. His eyes never left hers though. No matter how much she avoided his direct line of sight, she could always feel his stare. 

A few stops later the train stopped again. The old man glanced at the station name behind Retha, then at his watch. He stuck his hand in his fancy coat and took out a small package, wrapped in brown paper. He pointed a wrinkly finger at the young girl, put the package down and left the train. By the time Retha gathered the idea to look back at him he was gone. Retha moved with the train as it started to drive, her eyes not leaving the package in front of her. 

‘What if it’s a bomb?’ 

‘Why would it be a bomb? No old man would have bombs around’ 

‘Could just be money’ 

‘Now why in the ever loving hell would anyone just leave a box full of money?’

Retha’s thoughts raced, taking two separate sides. On one hand, it could be threatening, a weapon of sorts. On the other, maybe it was simply something nice that someone wanted to do, there were good people out there after all. She only had a couple more stops to decide what to do, her hands began to tremble. She took her time standing, smoothing her skirt down. Step after careful step she inched towards the package, inspecting as she picked it up. It didn’t seem to make any noise as she shook it. Maybe it was safe. It was not heavy either. Retha had no clue what was inside. 

She couldn’t leave it any longer, time was running out. She ripped off the brown paper, rubbish falling to her feet. She grew confused at the box now left in front of her. The small, dainty golden box caught the sun coming through the train window, leaving rainbow lights over the carriage. Retha carefully opened the box, the small click of the lock echoing. Inside lay a small sand timer, tucked away between cuts of 

red velvet. She took it out, the sand seemed to be calling her. She rolled the timer between her fingers, the glass felt so light in her hand, seemingly weighing less than the air around her. 

When the train skidded to a stop, so did Retha. Her body jerked forward as she dropped the timer, glass shattering into tiny pieces surrounding her feet. The blue sand rose around her, mystifying her as it began to swirl, leaving her lightheaded. The creak of the doors caught her attention, yet she was not conscious enough to hear the stampede of boots rush toward her, cold hands grabbing her limbs. She was out of time.

Published in Issue #22

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