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If Only


I dragged my luggage through the station doors and found a seat, feeling more warmth from the empty bench than I usually do back home. This long business trip should have made me crave home, miss John, but it didn’t. Rather, I was sitting at the station, dreading the thought of going back, hoping the train never arrives but I was never that lucky. As I boarded the train, I saw him gazing out of the window, as handsome as I remembered. Even though I haven’t seen him for over two decades, I recognized him instantly.

     As I lunged for the seat right at the front, I wondered whether I should go talk to him, after all, he was the only one who truly knew me. Right after graduation, I had a feeling that he was going to propose, so before he could say anything, I told him that I wanted to do something in life before settling down. To my surprise, he agreed and said that he had similar plans. Anyway, it has been 22 years, I should at least go talk to him. Just as I picked my bag from the seat beside me, I heard a voice, his voice. “I thought it was you,” he said as if the past two decades hadn’t gone by, “how have you been, Rachel?”

     He took the seat right next to me. Up close I could see the faint wrinkles and grey hair on his temple, he wasn’t the same man I left behind in that room that day. Glancing at his wedding band, I wondered how our lives went in completely opposite directions. Where I was taking touring assignments in my forties just to get away from John, he was probably enjoying a fulfilling life with his wife and a couple of kids.

    “So, do you live around here?” He broke the silence.

    “No, I’m traveling for work.”

    “You always wanted to travel, didn’t you?” He said as if remembering our last conversation.

    “So, where are you headed?”

    “Montreal. What about you?” I asked hastily, not wanting to talk about my life back at home.

    “Toronto, the next stop”

    “Married now, eh? I asked pointing to his ring.

    “Yep.” I could see the happiness on his face as he went on to tell me about her.

    I just tuned out. All I could think about, looking at his face, was how different my life could have been if I hadn’t walked out that day. Back then, I thought people can betray me, but my work will always be with me. How wrong I was, I hadn’t achieved anything meaningful in life. Sure, management consultancy pays well but this wasn’t what I set out to do. Maybe, I should have just stayed with him, at least I would have been happy.


Fiddling with my ring, I wondered what was I even going home to. I didn’t walk out five years ago when she said a firm no on children in the future, but our last fight was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It woke me up to the reality that the love that once existed had now completely vanished. I wondered if it even did exist in the first place. The violent jerk shook me out of my daze. I looked outside the window, passengers rushing to board the train, and among them was her. The hair color was different, but it was definitely Rachel, the one I thought I was gonna spend my life with. However, after graduation, she made it abundantly clear that I had no place in her future and although I should have felt betrayed, it came as a relief. Now that I think about it, I was nothing more than a coward back then, unwilling to take risks, unwilling to fight for what I really wanted.

     When I came to my senses, the train had already left the station and I was left gazing at the moving scenery. It almost felt like a dream but I found her sitting right at the front in the coach.

     I sat beside her, catching up. She told me that she was traveling for work. I always knew that she was gonna make it. As she tucked her hair behind her ear, I saw her ring, almost smiled thinking that at least one of us made the right choice.

     “So where are you headed?” I asked to keep the conversation going.

    “Montreal. What about you?” She proceeded with a sense of inquisitiveness.

    “Toronto, the next stop,” I said, fighting back a grimace.

    She asked about my marriage and I told her how good we were together, can’t help but grin at the lie I was telling her, telling myself.

    As my station came closer, I wrestled with the idea of getting her number but decided against it. She got up and hugged me without saying anything. I got off, couldn’t bear to look back, and just walked away wondering what could have happened if only I had fought, for what I wanted, back then.


As he got up to get his bags, I couldn’t help but wonder whether I should stop him. Come on Rachel, stop him. Get up and kiss him. But as he said goodbye to me, all I could do was hug him. I knew if I said anything, I would start crying which I couldn’t bear to do in front of him. I made the choice back then, he is happy, I’m not gonna be the one who stomps on his happiness, not again. He got off the train and I kept my eyes on him until he was out of sight. As the train jolted into motion, my phone buzzed. A message from John.

    How long till you get home, Rachel? I think we need to talk.

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in Fiction, Flash Fiction, Romance