The whoosh of air blew skirts and scarves in its wake. The noise echoed in passengers’ ears. The train was approaching. Mind the gap. The recorded woman’s voice, oft-mimicked by tourists and children served as a warning. The gap wasn’t large, but it was large enough to slip, trip or fall. Everyone was reading their phones, ignoring the message. They had their heads bowed, in deference to the god of devices.
Lily stood on the platform, stifling in her coat and scarf, pressed against the hoard of passengers. They moved in unison through the open doors. Her head felt thick, muddy. She felt a droplet of sweat run down her back, at the same time as a hand brushed her arse. All these strangers, too close, touching. She held the overhead strap, but crammed like sardines, she wondered why. There was no chance she’d fall over.
God, how she hated the Underground.
She got off at Leicester Square and rode the daunting escalators up to street level. When she first arrived in London, they gave her vertigo. She’d wait—often for many minutes— to use the lifts, or if there weren’t lifts at the station, she’d go out of her way to find one that did. She was desensitised to the ridey-stairs now. Mostly. Her body trembled, wobbled as she rode upwards.
Lily moved outside, crushed and pulled by the crowd. The biting cold was a balm to her hot, sweaty body. She toyed with slipping out of her coat, just for a second, to cool off even more, but it was only a short walk to work. The crowd dispersed; she made her way to her office building.
Despite hating the Underground, the crowds and the tourists that made this city burst its seams, she loved it here. Life was taking place, and she was part of it. Lily never felt like that before moving here. She remembered the feeling of everything passing her by. Like the train whooshing past her, but not stopping to collect her.
‘Morning,’ she called walking through the doors to her PR firm. Lily Does Yours. A racy name initially, but it barely raised an eyebrow now.
‘Good morning, Lily,’ responded her PA, already gathering files and messages. She followed her into the office.
‘Thank you, Ellen. What would I do with you.’
Lily looked up when Ellen didn’t respond. She had tears in her eyes, rolling down her cheeks, actually. Lily hated that; it was the ultimate in self-pity. Wipe them away for chrissakes. She shrugged her annoyance aside.
‘Ellen, what is it? Has something happened?’
‘Lily, I’m sorry. But you’re about to find out what you’ll do without me.’ She cleared her throat, and thankfully, wiped a trickle that was gathering on her lip. ‘My resignation letter is in there.’
Lily sat still. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been served a shit sandwich for breakfast. But she had one now. With a cherry on top.