With a sigh I watched the porter put my bag in the rack, I tipped him and closed the door behind him as he left. Sighing again I sat and stared out of the window, despite the late hour the platform was crowded with people waiting to get on the train. Looking around my compartment I smiled, I had been one of the lucky ones, having booked well in advance I was assured of a compartment to myself, small though it may be. Later the conductor would come in and lower one of the two beds, I'd climb into it as soon as he was gone and go to sleep, when I woke I'd be in Paris, two days after that I would be taking up my post at the Embassy. My thoughts were interrupted by a knock at the door.
"Come." I responded a little shortly.
The door opened and a conductor stepped into the compartment.
"I'm very sorry sir," he said not sounding sorry at all "but there seems to have been a mix up at the booking office, there's another passenger booked for this compartment as well."
"Surely this passenger could be given another compartment." I retorted.
"I'm afraid not sir," he shook his head "all the other compartments are full, this is the only free berth. There will of course be a refund on your payment as a result of having to share."
It wasn't the money that was the point, I had specifically booked a compartment to myself, had I wanted to share I wouldn't have paid out the extra. It seemed that I had no choice however and feeling disgruntled I watched the other passengers bags being placed on the luggage rack beside mine, the conductor left and my companion for the trip stepped into the compartment. The first surprise was that it was a woman, the second was that it was an exceedingly attractive woman, however, the idea of spending the next few hours in mixed company did not seem quite appropriate.
"It seems there has been some mistake." I said as she closed the compartment door "the conductor will have to arrange for you to share with another..."
"It seems" she interrupted coolly "that either I share with you or walk the corridors, in case you hadn't noticed, the train is packed to overflowing. The only compartments containing women have no spare berths so we are stuck with each other."
"Humph." I snorted.
Primly she sat at the other end of the seat, her skirt carefully smoothed and pulled down over her knees, and sighing quietly I turned to look out of the window. After a few moments of gazing at the platform my eyes focused on the reflection of the compartment, I could just make out my companion in the none to clean glass, she was giving me a long appraising glance while my back was to her. A whistle sounded and with a jerk the train began to move, leaning back in my seat and tried to relax, the noise of the wheels on the track a focus for my thoughts. Some time later there was a knock at the door, the woman opened it and the conductor breezed in, without a word the man opened out the two beds and left.
"Which would you prefer?" The woman asked.
"Pardon?" I responded bringing my thoughts to the present.
"Which berth would you prefer?" she repeated.
"It makes no difference to me," I sighed "decide which you want, I will take the other."
"Very well," she replied, "I will take the lower berth."
I nodded my agreement and went back to staring out of the window, I heard the woman moving around, in the glass I saw her attempting to take down one of her cases, with little joy. Turning in the seat I looked at her, rose, took down the case she was reaching for and sat down again, all without speaking a word.
"Thank you." She said as she opened the case.
She took something from the case and went in the tiny cabinet laughingly classified as a bathroom, the lock clicked as soon as the door closed then came the sounds of movement. Smiling I wished her luck in changing within the cramped confines of the small room, my smile faded when it dawned on me a few seconds later that I would have to go through the same procedure to get myself ready for bed. Feeling more than a little put upon I got up and took down my case; quickly I removed my pyjamas and a robe, closed the case and put it back on the rack. A few moments later the woman, looking flushed and annoyed, came out of the 'bathroom' I went in, closed and locked the door behind me and began the task of undressing.
Now I am not a large person, but the available space would have caused midget difficulties, twice during the process of undressing I banged my elbow on the tiny sink. Then, while putting on my pyjamas, I hit my knee on the sink; muttering low curses I gathered up my clothing and left the tiny room. Much to my surprise the woman was still up, I had expected her to get into bed as soon as I left the room, instead she was fiddling with her clothes, quickly I placed my things on a hanger and prepared to climb up to my bed. Suddenly the train jerked, my arms became filled with a warm soft body while my back became filled with a hard door handle; the sound of my back hitting the handle was clear and sharp. Biting back a yelp of pain I helped the woman to get upright then put my hand to the centre of my agony.
"You seem to have hurt yourself." the woman commented "I am a trained nurse, let me look at it."
Reluctantly I complied, turning to face the beds I took off my robe and pulled up my pyjamas jacket, soft, warm hands probed at my back making me wince.
"You are going to have a nasty bruise there," she said "hold still a minute, I have something that will make it a little easier."
Feeling rather foolish I stood there, a moment later I felt something cool being rubbed onto my back, the pain eased to a dull ache within seconds.
"Thank you." I said as I pulled down my jacket.
"I should be thanking you," she smiled "if you hadn't caught me I would have hit my head on the door handle."
The incident broke the ice somewhat, putting all the blame for the situation on the shoulders of the Rail Company I turned to face her and smiled.
"Glad to have been of some service." I said.
At that moment the train jerked again, I fell back onto the lower berth, narrowly missing banging my head on the upper berth; the woman fell on top of me with a surprised exclamation. Apologising she started to rise and was thrown from her feet once again as the train jerked violently to a stop. Her face was only a few inches from mine, we gazed at each other for a moment and then began laughing, the situation was funny I had to admit. After a while I became aware of her body on mine as we laughed, she must have felt the same for she rolled over and struggled to sit on the bunk beside me.
"We apologise" a voice came over the intercom "for the motions of the train. The line ahead has been blocked, a work crew are already at work clearing the line and we will resume our journey as soon as possible."
"Well," the woman sighed, "it seems our trip will be longer than expected."
"I don't know about you," I commented "but I could do with something to settle my nerves."
.... There is more of this story ...