The things you’ll do for love
CJ cradled the glass of cold beer and surveyed the bar. It was his favourite place to unwind, hidden in a side street in the Old Town of Geneva.
As he took a swig he reflected on another working week spent in crowded trains, to and from business meetings in Suisse Romande, the French-speaking part of Switzerland.
Swiss Trains arrived punctually and generally left on time, but the second class carriages, although clean, had hard seats, designed to be long wearing rather than comfortable.
CJ had tried to get his boss to pay for 1st class travel, but it was proving to be a long and fruitless battle, so when he was required to travel, he begrudgingly boarded the train and used the time to prepare for his meetings, laptop cradled on his knees.
Seats were hard to find in the early morning commute between Geneva and Lausanne, so most days he took another train in the opposite direction in order to catch his train at the airport in Cointrin thus avoiding the maelstrom of crowds at the Cornavin Main Station in town. Although he was far from being the only one to have the same idea, it was rare he couldn’t find a seat at the airport station although it added another half hour of travel time.
But it was Thursday night and the weekend was in sight. He scolded himself for taking his working week to the bar, drained the last dregs of his beer and motioned to the barman for another.
A flash of light caught his attention and he looked over to see three women seated at a table not far from the bar.
One of them, an attractive blond, was laughing and waving her arms, attempting to say something over the noise of the club. As her torso danced, the lights of the dance floor caught her jewellery and sent fragments of light around the club. It was fascinating and he kept on looking, absorbing the details, the deep red of her lipstick, the curls of her hair tumbling over her shoulders, the bright purple of her blouse stretched tightly over her chest.
One glance too many, their eyes met, and she locked onto his regard. Embarrassed, he smiled, but she shunned his attention and turned away.
Oh well, he thought, I’ll just finish this one and go home. He glanced at his watch, the club was going to close anyway and he had a meeting in Fribourg the next day at ten. He cringed at the thought of another early, crowded train.
As he got up to go he heard shouts from behind. Two guys were trying to leave with the blond he had noticed earlier, they were dragging her to the exit. The other girls were protesting and attempting to pull her back to the table. The house music drowned out the heated conversation but the few words he could hear were definitely not French. Things looked to be getting out of hand.
Then one of the men slapped the blond woman on both cheeks gripping her wrists together.
He sprung into action, and in full knight in shining armour mode, he prised her wrists from the man’s fists and stepped in between them. He really should have thought before acting so rashly, and ignored the rush of adrenaline.
And then it was all over.
The other guy’s fist met his right cheek with a crack that exploded deep within his jawbone. He reeled backwards, lost his footing, and fell heavily to the floor.
He turned on his side to get up, but a sharp kick to his gut from a heavy boot expelled the liquid contents of his stomach and he doubled up in pain, only just catching sight of the women running towards the exit followed closely by his two assailants.
A crowd of people towered over him and someone helped him onto his feet. He was a mess and hobbled over to the men’s room with the intention of cleaning himself up as much as possible.
Someone asked him if they should call the police, but he shrugged off the suggestion and told them he was just going home.
And that’s all he remembered, before waking up the next morning, head exploding, fully dressed and covered in stale vomit and sticky blood.
He had no memory of how he got home.
He stripped off and stepped into a hot shower.
After dressing he made a strong black coffee, only feeling marginally better.
He checked his reflection in the mirror on his way out, his face looked as bad as he felt. He’d get some painkillers from the pharmacy at the station, he thought.
He climbed onto the train at Cointrin Airport, holding onto his sore belly to protect it and settled into a front facing window seat.
Looking at the clock on the platform he saw that there were just two minutes before the train was due to leave.
He caught a flash of purple and saw a woman running to catch the train. Her right cheek was bruised. Her long blond hair cascaded down over her shoulders and bounced as she ran.
It was the woman from last night.
The guard’s whistle blew and the train eased its way out of the station.
The carriage doors opened automatically with a whoosh and the woman walked slowly and deliberately along the aisle and then sat down opposite him.
“Does it hurt?” she asked, with an unmistakable Eastern European accent.