Neena arrived, early, at the train station. It was a dark chilly November morning. She was wearing a pair of dress pants and boots. Her long brown coat had a pretty fake fur collar. She had on a knitted beanie hat, that matched the colors of her coat and kept her warm. She was hoping that her boyfriend, would show up at the station to say goodbye and wish her luck. She was going to the big city to interview with a reputed company. This could be a big break for her career. She sat on a bench and waited at the platform, patiently. The time for the train to leave was drawing close but still there was no sign of her boyfriend, Neal. They had a lover's tiff about the prospective job in the big city but she did not think it was her fault. She did not want to be the one to initiate a truce. Restlessly, she looked up at the sky. The dawn was breaking in. The dark clouds in the sky told that the day would be gloomy. "This is not the best start for a crucial day like this", she thought. She let out a long deep sigh and made up her mind to remain in good spirits. She closed her big dreamy eyes and revived the experience of the last kiss from her boyfriend. She felt warm inside and knew everything was going to be alright.
Neena got up quickly when she heard the announcement for her train. She had a small pull-on in which she had packed some clothes for couple of days. This was not planned to be a long trip and who knows what the outcome of the interview would be. "First things come first. Let me give a good interview. I will figure things out as and when they come up." This seemed to be a solid and logical approach and put all her worries to rest. She looked outside through the window and browsed the platform for one last time just to make sure her boyfriend was not there searching for her. She noticed an old lady with a wrinkled face, short curly hair and round spectacles approaching her carriage. She boarded the train, came towards her and sat down right beside her. Neena gave her a big smile. She smiled back. Neena thought that the old lady had a pleasant disposition and would be a good company for the train journey. As the train picked up speed to leave the station, Neena's eyes suddenly caught a glimpse of the back of a tall well-built man wearing a black fedora hat and a black overcoat. Something about that man was strangely attractive that she could not move her eyes away. She stared at the dark form till it was out of her sight.
The old lady beside her was quite friendly. They exchanged a few general questions. Maple, as she introduced herself, was going to see her son who worked in the big city and stayed in a apartment by himself. He had been so busy that he could not find time to meet her. Finally, he called her to come and spend a week with him. Maple thought that it was awfully nice of him to do that. Maple came from a generation where marriage and family were of paramount importance to a woman. On hearing about Neena's purpose of visit to the big city, she was quite surprised at how aggressive and career- minded young girls of this age were. "Young woman, you should find a decent man and think of settling down. You are so beautiful. I don't see how that would be difficult for you." Neena smiled sweetly but felt that the conversation was going in the direction she would rather avoid at this point. It would force her to face all the logistics and make all the decisions that she wanted to avoid at this point. She needed to calm down and relax. She fished out a book from her purse and pretended to read.
The rocking motion of the train helped her feel relaxed. She had gotten up very early today to make sure that she caught the right train and got to her destination well within the time and not get rushed for the interview. She found herself feeling sleepy. The words on the page started to become a little hazy. Neena thought to herself, "Am I dozing off ? I don't think so." The train seemed to suddenly slow down and the visibilty outside was very poor due to heavy fog. In fact, the smoky fog was getting into the train compartment and blurring up the face of even the passengers sitting right opposite to her. Soon, the announcement for the station was heard and a lot of people, including Neena, got up to get off at the station.
Neena disembarked the train and was right in the middle of a big crowd of commuters at the platform. This is after all the "big city." Suddenly, her eye caught something strange in the crowd. To her utter surprise, right ahead, about a couple yards in front of her, standing at the platform , his back to her, was a similar man with black overcoat and fedora hat. Neena rubbed her eyes but immediately laughed to herself. "There must be so many men in black overcoat and fedora hat and I had just seen a form when the train was pulling away. Of course, it is not the same man. " As she was thinking about this and looking in that direction, the man turned and was face to face with her. The man was, apparently, waiting for someone at the station. When he saw Neena, he stopped to take a second look at her. The strange man had an attractive face, dark eyes and a serious look. His eyes were staring at her but his mind seemed elsewhere. Neena felt uncomfortable, lowered her eyes and took a sharp turn towards her right. An unknown fear gripped her heart as she took long strides to cut her way through the crowd. Foolish thoughts crossed her mind. "Did he know me ? Why was he looking at me ? Oh, I don't need to get tensed about these things before my interview." Before she could compose herself she felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned to look but her heart started racing . It was the same man. "Hey, Neena. I am Rob from Homestead Elementary School. Remember?.. Don't tell me you don't recognize me. Imagine, meeting after so many years. " Neena could swear that she had never met him before. She had a hard time understanding what was going on as she found herself smiling and talking back to this man. It was weird. She had no power over her own body. All her actions and movements were virtually being controlled by this strange man. She found herself walking next to him and right into a nearby coffee shop. The man grabbed her hand and led her to a corner table. Neena felt helpless. It was as if she had turned into a zombie. Her inner consciousness was revolting to this but she had no means of gaining control over herself. She really missed Neal now. He would have always protected her. The man, who introduced himself as Rob, drew closer to her and grabbed her face. He was about to kiss her. Neena was fuming with anger and hatred towards this man. At the same time, she was filled with desperation at her own weakness. When his lips were almost about to touch her, she suddenly experienced her strength coming back . With all her might she let out a vehement cry "NOOOOOOOOOO."
Neena shouted so loudly that she woke herself up. The passengers around her looked at her funny. Neena felt stupid but extremely relieved. "Oh, Thank God! This was just a nightmare." She took a deep breath and tried to forget about her dream. She wondered if she was taking the right decision. "May be Neal was right. Working in the big city all alone may not be such a good idea after all. Then again, I have to learn in my own way. I have to trust myself." She looked outside the window. It was a cloudy day and the sky looked pretty gloomy. The dark rain clouds gathering up in the west were scheming on creating a thunderstorm. She looked at her watch for the time. Her journey should be drawing to a close, pretty soon. After a few minutes, Neena heard the announcement that the train was approaching her destination. She got off the train with her small pull-on luggage. The platform was quite crowded. As her eyes browsed through the crowd, the last thing she expected to see was the familiar form of the strange man with black overcoat and fedora hat, his back towards her.