The clock at the platform showed 11:20. Darrell seated herself on a bench, grateful for the shade from the sun. She pulled her suitcase closer to her to wait for the 11:35.
As was her habit, she watched the passengers filter in. There weren’t too many. Most of those who needed to go in for business had probably taken the first train at 6:35. There was a young woman dressed in a yellow sweater and maroon jeans, who carried a black rucksack. She had red streaks in her hair and white, high heeled canvas shoes. She sniffed at regular intervals; short, faint sniffs that were hardly sniffs.
A middle-aged couple, greying and dressed warmly in jackets and sturdy shoes. The lady had a scarf around her head and the gentleman sported a flat cap in grey and rust herringbone. She looked, Darrell thought, a tad worried and she got the impression that the man had decided not to show his tension.
They eased out of the station on schedule, and Darrell settled back to watch the rolling hills of Devon sliding by on the way to Exeter, where she had to change trains. This part of the journey was just an hour long, so Darrell didn’t bother bringing out her notebook to write. Exeter was considerably busier, she noticed, as she got off. She dodged her way through the people and their bags. She found her seat by the window and sat down.
There was a thump as a tall, dark haired lady dumped her bag in the overhead rack. She sat down at the window seat facing Darrell. She smiled, showing perfect teeth. Darrell smiled back and appraised the lady who would be her companion for the next four hours. She hoped she’d either be pleasant to talk to or wouldn’t talk at all.
As the train pulled out, it became apparent they had the 4 person pod to themselves. Darrell caught the brunette’s eye and said “Looks like we’ll have this place to ourselves”.
“Yes. It is a relief, a small one. You are visiting London for work?”
Darrell said, “No. I live there. I was away for work, or sort of work.”
“My name is Carlotta.”
“Carlotta, sounds Spanish. Lovely name! Do you live in London, too?”
“Yes. I have a house there. My mother is from London. My father was Spanish. I shuttle around. I finished my schooling in Cornwall.”
“Oh, I was in a school in Cornwall, too! Malory Towers. What about you?”
“I heard of it. I was in St. Clares.”
“Ah. You know, I’ve always thought it very odd that both these schools were in Cornwall, but there were no local occasions when the girls met each other.”
“I know what you mean. I joined a bit later than normal in the Third Form.”
“So what do you do these days, other than flying between Spain and England?”
“Oh, after I left college, I became an equestrain coach. I have a farm or ranch in Spain and another in Cheltenham. I was there last week and decided to come down to visit an old friend.”
“Did you go to college here in England?”
“Yes. Near Hull, Bishop Burton College.”
“Bit of a distance from Cornwall! Is there a particular reason you chose that?”
“Um yes. It has a pretty good equestrian program there and my friend, Bill, was headed there. Bill and I were good friends at St Clares and we just naturally chose the same place.”
“Wilhelmina. We’ve always called her Bill. She went to become a competitive show jumper.”
“OH, Carlotta! I know you! You were in the Olympics! And Bill! You competed against each other, Spain vs England. I remember the controversy now. Judges couldn’t decide who won, so they made you joint gold medalists! Yes, yes. I know you now! Really this is such a treat to meet an actual Olympic champion!”
“Yes. That’s me. We both decided we couldn’t top that and we were meant to be together. So we became partners, you know. Now we run the business together.”
“Oh, this is such a great story!Would you mind terribly if I used it? I write books about school days and this is perfect!”
“Darrell? Darrell Waters? The Darrell Waters! I am a big fan of your books! They remind me so much of my school days at St Clares! I am delighted to meet you!”
“Wow! This is so wonderful! I’m completely overcome!”
Carlotta said, “I brought a bottle of wine. I think we should open it and celebrate!”
She poured out wine and they sat back sipping their wine.
Darrell said, “You said you were down in Exeter visiting an old friend. I think it is so important to stay in touch with old friends. I met an old friend in Barnstaple, as well, though this was by chance. She was a couple of years younger than me at college. She wanted to be a writer, then, and she writes wonderful murder mysteries now. I think she wanted to be a detective at some point, but didn’t work out that way.”
“Yes. I am very lucky to find myself doing what I love with someone I love.”
“Now love is such an odd thing. This friend of mine was in love with a fellow who was a few years older. He went to university and forgot all about her. She looked up to him a lot, but you know, love sometimes is forgotten as you get involved with other things and other people.”
“I am very lucky. I used to have another friend who was in a different university. He was studying to be a detective, too. He was a bit wild, always had parties and people. Very popular. Don’t know where he is now.”
“Oddly, that’s what happened to Liz. The fellow went to university and disappeared. He was quite rich and had quite a time in university, too. I do believe he did graduate and got himself a job Scotland Yard. So he did become a detective.”
Carlotta looked at Darrell and said, “This fellow, his name wouldn’t be Frederick, Frederick Trotteville, would it?”
“Oh! Do you know him? What a small world!”