Love, Conkers, & Falling Leaves (‘Numbers’ short story collection)

BJ9DP0 Class 378 Capitalstars being  built by Bombardier Transportation.

Ali

I get the London Overground to see her. 21 stops to go. Honestly, I’m tired of staring at the orange and brown seats, but now that we’re coming into autumn those colours have become suddenly appealing. It’s that time of year for bobble hats and cable knit jumpers. It’s that time of year for hot drinks like tea, hot chocolate, and pumpkin spice lattes. It’s that time of year when you step outside and breathe in the fresh fragrance of fallen rain in the air. It’s that time of year when you walk along the crimson leaf covered paths, collect conkers, and watch the trees slowly become bare. 14 stops to go. There’s something about the trees shedding their leaf-clothing that makes me think of new beginnings; just as the dead leaves of a tree fall to the ground, so should the negativities of life. The bad ought to become something beautiful, just like the piles of colourful dead leaves that lie freely on the grass. It makes me think of life before and after her. It’s strange how something dead can look so unbelievably stunning. 9 stops to go.

A crowd of rowdy people clamber onto the train at West Hampstead. I can hear every language and see every ethnicity of the world. The competing sounds of people chatting, phones ringing, and loud music lull me into the standard, disruptive, noisy Londoners sleep. 8 stops to go.

My eyes open at Willesden Junction, the place that seems to have nothing else other than a train station. A crowd of people push off the train making us no longer packed in like sardines, until double the amount of people pile on again, pressing their sweaty bodies against me. There are a combination of smells, from the stench of body odour coming off the teenage boy next to me, to the overuse of lynx wafting from the exposed underarm of the man who is stretching to hold on to the bar above me, to the school-kid who is waffling down her reeking greasy takeaway of chicken and chips. 5 stops to go.

The train empties out more people with each stop, leaving those quiet considerate one’s who are simply reading The Metro or staring at their iPhone’s. 2 stops to go. The train passes over the Thames. Alongside the motionless tranquil muddy water, the trees stand tall discarding their auburn leaves, which line the pathways beautifully. 1 stop to go.

Louise

Ali will be here in 1hour and 2minutes. It’s autumn, which is Ali’s favourite season, so I’m going to collect the same amount of conkers as the number of months we’ve been together. 24 months. That’s 2 years. 24 conkers to go.

I walk through the park listening to the sounds of wheels turning, rolling on the ground and hard footsteps thumping against the pavement, as I wonder past the cyclists, rollerbladers and runners. 18 conkers to go. I walk past the dog walkers, footballers, and playing children, taking in the sounds of laughter, the swish of a ball flying through the air, and the joyful barking of happy Spaniels, Labrador’s and Jack Russell’s. 15 conkers to go. I walk past the young and the old, from those in prams to those with walking sticks. I catch conversations about the weather and goo goo gaa gaa baby language. 12 conkers to go. I amble along the concrete paths, the luscious green grass, and the trails through the wood. 8 conkers to go.

I pick a tree that looks climbable, with plenty of footholds and strong branches to support me. I climb up higher and higher to the tops of the tree, pulling off conkers as the leaves fall around me. I’m being showered in sunset colours that are vibrant and vivacious and I smile thinking of Ali. 1 conker to go.

I walk back through the park towards the station to meet Ali. I haven’t got long and I need to find 1 more conker. I search around numerous trees, observing the bark patterns and the roots peeking through the dirt, but the conker’s I find are either too ripe or slightly rotted. I trace my surroundings with my eyes, noting the pleasing colours before I lock onto the perfect shape- the final conker to give to my Ali. 0 conkers to go.

Ali

She meets me from the train wrapped up in her thick woollen scarf, burgundy hat and khaki coloured coat. She smiles and pulls out a handful of conkers from her pocket, handing me one she informs me she picked it especially for me; it was shaped like a heart. Smiling back at her I thanked her, told her I loved her and then kissed her forehead softly. 24 Conkers and 0 stops to go.

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