4XF#2 Sweet Temptation

Sweet Temptation

There is a tearing sound. The young man in the corner is unwrapping a chocolate bar. Emma can just make out the word ‘delicious’ and imagines other phrases – chosen to tempt the buyer – ‘soft-centred,’ ‘richly satisfying,’ ‘mouth-watering.’ Her eyes travel up to his face, as he bites into the half-exposed section.

Emma is startled to discover how beautiful he is. She has been thinking of Malcolm with his muscular hairy arms and wondering if she is trapped or whether she could break free. Now her eyes focus on dark skin, high cheekbones, full lips, a hint of stubble.

As his white teeth sink into the smooth chocolate, he glances casually across the table before looking out of the train window. She glimpses velvet brown eyes, long lashes and smooth skin in the V of his open-necked white shirt.

Emma looks down, embarrassed, feeling oddly over-heated. The older man beside her is reading a book, turning the pages with confident precision. She notices the woman next to the young man looking at his profile and his jaws which move rhythmically as he eats. Her lips are slightly parted as she consumes him with her eyes. Disgusting, Emma thinks. She must be twenty years older than him.

He licks some melted chocolate off his finger, aware of the watching eyes. A train thunders past on the adjacent line – breaking the spell. The man opposite him reads on, unconcerned, absorbed.

The ticket collector reaches them and the other woman shows him her ticket. Next to her, the youth searches in various pockets.

“Lost your ticket, then?” There is no sympathy. The youth looks up with a meltingly sweet smile. “Well you’d better buy one,” continues the collector, with a hardness in his voice and a weary expression on his face, “Hurry up then.”

Does he have no money? Emma suddenly decides to help. But before she can offer to pay for him, she sees the older woman reaching for her bag.

The train hurtles into a tunnel. In the dark, in her fury, Emma sees herself lean across the table and smack the interfering bitch in the face. There is a muffled shriek before the light bursts in again. The two women are looking malevolently at each other.

Emma’s neighbour closes his book, pulls out two tickets from his breast pocket and places them casually on the table. Possession.

“I’ve got both tickets, remember?” he says. The conductor picks them up impatiently, scribbles on them and, glancing at Emma’s ticket lying innocently on the table in front of her, moves off.

“Thanks, Craig.” The youth reaches across, placing his hand on the older man’s arm and smiling. The women exchange despairing looks. The train is braking.

At the station the men leave. Two pairs of eyes, imprisoned in the carriage, watch the couple saunter, arms linked, down the platform.

The crumpled chocolate wrapper lies discarded on the table.