We met on the railway station, where, we had said goodbye 40 years ago. I wondered how much we would remember of our childhood together. I saw “Mads” first, attracted in her direction by the loud crash of a fellow disembarking passenger’s luggage toppling over and the subsequent cry of the station guard appealing for help from a colleague. I myself was there awaiting the arrival of the 11.35 am train on which I was expecting to be my wife Sally. It was now was just past 11.10 am and “one to always get places early” I had been passing the time sitting on one of the seats on the platform reading a newspaper. “Mads” seemed to be looking for a face in the mulling crowd, she was I felt looking anxiously as if she were not sure that the person for whom she was looking would ultimately arrive at all. Suddenly it happened… her searching eyes caught sight of mine and… well, it was obvious she recognised me at once…
“Tony! Tony!” she cried almost as if I had been whom she had waiting for all along. I got up from my seat, folded my newspaper, and leaving it on the seat where I had been sitting made my way to where, surrounded by her bags, she stood. “Hi Kiddo” I said a warm smile rippling across my now considerably (I thought) aging features. “Oh Tony, it has been so long, so long” replied “Mads” her hand squeezing the lower part of my left arm. For what seemed an age, but was in reality just a moment, we stared at each other our eyes full of so many things we so wanted to say to each other yet knew we could not, should not.
I sensed “Mads” insecurity and so I said “You look lovely” her eyes narrowed and then I was reunited at last with that smile of hers – the one I had been forced to live without all these long years. “You look…” and then she giggled almost as girlishly as she had done so these many years past. “I know! I know! still I’m not that bad for a 58 year old” came my jovial reply accompanied by one of my trademark little jigs.
“Mads” face beamed back at me not just her recognition that a beautiful and special time was being remembered by us both but her own special brand of sunshine. Seeing her again as I gazed upon her beaming face I recalled just why I had nicknamed her “Mads”. Not only was it short for Madeleine, her real name, she could make me maddeningly happy, maddeningly angry…in fact maddeningly anything she wanted at will, yet her particular brand of sunshine I had longed so much for but been cruelly denied by circumstance in my youth…I had always been Mad about her...
“It’s so good to see you” she said finally reaching over to peck me on the cheek. I in return picked up her hand and planted a gentle kiss upon it. “Are you waiting for someone? Perhaps you have time for a coffee? “Mads” eyes narrowed once more and she dropped her gaze “I’m waiting for Karl - my husband, he should be here very soon, You?” “Mads” looked up once more and searched my eyes “My wife, Sally…she should be on the 11.30 am train from London”. Nothing more had to be said, it was obvious that I had ultimately enjoyed by far the happiest marriage of the two of us.
As cruelly as fate had stepped in 40 years ago then so today it did so again. “Madeleine! Madeleine!” suddenly came a rather austere sounding mans voice bellowing, visibly flustered “Mads” picked up her bags and said hurriedly “Karl is here – must go” flashing me what would be my last ever glance of her sunshine smile she left me and hurried toward him. I turned to look after her curious to get a look at the man that had lived his whole life with my childhood love. The man glared back at me he looked every inch a bully and from his dress a very rich bully.
I raised a hand to acknowledge him, it would be a gesture he would not return, “And who was that!” I heard him ask as “Mads” hurried past him toward the exit struggling with her heavy bags. “Oh no-one darling, just a friend, an old friend” I heard her reply. I was such a friend… one that at this moment certainly did feel very, very, old.