The concourse of Sydney Central Railway Station was a busy place. People were rushing about to or from the trains. They could not wait getting inside the train or away from the draughty station. It was winter and a cold wind blew from the Snowy Mountains. They looked forward to the long Queen’s Birthday weekend. The young Queen had been crowned only that week.
Jack left the refreshment room, where he had a couple of whiskeys to warm himself up and kill some time. He had been waiting for Julia, his secretary and lover for the last two years. The long weekend was a good opportunity to break the routine and have a relaxing weekend in Canberra. His brother Bob called it a ‘naughty weekend’.
Jack thought life in Canberra slow enough not to distract Julia too much from his plans. It was hard enough in Sydney to keep her away from the shops and the night clubs. Jack looked forward to what Julia had to offer and not being dragged through a department store.
As Jack mingled with the crowd, to look for Julia, he felt the urgency in the people. He was a tall man, head and shoulders above the multitude. The flow of the crowd divided around him like the whirling water around a rock. He was dressed in a warm woollen overcoat which made him look more sturdy than he was. His black hat had slightly shifted to his neck revealing his wrinkles on his forehead as he searched his surroundings for a sign of Julia.
‘For Christ’s sake, where is that woman?’ he asked himself. He heard the whistle of the steam locomotive and checked his watch; the Canberra Express was now departing. Belching smoke was pushed by the South Westerly wind into the hall. Jack did not mind, he liked travelling by train and the whole atmosphere created by it. The smell the steam engine produced was just an added flavour. That is why he chose the train and not his old pre-war car to go to Canberra. He had a new FJ Holden on order but the dealer made excuses for not being able to deliver it. Julia had pressured him for month to get a new car. Naturally, this would impress her female friends.
Jack spotted her walking through the archway. She walked in her self assured way, dressed in the latest travel outfit and wearing a small hat with a certain pertness. Seeing her gave Jack a boost.. With a handbag in one hand and a small travel bag in the other she strode towards the refreshment room where they had agreed to meet.
Jack flicked his cigarette, he had just lit, to the ground and with a few steps intercepted her.
‘Julia. Were where you?’ he asked , ‘The train is gone.’ Jack took the travel bag off her.
‘And whose fault is this? Not mine.’ It never is, Jack thought.
‘Honestly, Julia, I waited for hours…,’ he exaggerated.
‘You know there’d be a reason.’
Jack felt his temper rising. They walked slowly, not taking any notice of the peak hour crowd.
‘Obviously, there is a reason. But how do I know what you come up with today.’
‘There is no need to be belligerent.’
‘Belligerent? I did not know I was belligerent. I thought I was showing concern. Does it seem strange to you that I might be concerned…?’
‘Concerned, you concerned? I tell you what you are concerned about: missing out getting me into the cot in that boring Canberra. What else is Canberra good for. The politician do it all the time.’ She took a breather and looked at the other travellers turning the concourse into a beehive.
‘If you have to know,’ Julia said with a defiant voice. ‘The stupid taxi driver got stuck behind a tram. Any way, I’m here now. Where is the train?’
‘I told you the train is gone.’ Jack said, now somewhat subdued after her broadside.
‘We have to wait for the next train that goes in two hours time.’
‘You can do that on your own, mate. I’m going home.’
‘What about us?’ asked Jack alarmed with a hint of panic in his voice.
‘There is no us. There is only your prick itching for action!’
Jack did not believe he heard right. ‘If this is so, you don’t need to turn up for work on Tuesday. You’re fired!’ Jack waved his arm and nearly knocked over a paper boy who screamed the latest headline.
‘I thought you might say that,’ Julia said, grabbed her travel bag out of Jack’s hand and added, ‘I will work for an American company, involving travel to the States. It is much better than working in your crummy office and being touched up by the lecherous boss. Good bye and good riddance.’
With this Julia swung around and walked away, disappearing into the crowd. Jack was dumb founded but could not help looking at her long legs on high heels. The seams of her stockings were running up in a perfect straight line. He slowly shook his head as if to get rid of an image in his mind. He had lost a good secretary, and a good lover, in the middle of the Sydney Central crowd.
‘You can’t win them all,’ he mumbled to himself, lit another cigarette and walked out of the station into the blistering wind. Shivering.