I See You by Clare Mackintosh Read Online (FREE)
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The man behind me is standing close enough to moisten the skin on my neck with his breath. I move my feet forward an inch and press myself into a grey overcoat that smells of wet dog. It feels as if it hasn’t stopped raining since the start of November, and a light steam rises from the hot bodies jammed against each other. A briefcase jabs into my thigh. As the train judders around a corner I’m held upright by the weight of people surrounding me, one unwilling hand against the grey overcoat for temporary support. At Tower Hill the carriage spits out a dozen commuters and swallows two dozen more, all hell-bent on getting home for the weekend.
‘Use the whole carriage!’ comes the announcement.
The grey overcoat has gone, and I’ve shuffled into its place, preferable because I can now reach the handrail, and because I no longer have a stranger’s DNA on my neck. My handbag has swung round behind my body, and I tug it in front of me. Two Japanese tourists are wearing gigantic rucksacks on their chests, taking up the space of another two people. A woman across the carriage sees me looking at them; she catches my eye and grimaces in solidarity. I accept the eye contact fleetingly, then look down at my feet. The shoes around me vary: the men’s are large and shiny, beneath pinstriped hems; the women’s heeled and colourful, toes crammed into impossible points. Amongst the legs I see a pair of sleek stockings; opaque black nylon ending in stark white trainers. The owner is hidden but I imagine her to be in her twenties, a pair of vertiginous office heels stashed in a capacious handbag, or in a drawer at work.
I’ve never worn heels during the day. I was barely out of my Clark’s lace-ups when I fell pregnant with Justin, and there was no place for heels on a Tesco checkout, or coaxing a toddler up the high street. Now I’m old enough to know better. An hour on the train on the way into work: another hour on the way home. Tripping up broken escalators. Run over by buggies and bikes. And for what? For eight hours behind a desk. I’ll save my heels for high days and holidays. I wear a self-imposed uniform of black trousers and an array of stretchy tops that don’t need ironing, and are just smart enough to pass as office-wear; with a cardigan kept in my bottom drawer for busy days when the door’s forever opening and the heat disappears with every prospective client.
The train stops and I push my way on to the platform. I take the Overground from here, and although it’s often as busy, I prefer it. Being underground makes me feel uneasy; unable to breathe, even though I know it’s all in my head. I dream of working somewhere close enough to walk to, but it’s never going to happen: the only jobs worth taking are in zone one; the only affordable mortgages in zone four.