Icy Sedgwick
The Thwarted Stalker

     A fine rain spatters the streets of Ealing as he follows her to the train station. She holds the handle of a blue umbrella in one hand, and the hand of her boyfriend in the other. This is the first time he has seen him, but he does not like her boyfriend. He strains to hear their conversation, but he doesn't like to get too close. He only catches occasional words, and her laugh pierces the cold night air.

     The station looms on the far side of the green, and their pace quickens. They cross the road, and she puts down her umbrella as they head into the station. He is not far behind, dodging the number 65 bus as he runs across the road. He curses mentally, reminding himself that he must still use the crossing. He ducks behind a pillar when he enters the station. He watches as she kisses her boyfriend goodbye, before passing through the barriers. The boyfriend waits until she disappears from sight onto the bridge to the platforms, when he turns and leaves the station.

     He takes his chance and follows her.

     She boards the train sitting at the platform, waiting to depart. He gets on further down the carriage, burrowing into his ample coat. He sneaks occasional glances at her, unable to believe that only a few yards separate him from her. She snuggles into her long black coat, before pulling a book from her Nintendo satchel. The bag strikes him as being too geeky for someone so beautiful, but he decides to let it pass. He squints, trying to see what book she is reading. The cover is black, with 'Neil Gaiman' emblazoned in white. Her left hand blocks the title. He thinks he will pick up a copy tomorrow. Reading it himself will make him feel closer to her.

     During the journey, he wonders how she cannot notice him looking. He even musters the courage to openly stare, but her book proves too engrossing. She looks up only as the train pulls into the station at Hammersmith. Standing up, she shoves the book into her bag and waits for the doors to open. He remains seated, waiting until she jumps down onto the platform. Once she heads up the stairs, he too leaps from the train and follows at a distance.

     The rain has stopped, and the streets of Hammersmith are quiet. He takes extra care to hang back, to stay out of sight. He knows that he has every right to walk these streets and that if anyone asked, he could say his following her was purely coincidental, but he does not wish to draw any attention to himself. Not yet.

     He follows her up the Shepherd's Bush Road, watching as the freezing wind catches the tail of her long coat and fans it out behind her. He feels his ears grow numb and he pulls his collar up around his neck, as if he could somehow blot out the cold. He wonders if she feels it, too. Halfway up the road, she pulls out a set of keys. She opens a large red door between a greasy spoon cafe and a 24 hour laundrette. His heart leaps into his mouth. He cannot believe that he now knows where she lives. He can begin to send her gifts. He is sure she will like them. Then she will love him.

     He slows to a stroll and passes the door, hoping to spot the number. Disappointment hits him when he sees the intercom. Six flats lie beyond the door, and she could live in any one of them. True, he is closer to knowing where she lives than he has ever been, but he is not close enough. He peers at the intercom, wondering if the buzzers are attached to names. They are not - each buzzer is simply numbered, nothing more.

     He steps back, hoping to see a light come on in one of the windows above. He thinks that it will give him a clue. He forgets about the flats at the back of the building. The rooms remain dark, the empty windows glaring down at him with disapproval. His heart sinks. He wonders if this is a sign. Perhaps she is not the one.

     He shoves his hands in his pockets, and turns away. He pouts, feeling sullen. Head down, he trudges down the street, back towards Hammersmith. A woman coughs on the other side of the street. He looks up and sees the most beautiful woman in the world waiting at the bus stop. She wears a white coat, and her blonde hair is tucked into a white beret. He waits for a pause in the traffic and crosses the road, sidling up to the bus stop. She looks at him as he checks the bus timetable, but dismisses him as simply another commuter.

     She stands up as the 220 to Wandsworth pulls up at the stop. He decides to follow her.