The train hit a bump and her eyes blinked open, the sight of trees and grass and soil greeting her tired eyes. Imani sat up in her seat and stretched her tired limbs, then adjusted the scarf around her head, grimacing when she felt a rough spot on the soft material. Obviously, she had been drooling a little bit and she made a mental note to find a laundromat when she got to her new home.
Something inside her thrilled a little at the prospect. She had been saving up for most of her adult life, working as hard as she could and climbing up the ladder of a once tiny law firm to become the one and only female partner. When she got the news that she would be relocated to their offices in London, she was overjoyed. She’d never been to London, or even to Europe at all. The fact that they chose her out of any other employee was like a dream come true.
“Excuse me, Miss,” she said, stopping the ticket taker as she walked by. “Do you know when we’ll get to London?”
“We’ve got about an hour left, Ma’am,” the woman replied, smiling politely.
“Thank you,” Imani said, offering her a smile in return before looking back out the window.
She imagined all the things that she would do in the week before she had to head into her new office. First and foremost, she had to unpack her flat; she’d had all of her belongings shipped ahead of herself and arranged with a moving company to deliver and assemble the majority of her furniture before she got there. She prayed that it would be done by the time she got home; she was desperate for a good night’s sleep, her neck aching and stiff from the few hours she’d slept with her cheek against the window.
Imani stretched her neck, her thumbs rubbing a soothing pattern on her shoulders as she attempted to relax her muscles. She didn’t have much longer on the train; soon she could stretch her feet and—
“Might I sit here?”
Imani looked up to find a tall black woman, with a long scar over her left eye, smiling down at her. She had deep dimples a crooked front tooth, but her face was still very attractive. Imani offered her a small smile.
“Please do,” she said, motioning to the seat across from her. “Are you local?”
The woman nodded. “More or less,” she said. “I’m from Surrey, just outside of London. I just got myself a flat in the city.”
“As did I,” Imani said. “But I’m afraid I’m not as local.”
“Yeah, I could tell that from your accent,” the woman chuckled. “You’re quite good at English, by the way.”
“We were required to learn it in my school,” Imani informed her. “It helped us converse with tourists. Your accent doesn’t sound as posh as those I’ve met on this train.”
“Yeah, well my mum is from Belfast, Ireland. My dad is from Edinburgh. I always had the funny accent in school.” She snorted. “My name is Aida, by the way.” She stuck out her hand.
“Imani.” Her hand was large and her palm was cool and smooth to the touch. “Nice to meet you, Aida.”
“Likewise, Miss Imani. I like your scarf.”
“Thank you so much,” Imani said, feeling her cheeks heat up. “Your blouse is gorgeous.” Aida gave her a beaming smile in return and Imani was certain that she had just found her first friend. “So,” she said. “What part of London are you moving to?”
Imani’s eyes widened. “Me too!” she exclaimed. “I’ll be staying on High Street.”
“I’ll be just two blocks over from that,” Aida said, smiling happily. “Just over by the tennis courts. Do you play, perchance?”
“No,” Imani sighed. “I’ve never even lifted a racket, I’m afraid. But I’d be willing to learn. Do you play often?”
“Every single day, actually,” Aida laughed, rubbing the back of her head. “Since I was a little girl, I suppose. Perhaps we could play a few games when we get to London then?”
“I would like that,” Imani said, nodding. “Is it fun?”
“Oh, very fun,” Aida assured her. “And since I’m going to teach you to play tennis, then perhaps you could teach me something.”
“Oh, I don’t have many teachable skills,” Imani replied, embarrassed. “I’m simply a lawyer.”
“Oh, well that sounds interesting,” Aida said. “Teach me about law. I’ve always loved to learn.”
“Really? It wouldn’t bore you?”
“Of course not!” Aida laughed. “When I was younger, I always played tennis; I never had enough time to dedicate too much to my studies. My grades were only satisfactory, but I read whenever I had the time, you know?”
Imani nodded. “I always wished I had more time to play football, myself.”
“Then we can play that, as well. It’ll be fun.” Imani nodded in agreement and Aida reached into her pocket, pulling out a mobile. “Here,” she said. “Put in your number.”
Imani traded the phone for her own and tapped her number into it, before trading back.
“I’ll give you a ring later this week and we can meet up,” Aida said. “Just make sure you have comfortable shoes and all; there’ll be a lot of running.”
Imani nodded. “Of course,” she said. “Do you have an extra racket?”
“Yes,” Aida said. “I’ll bring it.”
Imani opened her mouth to thank her but then the ticket taker from before walked through. “Oh, Miss,” she said, pausing next to them. “We’re almost at the station. We should be there in just a moment.”
“Thank you,” Imani said, then turned back to Aida with a bright smile. “I can’t wait.”