Geraldine gets off a train at the wrong station. Dozing in the overheated train, she mishears the mangled public address announcement saying ‘Cumnock’ for ‘Kilmarnock’; in a panic she gathers bags and coat and gets off the train. The sprinter races off before she realises. It’s an un-manned station so she finds a phone box and phones home. Down the line comes a humiliating telephone tirade from her husband. He tells her how useless she is and instructs her to find a B&B for the night. He’ll phone her sister in Kilmarnock and explain.
It takes her three times walking the main street before she has to accept that the only accommodation offered is in the pub. The landlady is reluctant on a single night B&B shout in the middle of winter but she ups the rate by 50%, then leads the way to an unheated room upstairs. Geraldine asks about a meal and the landlady says there’s a chip shop at the end of the street. She could have a drink at the bar and any of five flavours of crisps. Geraldine asks for coffee and the landlady grimaces – it’ll just be instant – so they go back down to the bar.
She’s sitting alone sipping hot coffee when she’s aware of a man over close to her. He smiles, tells her is name is Mike and, with a wink, asks her where she’s been all his life. She laughs, not at his absurdity but suddenly aware that no-one at this precise moment knows where she is, who she is or where she’s been. Something wild rushes through her, the idea of twelve hours of anonymity. When Mike offers to show her the chippie she says yes. Then she says yes to a walk through the play park and sits on a swing laughing at his foolish talk. Mike thinks he’s doing well so far and so does she.
Their walk back to the pub is slow, their talk soft, their eyes roving each other’s person under the lamplight. At the bar, the landlady bets the barman a fiver on the outcome of the evening, then she serves Mike a double whisky and Geraldine a large sweet sherry. Geraldine pays for both and several more.
The room upstairs at last finds use. Mike is a thoughtful lover and Geraldine has a long-held grudge to expunge. Supping vengeance she throws herself into their romp with a novel abandon. She reaches a noisy orgasm for the first time since her honeymoon, fleetingly remembering her husband’s disgust at her cries. Mike is happy to reap the rewards of whatever is fuelling her energies. After a couple of hours she wishes him goodnight and shuts the door behind him. He is bemused. She sleeps like a baby.
Next morning she is on Cumnock Station platform waiting for 8.03 am Sprinter to Kilmarnock, thinking well there’s Edinburgh and Jedburgh, Inverkeithing and Innerleithen. There’s a little smile on her face.