Bathurst Station. The doors rattled shut, the grey-tiled walls slid away. Margery, who had been standing since Yonge Street, caught a glimpse of bare vinyl, and made for it.
The sight of the man's face brought her up short, for a moment. Then she dropped onto the seat with a sigh, settled her parcel on her lap, and waited.
A hand descended firmly upon her thigh.
"Been a long time, hasn't it?" murmured the man next to her.
"Oh, it's you!" She sank back, but removed the hand. "Haven't changed, have you, Brian?"
"Neither have you. Still heart-breakingly beautiful."
"Good old Brian! But what are you doing back in Toronto?"
"Got a job in a travel agency. Not bad, Pays the rent. What about you? Don't tell me. you married old Greg and spawned two-point-five healthy kids. I hope you're miserable,you ungrateful girl."
"Wrong. I haven't seen Greg in over a year, I'm childless, and I'm far from miserable."
"Finally ditched him? Smart girl. Now's my chance."
"Go away, Brian, I've outgrown you."
"Outgrown me? Impossible!" His laughter bubbled up.
She remembered a time when she had found him irresistible. Brian of the sparkling eyes, the mobile face; impulsive, exciting, changeable Brian.
At Christie Station, three dark young men crowded onto the seat behind. They talked loudly, rapidly, not in English. One of them leaned close to Margery and exhaled softly on her neck.
"Hey, Miss -- "
Brian twisted around glaring, and the man drew back with a shrug.
"Bastards!" muttered Brian.
"Don't get fussed, he didn't bother me."
"I saw too many like that in Brazil. Always on the prowl for other guys' women."
"Like Carla, you mean?" she asked quietly.
He drew in his breath. "Yes. Like Carla."
"That wasn't much of a letter you sent me last summer. I could hardly make out what happened."
"What do you expect? It demolished me. I couldn't think straight, let alone write."
"You never said what arrangements were made for the funeral. I don't even know where she's buried, here or in Brazil."
"For God's sake, keep your voice down!"
The train pulled into Ossington Station. Brian took Margery's hand and squeezed it. "Sorry. I haven't got over it yet. It's still hard to think about her."
The crowd had begun to thin out. Margery glanced sideways and caught Brian staring towards the far end of the car. His hand suddenly crushed hers.
"Ow, let go! What's the matter?"
"Don't you see her?"
"Who, for heaven's sake?" She pulled free.
"That woman near the end, on the right. Next the window. See her?"
"You mean the one with the wooly red hat?"
"No! Just past her, the blonde. See?"
"Oh, her. Yes, I see her."
He looked at Margery, began to say something, then shrugged and stared out of the window. She smiled.
The train passed in and out of Dufferin Station.
"When's your stop?" Brian asked.
"Hey! That's where I transfer! This has got to be the hand of fate!"
"Why?" she asked, warily.
"I've just started to fix up my apartment. You can give me all kinds of womanly help and advice."
"Sorry, Brian, I have an awful lot to do this evening." She pointed to the package in her lap.
"These are my children's poems and stories."
"It's our big project for the term, a book of our own. My job is to type up the written work. Don't look so dumbfounded! I'm a teacher, I teach fourth grade."
"Schoolmarm, eh?" He grinned at her. "You'll be glad to know it doesn't show on the outside."
"What a load off my mind!"
"Look, why don't you get rid of that stuff and come shopping with me? You'll pick out the curtains and I'll hang them while you cook dinner. Then we'll make love."
She laughed. "You're out of your mind!"
"You have something better to do?"
"Much. I have to work on the book."
At Lansdowne Station two schoolgirls collapsed into the seat across the aisle. Long brown hair, satin jackets, short tartan skirts, fresh rosy faces.
One of the dark young men tossed a soft, casual remark across the aisle. The girls looked furtively at each other and giggled. Brian swore under his breath.
"Take it easy," Margery said.
"Women are such damn whores!"
"Oh, I don't mean you, darling!" He took her hand again and stroked it.
"I hope you didn't mean Carla."
"Carla!" He drew his breath in again. "I just can't get over it. Will you look at that girl?"
"Which one?" She freed her hand again.
"The blonde, damn it! Look at her! Isn't she the image of Carla?"
Margery looked. "There's a resemblance, I think. Hard to tell, at this distance."
"She's identical! Only, Carla never wore her hair like that, did she? She swore she'd never cut it -- remember? -- and it was nearly to her waist, and just like silk, just as fine and shiny. And the colour: pure gold. Real, too. God, she was like a -- what is it? -- Lorelei. Mermaid."
"She was beautiful," Margery said softly. Something in his voice touched her, some tone that rang true. He had loved Carla, once.
The train arrived in Dundas West Station. Pulling out, it suddenly burst from the tunnel into the open. Beyond a chain-link fence was a row of budding trees and beyond them again, sunlit brick walls and flashing windows. The carriage was flooded with golden light.
The woman who looked like Carla turned her profile to the window. The right side of her face was nearly hidden by a wing of shining hair that fell across her cheek to her shoulder, like a veil. On the other side she had pulled it back behind the ear, baring a fine cheekbone and a pearl earring.
Her spring coat was pale blue. Watching her, Margery felt grubby and overweight. She lifted a hand to smooth her springy brown curls.
The tunnel's throat swallowed the train again, then spat it out into Keele Station.
"Remember how she found you in my apartment, that time?" Brian said suddenly, as if waking up from a daydream.
Margery laughed shortly. "I remember."
Neither woman had known about the other's existence. After the first shock they had been excessively pleasant to each other. They had chatted and smiled falsely while Brian, round-eyed with innocence, enjoyed the dreadful meeting.
"She threatened to leave me, then. But it was you who actually did leave, you silly kid!"
"Smartest thing I ever did. Otherwise, that might have been me in Brazil, not Carla."
"What the hell do you mean?"
In and out of High Park Station, and out in the open again. Glowing treetops, rooftops, an expanse of brilliant green grass.
"You know, this city can be awfully nice, once winter's over," Margery remarked. Brian stared at her as if he had discovered he was sitting with a stranger.
One of the three dark young men walked the length of the swaying car to stand beside the blonde woman. As he spoke his face lit up; his smile was dazzling white.
She glanced up at him briefly from under her wing of golden hair, said something equally brief, and turned her face away indifferently. His smile collapsed and he walked back to his seat. Margery heard whispers.
"Funny," said Brian.
"I caught a phrase there. 'Very ugly,' is what it meant."
"Then it can't be Carla, can it?"
"But I can see she isn't ugly! And her expression just then -- God, she looks more and more like her!" He started to get up. Margery took hold of his jacket and pulled him down again.
"You can't just go over and goggle at the woman! Behave yourself!"
As the train drew into Runnymede Station Margery said, "Tell me, just how did the accident happen?"
"What? Why do you keep coming back to that?"
"Because Carla was my friend, in spite of you. And all you can tell me is she died in Brazil. You don't even know where she's buried. Do her family know?"
"I guess so. I don't know. Look, I admit I wasn't totally clear-headed at the time. I'd had a few drinks, okay?"
"Are you saying it was your fault?"
"No! Well -- I guess, maybe, if I'd been more alert it wouldn't have happened. Maybe. But it was pitch dark, the road was wet, and the Brazilians are rotten drivers. We didn't see the car coming till it was too late. I didn't even have a chance to push her aside."
"So you were walking? I thought you had a car?"
"We did. It broke down, I had to leave it. We were in this rotten little flea-bitten town, no cars for rent. So we decided to hitchhike out -- "
"In the dark? In the rain?"
"Well, yeah. Things were getting ugly, I thought we'd better get out. You wouldn't believe the trouble a guy can get into, traveling in these Latin countries with a woman."
"What kind of trouble?"
"Geez! You want a road map?"
"Well, it was her fault, when you get right down to it. I mean, talk about reckless, giving one of those guys the come-on! And then he wouldn't let it drop, wouldn't take no for an answer, so we had to get out. But fast."
"And then he came roaring after you, is that it?"
"Could have been him. I didn't see -- it was dark, and he didn't hang around."
Jane Station there and gone, and the train was in the open again. In the bright light, Brian's face looked pinched and pale. Margery hardened herself.
"All right, Brian. And then you did what, carried her in your arms to the nearest hospital?"
"I -- I waited for another car. They drove us to the next town."
"I can't remember."
"How long before she died? How long did you wait?"
"What is this?"
"Sure you didn't just leave her in the road to die?"
He went white.
"Brian, who was driving that car?"
He turned his face to the window. The train pulled into Old Mill Station and out again. Glass walls, then tile, then grey concrete. He watched the tunnel walls stream past until they arrived in Royal York Station. Then he turned back to Margery, smiling.
"Where have you been getting these incredible ideas?"
"Where do you think?"
"Carla," he said, "Is dead."
"I..." He kept the smile by force. "Margery, my dearest, what are you up to?"
She put on her best no-nonsense schoolmarm voice. "All right, let's try to make sense of this, Brian. Picture this: Carla, after weeks of traveling with you, is pretty damn tired of your whims and moods. She meets a nice young Brazilian she likes and decides to make a break."
He was listening but not looking at her. He said nothing.
"So she tries to say goodbye. And you can't take it, can you, Brian? You don't let those guys steal your women! You make a scene. Carla leaves in the dark, in the rain, on foot, with her new man. You come roaring after them..."
He laughed. "You know what's craziest? I keep thinking that really is Carla over there, that the two of you are together against me, that she told you -- things, that you've been leading me on. Crazy, isn't it?"
"It does sound a bit paranoid." She looked at him almost with pity.
"Because -- this is so simple! If that really were Carla over there, I would have found the two of you sitting together, instead of at opposite ends of the car. So that's not Carla, that's nobody. And you don't know anything, do you, dearest? You're just guessing, trying to upset me. I never knew you had a mean streak!"
"Sounds obvious. Unless, of course, we got on together downtown, and it was so crowded we had no choice where to sit. What then, Brian?"
At the far end of the carriage, the blonde woman's head, haloed by the sun beyond her, made a beacon that seemed to fascinate him. As the train entered the tunnel to Islington Station, the beacon went out. Brian shivered.
Gathering up her purse and parcel, Margery turned brightly towards him. "Here's my stop. It's been nice --" He stood up and pushed past her to the aisle, knocking the package from her arms.
As the train slid to a stop, the blonde woman rose and stepped without haste to the opening door. Brian was running up the aisle towards her. Margery only had time to scoop up her spilling papers, stuff them back into her bag, and rush for the door.
It closed on her as she went through. She jerked free, and found herself on a crowded platform between the tracks. There must have been a delay, for the narrow space was crammed with people. The two she wanted to see had vanished.
A sudden panic seized her as the train at her back pulled out with an escalating din, and just yards away, the eastbound train came roaring in. It was a hellish, dangerous place.
Later, remembering, Margery thought there had been a scream, but it might have been only the scream of brakes, an intolerably human sound that seemed to go on forever.
Then it stopped, and someone cut the power, and the platform was in twilight: a dim, milling, murmuring, crying chaos. Strangers caught each other's eyes, questioned each other, drawn into fellowship by the event. Margery stood silent, while shapes of horror filled her mind.
A voice blared through the station, instructing the passengers either to board the train or proceed to the exits, but not to linger on the platform. Margery let the surge of the crowd carry her toward the stairs.
People craned their necks as they passed the cluster of uniformed men at the head of the train. They were warned away brusquely.
"Did you see that?" they asked each other.
"My God, how awful!"
"Did he jump? Or she?"
"You can't tell."
"Not much left, is there?"
"All this pushing and shoving, that's how people get killed."
"Did you see the blood? All up the front of the train, all over the windows. Oh, Lord, I'm going to be sick!"
Margery forced her trembling legs to take her away from that place and up the stairs. Just past the magazine stand she sighted a slim figure in a pale blue coat. She snatched at the woman's arm. The other whirled around, yanking her arm free.
"Yes, it was him!"
"I only meant to punish him, to make him squirm," Margery whispered. "I never thought -- "
"It was an accident! He chased me, I ran, he grabbed my arm. So I turned and I said, 'Hello, Brian,' and I showed him my face. Like this."
Close against the wall, her back to the streaming crowd, Carla lifted her swathe of silky hair to reveal a bisected face. The flawless contours of the left side, the beauty of the one dark blue eye, served only as contrast to the right side, which had obviously once been terribly broken. It had been laboriously rebuilt to something like human shape.
The cheek and jaw were still a patchwork of colours from recent operations. The right eye, though nicely matched to the colour of its living mate, stared soullessly.
"He didn't like my face. He stepped back. And he fell. And then the train was there."
Margery closed her eyes a moment. Then she said, "We have to tell somebody."
"Why? He left me lying in my blood. He drove away and left me to die."
"But you didn't die, neither of you."
"No: Paulo was only bruised. I guess my face, at the hospital, finished it for him. By the time I could speak to the police, Brian was gone, too, out of the country. They said there was no use pursuing the matter, nothing could be proved. And I thought there was no justice."
"You think this is justice?"
"Not exactly." Carla's smile was twisted on the right side. "He's better off now than I am."
Margery stared at her bleakly. Carla returned an odd, sly, fierce look, from under the half-mask of her hair.
Margery backed away. She slipped into the outgoing mass of safe, sane, everyday people, as if they were a stream that could cleanse her. She never saw Carla again.