Car 4

Mrs Margaret Levesque

Outward appearance

Late 20s, neat beige suit, long baby-blue cloth coat. Sits frozen, eyes fixed on passenger 121.

Inside information

Works in administration for the Tabernacle, an evangelical ministry nearElephant and Castle.

When she was seven, Margaret returned from holiday. On the landing outside her bedroom, something evil waited, small, round, like a mouse without a head. Margaret wailed and it sprang apart and leapt at her face. "It's just a poor little bird," said her Mum, who always sided with Maggie's younger sister.

Ever since Margaret has disguised a mortal terror of birds. She and her husband just moved to Theydon Bois. Rooks caw in the trees, jackdaws nest in their new chimney, sparrows feed on neighbour's tables.

What she is doing or thinking

There is a bird on the train. It keeps fluttering upwards. She'll be covered in mites, in dust, in feathers. Her beautiful blue coat will get filthy, she'll choke. She'll itch for hours.

She can't stand it. At Waterloo, she bolts. On the platform, the shaking stops. The guilt comes, then anger, frustration. She'll be late, she's out of control. She's still angry with herself when the next train rumbles in.

Just past Lambeth North, it stops. They all wait. The speakers crackle and the driver announces, "I'm very sorry to tell you we'll be here for some time. The train ahead of us has gone through the barriers."

Something without a head jumps again. Margaret remembers the people on the other train and thinks: the bird. It saved me.

So does she like birds now?

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