"May I see your ticket, please?"
The friendly voice of the station manager pulls me back from my reverie. Sighing deeply, I pull put my cell phone and show him the e-ticket printed there. He can already see that I will need help boarding; my luggage is piled on a rolling cart, and my cane leans against it. I knew I would need to pay extra for both big bags, but also knew that I just couldn't bear to leave anything behind to come back to get. There was nothing left for me here, nothing at all that could send a siren song after me. I just wish I could have seen my husband once more, could have told him I loved only him, no matter what he did or had done, and that all tbose rumors and gossips were so very wrong.
"If you will come this way, ma'am, I will get you some help with your luggage. We board families,the elderly and military persons early " he said, so I followed him to the snug little lounge available to sleeper passengers. I knew better than to have a drink; once started I might not be able to stop. But I sat at a small table,sipping tea and trying not to think about that last meeting, the one where he blew up.
A shadow crept across my table, darkening it for a moment. Then a kindly voice asked if that seat was taken. I replied in tbe negative, and a tall professional-looking gentleman sat down. He looked like a college professor to me, with his huge horn-rimmed glasses and pullover sweater. He smiled shyly and asked me where I was headed. I knew I shouldn't open up, but tbe kindly look in his eyes was reassuring, and suddenly I found myself relaxing my guard and talking freely.
"Well," I began, " to tell you the truth, I have no idea where I'm going to go. I just have to get out of here. There, I've said it, and to a perfect stranger! I need to go, now. So much is wrong. My husband hates and distrusts me, my neighbors are spies and malicious busybodies, my children are grown and don't want me around, and my life in general is awful."
The professor smiled, so I continued.
" It all started when we got married, twenty some years ago. I should have listened to my parents that he wasn't being honest with me. But I didn't care. I loved him, no matter what his past was. But he wasn't what he seened to be. I found that out real soon, when he began bringing home strange people and extra money. He told me he was a "stock broker" but neglected to tell me it was bogus stock and laundered money. Then the women. I told him not to bring them home if he wanted to play games with them, but he just laughed, told me to go find my own fun somewhere else, thst he belonged to many women. So I did. "
I paused, wondering how much I should talk about the rages, the blows, the stalking, and the shootings. But it was time to board anyway, so I struggled to my feet. "That's my train. I have to go."
Professor whatshisname got up too."We have the same train. Let's get aboard."
It felt good to have a sympathetic ear and a hand under my elbow, tbings I had never been given before. His roomette was close to mine,too, which was wonderful. I knew we would continue our conversation, and again wondered how much to share. Later we did just that in his little roomette.
" One day I really did meet someone I could have cared about. Sure, I knew it was wrong, but I decided to take tbe chance, just to show Philip that I could be resourceful and determined too. I don't think he ever thought I could stand up to him. The truth was that I never, ever, ever, met this guy secretly or had any type of affair. We did have coffee and met like that, but it was all in innocence, with no romantic affair. But the neighbors started to talk, and soon enough Philip heard their gossip. Then things got bad. He hollered, swore, ranted and even hit me, but I always told him the truth. And the truth was that I only loved Philip, no matter what type of trouble he got into or had done. But he never believed me.
Then yesterday I read that my friend had died. Mysteriously. No explanations. But I KNEW. Philip had struck again, in anger,hatred or revenge I didn't know. Or care. I just knew I had to go, to leave and start fresh, away from here. Away from him."
The professor looked thoughtful. He considered a moment, then slowly stood up. When he pulled out his weapon, I realized that I had bared my soul to one of Philip's hired guns, and tbat all my atrempts to start fresh would soon in a terrible defeat....for me .
The car suddenly jerked as the train came to a stop. Professor killer lurched with it, and I saw my chance. Stumbling to my feet, I moved as quickly as I could into the hall as he tried to regain his balance, and his aim. I staggered onto the tiny platform between the cars, knowing the conductor would probably be there. Sure enough, he wasn't. So I kept moving. into tbe next sleeping car. All the doors but one were closed, so I ran into that open bunk area and closed the sliding door, hoping he hadn't heard the sound and would keep moving on. I held my breath, realizing that even that could betray me. I could hear him now, moving stealthily through the sleeper. Frantically I searched my pocketbook, hoping to find something I could use as a weapon. I knew, just knew, he would be trying all tbe doors. My fingers closed on the iron paperweight I had taken from the desk. Phil had bought it for me on one of his mysterious trips, and it might help me now. It was a gargoyle,my favorite mythical creature. I hoped it would come to my rescue now. The door rattled. Then it held. I barely breathed. He moved away. Slowly I opened the door a crack.
I could see him. I raised my arm. Stepping quietly into the hall, I lifted the iron weight over my head and although shaking with fear, brought it down as hard as I could.....
The shaking wasn't me at all. It was the doctor, calling my name. "Tell me," I whispered. "Is he alive?" Either way, I feared the response.
"Well, ma'am," the doctor said, "if your husband recovers from that crash, he will be a long time in rehabilitation. I think you will be in for a long siege before he is recovered even a little. Whatever prompted him to chase a train anyhow?"
Life goes on. Dreams die, but life goes on.