The train whistle pierced the deafening silence as I sat waiting. My thoughts were wandering and my heart was beating so loud I was sure everyone near me could hear it. Tonight would be a brand new start, and I desperately needed to start again.
I wondered what Joseph’s reaction would be when he arrived home tonight and found me gone. No dinner on the table, no martini waiting. Nothing, but my note telling him not to try and find me.
He would be mad, of course, and I wondered if he’d be angrier because I was gone or because his dinner wasn’t ready. That’s what our relationship had become. Me, catering to his needs, trying to keep him happy, because I knew what would happen when he wasn’t pleased. But the makeup I’d carefully applied before I left this morning covered whatever might still show.
Something in me clicked last night and I knew then what I had to do. I’d wanted to do it for as long as I could remember but I never had the strength and I’d always hoped that he’d be sorry. But last night was the last time he would ever hit me. This morning after he’d left for work, I carefully cleaned the house and set his plate at the dining room table like I had learned to do. I did the laundry and ironed his shirts. Then I packed a bag and left. I don’t even think I locked the front door behind me.
Sitting in the train depot, I heard the whistle again but it was closer this time. My heart began to race with excitement and anxiety. What would I do out there, where would I go? So many questions all waiting to be answered. I reminded myself that the only thing I had to do right now was step up into that train and away I would go from this living hell. I would never see Joseph again.
A smile grew as I realized that I could do whatever I wanted without having to ask permission! I looked around at the people sitting on the benches near me. There was a mother with a small child, and elderly man in a black wool coat and a derby hat holding onto a cane. Beside him was a teenage girl with a backpack and across from her a man in a suit reading the paper. He reminded me a little of Joseph with his well-groomed mustache and distinct Roman nose. He glanced up as I stared and smiled at me. I looked away quickly not wanting to appear nosy or interested.
“TRAIN FOR NEW YORK CITY HAS ARRIVED AT GATE 6” announced a voice over the loudspeaker. New York was where I was going so the announcement to board would come quickly. I stood up, grabbed the handle of my valise and slowly walked toward the platform. I glanced back at the man with the paper and found him watching so I quickly moved away. Why would he be watching me, I wondered?
“TRAIN FOR NEW YORK CITY WILL BE LEAVING FROM GATE 6 IN FIVE MINUTES. ALL PASSENGERS MUST BE ON BOARD.”
I found the line that had formed for boarding. It moved fairly fast but not as fast as my beating heart. So many people seemed to be going the same place that I was going but I wondered why they were making the same trip. Were they going to see family, or going home, or were they also running away?
I self-consciously thought that it seemed too obvious what I was doing. Running away from home, just like a six year old girl, in my best Sunday dress semi-covered by a brown wool coat that was too small. The flowers from the dress peaked out below the tattered coat. It was all I had. Joseph had made sure of that. He, in his Armani suits and beautiful leather shoes, me in a dress that I’d made five years ago. Never anything store bought for me. I glanced down at my shoes. They had been a Christmas present from my Mother before she died so many years ago. The black patent had been scuffed badly over the years but they still fit and were the only good shoes I had.
The line inched forward and I could see there were only about 10 people in front of me before it would be my turn to step up into the train car and begin my new life. Little by little, the line moved and finally the woman in front of me was ushered up by the man in the uniform. I leaned down and grabbed the handle of my valise and started to take the step up. But before I could put my foot on the bottom step, someone stepped in front of me, blocking my way.
“You aren’t going anywhere, you little tramp!” A hand grabbed me under my still sore chin and snapped my head up. I looked into the face of Joseph and began to tremble and cry. He grabbed my arm and whisked me away from the line and the attention. I prayed that someone would see and help me.
“Where the hell do you think you are going, you little bitch?” Joseph’s anger was starting to bubble as he berated me. His grasp on my arm was so tight that I cried out in pain.
“I-I-I’m sorry, Joseph!” I cried.
“You aren’t half sorry enough yet!” With my arm still in his tight fist and my valise in his other hand, he started dragging me toward the exit. He was so angry and in my mind I knew that if he got me out of there, he might very well kill me. I started to struggle. Instinct told me that I needed to get away from him now, and I frightfully scanned around looking for help. Suddenly my eyes found the man who had been reading the paper. Our eyes connected and he watched for a few seconds. I looked at him pleadingly and then I saw him start to move toward us. Within a split second he was in front of Joseph. He could see the tears spilling down my cheeks.
“Hey, what’s going on here?” he asked loudly and stood directly in front of Joseph.
“Get out of my way, you moron!” Joseph replied and reached to push him out of the way with the hand that held my valise. But the man stood his ground.
“This woman is in pain, you’d best release her immediately!” the man said sternly.
“No fucking way. Get lost!” Joseph started to step around him. The man reached and grabbed onto Joseph’s arm and whirled him around. Joseph let go of me. He clenched his now free hand into a fist and hit the man with full force. The man teetered back a few steps and fell to the floor. The surprised look on Joseph’s face was telling. He was as shocked at himself as I was.
The man started to get up, placing his hand on his cheek where the blood was starting to pour from his nose.
“Oh, God!” Joseph whispered loudly.
“Well, Sir,” the man stated loudly. “I am Sgt. James Petrol of the Burlington Police and you have just assaulted a police officer!”
Joseph’s face went white as a sheet. He turned and looked at me with desperation. I felt so awful for Joseph. I was sure he’d really meant no harm just like the times he’d hit me and was sorry afterward but I was so afraid that he would blame me so I didn’t say a word. Something in me told me that the man had probably just saved my life.
The man turned Joseph around and clipped on handcuffs. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the blood from his face. By the time he was done, there was a crowd circled around us and from behind the crowd a voice could be heard.
“Out of the way people, the excitement is over.” I looked over and two uniformed officers stepped through the crowd. Moving over to Joseph the larger policeman began to read his Miranda rights to him. I watched Joseph closely. He was petrified. I almost felt sorry for him.
“You okay, ma’am?” Sgt. Petrol’s voice was so soft I could hardly hear him. I nodded and then felt tears fill my eyes again. With great concern, he took my hand and squeezed it warmly.
“Now…now…It’s going to be okay, you have to believe me. Can I ask where you were going before this happened?” he asked.
“I-I-I really don’t know,” I blubbered. “I bought a ticket for New York and I thought I would find a hotel there until I could get a job. I just wanted to leave. I really hadn’t thought much of what to do when I got there.” The tears were flowing freely now.
“Hold on a moment, let me make a call,” he said as he pulled out a cell phone, still holding my trembling hand.
“Mary?” he said into the phone after a minute. “Do you have any room tonight? One woman. Good, we’ll be right over.” He smiled at me as he hung up the phone.
“Mary owns a house on the south side of town for women just like you. People who need a place to stay until they get on their feet again. You’ll love Mary. She’s just like my own mother. Come on.”
I looked over and the two officers were walking Joseph to the doors on the other side of the depot. He tried to glance backward at me but they held him tightly on each side so he couldn’t turn. The last I saw, they were pulling him through the door. I turned and walked with Sgt. Petrol. As we stepped outside, I heard the train whistle. It was telling me what I already knew….that my life was beginning again.
Can you escape spousal abuse?