Authors: Missy LaRae
My head rested on his chest and his arms came around me. Tyler looked out across the tracks at the train station as we waited to find a train headin’ north and he sighed. It reverberated in his chest and into my heart.
"I don't know Lilybelle. Can't say why Mama’d love us one day, and hate on us the next. We just gotta find our way outta here and we'll be okay. I won't let nothin' happen to you." I knew he meant it. He'd looked after me for the better part of our lives, and I knew he wasn’t gonna stop now. We’d left the house and walked as far as we could east. We’d done some research on the quickest routes out of Orlando at the library about a month ago when Mama took us there to get some new books to read. We decided that we’d head to the train station, and if we didn’t have enough money to buy a ticket we’d just hop on a train that we knew was headin’ north.
We’d reached the train yard just as the sun fully set up over the horizon. The red sky reminded me of a rhyme Mama taught me when I was little.
Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailors’ take warnin’.
I shivered as I looked at the sky. I knew that this was gonna be a day that I’d never forget. Mama had to be up by now. She was always up before the sun got up, and always makin’ sure we knew what a sacrifice it was for her to get up that early to teach us. I asked her two years ago if we could go to regular school, and she hit me with a belt so hard I never asked again.
“I wanna read the letters now,” I told him. I’d been curious about them the entire time we’d been walkin’, but it was a bad idea to try and walk and read a letter at the same time.
“I wanna read the letters too, but if someone comes around the corner real quick we’re gonna have to get up and run. Once we get on the train and get goin’ we can read them. I promise.” He looked tired. I felt bad for my brother, but knew he wanted to get away from Mama just as much as I did.
I knew he was right, but that didn’t stop me from wondering what was in the letters. I wanted to argue with him, but years of not arguing at all made me hesitant to say anything. I was breathing freely, finally, and I didn’t want this feelin’ to end. Even though every part of me was scared, I knew that where ever we were goin’ was gonna be better than my Mama’s house.
I soaked up the sounds of the mornin’ like a sponge soakin’ up a baby’s spilled milk. The city was wakin’ up, and the sounds coming from the distance made us realize that people were comin’ in for the day, and we needed to get ready to either go buy a ticket, or worse, hop on a train like criminals.
“Let’s go,” Tyler nudged me. I watched him pick up his backpack and sling it over his shoulders in one smooth move. He needed to eat. He was way too skinny. I tried sneakin’ him some of my portion at dinner sometimes, but he would always shake his head at me. He knew that havin’ me get caught would be worse than him not eatin’. We walked over to the train station, and stood outside. I’d always loved the palm trees in the city. If we were headed to South Carolina I was gonna miss them, but not much else about Orlando. The only places that Mama took us to was the Library, and
sometimes the Museum. Those places were nice, but they didn’t tend to have the same kind of people there that this place did. Mama always said we couldn’t trust anybody. That nobody would help us when we needed it, and we had better not even try.
I saw a lady with a couple of little kids strugglin’ to get her stuff out of her car and I nudged Tyler and pointed her way. “Let’s go help her get her stuff.” I knew that walkin’ in with someone would be better than walkin’ in alone, and if we couldn’t get our tickets maybe if we helped her she’d take the money and buy our tickets for us.
“Good idea,” he said and we started that way. Walking over to her he stopped about three feet from her car. “Ma’am,” he yelled to get her attention.
“Oh! Sorry you startled me. Yes? Can I help you?” Her auburn hair was hidden under a knit cap, which wasn’t really necessary considering it was already about 60 degrees.
“No, but my sister and I thought we might be able to help you. She saw you struggling with your luggage and we don’t have anything but backpacks. I’d be more than happy to help you carry your stuff in since you’ve got little ones to mind.” Tyler’s pale blue eyes stared fiercely into her green ones, and she didn’t look away. I watched as her mouth opened, and shut, and she finally shook her head and nodded.
“No, uh, that’s fine I would love the help.” She moved out of the way and Tyler bent down and grabbed three of her suit
cases.Thankfully she didn’t make a scene as he picked all three of them up.
I reached over and pulled one out of his hands, and he nodded at me in thanks. With the woman leading the way we walked up towards the train station and headed inside. I felt a chill creep down the back of my neck, and it was all I could do not to turn around. I felt like the icy fingers of dread had peeled back my sweatshirt and lain themselves on me in a caress that I didn’t want. The hair on my arms stood up, and I walked closer to Tyler’s back as we went inside. Whatever was out there wasn’t gonna stop us from leavin’.
The inside of the train station was interesting, but I only had eyes for the ticket counter, and that’s just where we were heading. The woman purchased her tickets and we moved up to next in line.The sour feelin’ of nervousness was back full force in my tummy as we walked up to the window.
“Excuse me, sir. I’d like to get two tickets to Charleston, South Carolina please.” Tyler looked directly at the man, and just as the woman had in the parkin’ lot the man didn’t say anything. He sat there and looked right at Tyler before noddin’ his head and printing the tickets out.
“The tickets are eighty-seven dollars a piece. That gonna be...” the man didn’t have a chance to finish before I jumped in.
“One-hundred and seventy-four.” The sum had been ready on my tongue the moment that the man had said the ticket price. He stopped talkin’ and looked at me. I shook as I remembered what happened at Mama’s house when I interrupted. I hadn’t meant to be so rude, and I didn’t know if he’d sell us the tickets now, or not.
“That’s right. Nice to see someone with a good head for figures.” His jovial smile made his tired face seem much more inviting. I blushed as he looked at me, and looked down at the floor.
“Thank you, sir,” I offered. I wasn’t used to speakin’ to men other than Tyler. Tyler took the tickets that were handed to him and we walked over to the correct seating area to wait.
“What was that? When you looked at that woman, and when you looked at the man sellin’ the tickets they looked really weird,” I asked him. He looked worried, and glanced down at me.
“I don’t know. I just got this feeling. I can’t explain it. I’ve never felt that way before. I just felt, I dunno, bigger.” He shrugged as he said it dismissing my concern. I hated it when he did that, which seemed to be a lot now days.
“Bigger? What’s that mean? You felt taller?” I wanted desperately to understand what he meant. Twins could sense things, and I knew that Tyler wasn’t bein’ all the way honest with me. I had felt him tremblin’ in front of me.
“I don’t know. I just felt like I could tell him anything I wanted and he would do it. If I wanted him to give me money, he would do it. If I wanted him to give us the tickets, he would. I just felt bigger. I don’t really wanna talk about this right now, Lily.” He put his arm around my shoulders and I leaned in towards him. His heat seeped into me and I sighed. I was twisted up inside. I felt like I’d been wound tight as a piano string all night, and I just wanted to be away from here and free from Mama. I knew we wouldn’t be free until we got on that train and figured out where this Evelyne lived. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a policeman walk through the wide doors of the station, and I tensed again. I put my face close to Tyler’s.
“There’s a policeman just walked in the front doors. What if Mama called the cops and he’s here lookin’ for us?” I was afraid. I knew that if Mama got us back she was like to kill both of us this time. The last time we’d tried to run away Mama had tied me to the bed and left me there for three days without lettin’ me use the bathroom or anything. She didn’t hit me, but she showed me that I was nothin’, and made me feel like I was worthless. I screamed for a few hours the first day for her to untie me, but realized after I lost my voice that she was gonna let me go in her own sweet time, not mine.
“Just keep your face turned into mine Lilybelle,” Tyler leaned towards me and pulled the cap lower on his face and kept his head down chin to his chest. My heart hurt from beatin’ so hard. I couldn’t breathe. I knew that this was it. I knew Mama had found us again, and I couldn’t help myself from cryin’. All I wanted was to get away from her. I didn’t care where we had to go, or what we had to do, we couldn’t go back to Mama and all her evil. I wiped the tears away as best I could as I curled tighter into my brother. I didn’t hear anyone approaching, but you couldn’t really hear much with as loud as it was in the station.
“Approaching, Northbound 371 to Jacksonville, continuing service to Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina. Anyone who has a ticket please have it out and approach platform C for boarding,” the announcement came.
I felt relief, but had to know if the policeman had come our way. I’d never had a panic attack before, but I felt like I was closer than ever to havin’ one. I swiveled my head around to check if he was closer as we started to get out of our seats, and my throat closed as I saw that he was only ten feet away, and staring right at us. I looked up at Tyler, and saw that he was looking at him too. In fact, Tyler was staring right at him. Neither of us moved. I held my breath as Tyler sent the policeman some sort of silent communication. I felt like it lasted forever, but it couldn’t have been more than a few seconds.
“Let’s go,” Tyler said as he pulled me towards the exit doors to where the trains were. I was more confused than ever. What had just happened? We walked onto the platform and waited in the rising morning heat for the train to arrive. I could feel my shirt sticking to my back, and desperately wanted to take off my
sweatshirt, but didn’t dare take anything off until we were seated and away.
The train arrived and I grabbed Tyler’s hand as we moved forward. We needed to get on the train fast. We passed by the Conductor and boarded the train taking seats as close to the exit as we could find. I sat close to the window, and watched as the rest of the people boarded the train. I sat, stunned for a moment, before taking off my backpack and putting it between my feet. I tore off my sweater, and wiped my face with the sleeve, and looked at my brother.
His eyes were closed, and he seemed to be breathing slower than he was when we first boarded the train. “Tyler, we need to talk about what just happened. We need to read the letters too,” I wanted to know what they said.
His face changed. He looked down at me and I finally saw the weariness of the night falling over him like a blanket. “We will. I just want to rest a bit right now. Just let me close my eyes, Lilybelle.” He grabbed my hand with his, and closed his eyes. We were connected, as always. The train slowly pulled out of the station, and I closed my eyes.
The sun was dominating the sky, and the day seemed bright and new with possibilities, but with my relief came confusion. I didn’t know how we’d managed to get on the train this easily, and what was going on with my brother. He’d done something to those people, and I wanted desperately to find out what it was.
understand what was happenin’. Why was Tyler in my room? Then it hit me. I wasn’t in my room. I was on a train headin’ towards freedom. A smile lit my face as I opened my eyes. I looked at Tyler, and reached up to wipe off the drool coming out a my mouth if there was any.
“How long did we sleep?” I asked him. “Think about 3 hours. We’re gettin’ close to Jacksonville now. I thought we could read a few of the letters.” Tyler looked refreshed, and I was glad that the nap had been good for him. It had been good for me, too.
“I need to go to the bathroom first before we start reading.” I hadn’t eaten or drank anything since the night before at dinner, but my bladder was screaming at me to take a break. I got up and walked the short distance to the bathroom, and waited until who ever was in there came out. It wasn’t long before the bathroom was vacated, and I went in to do what it is that girls do in the bathroom.
When I was finished I stared at myself in the mirror, and splashed water onto my face to try and get the sleep out of my eyes. I didn’t bring my backpack in so I couldn’t brush my teeth, but at least my hair wasn’t so bad. I washed my hands and left the bathroom and walked back to my seat.
“I read this one, do you want to read it yourself or do you want to read it again, together?” He held the slip of paper out to me and I took it. I didn’t know what it said, but it couldn’t be too bad if Tyler was willing to read it out loud with me. I sat in my seat and read the letter.
Thank you so much for the letters concerning the children. It makes Michael and I are so proud knowing that they are growing up to be such wonderful children. If you need any help with them please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We’re all so sad about Daniel. Hopefully, with time, you’ll be able to get over this loss as well. Mother and Father would be so proud of Daniel for picking such a wonderful wife. I would love to come and see the children, but I just can’t get away from home with the responsibilities that I have now. Give them love from their favorite Aunt.
I reread the letter, and sighed. It wasn’t Grandparents. It was our father’s sister. I was hopeful that she would be as nice in person as she sounded in these letters. “What do the rest of them say?”
“They’re pretty much all the same way, just tidbits about her life, and what she’s doing. I only read a couple but she promises to come and visit. She’s just so busy. Blah, blah, blah. She sounds nice, but I’m not sure she’s going to really help us. She never came to visit even though her letters said that she would.” I felt the same way. I couldn’t count on someone who promised to come and visit, but then never followed through. I was done bein’ hurt. I wasn’t gonna let anyone else treat me the way my mother had.