And with the heaving sigh of the train’s departure, she’s on her way. It all went so smoothly that she retraces her steps in her head, to make sure she didn’t forget anything.
She left no part of herself behind, not even a lipstick trace on the champagne glass she hadn’t sipped from yet. Excused herself to the restaurant bathroom once they’d settled in for dinner, then recovered the duffle bag she’d left in the last stall earlier that evening. She changed into a t-shirt and jeans, smoothed a long black wig over her brown hair and changed her makeup, thickening the foundation over the purple bruises on her cheek and chin, wiping away the dark blue eyeshadow he’d insisted she wear to dinner.
Still making changes as she slipped out the back entrance of the restaurant, she pocketed her new ID card, the one with the name she’d used to book the train ticket, and shoved the old one to the bottom of her bag, along with her old clothes and the heels she’d replaced with sneakers. When she reached the train station across the street from the restaurant and scurried onto the platform, a red blinking sign that buzzed like an alarm clock told her she had five minutes left until the train arrived.
It was too much time. She must have hurried into the bathroom too quickly, because if she’d timed it right, she would have two minutes or less to spare. Each extra minute could change everything. Or rather, could make it so that nothing’s changed at all.
He’d notice she was gone soon. And he’d know she’d gone far, of course. As soon as he got the feeling she’d been gone too long, there’d be no question of whether she’d gotten caught up on a phone call or taken a wrong turn on her way back to the table. He’d search for her escape route. And all he’d have to do is look across the street to find it.
She turned away from where he’d enter, put her back to the doors. Her wig felt suffocating, overwhelmingly artificial, and she began to feel like this was an absurd idea. He’d know it was her, wig or not, as soon as he saw her.
The alarm clock said there were two minutes left now, and she could feel the breeze of the train, though it was still far away. First, swirling around her feet, dashing between her shoelaces and tickling her ankles. She found her shallow breaths come easier as the train’s wind rose, circling her legs, whispering beneath her t-shirt to reach her belly, cradling her head and stroking the hair in her wig.
By the time she saw the train arriving, one bright headlight illuminating its way, she’d forgotten about him and the possibility of his arrival at the station. She was already riding the winds that would carry her away. She hummed a tune of victory as she sank into the soft seat cushion on the train, didn’t remember who she was victorious over until the train let out its breath and began to move.
She wondered if he’d gotten up to look for her yet, or if he was still sitting at the table, running a fat finger over the rim of his champagne glass, preparing his toast.
“To new beginnings,” he would have said, as he always said on the nights she had to cover up her bruises before they went out to dinner.
This time he could mean it. She nodded to the trees growing along the train tracks, lifting their arms in a toast to her freedom.
“To new beginnings,” she said.