She hated cars. Most of all, she hated cars that rumbled onto her driveway. Except, if the car was a great, bright yellow taxi. That car meant adventure, an afternoon out. Or, maybe even a week away from home.
Today was the first time the sight of a taxi made her heart sink. They were leaving, and they weren't coming back. Her mother had told them just an hour before.
"Pack what you can fit in the suitcase," she had said. One suitcase, shared with two sisters.
Nadia didn't pay any attention to what she packed. The import of these snap decisions escaped her. She was consumed with the idea that this would be the last time. The last time in her bedroom. The last time to look through the window, at the trees and hills beyond.
She met her mother downstairs in the lobby and waited for the great yellow car. The stout man at the wheel was nonchalant. He didn't realize his significance, that he was the instrument of the biggest change she could imagine. He also had no idea they needed to hurry. They had to be out of there before anyone noticed they were leaving. If her father caught wind of the plans...she felt the terror that filled her whenever she thought of her father.
The suitcases were loaded in the taxi, three of them in all, for her mother and four children. The taxi pulled away from the house unceremoniously. Nadia stared out the back window at the receding lawn with its overgrown grass, and at the distant alfalfa field.
Goodbye she thought, and she fixed the image in her mind to keep forever. It was all she would have left of her eleven years in that house. A memory.
The train station. She couldn't suppress the excitement. This felt like a betrayal of her home, but she did love to ride the train. There was never a bad experience at the end of a train ride. The train always took her to presents, days at the circus, a loving aunt and uncle. So she betrayed her home and looked forward to what the train promised.
They almost made it, clean. They were on the platform when he arrived. Terror rose up in her. His angry forehead. Those clenched fists. He loomed over them, over her mother, who was small, and over the four children. He always loomed, but this time it was different.
"Don't leave," he asked.
He asked. He never asked anything. Her father demanded, always.
Nadia was young, but not so young that she missed this change in the dynamic between her father and her mother. He was on the defensive.
The customary fear was in her mother's face. That look, so familiar. But, again, something was different. Then Nadia figured it out.
There were people all around. He couldn't do what he wanted to do. He couldn't raise his hands, or his voice. The train, the railroad station, protected the family from him.
His entreaties rang with the echo of threat, years of threats. Her mother knew this was their last chance to be rid of him. They had to leave.
"Ok," her mother promised. The first promise she ever broke. "We'll be back."
"Give me your suitcase."
He wanted surety, a token of her submission.
She gave him the one suitcase that contained all her clothing. He seemed mollified, but small in his acceptance of that battered blue case. He was meek. Nadia had never seen him before in such a state.
The train was waiting. They climbed the stairs. How Nadia love those train stairs, but especially today, because they separated her from her father.
He stood there when the train pulled out, her mother's suitcase in his hand. He was powerless, emasculated.
As frightening as the drama on the platform had been, Nadia realized it was a gift. Whatever nostalgia she had felt for her home evaporated. Her father's sudden appearance at the train station brought back, in stark relief, everything she was truly leaving behind. Years of fear, and shrinking in dread.
That was the last time a great yellow taxi took Nadia away from her childhood home, and it was the best trip of her life.
I couldn't resist this week's prompt, railroad. The story flowed from my keyboard. I did tinker with the text a bit, but this is essentially what came to mind.
The Ink Well welcomes writers, novices and those who have honed their craft. We offer weekly prompts and also the opportunity to write whatever comes to mind. A few rules govern our community. Mostly, these are intended to keep the neighborhood wholesome and safe for everyone. If you feel the urge to write a short story, join us.