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Escapism - Shawn Young

It had just happened a week ago, and she was running. Eleanor Grisby, her face etched with the lines of sixty years, sharp eyes looking out from red rimmed glasses, arrived at the train station in a tremendous hurry. She checked her watch; 11:45. She had fifteen minutes before the alluring steam engine would leave. Behind her, the grand railway entrance bid her adieu as the darkness gripped its decaying corners. Eleanors simple black heels clacked against the stone flooring as her hastily packed suitcase bounced along behind her. She approached the ticket counter wherein a bored young man read his comic behind a pane of glass, waiting for his shift to end.

“Excuse me.” Eleanor said, struggling to keep her voice even. The boy grunted, refusing to look up.

How fucking rude. Eleanor thought. “I need a ticket.”

He set his comic down with a slap and an eye roll. “Where to?”

Eleanor rapped her manicured nails on the counter. “Rowstone.”

The boy sighed, lazily checking his computer. “That’ll be forty quid.”

“Good.” Eleanor resisted the urge to let her voice bite. She opened her purse with adrenalized hands and handed the fare. Just then, her phone buzzed in the pocket of her jacket. Eleanor refused to pick up the call. It was undoubtedly her husband. Instead, she snatched the ticket and walked away with shaking determination. The train's engine gave a warning blare; Thirteen minutes.

Eleanor boarded the train and shuffled past the crowded carriages. She resisted the urge to think, the memory was too heavy. Instead, she walked numbly past the chattering families and couples, until she came to the final carriage, mercifully empty. She put her luggage in the over carry, and sat on the purple cushioned seat, watching her breathe fog against the cold window.

She continued to stare at her own reflection with watering eyes, and only noticed the figure when they moved to sit directly across from her. Eleanor quickly wiped her coming tears, and looked up to give the stranger a passing smile. Her breath caught in her chest.

“Hey Mum,” Her daughter said, adjusting her black frame glasses. “Where are you going?”

Eleanor stared at the middle aged Rose for a moment. Her chest welled as an onslaught of metal butterflies smashed against her stomach.

“I’m going away,” Eleanor said with clenched teeth, hastily wiping a tear and looking back to the window. “You can’t stop me.”

“What about Dad?” Rose asked, her voice even, and her skin gently glowing.

“Oh, he’ll be fine,” Eleanor said “please leave. I doubt you bought a ticket. Not like you could.” Her voice cracked.

“ Is this really necessary, mum?” Rose asked. The train blared a second warning; Seven minutes. Anxiety was scratching at her skin. She grimaced, feeling the engine of her heart pick up.

“Rose, I don’t have to talk to you just because you’re here.” Eleanor crossed her arms, feeling almost like a pouting child. Her tears threatened to push past the wall like a cracking dam.

“Mother,” Rose began, shifting to kneel at her feet. Eleanor did her best to avoid Rose's piercing gaze, but found herself unable to resist. She looked into her daughter's eyes, green as clover fields in morning dew. Just as she remembered. “Mother, I need you to go home. We’re all worried about you.”

"No. No, I can't."

“You can’t run from this,” Rose continued, “I’m sorry mum, really. But you can’t,” she spoke warm, and sympathetic as she stroked her mother's aged hand with cold fingers. "I’ll just follow you, you know.”

“Don’t you dare!” Eleanor spat, pulling her hand away, immediately regretting the venom that etched the corners of her words. Rose’s eyes glistened as she sat back on her side of the carriage with an imperceptible sigh.

“Where are we going then?” Rose asked.

Eleanor rapped her fingers on her arm, frustrated. She felt the sudden urge to smash the window. “Rowstone. After that, I don’t know. Anywhere.”

“Rowstone? I think I remember that name.” Rose said. Eleanor nodded, for a moment forgetting why she was so upset as her mind relaxed and warmed.

“We took you there on holiday when you were little. You loved the beach, especially the crab shells.” Eleanor smiled, briefly allowing the memory of little Rose in her pink wellies searching along the wet sand for little treasures to keep. It flowed down her throat like warm liquor.

“I always liked crab.” Eleanor heard Rose say. The mother looked to her daughter, the dam was breaking.

“It’s not fair.” Eleanor said, her voice cracking. Rose stared polite, her hands placed delicately in her lap.

“It’s not fair.” Eleanor repeated as her voice broke. The tears came in a slow shower, filling her eyes and fogging her glasses. Rose shimmered in her vision.

Eleanor Grisby’s daughter reached out, gently cupping her mother’s cheek. Her hand was cold and familiar.

“No, it’s not fair.” Rose said. “But do what you can, all the same.” She smiled as if everything was fine and this was just another conversation in a train's carriage. The train blared its final horn; one minute. Rose kissed her mother’s forehead, and Eleanor watched as she faded away like a cold breath among the fog, slipping from reality, and into her memory.

“All the same.” Eleanor choked, speaking into the quiet.

“S’cuse me,” A brisk voice interrupted Eleanor’s fog. She turned her head to see an obtuse man holding the hand of a delicate child as she played mindlessly with a doll. The man pointed across from Eleanor. “Is anyone sitting there?”

Eleanor stood up. “No, nobody is.” She said, deliberately ignoring the child as she walked past the small family and stepped off the train. Eleanors phone buzzed against her side, she pulled the phone out of her pocket, and answered.

“Hello, darling. I’m coming home.”


Shawn Young is a writer from Portland, Oregon.


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