I pumped my legs harder, gravel biting through my sneakers, not daring to look behind me. The train was already moving, and I was battling to keep up, the boxcar so close. I heard the shot and a bullet whizzed past my ear, grazing it slightly.
Fear added a burst of speed, my hand hooked the side of the door. I threw my leg up and with the last of my strength rolled inside. I lay on the wooden floor breathing hard, the backpack wedged uncomfortably underneath me.
My heart hammering in my ears, I sat up to survey the boxcar, half full, stacked with pallets. I reached for my ear and hissed in pain, fingers coming away bloody. I focused on the blood, rubbing it between my fingers before wiping them on my jeans. Christ! I could be dead now, nausea roiled through me.
Crawling over to the open door I peeked out, letting out a pent-up breath when I couldn’t see him. Surely, he wouldn’t follow… This was a cargo train, it didn’t go very fast but faster than he could run.
Removing my backpack, I anxiously hoped this train wasn’t stopping anytime soon. He had no idea who I was, I was just a girl who saw something she shouldn’t have seen! The image of the knife flashing and burying itself in flesh was burnt into my brain, the man turning when I gasped out loud from my hiding place next to the dumpster.
I couldn’t assimilate how dispassionately he’d plunged the knife into that person. I had no idea who the victim was, I could still hear the man’s scream when the knife went in. Murdered in a dirty alley! I should let the police know, maybe an anonymous phone call. The last thing I needed was for him to come after me.
I would never forget his face, swarthy with hollowed out cheeks and a gray stubble. Couldn’t make out his eyes, he was squinting so much. I’d never run so fast in my life, it helped that I knew the area well. I wasn’t planning on catching a train, but I couldn’t think after he shot at me. The man was yielding a knife, I hadn’t expected a gun!
The only reason I’d taken refuge behind the dumpster was to escape Harry Lipton. Fuck, if I’d just spoken to Harry this wouldn’t have happened. Harry was slow, mentally challenged, but the minute he saw me he went into sexual overdrive, trying to grab and kiss me, pushing his hips into mine and humping me. He was taller and stronger, so running away was how I handled him.
I’d complained to Mrs. Lipton numerous times and she always apologized, but it seemed there was nothing they could do to stop his obsession. No-one else had this problem, only me. My house was three blocks down from the Lipton’s and I tried to take different routes home, but I’d been deep in thought and hadn’t noticed him straight away. Harry spent the morning in group therapy but was home in the afternoon, lurking, just waiting for me to appear.
Home. The dingy little house my father left me, which was probably beyond renovation and should just be torn down. Still, I owned it and didn’t have to pay rent, which would have posed a serious problem since I’d been out of a job for a few months. By the looks of things, I wouldn’t be going back there for a while, my shitty life had just turned shittier.
My father said, regret always comes too late, I could validate that. I regretted many things, the list kept getting longer. Ugh, it was all circling the drain…
Pulling the backpack towards me, I dug inside hoping there was some water in the bottle I hadn’t bothered throwing out. I hauled it out and shook it, a few mouthfuls, but better than nothing. I took two tiny sips, easing my parched throat, it was warm but wet. Thank God I had my prescription filled this afternoon, which was why I was out and about, it was a pain to get there and took most of the day.
I was diligent when it came to taking my pills, I had run out only once and never wanted a repeat of that experience. When my father was still alive, he always made sure we had our pills, suffering from the same affliction he knew how debilitating it was. I had 90 days before I would need a refill.
Maybe this was a new start, a new beginning. I had plenty of experience bartending and waitressing, so getting a job wouldn’t be a problem, keeping it was a different story. I tended to get bored quickly and had a problem waking up in the morning. Three month away from home didn’t sound so bad, and hopefully the swarthy man would have forgotten all about me.
I had less than fifty bucks in my purse but a few hundred in my account, my savings dwindling rapidly without an income. It’s not like I had that much to start off with and had been surprised when I found just over $700 stashed in my father’s cupboard after he died.
I woke up one morning to find him fast asleep on the sofa, I covered him with a blanket and that’s when I noticed he was ice cold and not breathing. I missed him desperately, he was always so upbeat and no matter what happened, he was there for me. I hoped that one day, I would go in the same way, no fuss, and no pain.
None of this would have happened if he were still alive. He’d been the stabilizing force in my life. I’d never known my mother, nor had my father barring the one-night stand he had with her.
She’d dropped me on the doorstep the minute I was born, a little note taped to my chest. Juno. The question dad and I debated ad nauseum – did she care enough to name me? I asked him once what her name was, from his pained expression I could tell he didn’t know. Maybe her name was Juno, and my dad just assumed that was my name?
I lay down using the backpack as a pillow, the vibrations and the clickety-clack sounds numbed my overactive brain. I positioned myself so I could watch the scenery go by and fell asleep watching the light fade.