By John E. Davis
On your nineteenth birthday, you look behind you as you board the Greyhound for Nashville. Pete, your no-good ex, has dogged your every move since he escaped last month. He threatened you before, usually when he was drunk, but this time he was stone sober, and you know he meant it. Your only chance is to run. Where, you are not sure, but you have to get away and the only bus out of town tonight is headed east.
You drop into a seat in the rear and sink below the window opening. The seat smells of disinfectant and the odor of an estate sale closet. If Pete follows you, he will surely make a scene or, depending on his drinking, maybe do something worse.
He was not always this way, not always a bullying drunk, not always a drug abuser, nor was his temper out of control. Something happened on his last tour in Afghanistan, something he tries to block, wants to forget, or to deny it is now a part of him. His pained expression reveals it must be something awful, something he will not talk about, something so personal he keeps it private either out of shame or fear of the consequences.
You see your suitcase tossed in the bay as the cargo door closes. Your back aches and nausea has stolen your strength. You must leave now or else. The time on your cell phone shows the bus departure is twenty minutes late. You raise your head just enough to see outside. An inbound bus maneuvers into the unloading area next to yours. The air breaks hiss and the rumble of the engine stops. Passengers stand to gather their bags and backpacks when you see an attendant rush out from the terminal to stop them from exiting.
Your memory of Pete’s past behavior tells you this can’t be good.
A bus driver lumbers through the terminal doors. He is holding a clipboard. His body bounces like a bag of under-filled water balloons sloshing as he hurries to your coach. The too-many-truck-stop meatloaf and gravy dinners show as the bus tilts when he pulls himself up the steps.
“We got a Margo Leoni on board?” he asked. His voice booms over the intercom. You sink lower into the seat. Your first impulse is to hide, act as if you are not there. Your second is to worry if it is an emergency?
Your parents were not keen on Pete to start with and neither were your brothers. They all live together on the farm twelve miles south of the municipal water plant on county road H. You know they’re well-armed and not afraid to use force if need be—but, what if Pete did something to them?
Thoughts of what might happen swirl inside your head at a dizzying pace. What if Pete went there looking for you. Or worse–what if he did something to your family, what if they tried to stop him from finding you? They are the only ones that know you are leaving. They swore they wouldn’t tell–but what if? Uncertainty tingles up your body like a viper stalking a bunny in the weeds. Perspiration spots the armpits of your sundress. The narrow shoulder straps feel like wire ropes binding you to the seat.
“Manifest shows they’s a Margo Leoni on this bus,” the driver calls out again. “They want you at the service counter.”
Passengers turn to see if anyone answers. They seem to be looking at you. You shift your body and pull your hemline to hide the purple bruises on your legs. You swallow hard and clench your fists to keep your trembling hands from showing your fear. Your heartbeat pounds in your ears, your eyes burn from exhaust fumes and the choking scent of the rose perfume worn by the elderly woman seated in front of you. You gag and cough to keep from vomiting.
“I’m Margo.” The words just slipped out. You can’t believe you admitted it and at the same time, you wished you hadn’t. Your planned anonymity, your ticket out of town, and maybe your life are now on the line.
“Come with me, Miss.” The driver motions for you to follow him as he bounces down the steps. You feel the glare of curious passengers watching you, even the graham-cracker-crumb covered fingers of the blue-eyed toddler in the second row point at you. The all-knowing gesture from the gray haired man in the first row nods as if giving assurance that you did the right thing. Hell, you don’t even know what the right thing is. Would it have been better to stay hidden, or to get off the bus and face possible death from a deranged ex-husband, or maybe you will find out your family has been murdered? None of these sound like the right thing to do.
Red flashing lights reflect urgency on the terminal departure screen above the ticket counter. The terminal agent crouched behind it watches as you pass. Two police cars on the sidewalk block the entrance as a SWAT team scrambles from the back of an armored vehicle.
“Quick, over here.” A uniformed officer frantically fanning his hand for you to hurry to the men’s restroom door. “Duck and run for cover,” he whispers.
You duck, put your hands on top of your head and dive for the open doorway as gunshots ring out. The departure screen above you shatters. Pieces of glass fly across your body like a shower of hailstones. You scream as you land on you belly on the restroom floor. The lights go off–the bus terminal in total darkness. Footsteps crunch over the glass. A firm hand grabs your arm, in your mind you know Pete has kept his promised—he’s here.
* * *
Books by John E. Davis have received starred reviews on Amazon and Kindle. He is a long-time member of The Writer’s Bloc in Johnson County, Kansas, where he resides with his wife and children. Before becoming a writer, he earned a graduate degree in business from Rockhurst University and received certificates in writing from Wesleyan University.
His stories have appeared in Best Times Magazine, The Benton County Guide, The Missouri Poetry Society, and in several anthologies. If you want to know more, please visit; https://www.amazon.com/John-E-Davis/e/B07MZ9GG7B for information on his next release.