It was cold when they left the house.
In the early morning hours they gathered a bag from the trunk of the car and walked to the end of the icy block.
At the stop sign was a friend idling, waiting. Waiting to run.
Climbing into the warm car they felt a glimmer of hope for the first time in years. The drive to the airport was silent, the younger one in the back seat falling asleep almost immediately.
It wasn’t until the plane finally left the ground that she took a deep breath, confident in the decision she had made. 4 year old asleep on her lap she allowed herself a drink to calm her nerves on the first flight to Anywhere But Here, USA.
Unfortunately the stress, lack of sleep and drink caught up to her when they arrived and the gate agent was concerned. Medical assessment finding nothing of concern rescuers turned to the events leading to their arrival without bags or a ride anywhere.
“We are trying to get to Anytown*” she said through teary eyes.
The 4 year old seemed curious about the tiny fire engine outside the window.
“We have a connecting flight but I think we missed it because of…” she pointed to the rescuers, the gate agent, the airport and broke down crying.
The agent confirmed the flight had been missed bit because of circumstances causing their delay and the next flight was being arranged. That flight was tomorrow morning, a good day away.
After the ambulance ride had been refused and the airline snacks consumed, the gate agent approached with wonderful news. He had arranged for a hotel room and a shuttle for the woman, her child and their grocery bag of earthly belongings.
As she was assisted to the shuttle stop the reason for their sudden departure crashed awkwardly into the conversation.
“It just wasn’t safe for us anymore,” she said to the 4 year old boy.
“Not for me, not for him and not for who he’ll turn into if we stay,” she mentioned casually over her shoulder.
They were on the run from an unsafe home or telling the most believable cover story ever known. Violence and intimidation had turned fear into action late the night before. She had a plan, a friend she could trust and took the next opportunity to run.
“Do the local police know about the father?” I asked looking for the shuttle van.
“He left three years ago. Decided he didn’t want a kid after all. His replacement didn’t know what he wanted most days.”
We stood in silence for a good 10 minutes. I wanted to go straight home and hug my family.
After the van pulled away from the curb local law enforcement was notified of their physical description, origin and location for the night just in case the story didn’t hold water.
A week later I was informed an officer had followed up at their location and confirmed they had arrived safely with family in Anytown. Hopefully the little guy only remembers the little fire engine outside the window and not the reasons they had to run.
image credit Shanon Wise via creative commons