She touched the little box in her pocket and smiled; this was her ticket out of her one-horse hometown and away from her oppressive family. She had to be smart about this though, if she took off in the car that Rod, her step-father, had ‘given’ to her and allowed her to drive every day, they would call the police and report it stolen. Knowing them, she wouldn’t be out of the driveway before Officer Jonston was slapping her in cuffs and making her sit in a cell.
Her step-father had been very clear about the future—she would stay and work, paying room and board of course, until she was married off to a man her parents approved of (and probably chose for her). No college necessary for that, no dating either, and definitely no choices made on her own.
She couldn’t count on help from her siblings either. Both brothers had been lavished with attention and spoiled beyond measure. Bruce, her older brother, was living it up on campus as a second year senior and the big man on campus as he carried his team to another year of victories in football bowls. James, the younger brother, was finally legal to drive that hot-rod Camaro he had Rod had been toodlin around town in for the past year. They both agreed with Rod that Sydney was ‘too fragile’ and ‘worth far too much’ to be ruined by the world outside of their small suburban town.
Her mother didn’t say much, and never around the men, but Sydney had found college applications hidden in her pillowcases and, even though she was now twenty, the college in Florida had happily accepted her and offered full scholarships based on her high school GPA and admission test scores. With even room and board covered, Sydney was finally able to start planning her new life, 23 hours away from the Podunk prison she had been locked in for so long.
She had saved what little money she could, squirrelling it away for food and shelter on her trip because she knew she would have to walk or hitch hike. Then something happened that would change her life…her Grandma had Sydney over for tea. Now, they did this every week and Rod had long since stopped insisting on someone attending with the girl (though her mother was never allowed to go and visit her first mother-in-law). This week, however, Grandma handed Sydney a box. Just an innocent looking little purple box, small enough to fit in her jean pocket, but one that held the key to success.
In two days there would be a train coming through town that was making its yearly ‘southern voyage’ on the old railways. Sydney would be on that train. Grandma had purchased the ticket and would be packing a bag for her favorite granddaughter. Not only that but a card with part of Sydney’s inheritance was there so that she could purchase all the necessities once she got to her dorm room. Now here she was, the day of the train and freedom, the box safely tucked into her pants pocket and her mother escorting her to the ‘train party’. This was the worst part, not only saying goodbye without actually saying goodbye, but sneaking away from her mother afterwards and knowing that she may not get the chance to say anything to the woman again.
Choking on a breath and turning to her mother, Sydney’s hidden goodbyes were stifled as they teetered on her lips for there in the sunlight, cheeks pink with merriment, her mother waved her own purple box and motioned to the braking train.
“Come on kid, we’re going to miss our ride.”