The Runaway Soldier: Part Two


Hailey Capobianco, Senior Fiction Writer

Geovanna dreamed of being at home, as if none of this ever happened. She was at the table with her family, and they had just finished prayer. They were eating a plump roasted chicken in gravy, and her mother had made her homemade mashed potatoes.  There were green beans soaking in butter on the side. Her father poured his glass of wine, taking the first plate of food, then her mother made her children’s plates, and then finally she made her own. This was how every family dinner had gone, every night like routine.

Suddenly there came a knock on the door, and Geovanna rushed to answer it, only to be confronted by a tall man in green. He reached down and smacked something onto her chest, stomping inside to do the same to everyone else.  She looked down to see the cursed bright yellow star.  It was no longer a symbol of her faith, but a symbol of mockery, hatred, of a lower life form.   As the man left he reached out to her–the hair of her entire family lay in his open hand; she reached up and peeled her own off.   In her dream it hurt; she was screaming when her mother shook her awake and she was back of the train. Somehow waking relieved her, only to disappoint her even more and make her wish she could go back into the dream.

The train jerked to its first stop of the day. The older women began to groan as they shifted position, the younger children aching for something to give.   Geovanna waited at the door for the hope of seeing Antonio was swelling in her chest.   When the train car door finally slid open,  he was waiting on the other side, no gifts in hand. They only received food when it was absolutely necessary for them to survive another day of misery.

Geovanna and Antonio talked for awhile before the train began to move. They talked about Antonio’s family and how he longed to see them again.  They talked about his dream to see Paris, and his dream to leave Europe.   As he was telling her how badly he didn’t want to fight this war, how he did it only for his family, he was called back and the train began to move along.  The huge door was left open, the air rushing through was pleasant until they hit more farm land.

At the second stop they talked about Geovanna’s dreams, her life before all this. She’d never had a plan for her life because she had always lived in the moment. He listened to her recall times on the playground as a child, learning to read  and then falling madly in love with any book she could get her hands on, before they were all banned.

It wasn’t the exact moment when she laughed, but it was in that span of time where Antonio realized that he had to save her. He knew that he  had to get her family out of here and to safety.  This was when he fell in love with her. For Geovanna it wouldn’t be too much longer.

Antonio sat in thought back in the soldier’s’ car, thinking of every possible way to get them out.  He had always noticed that another soldier he traveled with sympathised with him. So Antonio determined to take a risk. He explained to this fellow soldier how he’d fallen in love, and that he needed help. The man agreed with no persuasion needed; he would help.

The sun had started to set by the last stop of the night with the days getting shorter as the weather got colder. Antonio shared his plan with her, but at first she thought he was joking. Was he teasing her with something she could never have, freedom?  Apparently not.  After he finished explaining all the fine details, how they would get out, how all three of the women would escape, she finally realised he was serious.

”You’re crazy,” She said, hoping he would reassure her.

”Am I? You hate this more than I do, and your future is much more unsettling.  Tomorrow i’ll have a truck because it’s the last day on the train, and we will only make one stop. I’ve got plenty of blankets. You could lie under one with your mother and sister; just give it a shot.” He was pleading at this point.  He had decided that he was leaving with or without he,r but making the run would be better with company and with someone he loved.

The thought of escaping, finally going to some state of normal was the most compelling thought of all.  So Geovanna had to deal with  the guilt of leaving everyone else behind, knowing what the future held for some of the other passengers on the train.  It would continue on its route with or without the three women. After all, it wasn’t like anyone cared about them; it wasn’t like they’d be missed.

The plan was fine tuned, then Geovanna shared it with her mother and sister that night, ”You’re out of your mind; we’ll die,” her mother said, holding her sister’s head as she lay on her lap.

”We’re going to die anyway; at least this gives us a chance–this gives us hope. Mother, you have to come with us,” Geovanna didn’t want to leave without her mother; she would if she had to but leaving her behind would crush her.

”Do you think it will really work?” Geovanna asked Antonio in a hushed voice. If anyone on the train heard this,  they’d start a frenzy.

”I do, he said. Antonio knew he’d have at least five minutes by himself beside the train. The other men always disappeared into one of the cars to play a hand of cards before checking their passenger cars again.

“We’ll be down behind the seats under blankets until we reach France,”  she exclaimed.  Geovanna’s tone was so certain now. The plan would work–it had to.    Geovanna’s family  slept near the doorway that night while everyone else was facing the other way.  A strong smell was coming from the door. They were heading through a town, a town that pumped a lot of pollution into the air.

Morning came and they waited with anticipation for the stop, when it came, the opposite sliding door opened, and another soldier handed out bread as the people all rushed to that side.

”Geovanna,” Antonio was next to the doorway in the jeep-type vehicle. He had the blankets piled in the back seat and winked at the soldier across the car.   Geovanna let her mother get in first because she was the slowest. Next her sister followed and then Geovanna.  They lay flat and  covered themselves as fast as they got in.   Antonio checked to see if anyone had seen them.  Only the small boy who’d received an extra snack the night before was looking, and he held out his bread with a smile.  Antonio stayed stationed outside the car until the men circled back and slapped the side of the truck. The noise scared Geovanna’s sister, but she only flinched, knowing not to make a sound.

Once the sound of the train moving again filled the air, Antonio started to drive. To Geovanna, the terrain felt like grass for awhile, then gravel. The ride got rougher as he slowed down, the sound of the train faded, and then they crossed the tracks. They made it off the train.

”We’ve made it so far,” he said, and Geovanna lifted the blanket so she could see;  they were driving along a narrow road in the middle of nowhere. ”Where are we?” She asked,

”About three hours from the border.  Once we get past, i have a friend who will help us.” The rest of the ride was the best sleep any of the girls had gotten. Her mother lay across the seat, getting the cushioned area, while Geovanna and her sister lay together on the floor. The blankets were heavy and kept the cold breeze from their bodies.

The border was a scary place.  All three  crowded on the floor in a mass of blanlets and Antonio had stopped to cover the seat with his duffel and an arsenal of weapons.  He stacked what felt to be groceries on Geovanna’s legs to cover them some more. He told them that he should have no problem getting through, that he knew one of the guardsmen who would wave him through.  Only he wasn’t there today. The women didn’t know this, only Antonio, as he pulled into the checkpoint for military vehicles and met the eyes of a younger soldier. Fresh shaven and looking miserable, this young soldier  raised his hand to stop the truck. Antonio gave the Frenchman his credentials, and didn’t make mention of anything unnecessary; he was sweating bullets.

The young man circled the truck and stopped at the side, and  his boots were right under Geovanna. Her sister and mother were behind her curled together as far under the seat as they could get. The edge of the blanket lifted, and her eyes met a pair of shiny blue ones. He took a deep breath, contemplating what he should do now.  After what seemed an eternity, the young soldier sighed and dropped the blanket,    ”Go ahead” he ushered them through.