It was an early Sunday morning when Josephine walked in the automat by the train station. She poured a cup of coffee and sat down at a table in the window. She removed one winter glove so she could grasp the cup with a bit more ease. She started to remove the other glove to caress the mug of coffee to keep her hand warm, but the cup was too hot so she just left her glove on.
Any other time she would have worried about someone looking at the one-gloved woman sitting alone and sipping coffee and thinking she was insane, but not today. The automat was empty and she’d passed the point of insanity long ago.
It started last night when Jo was painting the flowers in the window, the kind you’d see in rooms by the sea. Ed had not liked the painting, but it wasn’t just this painting in particular. She’d painted before. Ed just didn’t want Jo to paint. He said it was because he needed her to be his muse, his model, and to be his bookkeeper, but Jo knew the truth.
Ed was afraid Jo might become a better, or more renowned, painter than he already was. That was never her intention, and if she’d ever thought she could be better than he was she’d keep that thought to herself. But sometimes a painter just needs to paint; they don’t need a reason.
So most of their married life Jo had modeled for him. She’d named his paintings. She’d been his bookkeeper. She’d also kept a record of his work, describing each painting in detail and what inspired it. She’d encouraged him to paint when he wasn’t.
Ed had been drinking red wine with his dinner and had fallen asleep. When he awoke to find Jo painting, he knocked the brush from her hand and pushed over her easel. This had happened many times before and Jo had ignored his outbursts. She’d keep quiet and clean up the mess, but not this time.
Jo pushed back. Ed swung his hand and struck her face. She slapped back. His hand turned into a fist, but Jo was too quick. She grabbed the jar of brushes and smashed it against his head. Shards of glass exploded around them. She closed her eyes and heard Ed hit the floor in a slump. She’d knocked him out. His forehead was bleeding from a small gash, but it was not serious.
Jo left him on the floor and took her bag out of the closet. It was already packed. It had been packed for months. She’d left before and stayed a night or two with her mother when her mother was still alive. There was no safe place nearby now so Jo would find a new one. She added some last minute necessities and walked out the door, leaving Ed there on the floor, alone. She knew she wasn’t coming back.
The ticket office across the street would open soon and she’d decide then where to go. Perhaps she’d rent a room in New York. She’d treat herself to a New York movie and some chop suey. Or she’d rent a room in a hotel by a railroad further upstate, or maybe one of those bed and breakfast rooms for tourists.
The blue night faded as the morning sun began to show itself, and people started to move about outside. The city was waking up. She looked out the window and saw the lights in the office turn on. She finished her coffee and checked her watch. Putting her glove back on, she left the automat and walked across the street to the ticket window.
“Good morning. What time does the first train arrive?” Jo asked the attendant.
“In about twenty minutes.”
“Where is it going?”
“Ohio first, then on to Pennsylvania. Final stop in New York before it turns around.”
“Are there still tickets available to New York?”
“One ticket please. Straight through to New York.”
“Round trip?” the attendant asked.
“No. One way.”
“Ah, just been visiting and returning home, eh?”
“No. Not a visitor. More like a stranger passing through.”
She expected a puzzled look from the attendant, but instead he fell quiet, contemplating her answer.
“There’s nothing strange about that,” he finally said.
He took her money in exchange for the ticket. Jo looked down at it, happy with her decision. She was not going to turn back.
The name of her train printed on the ticket was Night Hawk. She liked the sound of that. She liked the idea of escaping her old life on a night hawk. She took a seat and waited for the night hawk to arrive.