Chapter 53 continues

The story so far: Paul and Katka plan to take the next train out of town.

 

When they got to the station, Katka checked the schedule. She used the money Adeline gave her to purchase two tickets to New York City, with a transfer in Chicago. It was as if they would be retracing her steps, the steps that had led her to the Iron Range in the first place. “We’re in luck,” Katka said to Paul. “They are boarding now. The train leaves in ten minutes.” They took their seats in the train. The whistle blew to signify that the train was about to depart. “One moment,” Katka said. She kissed Paul on the cheek. “Ladies’ room.” She slipped out, leaving her basket on her seat. She strode down the aisle of the train. She hesitated briefly at the exit. The whistle blew a final time. Katka took a deep breath, opened the door and left the train and Paul behind.

A moment later, she stood on the tracks, holding nothing but Elizabeth’s car key. The train lurched forward and Katka felt as if she had swallowed her heart. She tried to make out Paul’s head through the windows, his curly locks, but saw nothing. When the last car of the train whisked by, she simply stood in place, staring at nothing. A moment later, she was shaking. Then she sobbed. At some point, it might have been a minute, it might have been an hour, a train station attendant gently escorted her off the platform.

She found Elizabeth’s motorcar and drove back to the courthouse to find her aunt. “Stop your tears,” she told herself. “Be strong for Lily.”

 

•••

 

It took Paul fifteen minutes before he realized she had left him. He walked up and down the aisle of the train. He asked another female passenger to check the ladies’ room. Finally, back in the compartment, he opened the basket. Inside, just under the linen towel, he found a photograph. It was of him and Katka, on the ship. Her hair blowing wildly about in the onset of a storm. He was smiling, just a little, and a bolt of lightning divided the sky behind them. How he had longed for that picture when he was imprisoned at Ellis Island. He wondered how Katka had come upon it. Under the photo, he found an envelope and opened it. Katka had placed the Russian passport with his picture in it. Fifty dollars were tucked neatly inside. He opened it and saw a note:

 

Dearest Paul,

 

I love you. I love everything about you and I would love to be your wife. But I cannot live a life on the run. When you met me, I had no home, no purpose. I was soft as clay, impressionable as a child. But I am no longer a child. Anton and Lily gave me a home. The newspaper gave me a sense of worth, and the injustice suffered by the people of the Range, the people who are now my people, gave me a purpose. I want to continue to fight for the rights and dignity of these people, who are like family to me. If I have learned one thing since this dreadful strike began, it is this: you cannot change a situation by leaving it. It pains me more than I can express to know that we will be separated by an ocean, but you will be alive. Your life will no longer be in danger. That will be enough for me. My days will be long without you. Although I will never forget you, I urge you to find happiness in your new life and not let memories of me impede on your future days. I write this with a heavy heart.

 

Your Katka

 

Tomorrow: The Epilogue begins.