[Prompt: When Shelby arrived at the ____ she knew she was going to ____ for her _____. ]
When Shelby arrived at the train station, she knew she was going to pay for her transgression. Growing up in a church taught her that stealing was like reserving a seat on bus destined for hell. Yet she also had heard people throw around the phrase that stealing from a criminal was a victimless crime. Either way, Shelby’s heart knocked against her ribs as if she were out running a marathon instead of standing in the line to buy a ticket for the next train. She hugged the black pack to her chest as she shuffled forward one step at a time. Her eyes kept darting to the front of the station each time the sun reflected off one of the revolving doors. If they were smart, it wouldn’t take them long to figure out which direction Shelby had ran after snatching their bag.
There were benefits of growing up as a quiet child. The quiet ones knew how to listen and to observe their surroundings. The quiet ones were easily dismissed. The quiet ones were the sneakiest of all. Shelby hadn’t meant to listen in on the conversation at the bus stop, but her ears tuned into to the exchange of the men behind her against her will. They were talking about making a drop and one of the men had been foolish enough to blurt out how much money was to be expected. One hundred thousand dollars, the number was an imaginary one in Shelby’s world. She felt rich when she had a twenty in her pocket. So when she mentally noted the place in the park the men poorly referenced and the time, Shelby told herself she would use the money for good like Robin Hood.
Of course, Robin Hood had all the woods to hide in along with the merry men to back him up. The bow-toting story hero also never had to go up against semi-automatic pistols.
The pack she held tight against her chest hid the blood. The bullet had only grazed her, but the fear it instilled into her had yet to fade. She had been lucky to escape from under the bridge after grabbing the bag and after a long chase where she put her knowledge of the street layout to the best use, Shelby now reflected on her impulsive decision while standing in the line that moved at a snail’s pace in comparison to her adrenaline fueled escape.
Shelby snapped her attention away from the doors and rushed to the counter. “I need a ticket for the next train out of here.”
The woman, a tired woman in his sixties, appraised her from behind the glass. “Are you in trouble, honey?”
“I just need a ticket.”
Reluctantly the woman consulted her monitor, “The next train leaves for Boston in seven minutes. It’ll be fourty-nine dollars.”
Shelby set the pack on the floor and opened only a couple inches to slid the fresh twenties from inside. She zipped the pack back up, hugged it back to her chest and passed the money to the teller. The old woman didn’t look happy to comply, but she passed back a ticket and change after leveling a disapproving look on Shelby.
Noise from the front of the station drew Shelby’s gaze. The men who she’d stolen from had arrived and had spotted her right away. Shelby grabbed the ticket and money and ran from the trains. A gunshot sounded, followed by screams, and Shelby hugged the pack more tightly and willed her legs to go faster. By the time she made it to the train, she could barely breathe. She sagged into the nearest seat as her vision blackened and threatened to drop her whole body to the floor. Her hands shook as she lifted them to cover her face. She only got a minute or less to compose herself before raised voices on the loading platform alerted her to the men.
She didn’t look, just grabbed her pack and started to push toward the front of the train. The floor shuttered under her worn sneakers as it pulled away from the station. The step between train cars became more intimidating as the train picked up speed. Shelby didn’t know if the men had made it on the train, but she wasn’t going to take the risk of finding out. She had a plan, but the problem was that it was her only plan.
After three cars, Shelby stood between the next set and watched as the ground blur as the train passed. They were still in the city, so any hopes of jumping off the train and rolling down an embankment into a cushion of tall grass was quickly dispelled. She leaned over the rail and quickly pulled back as a train passed by going in the opposite direction. She felt tears escape the corners of her eyes as the fear and hopelessness caught up with her as she clung to the rail. The train rocked back and forth and she tightened her grip against all the forces in her life that was quickly careening out of her control.
She shouldn’t have stolen the money.
Shelby moved the pack to her back and began to edge toward the gap in the rail.
Her mother had taught her to be a better person.
Shelby’s knuckles turned white with how hard she held onto the thin rail as she moved her heels to set against the outside.
Money was the root of all evil, that’s what they said.
Shelby looked down at the blood soaked into the front of her shirt.
The road to hell was paved with good intentions.
Now or never.
Shelby held her breath as she let go of the rail and jumped.