Jim is planning to make a dash for it tomorrow. He has asked me to join him.
‘We will leave through the small door on the side after dinner. No one will notice. Not for a long time,’ he says.
I am not so confident. The price of getting caught is too high. Besides, where will we go? Jim has thought of that too. We are to head straight to the station to catch the next train to the last stop. He even has money for the fare, the source of which I am not aware of, but I dare not ask.
Neither one of us sleeps that night. The nights are the scariest. They are cold and dark. And there are always cries. We hold our breaths and pray.
In the morning, we do our chores with little more diligence than usual so that we don’t get in trouble for making a mistake. I want to take Walter with me but Jim doesn’t think it is a good idea.
When the time comes, Jim and I inch slowly to the back wall. We have a lot of practice in becoming invisible. As Jim had foreseen, getting to the gate without being seen, is not difficult. Within minutes we are on the street but which way is the train station. A tram stops nearby and we climb in. Further away we are more chance of not being caught. We read the street signs and figure out the tram is going towards the city. Jim knows the grand station is in the city. We are heading in the right direction.
The streets in the city are decorated with Christmas lights. We pass a giant Christmas tree in the city square decorated with colored balls, lights, and tinsel. Outside the station, a choir is singing Christmas carols. Their melody is soothing and reassuring. Everything will be alright now. We get off the tram and blend with people. There are people everywhere.
At the station, we stand in the queue to buy tickets. The clerk looks at us suspiciously, especially when Jim can’t tell him where we are going. The train arrives and as we are about to board, two policemen appear from the crowd.
‘Where do you think you two are going, you little bastards?’
I do not remember much of what happened afterward that other than that year I made my Christmas wish for the first time.
Dear Lord, when I sleep tonight please make sure I don’t wake up.
I have been making the same wish each year for the past forty years.
© Neera Mahajan, January 2014