One was the safety of her husband. His parting words to her at the train station seemed to repeat so often that they became her pulse. "Liza, get to the coast- get the kids to safety, and keep yourself safe. We'll find each other again, I promise you." A hurried kiss, and he was gone into the darkness, gone to hide in mountain caves with other men targeted for execution by the warring rebels.
Although Liza's husband had been born in Texas, he and she both were Mexican citizens, proud of the gleaming little hotel they built themselves in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosi. However, their peace was shattered by the Mexican Revolution, which pitted rebel generals like Pancho Villa against pro-government forces. Because of her husband's foreign birth, he was assumed to be a government supporter and summarily marked for death by the roaming bands of rebels.
It became a cat and mouse game when rebel forces were near. The wanted men like her husband fled to the shadowy mountains to the west, burrowing into caves they'd already stocked with provisions until rebel forces withdrew. Months before, Pancho Villa himself had even churned up to their hotel on his horse with other bandidos, leveling a rifle at Carlos and Meli. She'd stepped in front of her children and stared him down until he laughed and pulled away. (The Day Pancho Villa Came to Town)
This time, however, was different. A new, murderous spree by the rebels caught even women and babies in its net, and the little family had to escape under cover of night; him to the dark underground of the mountain tunnels and caves, and she and the children on a flatbed rail car, the only space left on the train, eastward to coastal city of Tampico, where the revolution was still only a distant rumble.
Liza didn't know what awaited them in Tampico, but she stoically set her mind to endure what she had to, whatever it took, to keep the children safe.
"We'll find each other again, I promise you," gave her strength. Her tears dried by the time the first rays of the sun warmed her skin and stirred the children. Other women and children on the flatbed car also began awakening, and the burgeoning young voices brought a level of comfort, even on a speeding train.
Carlos stretched and yawned. "Mama, will there be anything for breakfast?" Liza checked her bag, unsure how long she was going to have to make the hurriedly assembled tortillas and jerky last.
Meli was fully awake, too, but said nothing. Her luminous eyes scanned the rapidly passing terrain, broken only by the regularly placed telegraph poles.
"Yes, son, we will have some in just a bit. Don't stand, just stretch your legs here," she cautioned as Carlos tried to arise. "I don't want you to fall off the train!"
He giggled, but rubbed his cramped legs. He put a protective arm around Meli.
Liza kept her eyes on what she could see in front of them. She knew these trains could be attacked quickly by the rifle wielding bandidos.
Seeing nothing but trees, she relaxed just a little and pulled two corn tortillas out of her bag and a piece of jerky for both kids. She smoothed the blanket under them.
It startled her when Carlos yelled, "Look, Mama, look!"
Liza followed the direction of his pointing arm and what she saw made her drop the food, cover the children's eyes, and pull them close to her.
The passing telegraph poles now held bodies; bodies of men, women, old people, children. Some were hanging, some were nailed on, crucifixion style.
(To be continued...)
And to read the conclusion to this story, go here: Escape, The Conclusion.