A Place Called Hope (Chapter 1)

30 03 2009

Hunter was mad! The trucks heater was battling to keep the freezing air from overtaking the cabin, his cell was in a dead zone and he was lost. 

“Why do I let Trish talk me into these things?” he muttered to himself.

“I know why I let Trish talk me into these things,” Hunter thought, “’cause I would do anything for her. I have never met a woman so special in all my life. The way she cares, the way she lives, the way she gives. She reminds me of why I love black women so much. I just wish I could build up the nerve to ask her out again.”

The truck pulled up to the bus stop Trish had directed him to. He’d never picked up a woman in this part of the city before and certainly not in this high-class but very remote neighborhood. Hunter checked the address on the paper and the road sign nearby. Yes, he was at the spot and the only person in sight was a regal looking woman with a haunting smile.

It couldn’t be her he was to pick up, could it? As he rolled down the window to ask the question, the elderly woman approached. “Hunter?” was all she said and as he nodded a reply, she walked around and got into the truck.

Hunter glanced in the rear view mirror as they drove away. He noticed the look on the woman’s face. It was the look of a very wise woman who had been through the fire, but came out shining like gold. It wasn’t who he was expecting. None of Trish’s clients had ever been this old. He couldn’t imagine a woman at her age being a victim of abuse and she certainly didn’t dress or act that way. Usually he drove in silence but he wanted answers.

“How was your day,” she asked Hunter, keeping her focus on the grid locked traffic through the icy windshield. She had saved him the trouble of speaking first. 

“My day was pretty hectic but I made it,” was his reply.

He wanted to keep his voice as light as hers. He didn’t want to spook her. Hunter tried to glance at her without her knowing, and briefly their eyes met, she looked down and he quickly looked ahead. He recognized in her eyes, recent pain, but distant joy. He wanted to know more, but he knew better than to question Trish’s clients.

Trish was sensitive, yet hard-nosed, and the community knew her and trusted she would take care of them, as she too had been a victim. Now she dedicated her life to fight endlessly on behalf of victims and their rights.

The radio DJ must have a broken heart Leah thought. It was one sad song after the other but she didn’t mind as old Luther and Teddy fit her mood, despite what she looked like on the outside. She was sad and she’d finally admitted it to Trish. 

“Don’t take life for granted,” she told him without looking his way. “And always tell your loved ones how you feel, no matter what.”

“I will remember that uh …” leaving the sentence hanging, hoping she would say her name. Hunter had no idea why, he was intrigued by this woman. 

“Leah,” she responded. “My name is Leah and I am leaving my abusive husband of 27 years.”

She pulled up the sleeves of her coat and showed Hunter the healing marks on her arms. 

These were the last of his abuse. It wasn’t until my grandbabies witnessed his terror that I realized this has gone on far too long. I began to look at the relationship and finally admitted I never had a healthy one. It may be too late but I want to know what a healthy relationship feels like.”

Hunter ground his teeth to stop the string of expletives from bursting forth. It didn’t matter how many times he saw them, he never got used to the sight. His grip tightened on the steering wheel and he kept his eyes on the road. 

“You are safe now. It’s over.”

“I wish that were true,” she said in a whisper. “I wish that were true but it has only begun. I have no idea who I am and what I am going to do now.”

“You are not lost. You’re a grandmother to those babies. That’s who you are. Build on that.”

Hunter smiled and she nodded in agreement.

“I’ve been taking care of everyone else, all of my life and I have to learn how to take care of me. I’m afraid, but I also know I have no choice, so I choose, a free life. Abuse free, will be new for me, but I am willing to give it a try. What can I lose?”

He pulled up to the house which would be Leah’s haven and shifted the gear in Park. 

“Well I guess this is your stop, Leah.”

Trish ran out with an umbrella and gave Hunter the eye, while welcoming Leah with a smile. “Where have you been?”

“I rode around, just to make sure no one was following us,” Hunter replied, with an eye on Leah. “You know Trish; in these times we are living I wouldn’t want to subject your clients to more than they have already been through.”

Trish extended her hand to help Leah from the truck. She blew a warm thank you kiss to Hunter, and he reached up to grab it. As Hunter pulled off, Trish put her arms around Leah’s fragile shoulders, as she guided her into the doorway of a new experience. 

“My, my Trish, you’ve saved my life. Thank you for your kind service, I am ready to start a new one,” said Leah.

“Oh Leah,” said Trish, “It’s the least I can do. You are going to be safe now!”

By the way, that gentleman – ahhhh, Hunter, he sure is a good one.”

“Oh Hunter,” Trish responded. “He’s just a friend – you know,” smiling insecurely.

Leah hadn’t needed much coaxing to drink a warm cup of chamomile tea and then shown her room. Trish could finally breathe a sigh of relief. It had taken her two years to get Leah to see that she had options and life could be better than the abuse she was receiving from the hands and feet of the man who pledged to love her. 

“Hi,” Leah looked up to see a young woman standing in the doorway. “I’m Wendy, Trish asked me to stop by to make sure you were comfortable.” 

Leah was glad for the interruption. Although the tea had helped to calm her nerves she was still a bit apprehensive about being in the shelter. She took in Wendy, who didn’t look over 18 but her eyes held the same aches she recognized in her own. 

“Hello Wendy. And yes I’m fine.”

“Great! Dinner will be served in a few,” Wendy replied. “You are welcome to come down around six. Or if you wish to have it in your room, I can have one of the girls bring it up for you.”

“Thank you. Come in and have a seat.”

Surprised by the invite, Wendy hesitated. “Well I-I really should go.” 

Leah smiled. “It’s okay.” She patted the vacant space on the bed. “I could really use the company.”

Wendy‘s dimpled smile exploded into a full grin and warmed Leah from the inside out.

“How long have you known Trish?” Leah asked as Wendy took a seat next to her. 

“I’ve known Trish about two years. We met in my high school counseling session. She saved my life and now I can’t seem to leave this place. At least once a week I think I’m ready to move. I pack my bags and head for the door, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten.” 

As Leah watched intently she thought that Wendy looked almost embarrassed by that revelation.

There was a warm silence between the two women, and then almost childish laughter. 

“We are in safe and loving place, and believe me when I tell you. You will not be the same when you leave here. You will be better,” Wendy said softly.

Unbeknownst to the two women, Trish was leaning on the doorframe, and quietly watched the familiar scene. She reflected on the day she met both women, and could not help, but think about the journey ahead for both. Her mind wondered even further back to the day she first came to this place, but that was another story.

The anger, the self-hatred, the fear, the panic attacks, and the sleepless nights. She remembered them well but she learned they were a part of the journey back to living. It was not to be feared and in fact welcomed as you would a newborn baby. It was the only way to be truly woman again. She would tell them that more than once during the months ahead.

Leah and Wendy looked up to see Trish smiling as she walked in, to take a seat by the heavily curtained window. They too smiled, and before Wendy excused herself, she hugged Leah and whispered in her ear; “I’m right next door, anytime day or night.” 

Leah looked longingly as Wendy disappeared from the room.  

“You are in a place that helps women to rebuild their lives. We take it one step, one moment, one emotion at a time. We have many safety precautions that will keep not only you, but our family and extended family protected. Once you have settled in, come down and I will get Bren to take you on a tour and go over our safety precautions.”




One response

2 04 2009
Treasure Hunter

I love beginnings, because there is bound to be a lesson in the process. In this process I continued to believe that if we worked together, just putting one step in front of the other and trusting the outcome, we could do anything, and I mean anything. This however, has been one of the best and most memorable beginnings for me, because I met some of the most amazing ordinary people, who thru their willingness to do something outside of themselves, came up with an extrodinary story.

We now have our own documented proof that men, and women (lots of women) who were absolute strangers at the beginning could and did put out the goods, and became fast and lasting friends. Wow.

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