In His Hands (Chapter 12)

30 03 2009

 

There was mischief afoot, Trish thought, as she made her way into the kitchen of Hope House. Silence dropped like a weight when the women noticed her arrival. As much as they were sorry to see her tenure coming to an end, the giggles and shushes, said they were all up to something. Trish pretended not to notice their antics, grabbing a cup of tea and a muffin from the platter Leah made, every morning. 

It wasn’t easy, since she felt that same mischief brewing in Hunter. Hmmm. Who could she interrogate about the conspiracy underway? Trish tried to no avail to get the women of Hope to come clean. Leah had taken to her room for most of the day and Trish didn’t want to interrupt her for something trivial.

The next day was Leah’s court case and she would need all the mental ammunition possible to stand up to her husband.

“Lord, we need you now,” Trish silently prayed.

……..

The duality in us all was getting more and more difficult to suppress in Leah. She literally felt like she had an angel on one shoulder and a little darn devil on the other. And the darn devil was penetrating her thoughts much deeper than the angel. Leah was mad! How dare her husband challenge her freedom… after all he’d done?

If it were possible for steam to erupt from her head and out of her ears … Leah would have been “Old Faithful”! Not only was she mad, but also she just wanted her husband to feel the same kind of pain he caused her on so many occasions. She knew she was being irrational…. She even reasoned that God knew her heart… she didn’t know her heart — and that was her problem.

Leah turned to her journal and began to write her thoughts as inspired by biblical verses — Ephesians 4: 27-27 and Proverbs 3: 5-6: “Don’t sin by letting anger gain control over you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a might foothold to the Devil.” And then: “I will trust in you, Lord, with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding. In all my way I will acknowledge you, and you will make my paths straight.”

In her very next thought, Leah wondered to herself – disregarding the very scriptures that, only moments before, had inspired her hand – how would she get through the court proceedings? Leah just could not be still… live, trust, and have faith in Him. She could not be still. She could not be still even as she, ironically, rocked herself into a daydream…

Leah suffered from a more insidious form of domestic violence: emotional, psychological and economic manipulation… with sporadic violence.

At 19 and two years removed from high school, Leah put her dreams of working in the tourism industry on hold to start a family. Her husband had fathered another child during the course of their relationship – and, somehow, Leah was made to feel as if her husbands’ infidelities were her own fault. Leah felt like she had been a good wife and a great mother…

“I love you but—if you cheat on me… I love you but – if you disobey me… I love you but – sometimes you make me so angry… I love you but … But. But. But…”

Leah hated the word but – she felt that it canceled whatever words preceded it. Why can’t love, trust, and respect just be… unconditional? I love you (period). I trust you (period). To Leah, the word “but” … was a weapon or maybe a threat… or maybe it was a threat to use a weapon — the weapon(s) being — or taking shape in, words, fists, emotions, control, sex…

Leah admired the strength in Trish and wanted to believe that her leaving would force Leah into consistent responsibility and acceptance. Maybe, if Leah had a responsibility to someone other than herself she would be inclined to put forth a sincere effort to recover. Sure she’d left the House of Abuse and her husband but, so far, it was only figurative. On any given day Leah felt a range of emotion – relief, anger, hope, desperation, happiness, sadness, loneliness, guilt… but never healing nor courage. She was still very much afraid of what awaited her.

“Is healing a feeling?” Her inside voice spoke aloud.

Leah thought of Trish and Bren – she was happy for them but she reserved a measure of happiness to leave room for the contempt she felt. Hunter and Grey, no matter how great they seemed, were still men. She hoped they would be different but didn’t waste her time being hopeful. She would remain a good friend to the women for in their time of need – whatever need it may be – she wanted to be there to hold their hands and be to them what they had been to her.

She wanted to believe that not all men were doggish but she had nothing on which to base such a foreign idea. Leah led a “good” life – she tried hard, yet, all the good she did was met with hardship. Her experiences had etched a certain feeling into her brain and heart – and she realized the importance of making her own way – she never wanted to be dependent on a man again. Ever. Again. Though she didn’t have a cold, Leah reached for the Nyquil and drank straight from the bottle. She just wanted to go to sleep for a while. Even away from the House of Abuse — the cycle continued…

……..

“Boy, please quit your whining!” Bren declared – “There is purpose behind our restraint!”

Grey didn’t care what Bren said – he whined on, “You mean we can’t do nothing?”

Bren confirmed, “Nothing, nada, null, nil, naught, zip, zero. Nothing doing. Goose egg. How’s that for clarity?”

Bren cracked Grey up and her flip mouth slid in, “God wouldn’t look kindly on your lustful heart.”

Grey stiffened a bit, “There is nothing lustful about my heart – this is love my dear. Unfettered, unadulterated, unconditional love.”

Grey had been giving her a hard time about their shared desires but he actually thought, working themselves out of “dangerous liaisons” would actually be “fun” and oddly enough — fulfilling and much more intimate than the act itself… until they were married. He had not fooled himself into thinking this would be a piece of cake but what didn’t worry him was the temptation of another. He only wanted Bren. And the temptation was Bren.

Begin banter: “Truth be told – God would be right proud of me for what you’re going to get,” Grey said with pseudo-arrogance. He didn’t care how long he had to wait – it would be worth it. Bren didn’t know what to say so she offered a “whatever!”

After eating a meal they both prepared, Bren began removing dishes from the table, and Grey reached up, grabbed both her breasts, and squeezed twice. “Wonk, Wonk.”

Flustered Bren dropped a cup to slap his hand, “What are you doing?”

Grey, trying to stifle a laugh feigned innocence, “What, I have never touched them, I just wanted to make sure they were the real thing! For all I know they could be well formed socks or something! Trust but verify, baby!”

Again, she was just done! For the rest of the day this would be their joke. As they spoke through out the day, replacing their usual greeting of “Hey dear,” he’d greet her with: “wonk, wonk.”

……..

Leah was ready for her day in court. Just that morning, the women had invaded her room to help her dress and promptly declared the suits that she had in her closet, unacceptable. She sputtered and challenged them, knowing each of those outfits cost more than eight hundred bucks apiece. It didn’t matter they said, Leah was not going into court to challenge a man wearing a suit he had paid for with disrespect. When she raised her hands in surrender, Wendy came forward with a gaily-wrapped box.

“I hope you like it and it brings you much success today and always,” Wendy said shyly.

Leah was shocked. Everyone hurried her to open the box, which contained a real power suit. The bold cut and royal blue said Leah was taking no prisoners and she had no idea how Wendy had known her size but it fit like a glove. Leah was wiping tears as the girls praised Wendy for creating the outfit and by time everyone left, she had more orders for clothing. Wendy’s gift had suddenly become a business.

Leah took a quick glance back to check if Trish was there and she was. Her face lit up as she noticed Hunter had joined her too.

“What would it feel like to have a man be that supportive?” Leah wondered. “What could a couple do if they had no other desire but to see the other be the best they could be?”

She had no answers and she couldn’t even figure out why her thoughts were in that direction. Leah was about to face her abuser and the last thing she wanted was to be part of a couple, besides she was too old to go down that road again.

A silence fell over the courtroom as the door swung open and all eyes turned to see who had arrived. Leah didn’t have to look to see who was there. He had arrived and the hairs standing on the back of her neck and the shaking knees, although she was seated confirmed it.

“Lord, I am afraid of this man. I know I should fear no one but you but I am so afraid. Please, please be my Lord today and take care of me. I don’t know what it feels like to have a man love me the way Hunter loves Trish, or even one that just looks at me with a sense of care that makes me want to move a mountain. But I know you promised to be with me. I say be Lord of my life now. I need you. I love you…Be mine forever Jesus. Take over this case,” Leah’s silent prayer winged heavenwards and when the man she had pledged forever to, called her name, she looked him square in the eyes and smiled.

Richard was dressed to the nines and he looked the part of the successful businessman he was. He had an entire team of attorneys at his disposal and today he was using a female one. Who better to challenge the notion that he could be an abuser than a beautiful and brilliant attorney?

Leah didn’t try to speak; she didn’t trust what would come out her mouth even after that heartfelt prayer. She turned and whispered to her attorney, cutting off a comment from Richard, and causing his grin to disappear. No one turned his or her back on him and this was the second time his wife had done that. She would pay and she would pay today.

……..

Daniel had been arrested as a result of the charges she filed. The prosecutor was holding him on several charges, including attempted murder. Someone had been looking out for Monica because his car had been searched and an unlicensed firearm had been found. It added to the already heavy charges and the judge felt there was enough to lock him up.

Monica’s body ached and she was not going to pretend otherwise. The moment the kids went off to school she climbed back into bed. Later she would worry about cooking, the laundry and cleaning the house that she’d come home and found in disarray.

Home? Was this still home?  Home? This was a house…a home was where you felt safe, loved, at peace and could grow. She had stagnated in this place. Her children had been forced up with all of the violence they had seen. She had not mothered them, she didn’t know how too. She could use a mother today. Someone to come in, take over the load of the house, and still find time to hear her cries.

And so Monica cried to the only One who could be a mother. She cried the tears she had never shed for every beating she had ever received. She cried some more just because it felt good to finally be able to do it and not have to pretend to be tough. She cried for the joy she was feeling every moment that she thought of her amazing Lord. She was in love and she was feeling His love come back to her a thousand fold. How far away had she been that she never knew that God could love her like this?

“You are here now,” was the answer deep in her spirit. “You are here now and I have loved you always.”

 Monica slept.

……..

The sounds of her son and daughter stirred Monica from sleep.

“Oh my God, I’ve slept the whole day,” she said jumping from the bed.

The sudden movement jarred her injured ribs and she crumbled back unto the bed to catch her breath. When she finally emerged from the bedroom, she could smell curried chicken and ripe plantains on the fire. The kids were at the breakfast table doing homework and her neighbor Jacintha was manning the stove.

“Oh dere you are. Me tink you was goin’ sleep ’til tomorrow marning man,” she declared in her Caribbean accent.

Monica realized she didn’t even know where Jacintha was from and they had been neighbors for more than three years. The kids beamed at her and told her Jacintha had been waiting for them after school and they helped her to clean the house and prepare dinner. Monica tried to speak but all that came forth were more tears. Jacintha didn’t seem to mind and ushered her off to the living room couch with the remote and a glass of fruit punch.

“Thank you honey,” was all Monica could manage under her breath.  She swore she heard the Lord say, “You’re welcome.”

……..

Leah felt God’s protection envelope her with strength, courage, dignity and confidence. She had been the shrinking violet for too long and now, today… sure, she guessed, someone would pay. She was sure of that. But it wouldn’t be her nor by her hand. All she would do is trust God to sustain her. She felt this, all the morning as if His hand was guiding her.

She had meticulously gathered pictures of bruising inflicted upon her by her husband as well as her daily writings entailing the intimidation, mental and emotional abuse she was suffering. Richard was taken aback by her ability to be so detailed, calm and concise – she’d even scanned the documents so that the date, time, and originality could not be questioned!

Leah knew him well and he was livid. She wanted to laugh and mock his expectation of the lack of confidence she would display … he was the one feeling a little less confident. She could tell by the way he was biting into his lower lip – he did that when he was about to go on the attack…Leah continued her testimony, as Richard grew more agitated, physically and verbally.

Richard slapped the table with an open palm declaring Leah was a liar and wanted to destroy his name and the self-made affluence he worked hard to attain and enjoyed. The judge ordered Richard’s attorney to “control your client” which infuriated him even more. No female could control him and then Richard shouted to Leah, “You will most definitely pay. I will destroy you even more than I already have. You are mine and your life is my life…” he caught himself but his meltdown was a matter of record as the court reporter never stopped peck-peck pecking her stenotype machine.

The case being relatively high profile the stenotype machine was linked to computers for real-time captioning for local media use. Richard’s handler, clearly flustered, asked the Court for a recess of 30 minutes to access her client. The judge allowed 15 minutes and warned that anything over would be interpreted as contempt. Leah had a few moments to gather herself and take in what had just happened…

After less than 15 minutes court was back in session and Richard asked to withdraw his petition to challenge the divorce. The judge accepted and, in addition, ordered the immediate sale of the home to which all proceeds would go to Leah, all assets would be divided equally, Leah would receive monthly maintenance for no less than two years with ongoing medical, dental, and prescription coverage; further Richard would also forfeit a portion of his retirement, pay all court and attorney fees for the plaintiff and, finally, the judge restored Leah’s maiden name. And with that, the judge ordered the court adjourned.

Leah was numb—because she had an active restraining order in place she didn’t have the option to sit and think, as the bailiff hustled out her and her lawyer. Leah could have, so easily gloated but it wasn’t in her. In fact, she had no part in this. She surrendered to Him and He held and comforted her in her time of need. He commanded that she lay down her burdens, suit up in the armor of His love, and have faith. And she did. For once – she did. Completely. She felt “Just Fine”, as Bren would say!

Hope House would be her home for some time to come…Leah knew His purpose today was to provide her with the confidence to help Trish. Leah needed to be ready and able to take on the role that she would need to be to the residents of Hope House. She had no financial worries now so her focus was on recovery – healing, believing, loving laughing and living. She was going to live… in His Word – she was no longer going to exist, she was going to live!

……..

Monica stared at the phone in her hands. She was torn with her decision to leave it off the hook. What if DJ got in trouble at school today?

“You have got to watch over Him Lord, You said you were His Father. Keep him out of trouble. I can’t answer another phone call. Please.”

The phone had been ringing non-stop since she got up that morning. Her husband’s family was calling to beg her to drop the charges. Somehow Daniel had gotten to their former pastor and convinced him she was loony and so he was using scripture to tell her that she needed to work on her marriage. Marriage what marriage, she asked him. Between the affairs, the verbal and physical abuse and the fact that he had left her for dead, what exactly was he hoping would be restored.

Monica had no doubt that God could do miracles but she knew now that her husband had to do the work. He had to admit he had a problem and then take the time to be healed. It wasn’t going to be a 12-step program that fixed this situation. It could only happen with the power of the Living God. She had always been a believer in happily ever after but for right now she just wanted to have all parts of her body working without pain and the dullness in her soul to completely disappear. She wanted her son to stop lashing out at others and she needed to see her daughter’s eyes without the fear that had lived their since she was nine months and seeing her father attempt to strangle her mother.

No, the phone would stay off the hook today.

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