Sunrise (Chapter 2)

30 03 2009

The next morning Trish couldn’t help but think about Hunter’s willingness to help her in anyway he could. She picked up the phone to call him but was surprised to hear his voice through the receiver.

“Hello, Trish is that you?  It’s me, Hunter. 

“Yes, it’s me. Good morning,” she nervously touched her hair to see if it hid the scar. 

You are playing with your hair again,” he said. “You are beautiful.”

It always amazed him that he found Trish so attractive, even with the jagged scar that framed the left side of her cheek. 

“Thank you,” Trish replied, halting the movement of her hand. “I wanted to tell you thanks for picking up my client. Your help is always priceless.” 

“You don’t have to keep saying that. I love helping you this way,” Hunter countered. “I hope she gets the help she needs. I can’t imagine having to start over at her age but if anyone can help her, I know you can.”

You amaze me every time, Hunter” said Trish.

The silence crackled as neither one knew what to say. Hunter wanted to blurt out that he had spent the night tossing and turning wishing that he could do more than pick up and drop off for Trish. But he didn’t. He was a patient man and it had taken him this long to get her to open up enough to share her vision for the woman’s shelter with him.

All of the planning had been more than worth it. To see the triumph in her eyes every time he delivered another one of her clients safely. She was able to escape with her life and now her life was spent helping women save themselves. But was there a time limit on healing and what damage would be done if he moved too quickly? He longed to hold Trish in his arms and tell her how much he loved her. How he would never let anyone ever hurt her again.

Footsteps in the hall jarred Trish from her thoughts. 

“I’ve got to run Hunter. Let me know how your job hunting goes.”

I will Trish. Thanks again for helping me with my resume. I didn’t realize I had so many marketable skills,” he replied with a smile in his voice.

Bren’s warm hospitality helped Leah feel even more at home. She had spent the morning giving her the tour of the shelter, which was actually a row of townhouses that had been renovated on the inside to be a haven for hurting women. Bren’s grace and beauty was the sunshine of the shelter and you could feel her warmth before she even walked into the room.

Trish was going to miss her. Bren had completed her two-year journey to healing and today was her last day here. She would make it very special for her and the surprises were just about to begin. As Trish was preparing for Bren’s party the thought of inviting Hunter came across her mind. She hesitated because one of the house rules was to not invite any male friends to the house. 

“Trish. I, Uh, I, don’t know what to say. You’ve all been so good to me,” Bren could no longer hold her tears.

Decorating the kitchen had cost Trish two hours sleep but it was worth it. Bren had come a long way and she wished her well. The two women embraced and no more words were needed. They had survived violent circumstances and it had forged a friendship that would transcend these walls but Bren had to leave now. She needed to see that there was life beyond Hope House.

Over all the chattering, laughs and music…Trish could hear Hunter coming up the driveway. 

“Are you expecting someone?” Bren asked. 

“No,” Trish said, although the butterflies in her stomach signaled it was Hunter. This was bad. Trish could recognize the sound of his truck’s tires in the driveway in the same way she could recognize his voice in the middle of a crowd.

“Actually it’s Hunter. I figured you were worth breaking the rules for today.”

“Ohh, goody,” Bren replied with glee. “I get to squeeze your sweetheart’s you know what one last time.”

 All eyes were fixed on Hunters. There was not a woman in the room who did not know how things were between him and Trish. There was not one who did not feel that Hunters’ faithfulness was without doubt.

“Hey ladies, the male stripper just walked in,” shouted Sabrina. 

“This is not that type of party,” warned Trish.

“Who says,” countered Bren.

The women shrieked and Hunter blushed. He swept a bouquet from behind his back and handed them to Bren. 

“Oh my, thank you Hunter. They are beautiful,” Bren said burying her face in the petals of the pink roses.

The big room echoed with the pleasant sound of girlish voices and low laughter. Leah sat by herself near one of the windows. Trish was talking to Hunter and watching Leah out of the corner of her eye. It was almost as though Leah was in another world. Her eyes seemed to be focused, but on what, no one knew.

Like a movie projector in her head Leah was replaying all the happiest times in her life. Before the drinking, before the verbal slaps became physical and left deep bruises, before, she had needed to escape. A time when all she knew was love and joy. Was that really so long ago?

After all of the guests were gone, the residents sat around with hot tea and punch telling stories about how they first met Bren. In between the laughter, were tears of joy and pain for all of them. A few even wondered aloud, when they would feel safe enough to leave. Sleep did not come easily for the residents of ‘Hope House’, on Bren’s last night. Leah could hear several of the ladies making their last well wishes in between their choked-up, whispered tears. 

“I will miss this young woman that the sun rays seem to follow,” Leah thought to herself.

Leah heard a quiet knock, and tried to pretend she was asleep. She had had an emotional few days, and needed the rest. Leah opened her eyes, and gently lifted and tilted her head in the direction of the door. Bren closed the door as quietly as she could and approached Leah’s bed. It didn’t matter that this woman could be her grandmother; she knew that she needed to have this conversation before she left. 

“Leah, I know you aren’t asleep yet. I need to talk to you,” she whispered just in case she was. 

“I’m up,” Leah replied sitting up in the bed.

“It always seems to happen this way. As one person makes his or her transition out, someone else comes in. You will be safe here and Trish will help you get through this,” Bren consoled.

“I’m not looking forward to tomorrow. I need to make a decision if I am going to file criminal charges against him,” Leah replied. “Everyone says I should but my heart says to leave it alone. What do you think?” 

“First thing Trish will tell you and I found out it was true, is don’t get your hands dirty,” was Bren’s response which made Leah look up. “You are going to get angry and you may think revenge is the way to go but you only hurt yourself. File a police report so it is on record but what ever decisions you make and what you say, don’t let anger be the force that drives you.” 

As Leah looked into Bren’s eyes she wondered how someone so much younger than her could be so wise. How could she know that revenge was the dish she wanted to serve her tormenter? Someone should pay for the pain she felt. The pain she had endured for over 20 years. The pain that left her unable to sleep at night for fear that her dreams would consume her and leave her devoid of all feeling.

“I guess that would be a start” was all Leah would say, but Bren could see that there was so much more behind those dark eyes.

The blistering wind and rain that was present the day and night before, was now gone and the morning sun, had brought with it new possibilities, particularly for Bren. The occasion of someone leaving ‘Hope House’ was always filled with a mix of emotions. Would they be safe? Could they find happiness and trust again? 

“Hunter is here,” Trish yelled up the stairs. All of the residents began gathering at the doorway awaiting Bren’s final appearance and departure. 

“Okay, okay, no tears,” you could hear Bren say as she descended the stairs. She was absolutely radiant, in every way, and her exuberance was tangible. She was moving on with the next chapter of her life. “Behave yourselves, or I will have to come back,” she smiled, and then laughed out loud. “Not a fat chance of that happening, she said.

She hugged and whispered a personal message, in the ear of each of the awaiting women. Leah was the last person to be hugged, and Bren slipped a small piece of paper in her hands, and whispered “Call me, anytime.”

“Trish loves you, but she just doesn’t know quite how to go about being in love right now, just be patient,” Bren said to Hunter as he put down her bags on the platform. 

“I know she does and that’s why I love her.”

 The train whistle was getting louder as the train approached the station. Hunter planted a kiss on Bren’s cheek, and said, “We will all miss you.”

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