Friday, October 19, 2012

The night seemed furious.  There was rain joined with winds sweeping in a sideways pattern that seemed determined to force Bethany and Juniper from their path toward its southeastern destination.  Still Bethany and Juniper hugged closer together under their oversized golf umbrella that despite its sturdiness was about to lose its battle trying to fulfill the purpose for which it was created.  They were catching water from both directions, the sideways rain overhead and that water that was bouncing from the concrete.  Once within arms reach of the door the oversized umbrella finally gave way to the wind and flipped.  Bethany and Juniper squealed like high school teenagers at the cold of the water saturating their clothing.  Bethany slipped inside the doorway while Juniper tried to salvage what remained of the umbrella.  Alas, the wind had its way and carried the umbrella over the flow of traffic in the streets and off into some unknown location in the dark of night.  Juniper sidestepped inside and slammed the door shut.

“Do you think he knows what you’re doin’?  Has he called the thunder gods to conjure up a diversion?”  Juniper removed her rain bonnet and trench.  Bethany did the same.

“You think?”  She playfully responded.  

Juniper had pulled one over on Bethany this time.  They’d had a nice early dinner.  Friendly conversation likened to those that they’d had long before he came along and Juniper got hip to what was happening.  But once she got her in the car, she sprang it on her.  She says to her that she wants her to go to this support group for battered women.  Just sit in.  You don’t have to say a word.  Had Bethany not had such a pleasant evening – and had he not coincidentally been away at an art showing out of town, this time insisting that she stay behind – there was no way that she’d have agreed to tonight.  But as fate would have it, the timing was perfect.  Juniper had convinced her that it was more a favor to her as a friend than for her own sake.  Something to ease her anxieties.

“Ladies, welcome.  We’re about to begin.”  The hostess disappeared into a room on the left.  The support group was about to commence.  Beth froze.

“This really is a good idea, right Nip?”

“You don’t have to say a word.  Just listen.”  Juniper grabbed her by the hands.  “I’ll be right beside you.” She gave her a warm smile and they took a couple of steps toward the room before Beth froze in place yet again.

“Wait.  This isn’t really necessary. What if somebody recognizes me?  What if someone I work with is in there?”  Bethany was panicky.

“Beth, what if he never stops?  There really is no reason not to.  Just this once.”  Juniper rubs her arms and grabs her by the hand again, this time successfully leading her into the room.

There are woman and men gathered there. Many of them with the same look of shame, hurt and exhaustion that Juniper has witnessed with Bethany countless times before.  They quickly slip to a couple of vacant chairs in the back.

“I want to thank everyone for coming tonight.  The weather has made this among the most challenging of nights, but we still have a pretty decent turnout.  As you can tell, this room is too small for our regular circle, but we can still continue to remain open and uninhibited in our discussion.”  The hostess hoisted herself atop a table.   “Who would like to begin?” 

A woman bolts up from her seat and takes a breath.  She seems overly anxious to speak up, given the circumstances.  “I’m glad that I finally found the courage to leave my abuser.  I thought I was going to feel alone and abandoned.  But…somehow, I don’t.  I feel as though I’m doing what’s best for me.  Like I have a renewed interest in myself.”  The lady fumbles with her fingers as she pushes the words out.    “There were so many nights like this that I’d be on edge waiting for the storm to pass.  Not the one outside, but the one that would be brewing behind the walls of that house.  He would be drinking.  And I knew it.  I knew that if he drank it would be at my expense.  The scars.  The broken fingers.  The busted lips and black eyes.”  She shakes her head as she recants some horrific moments of abuse.  “No more.  No.  No more hiding behind dark sunglasses and unseasonable attire covering up bruises.  No more having to hear begging and ‘I promise I’ll stop.  I’ll get some help.  I won’t do it again.’  No more.  This time I’m going to focus on loving myself.”

Juniper’s watery eyes glance at Beth.  A single tear trails from Beth’s eye.  She reaches and grabs hold of her hand as the first volunteer continues to speak.

“I’ve lost a friend or two and family that I’ve become disconnected from.  My abuser wouldn’t allow communication with anyone.  But I’m going to get my life back.” The woman smiles and nods as if her declaration has finally been approved by some higher power.  She takes her seat.  Fellow participants give her gesture of support and encouragement.

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