“My name is Beth. I listen to your stories and can relate to you all. Not because my story is the same, but because I can understand the suffering, the will to get away, and the drive to make it happen. I feel like a coward for running away and hiding, for not standing up to him. I have learned to be silent, to take the pain. I finally got the courage to leave in hopes of saving my son, Zack. He’s just a baby, yet I already see him acting like my husband. ‘Like father, like son.’ I love my son too much to let that happen. I want him to grow up knowing that violence is not acceptable, that it’s not how life is supposed to be. I want him to grow up feeling safe and strong in a healthy way, not in a dominant way. So, I ran away from a monster who convinces himself that he’s strong by bullying people who are weaker. I’m scared to death of the journey I have ahead of me and what that monster will try to do. But I have hope. I don’t know what the world would be like without hope.”
“What’s hope? I don’t know what hope feels like.” Stacey spoke very silently.
Sheila answered her, “Hope is what makes you have the will to try even though you know it’s useless.”
Marcia cut in strong and full of energy. “Will you listen to your selves? You sound like a bunch of prisoners waiting for death row, not the strong powerful women who you are! Each one of you did what many women never find the courage to do. You all stood up for yourself and left! Give yourselves some credit will you? You each have a brand new life waiting for you. You have the power to create it however you want! If that’s not the definition of hope, I don’t know what is! You’re all an inspiration to women everywhere! To people everywhere! Never, ever say that you don’t have hope.”
Beth felt a warm tingling pass through her body. Although Marcia was talking to everyone, Beth felt as though she were speaking just to her. But then again, they were all the same, so what was true for one was true for all.
It felt good for Beth to climb into the tiny bed in the cozy corner room with Zack sleeping soundly in the bed next to her. Being so far away from Jeff, it was the first time Beth felt safe and she wondered if Zack felt the same way, which was why he was in such a deep sleep. She pulled the worn blankets up over her head and knew she could fall asleep without worrying about being woken up by Jeff and his demands or violence. Jeff. Even the thought of him made her tense up. She wondered what he was doing and how he was reacting to her being gone. The thought terrified her. She reminded herself of the long drive to get here and knew that Jeff would not be able to find her. She thought about the women in the support group tonight and wondered which direction her story would lead. She prayed to God to keep her and Zack safe and to not let Jeff ever hurt them again. Even if he could not hurt her, what about Zack? Would Zack get returned to Jeff like Sheila’s children did? If that happened, would she go back to Jeff so that she could keep Zack safe like Monique did? Would she be able to keep Zack safe, or would he end up hating her for giving in? There were so many thoughts racing through her head that Beth thought she would never fall asleep, but she did. She fell asleep and did not wake up until Zack jumped on her bed the next morning wanting to go downstairs because he smelled bacon. Beth smelled coffee. She could not remember waking up to the smell of coffee since she was a child at her grandparent’s house. Usually she was the one who made the coffee.
Beth and Zack went downstairs following the aromas of coffee, bacon and more. They gave her comfort since they reminded her of her grandmother’s kitchen, but the sounds scared her. She and Zack were used to being quiet so they would not piss Jeff off. Here, there was lots of noise. There were pans clanging, people laughing and arguing, and music playing. No one was even attempting to be quiet. It made Beth so uneasy, she was expecting Jeff to pop out of nowhere and yell for everyone to shut up. She almost started crying out of fear, but then Zack grabbed her hand and began pulling her towards the kitchen, “Come on Mommy, let’s play with everyone.” Beth smiled and held back the tears of happiness that almost escaped.
“Thank you Zack,” she whispered.
They entered the kitchen together. Beth sharing Zack’s childlike enthusiasm about this new environment where people were happy, and laughing, and loud. It triggered an almost forgotten memory about being a child herself, but this was a new experience for Zack. His short existence on this earth had been filled with fear. Had he ever even seen a happy laugh? He had seen Jeff ’s devious laugh when he hurt Beth, and saw people laugh on TV. But what about a happy, carefree, real laugh? Had Zack ever witnessed that? Had he ever experienced it? Beth suddenly felt her heart swell up in her chest and knew she was doing the right thing. No matter what happened, no matter how hard it was and how dirty Jeff got, she would have the strength and courage to continue. Nothing in her life would ever be as bad as living with Jeff, so there was nothing she would not conquer to get herself and Zack as far away as possible.
Beth suddenly realized that she was standing in the middle of the kitchen crying and everyone was staring at her. Zack was the only one who did not notice. Was it because he was too excited with all of the food and people, or just because he was used to seeing her cry? There was Latin music playing on the radio, and it gave her a longing to dance. She grabbed Rosie’s hands and began swinging around the spacious kitchen. For no other reason than that she could. She could do whatever she wanted and no one was going to stop her! Sheila and Stacey joined in and the four children started to jump up and down, clapping their hands in excitement. Zack had a huge grin on his face. Beth could not remember the last time she felt so happy. They were going to like it here.