I had only known “Melissa” for a short time, but my heart went out to her. She was dropped off at my home almost a week ago, by a woman whose name I didn’t know. The less we knew about each other, the safer it was. Before she left, the woman handed me a piece of paper and I shoved it into my pocket. Without unfolding it, I knew it contained a date, time and phone number. I hadn’t been a part of this underground operation long, but I understood how things worked. This was standard operating procedure.
I led Melissa into my home, down the hall and into the spare bedroom. She had one bag that contained her entire life, or what was left of it. Once she put her bag on the bed, she followed me through the house as I pointed out the bathroom and kitchen. I gave her the rules, the ones that were meant to keep her hidden, and asked if she had any questions.
“No questions,” she said quietly. “I believe I understand everything. Thank you…” Her words trailed off and it seemed she wasn’t sure if she should continue.
“No need to thank me,” I said as I put water on for tea. I was sure after all she’d been through, she would need something to help her sleep. It was after midnight and she looked exhausted.
She watched me silently, while I poured two cups. As she sipped her tea, I studied her. She was young, late-twenties maybe. Her face and neck were covered with bruises in various stages of healing. My heart ached for her.
We spent the next few minutes in silence as we drank. I wasn’t one to push for information and the less I knew about these women, the better. But Melissa looked as if she needed to say something. If not to me, then maybe to herself.
Once she opened her mouth, the words started tumbling out. She told me about the first time her husband hit her and how he said it was her fault. She told me that she believed him when he said she deserved it. She believed him when he said he was sorry. I sat quietly as she recounted the many times she made excuses for him and the many times she made excuses as to why she couldn’t leave. The last thing she told me was why she HAD to leave. She began to yawn and rub her eyes and I suggested she get some sleep.
Here I was, six days later, making the phone call that would move Melissa to another safe house. Tomorrow, I will drive her to another location. A location that moves her further away from the man that is hunting her. I will leave her with another underground angel, who will hide her and keep her safe until it’s time for her to move on.
I have spent the past six days getting to know “Melissa.” I have realized she is smart and brave and once she knew it was okay to laugh, I realized how infectious her laughter could be. And after tomorrow, I will never see her again. It’s not safe, you see. I’m not supposed to know where she ends up or what happens after she leaves my home. My job was to keep Melissa safe while she was with me. I did my job and I did it well.
There have been many women in my home since Melissa. I often wonder where they are and how they’re doing. I like to imagine them safe, happy. But I don’t have to wonder about Melissa. I don’t know her current name, I don’t know where she is. But I know she and her child are safe. They are safe and happy.