Tell A Tale in 500 Words

Amy's Story By B M McGregor

Sometimes the knock was loud, demanding. Sometimes it was persistent, pleading. This time it was quiet, timid. As always, Amy answered, first checking through the peephole in the solid oak door of her Victorian house. A forlorn-looking woman stood at the top of the steps, wearing the hunted look familiar to Amy. She led her in to a lounge where an open fire exuded a warmth that the central heating alone could not create. They drank tea carried in by another woman, who then left.

Conversation was casual and limited; Amy was patient, she would never press her. She knew their story was the same, differing only in the details. While watching her visibly unwind, Amy relived her own desperate flight, her last beating at Darren’s hands: repeatedly punched, knocked to the floor and kicked viciously.

Amy had crawled upstairs as she had often done, while he sat watching TV with a six-pack. But on this night, instead of creeping into bed like a wounded animal, to await the inevitable apologies, the foul kissing, the loveless sex she dared not refuse, she crammed what money she could find into her coat pocket and fled with Darren in hot pursuit.

Her heart was bursting from the effort of running; her whole body was wracked with pain. Unable to outrun him he was gaining on her. She rounded a bend and ducked into the front garden of a house to hide. He ran past to the junction then doubled back.

“Where are you? I know you’re here. Come out, come out wherever you are!” His voice both menacing and cajoling sent shivers down her spine. And she shrank into the shadows beneath the hedge. “Amy, come home right now or else...” he shouted. He was terrifyingly close. She felt he must be able to hear the blood pounding in her head, her rasping breath. She stopped breathing as he stalked; slowly his steps receded. She risked crossing the road when he had disappeared round the bend, and followed him to the main road crouching behind parked cars. He turned left and she went to the right. As she did the lights of the night bus came into view. She sprinted to the stop and boarded. Dazed and dazzled by the brightness inside, she rode towards her future.

Now twenty years later she listened to this woman’s story spilling out with her tears, like the countless women who had found shelter here before. The telling was cathartic: the first step in the healing process, though as Amy knew the scars, both mental and physical, would remain always. She could stay as long as she needed, safe among women who knew, who were also refugees. By opening her home to women like herself, by helping to restore their confidence and self-worth and change their lives for the better, Amy had created a purpose for herself and made her own life worthwhile.

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