I went to the bathroom as Tracy disappeared back to Lucy. I needed to be quick so a shower was an obvious choice, but I was anxious just thinking about it. I kept repeating to myself 'I know I am safe, I know I am safe.' As I approached the shower door, my heart was pounding. I was hyper-aware of all the sounds around me. I reached for the handle and heard a door shut, and I jumped. I may have squealed, I'm not sure. Someone started knocking on the bathroom door. My mind was in such a strange place that my first thought was that it was Nathan.
“Are you alright in there?” Tracy asked.
I let out a breath I didn't know I was holding. “Yeah.” I don't think I was very convincing though.
“Can I come in?”
I unlocked the door and let her in.
She took one look at me and went straight to an embracing hug. “I've got you.”
When the hug started, I think I was rigid with stress and as it continued I was able to relax.
“It's alright, darling, its alright. What happened?” she asked me again.
“Showers, er..., make me er... scare me.”
“Oh, err..., Oh, I see. That's OK. Why don't you run a quick bath. We've got time.”
“You sh...sure? I can use a flannel.”
She rubbed my back and gave my forehead a quick kiss and let me go. “I'm sure.” Then she started getting the bath going. I think I already love this woman.
I was as quick as I could be, got into some fresh underwear but had to put my dress back on. Tracy helped me with my wig, but I tried first on my own and did alright, I think. We decided against make up. I wasn't used to putting it on or removing it, which would be unusual for a girl my age. It was best avoided altogether. Then we were off. The bath had helped to settle me but going to this home was beginning to worry me.
We had lunch in a cafe. I had a chicken caesar salad. I couldn't cope with anything heavier on my stomach. Tracy had a panini with melted brie and roasted peppers and other vegetables. I'll admit, looking at hers, I was a little jealous. I guess she noticed as she cut a section off and passed it to me without saying a word. It was delicious. If we came back, I'm definitely having that. We both had the juice of the day which was carrot, apple and ginger. Surprisingly tasty and almost a meal in itself.
We arrived at house No 23 and knocked politely. We had to look into a camera before we were buzzed open.
“Tight security.” I said.
“This home is also used for women escaping from abusive husbands. Bear that in mind and don't tell anyone this address, unless you have to. If you see anyone lurking or looking suspicious, report it immediately. Women have been killed, just because they didn't want to be tortured or their children hurt. It is also set up as a bit of a maze.”
We waited in the hallway and after a couple of minutes Martha arrived.
“Wonderful, Tracy managed to convince you to join us.” She approached with a huge smile and held a hand out for me to shake.
I smiled nervously back and gave her hand a quick shake.
“Let me show you around. I would introduce you to the other girls, but they are at work or school at the moment.” She drew me away from Tracy and started showing me where everything was. The house was 3 houses in one. Only the one entrance and the women in danger would live in the furthest house. Anyone coming to trouble them would have to go through 2 houses to get to them, which would, hopefully give them enough time to go to the panic room and lock themselves in. There I was introduced to 2 families, both Indian women with girl children. One of them still had bruises and a black eye. If that was what we could see, I hated to imagine what was hidden. They were on lockdown, unable to leave the house. When they first arrive they are in the most danger. Those husbands could act really crazy.
The other 2 houses were for young girls who found themselves without shelter. There was another shelter they were associated with which was for young boys or men, but it wasn't close. Those willing to stay had to abide by the rules and their were no second chances. No boys, they wouldn't even be let in the front door. No stealing, from each other or shops. No alcohol or drugs of any kind. This place was an opportunity to get back on your feet. Food and shelter with help in finding jobs or finishing education. She tried to quiz me and I tried to give vague and non-specific answers. Her smile didn't dim and I could feel genuine warmth behind it. “We will give you a little while to settle in, but if you really want to get sorted, we will need to know how to help you. I don't expect you to trust me having just met me, but I don't have an agenda, I just want to help, honest.”
I left my stuff in my bedroom and relaxed in the lounge. There was a laptop at a desk and shelves above with a very varied selection of books. The television was hung on the wall with the remote on a little shelf underneath it. The laptop had a hard wired internet connection and a security wire that meant you couldn't move it more than a few inches. I looked up some song lyrics thinking I should, perhaps, learn another song. I looked up Songbird hoping it would give ideas of the songs like it. To my surprise I found it was also a Fleetwood Mac song. I went through some of their other songs and listened to them on youtube. Oh Daddy hit a nerve, so I started memorising it. I wasn't sure I could sing that one without breaking down. I wanted to find another one that represented the growing love I was feeling towards Tracy. It would have to wait though as Tracy collected me and we went to a small office.
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