Wednesday, July 6, 2016


Polly carefully placed the cardboard box on the small table. "So this is it. This is home for the next however long." She looked around the small boxy apartment. The front door opened into a small hallway with a kitchenette on the left and a living room on the right. At the end of the hall was a bedroom and a bathroom. One small, plain square. A tiny two-person table was in the kitchen for dining. The decor wasn't fancy, but at least the apartment was clean.

Miss Cora showed her around. "There are some basics in the cupboards and I left a casserole in the fridge. Just heat it in the oven for half an hour or so and you'll have dinner tonight." Polly followed the older woman down the hall. "There are towels and a change of sheets in the hall closet. There are a few toiletries in the bathroom, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and the like. I wasn't sure what you'd need. Anything you don't want just set aside and I'll save it for another woman." Entering the bedroom, Polly was taken aback by the cheerfulness of the room, although she noticed the lack of window. The bed was made up with a sunny yellow comforter and there was a big vase of flowers on the dresser. Miss Cora was still talking. "No windows in any of the bedrooms, I asked my Joe to cover them up years ago. Made the women feel safer, and they can sleep better at night. Nothing to make them feel like someone could be watching them." As she heard the words, Polly realized that is what she had been feeling the past few nights. She couldn't relax enough to get a good night's sleep because she was afraid someone could be at the window. Watching, waiting. Planning.

"I'll leave you to settle in now. Anything you need, just let me know. All the phones in the building are programmed. There are two speed dial buttons. The red one is 911. The green one calls the shelter line. Not the official one, the one just for residents. One of us will be happy to help you." Cora gave  Polly a smile and a reassuring pat on the shoulder and let herself out. Polly sat on the nondescript couch in the living room. She had a small television set, and end table with the phone, and a side chair. A few magazines graced the coffee table and a floral print hung on the wall. The curtains were opened a little and she noticed the glass had an odd look to it. Smiling, she remembered Miss Cora saying something about a privacy coating on the windows. She could see out, but no one outside could see inside. Even though she was two floors above the ground level, that helped her feel more secure.

It was nearly dinner time, so Polly put the casserole in the oven and found dishes in the cabinets. She filled a glass with water from the sink and set it on the table along with a prescription bottle from the hospital emergency room. It was almost time for another pain pill, also, and her antibiotic. She slowly unpacked the meager contents of her box. She hoped she had everything. It broke her heart to leave so many of her possessions, but that's all they were. Possessions. She could replace most everything eventually. She did manage to take her grandmother's rings. As she entered the bathroom to put away the few items she'd grabbed hastily off the counter at home, she was startled to see her reflection in the mirror. Her blond hair was in a stringy ponytail. Her face was makeup free and ashy, with a large purple bruise on one cheek and under her eye. She carried herself carefully, favoring the taped ribs. Luckily she no longer needed the sling for her arm.

Finally, the casserole was done. She removed it from the oven and served herself some on a plate. It smelled delicious and she was not surprised that Miss Cora could cook so well also. From the time she met the older woman in the ER Polly was in awe of her. She was thankful the social worker that was on duty happened to be one who worked with Miss Cora's underground network to help abused women escape their partners. One week ago, Polly would have laughed at the idea of her husband becoming violent and hurting her so badly. Looking back now, though, after talking with Miss Cora, another counselor, and a couple other women there, she could see the warning signs over the years. But for tonight, she was going to eat a good meal, get a good night's sleep, and in the morning go downstairs to the shelter. All the women could stay in the apartments rent free for as long as they needed, but in return they helped out in the running of the place. Tomorrow she'd be assigned a job to do and meet other survivors.

For the first time in a long time, Polly was looking forward to tomorrow.

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