Work continues on the second Charlotte book. Here is a scene from that story. Be part of the creative process and tell me what you think!
I’m enjoying a good night’s sleep when a harsh ringing wakes me at 3:35 am. The phone is on Beau’s side of the bed so the caller is greeted with his groggy baritone. “Hello?”. After a few seconds, he says, “She’s right here.” He sits up in the bed and nudges me with the receiver. “It’s for you.”
I sit up myself and take the phone. “Hello?”
The voice on the other end is young, shaky and strained. “Is this Charlotte?”
“Carmen Paulson gave me your number. She said you could help me. I got my kids out but I don’t know what to do. He’ll wake up any minute and find out were gone-”
“Whoa, slow down. Take a deep breath and tell me where you are.”
She takes a breath and continues at a slower pace. “It’s a gas station down the road from the house.”
“Do you have a car?”
“Yeah, yeah I took the car but Ty has his pick-up.”
“Okay, you’re doing great. Just listen carefully and I’ll give you directions to the safe house.” It takes a few minutes for me to explain how to get to the shelter and have her repeat it back to me. Satisfied that she understands, I give her some final instruction. “Okay, darlin’ head to the house right now. Don’t stop for anyone or anything. Got it?”
“I Got it.”
“What’s your name darlin’?”
“I’m gonna meet you there Crystal and everything’s gonna be alright.”
“Thank you Miss Charlotte.” She hung up on her end.
Beau was listening to every bit of my end of the conversation. I swung my feet over the side of the bed and walked toward the closet. “I should be back in a couple of hours.”
Beau turned on the lamp on the bed-side table. “The hell you say. We’ll be back in a couple of hours.”
“Beau, I’ve done this before.”
“Not in the middle of the night you haven’t.”
“It’s a women’s shelter Beau. No men allowed.”
“I won’t be going in the shelter, but I will be driving you and waiting in the car. That’s all.”
Beau’s “That’s all” means whatever conversation we’re having is over. He hardly ever says it, but when he does, he means it. We both scramble for clothes and in five minutes we’re on the road heading to the shelter.
Safe Haven Woman’s Shelter is a farm house about ten miles outside the city limits and not a place that will be found by accident. The nearest neighbor is over two miles away. I found out a couple of years ago that shelters for women are rare. The next closest one is over four-hundred miles north in Pennsylvania. Safe Haven is basically a hide-out for women in abusive, dangerous situations that need a place to stay. While they get help from a social worker they can stay and plan their next move. There are even chores to distract any children the girls might have with them. The owner of the land lets the girls stay rent-free, a lady doctor volunteers her time, and then there’s Carmen who finds the women and works miracles. God has really blessed Safe Haven. The frightened women that come to the shelter are some of the bravest people I’ve ever known.
It’s that dark time before the dawn when we arrive at the shelter. Beau drops me off a good distance from the front door and then drives around to the far side of the house. Before we left the house I alerted Samantha, the house mother, of our impending arrival. Samantha is a six-foot red-headed former Marine. Everyone calls her either Sam or ma’am. She meets me at the front door and not long after that an old Ford station wagon pulls into the dirt driveway.
Crystal gets out and opens the rear driver’s side door to get her two kids. The girl must be about seven or eight. The boy looks to be about eleven. They come closer to the light of the front porch. Crystal has dirty blond hair cut to just above the shoulders. Her face is a mixture of determination with a little fear and panic thrown in. The little girl looks like her mom and her expression is one of fear. The boy is trying to look stern and brave. All of them are in their pajamas and look like they had just woken up from a nightmare. I step off the front porch and walk slowly to Crystal. She’s so young! She can’t be much older than my oldest boy Christopher. There’s an old bruise on her forehead and a new one under her left eye. Her face is wet with tears. I hold out my arms and she steps to me to receive my embrace. Crystal hangs on for an extra few seconds to stop her sobbing and gather all the strength she can. Then I hear Sam’s gruff voice behind me. “Who’s that?”
I look up from the hug and I see another pair of headlights coming down the road. It’s clear the driver is having trouble holding a straight line. Crystal speaks in a soft panic. “It’s him. That’s Ty’s truck. He must have followed me!”
I grab Crystal’s shoulders to make sure of eye contact. “Crystal, take your kids inside right now.” Without looking away, I yell, “Sam! Take care of them.”
As Crystal pushes past me, I look back to the headlights confident that Sam is corralling everyone inside. The rusty pick-up stops just short of colliding with the station wagon and the driver manages to open his door on the second try. Ty is six feet of drunken red-neck with dark hair and broad shoulders. It’s clear that he’s never missed a meal or a beer run. He’s screaming as he exits the car.
“Crystal! Crystal! You get your ass out here RIGHT NOW!”
I take a couple of steps backwards toward the house keeping my eyes on Ty. “You can’t be here. This is private property.”
“Crystal!” Now Ty focuses on me. “Who the hell are you bitch?” He swings a meaty arm back at the station wagon. “That’s my car. You get Crystal out here!” Ty closes the distance between us and I back-pedal toward the house. I’m just about to reach for the gun in my ankle holster when I hear Beau’s voice to my right.
“Hey! Hold on. What’s the problem here?”
“Who the hell are you? Mind your own damn business.”
Beau puts his hands up in surrender. “Hey, hey I understand. Just take it easy cowboy. You want your wife, right?”
“You’re damn right!”
“Ok, but there’s something you have to know first.”
“What? Kiss my ass!”
“No, really you need to hear this.”
Beau’s whole demeanor is non-threatening but authoritative. Ty’s drunken mind is easily influenced, and he actually backs away from me. Beau steps between me and Ty. With his hands still in a neutral position, Beau steps a little closer to Ty. I’m thinking he’s gonna take a swing at Beau but instead he says, “Okay. What the hell do you have to say?”
Beau speaks to Ty in a quiet tone. His words are soft but I can hear them clearly. “Ty, you’re a coward. Your wife knows it, and your kids know it, but you can be something else starting tonight. Let me drive you home. Show your family what a brave man looks like.” At this point Beau leans into Ty and whispers in his ear. “‘Cause if you don’t, I’ll break you in half.” When Beau is done talking, Ty pulls back and looks Beau straight in the eye. In a few seconds Ty’s expression and body language melts from hard belligerence to soft submission. He takes one last soulful glance at the house and walks to his truck. Ty opens the passenger door and gets inside. Beau walks over to check on me.
“Okay but stunned.”
He smiles that reassuring smile. “I’m driving Ty home. Follow us.”