“How did you ever get up the nerve to leave?” asked Maggie, her fingers gripping the warm cup of coffee in front of her. Maggie had picked up bits and pieces of Sonja’s story over the years. She knew her first husband had been abusive and that she had taken her two children and left him, but not much else.
Maggie realized Sonja had been quiet a while. She was worried she’d crossed a line she hadn’t seen. “I’m sorry, Sonja, I shouldn’t have pried, you don’t have to answer that.”
“No,” Sonja stopped her, “it’s not that at all. It’s just not an easy question to answer. It’s so much more complicated than just finding the nerve and leaving, you know?” Sonja released her hands from the sink’s edge and patted her hands dry on the towel nearby. She picked up her mug off the countertop, sat down across from Maggie, and sighed a deep breath.
Sonja fingered a wayward strand of hair and set it back behind her ear. Then, looking straight into Maggie’s eyes, she felt their spirits meet in the middle of the table somewhere over the paper napkins and salt-and-pepper shakers.
“It took me years,” she said. Sonja’s eyes glistened like she might cry but the tears subsided quickly. “There are times when I think I should have left earlier. Spared my boys some of the heartache they witnessed, but the truth is, it wasn’t the right time.”
Layer by layer, Sonja unraveled the mystery of her life in front of Maggie. She removed each garment that protected her modesty, and carefully laid it as a sacrifice before her friend.
“I’d been agonizing over the decision for months. I kept praying that God would find a way to fix it, to change him, but it just kept getting worse,” Sonja continued, “the moment I knew I had to leave wasn’t even his fault, directly.”
Sonja got up to pour herself a second cup of coffee. She leaned back against the counter hugging her mug close to her chest, “I came home from the supermarket and John was asleep on the couch in front of the TV as usual. I heard the kids screaming in their room so I went back to calm them down before they woke their dad. When I walked into their room, I saw Jake pummeling his brother, screaming profanities at him,” Sonja’s throat caught, “I knew right then-- I couldn’t live there any longer, I couldn’t let my boys live there any longer.”
Maggie picked up a napkin and dabbed at the tears that coursed down her cheeks, trying desperately to steady her hand. She sifted in her seat felt afresh the dull ache in her rib where Michael had hit her last night.
“It wasn’t easy by any means but I knew it was time,” Sonja reached out and held Maggie’s hand in one of hers and cupped her cheek with the other. “Maggie, you’re going to find your way. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, and I’m not saying it won’t be messy,” she lifted Maggie’s eyes to meet her own, “but God isn’t letting go of you and neither am I. Understand?”
Maggie nodded her agreement blinking back a few tears. She knew what she needed to do now and she knew she wasn’t alone.
A long hug and some whispered reassurances later, Maggie slid behind the wheel of her blue Civic. She put the key in the ignition and paused. Lord, she prayed, I know what I need to do but I need you to help me like you helped Sonja. Help me to be brave, help me to do what’s right for my girls and me. Amen.
Sonja waved goodbye as Maggie’s car disappeared into the horizon. God, be with her, she pleaded, and thank you for not letting my experience be in vain.
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