Madeline opened the window and breathed deeply. The recent rain had teased a myriad of fragrances from the garden – from the flowers, the soil and the freshly cut grass – and combined them together in an exquisitely perfumed bouquet that seemed to be for her alone.
Turning to survey the room she reflected that this wasn’t what she’d expected when she’d arrived several nights ago amidst pouring rain. Instead of musty rooms, peeling paint, and battered furniture, the room was light and airy, plain but clean, and scented by a huge urn filled with the dried and fragrant petals of long dead summer roses.
Casting her mind back over the previous days, she shuddered. There’d been her desperate flight from home, arriving at her parents’ in the driving rain, Damien’s phone call, and the fearsome knowledge that she must find refuge. Then once more driving in the rain and dark until she finally found a place that offered safety and acceptance. There’d been no questions asked - instead they had tended to her needs, comforted with hot drinks, and applied soothing lotions to her bruises.
She ran her fingers through her short hair. They’d even found someone to style her hair in an effort to cover the damage Damien had inflicted that night, although nothing would ever block out the image of her husband coming at her with a knife.
Madi sighed then looked toward the bed where Amanda now slept, curled up in the centre. Deciding that it was safe to leave Amanda sleeping, she tiptoed down to the phone in the hall. Her father answered after the first ring.
“Daddy,” she almost wept with relief. It was so good to talk to him again.
“Madi. Where are you?”
“I’m at the women’s refuge. I’m fine. How are you doing?”
“We’re okay. Honey, Damien came here. He was angry when he couldn’t find you. Said you’d had an argument.”
“Is that all he said?”
She sensed his reluctance to answer.
“It’s okay daddy. I can guess what he said. None of it’s true.”
“I know that, honey. But …”
“How’s Amanda doing?”
“Daddy. You can tell me. He’s spreading stories, isn’t he?”
His silence was answer enough. She glanced out the window and watched as a sparrow flew down from its branch and bathed in the rainwater that had pooled on the path.
“What are you going to do now?”
“I’ll probably stay here a little while longer. They want me to press charges.”
She heard the pain in his voice and suddenly saw him as he had been years ago, taking a series on marriage. She pictured him, Bible in hand, telling the congregation, “Marriage is from God. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.”* This must be tearing her parents apart.
“Is that what you want?”
“I don’t know, daddy. It’s so confusing. He’s still my husband.”
She remembered the talk she’d had yesterday with one of the lawyers who represented the women. She’d not understood half of it: this kind of thing was outside her experience. She had no idea what to do.
“I need some time.”
There was again silence and she thought he’d gone to get her mother, until she heard his voice again.
“Your mother and I went shopping today. In town.”
“Daddy?” They hardly ever went into town, preferring to stick to the small shopping centre in their immediate area.
“Your mother’s cleaned out your old room, so we went shopping for a bed. For Amanda. For when you come home.”
Tears threatened to overspill and choke her voice.
“Just let us know when it’s safe to come home.”
“Oh I will daddy. I will.”
She finished the call and headed back to Amanda. Passing two women in the hall, she heard an expletive followed by: “I curse the day I met him.”
Madeline entered her room lost in thought. Eyeing her sleeping daughter she wondered if she shared the woman’s feelings. She dropped to the bed and gazed at her beautiful daughter.
She remembered the verses she had read that morning: to comfort all that mourn … to give unto them beauty for ashes.** If she hadn’t married Damien she wouldn’t have Amanda. Despite everything, she couldn’t regret marrying him.
Curling up beside Amanda she breathed in her sweet baby fragrance and fell asleep, a prayer for comfort on her lips.
* Mark 10:9 KJV
** Isaiah 61:2-3 KJV
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