She slowly opened her eyes. The light yellow paint on the walls glowed like sunshine itself in the early morning light. She ran her hands over the uneven stitches of the bright patchwork bed cover, admiring the warmth of a homemade craft. Someone was knocking at the door.
“Come in?” she said as she sat up and leaned against the bed frame, feeling light headed. The retro spindles dug into her back, but it was somehow comforting, solid.
The door gently swung open as a woman with a short, peppy haircut stepped in, bringing the smell of eggs and sausage through the door with her. “Good morning. I’m glad I caught you while you were awake. Is there anything I can get for you?”
“Breakfast would be nice. I feel hungry all of a sudden. Um, can I ask you a question?”
“Of course,” the lady walked across the room and smiled, a few wrinkles starting to show around her eyes. The glimpse of a tattoo showed on her wrist under her long sleeves as she rested her hand on the window sill near the bed.
“Where are we?”
“The safe house.”
“Yes, but I mean, where is the safe house?”
The lady hesitated, then said very softly, “If you don’t remember the way, it might be better if I don’t tell you just yet. Just be content to know that no one else knows where you are right now either.”Her voice was therapeutic, like a mother comforting a child after a disappointment.
She nodded, “Oh, I see. How long have I been here?”
“They brought you in two nights ago, after the Emergency Room. We will arrange to take you back when necessary to get the stitches out and see how you are recovering.”
Remembering, she lifted her hand and lightly touched the side of her head and felt the area bristled with new short hair and touched the tight stitches gently. He’d hit her with the gun. She could read his lips, his beautiful lips, as he said, “I’ll kill you next time, whore. You don’t ever say no to me!” He had said it before actually, but for some reason, she’d never really feared he would do it until this time. She had always been confident that his love for her would stop him before it was too late.
The lady’s voice came to her through the memory, “It would also be a good idea to go in for a physical soon to check for… any complications. Also, we don’t want to rush you, but I do want you to know that staying here does come with some commitment. For the time you are here, you won’t be able to use your old cell phone. Any internet access is limited and monitored. You also have to agree to meet with one of our counselors regularly and to help out with things around the house. Please understand that it is not because we don’t trust you, but all of the ladies here have damage of some kind and we need to be very careful for all of our safety. We are more than willing to help you if you would like financial or legal advice. We can also help you with education or skills training, depending on what you would like to do. I don’t know your story yet, but I would like to if you are willing to share it.” She smiled and continued, “You have a few more days to think about it and decide if you want to commit to our rules. Then you can let us know what needs and goals you have and how we can best help you. We really do want to help.”
She believed her. She slid back down into the bed and closed her eyes again, “Yes, let’s talk in a few days.” The lady quietly walked to the door and closed it behind her. So she had done it. She had called the safe house after he left her locked in her room. Would he be okay without her? She once again tried to visualize the little white house. It was on the verge of collapse, with caution tape across the door and a neon notice of condemnation. She breathed in deeply and slowly exhaled. As she did, her breath blew against the house, strong enough to push in the walls of the weary building. The dust settled around it and she opened her eyes, uncertain of what would take its place, but satisfied for the moment.
No more hands. Invisible or otherwise. She didn’t care how many times she had to talk to a counselor or how many years she had to wait in the quiet of the yellow room, but there would be no more hands.
Photo is mine.
The actual percentage of women and children who escape or are rescued from trafficking is quite small because of the manipulative nature of trafficking. This story is one of hope, but it is not the reality for many.