I stopped at the sign and waited for cross traffic to clear. The trunk was full of groceries, including some peach ice cream. In Arizona the race was on to get the groceries home as quickly as possible before the frozen things thawed. A little traffic delay had me fuming.
Suddenly a young woman ran in front of my car and started beating on the hood. It took me a moment to understand what she was yelling. She ran to the passenger door, screaming, “Let me in! Let me in!”
I shook my head. There were groceries in the trunk. I didn’t have time to give anyone a ride.
“Let me in! Please, let me in!” Begging. Yanking the door latch repeatedly.
I saw the terror in her eyes. The desperate voice. “He’s going to kill me! For God’s sake, let me in!”
For God’s sake, I unlocked the door. I didn’t want to.
She threw herself into the Buick. “Drive! Just drive!”
I checked my mirrors and saw a behemoth of a man striding across the parking lot toward us. More panic filled her voice, “Go! Just go!”
I accelerated through the intersection and headed down 23rd Avenue. I turned randomly and kept moving for a while before finally stopping in a strip mall parking lot.
Silence. Her slender shoulders shook. She clutched them as she rocked back and forth. Her black hair was wet and matted, plastered on her head and blotted with blood. She wore a dirty T-shirt and jeans, with no shoes on her feet.
“Where would you like me to take you?”
She shook her head and stared out the window.
“I could take you to the hospital if you’re hurt. Or maybe the police could help you?”
More head shaking.
“Do you have family or friends I could call?”
Nothing. We sat in silence for what seemed like a lifetime.
Finally she blubbered, “I got nowhere. He knows all my family and friends. He’ll hunt me down and drag me back. I got nowhere and nobody.”
More sobs shook her frame.
I remembered the name of a lady who helped battered women. I wondered if she’d take my call on a Saturday afternoon. “Would you like me to call someone who helps women in your situation? I don’t know if she can help, but we could ask.”
The question hung in the air.
“I don’t have any options.” Tears streamed down her face.
I searched out the number and made the call. It went directly to voicemail. I left a message, remembering all the times I had turned off my own phone for a Saturday break. To my surprise my phone buzzed almost immediately. “This is Megan. How can I help you?”
I said my name, explained how we’d previously met, and then shared my predicament. Megan asked if she could talk to the young woman. I handed her the phone and stepped out of the Buick so she could have a bit of privacy. The conversation took some time. I thought about my peach ice cream.
Eventually she waved the phone at me. I climbed back in. “Megan wants to talk to you.”
“We’ll let her come,” Megan said. “Can you bring her to us?”
The ice cream was ruined. A few minutes more wouldn’t make any difference. “Sure. Where do we go?”
Megan directed me to an intersection 20 minutes away. “There’s a 7-Eleven there. I’ll meet you in the parking lot. We don’t give out the shelter address. It’s too dangerous.”
I hung up, and we drove without speaking. There was no goodbye when I dropped her off with Megan. I never even learned her name.
The ice cream had turned to soup by the time I got home. I refroze it, but it never tasted right. It’s been 25 years, and I still pray for her. Abused, no family, no friends, nowhere to go.
Jesus, come close—wherever she is.