Authors: Laramie Briscoe
On cue, the door opened and the two they spoke of came strolling out. Not one person who looked at them questioned what they had been doing in there.
“Morning?” Meredith grinned at everyone who stared at her.
“Morning,” the group called back to them.
Plates were thrust in their hands as they had a seat at the table. Addie ran over, giving them both good morning hugs before she ran back over to play with Tatum.
“We were talking about working at the shop today,” Liam told him. “It’s closed to the public, but maybe we could get caught up or even a little ahead. Ya know, give us some breathing room.”
Tyler knew what he was saying. They needed some breathing room. Next week they had three night runs to go on, and if they didn’t get some stuff done, they’d be zombies. “I’m down. I’ll be over there after I get her to take me home to get my bike. You’re goin’ to CRISIS today, right?”
“Yeah, I’m going to pick up some of the girls, and I’m taking them down to the Curly Q so Christine can do some hair. Most of them have job interviews next week, and they need to look professional.”
“Is there anything y’all need over there?” Liam asked her as he took a drink from his coffee cup. Heaven Hill were, quietly, the biggest supporters of the home for battered and transient women. Most of those women had children, and when they left their homes, they usually had to leave everything behind. It seemed as if every woman connected with Heaven Hill knew what that felt like.
“If you could call Ashley for me,” she started, mentioning the doctor that worked with the club, “I’ve got a woman I think needs some medical attention. She refuses to go to the hospital, and I don’t like the way her arm looks. I think she’s getting an infection. We can treat a lot of things there, but we don’t have access to antibiotics. I would really appreciate it.”
Liam grabbed his phone out of his pocket and was already making the phone call.
“Do you need me to watch Addie today?” Denise asked as she came out of the kitchen. “Tatum and I are going to story time.”
Story time was one of the girls’ favorite things to do at a local bookstore. Whoever took them was their hero for at least a few hours.
“Oh, she would absolutely love that. You sure you don’t mind?”
“Not at all,” Denise shook her head. “I’m already going anyway. One more kid isn’t going to make a difference. Besides, together they kind of keep each other out of trouble.”
“Enjoy that while you can.” Jagger laughed. “I have a feelin’ those two little girls are the next hell raisers. Poor little Carter has no chance. They are going to ruin that boy.”
Rooster walked in right as his son’s name was mentioned. “They are not going to ruin him. At some point, he’s gonna be bigger than them, he’s gonna learn how to walk, and he’s gonna fuck shit up. Ain’t that right?” He squatted down and held out his hands for his son, who crawled over as fast as his legs would carry him.
“What I have I told you about that?” Roni scolded from behind him. “You better hope they didn’t hear that.” She pointed to the two girls. “They repeat that stuff at the most inappropriate times.”
“Amen.” Meredith laughed as she finished her breakfast and stood up from the table. She glanced over at Tyler. “You ready?”
“Yeah.” He took a huge bite of the biscuit he had in his hand and grabbed the glass that held his orange juice, obviously taking it to-go.
They walked over to where the girls sat and both said goodbye to Addie.
“If something happens with her clothes, her bag is still packed in the dorm,” Meredith told Denise as she and Tyler headed out.
“Gotcha. See you two later.” She waved as the rest of the group shouted goodbyes after them.
It didn’t take long for them to get to their house and make the switch over to Tyler’s bike. “I’ll see you tonight when I get home,” he told her, as he stood next to the door of her SUV.
“Will you be late?”
“Probably not, but if I am, I’ll give you a call or text ya. It just kinda depends on what we’ve got goin’ on.” He leaned in through the open window and placed a kiss on her lips. “Have a good day at Christine’s.”
“You too.” She smiled at him.
The picture of domestication was one she wasn’t sure she’d ever get used to.
“In thirty minutes, I’ll be up to my elbows in grease. I think you picked the better job,” he teased, grabbing a lock of her hair and pulling on it.
“You love it.” She laughed.
He did, that was no lie. There was something about getting in an engine and working with his hands that appealed to a very basic part of his personality. If he couldn’t do the work he did at Walker’s Wheels, he wasn’t sure what he would do. “See you,” he told her as he tapped the door on the car and walked over to his bike.
She whistled as he shook his hips for her, before backing out of the driveway. Making the trip to CRISIS was a familiar drive, one she’d done thousands of times since she’d started volunteering there. That volunteering job had morphed into a full-time paid position, and for someone who had originally wanted to be a reporter, it still surprised her how much she loved working there. She couldn’t deny that helping people had been one of the things that had helped her recover from her attack. Just like Tyler had to work with his hands, she had to help others. She’d spent time after that attack floating because she hadn’t been sure of what to do. If Tyler hadn’t taken charge and found her therapy, she would probably still be floating. There was a part of her that still felt like she owed it to the memory of her old self to continue to do this.
Meredith couldn’t help but cringe as she thought of her younger self. That young reporter had been such a bitch. She could think it now without feeling bad. Now, she realized it was a part of her personality that made up who she was. She’d been so conceited and hadn’t cared anything about other people. There would always be a part of her subconscious that wondered if the reason she’d been raped was to bring her down a few notches, if it was the part of her divine plan that would show her compassion for other people. Before that night, she’d not had the type of compassion she had now. In many ways, she felt she’d learned needed lessons from being raped. In many other ways, she was still coming to grips with some of the feelings it had evoked in her. In all ways, it had made her grow up and be an adult, and it had led her to Tyler. For that she would constantly be thankful.
o we have any new ones today?” Meredith asked as she went over some of the paperwork that greeted her once she got to CRISIS. She’d quietly worked her way up from volunteer to director. She wasn’t sure how that had happened, but she knew that things were getting done, and that’s all that anyone cared about.
“Yeah,” one of the volunteers told her, picking through the packets the new people filled out. “This one.” She handed her the packet. “She came in late last night. Looked familiar to me, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. She’s already gone for the day, said she wanted to go find a job.”
That was good. It never did any of the newbies any good to sit in the house and think about how they’d gotten there. That never did anyone any good. “Does she have any family nearby?” Meredith asked, doing a once-over of the registration forms.
“She mentioned a sister somewhere, but that was it. They aren’t close, and she refused to name her, only said that they were actually half-sisters and didn’t share a father, so the last names are different.”
“Did you send her to Wanda?”
was much more than a strip club. For women who found themselves at CRISIS, it could be a way out. They made enough money to get their own apartments, to buy their own cars, and to start their new lives. It was a ticket to independence, and no one paid better than Wanda—and most of the time, such payment was under the table.
“I did. She looked like she needed money pronto. I’d rather see her get it there than hookin’ down on Third.”
They both exchanged a sad smile. That’s where many of the women who came here ended up, and it was always their goal to get them somewhere else, even if that was
. “We’ve got a full house; I might see if I can get B to come over and talk to them about education. Couldn’t hurt.” Meredith shrugged.
When B came to CRISIS she was a freakin’ rock star. All the women looked up to her, because she’d been them—working at a strip club—and now she was a loved, respected teacher in the community. Many students at school changed around their schedules to get her as their teacher. It was the best present that B had ever been given. The volunteer nodded. “Want me to get your girls who are going to the hair salon?”
“Please, I need to get some of these invoices faxed over to Roni so she can get Heaven Hill to help us out. It won’t take long. Tell them to meet me at the car in about five.”
Meredith walked from the front of the house that served as the CRISIS house, grinning as she saw the playroom with kids playing like they should be. One thing she’d realized quickly in this journey was that the kids were sometimes the forgotten victims. They didn’t know how to laugh, how to play, how to have fun. That’d been her first order of business when she took over. She’d made a playroom and dared kids not to have fun in there. It had turned out to be one of the best changes made to the program. Making her way through the house, she stuck her head into the kitchen and waved at the ladies she saw making coffee.
“Hey Mer!” they called out to her.
“Hey ladies, I hope to see some of y’all in a few minutes. Christy’s doing hair for free today,” she said in a sing-song voice. “I have enough room for about six if we put in the third-row seating.”
They excitedly began talking as she continued through the house, and she smiled again. It was hard to not become involved with each woman who came through the doors, but she’d had to steel herself the more she worked here. If it were up to her, she’d take every woman and child who walked through the door home with her, but wearing her heart on her sleeve like that had become dangerous. Her heart had broken each time someone left without a plan and then came back months later beaten and bruised. While she fought for the victim, she had to learn that she wasn’t that person and that she couldn’t live their lives for them. It had been a hard lesson to learn, but she had. Walking over to her desk, she grabbed the invoices she needed Heaven Hill to pay and faxed them quickly. Hopefully by the time they got back, Ashley would be there and they could talk about the woman who had Meredith worried.