I was 28 or so when I met Melanie Brown. I had been visiting a family member on the north side of Phoenix, Arizona when I spotted her and her little brother watching me. I was driving a small, open air, tiller steered, car that was used in local parades. Though it was a modern piece, the car resembled an antique from the late 19th century. I had made some repairs to the car, and was test-driving it before returning it to its owner.
At first I saw a small boy and what I thought was his teenaged sister watching me from their yard. Their hair
got my attention. They both had the same bright red hair. Every time I passed their home, the boy would jump up and
down with excitement and point at the car I was driving.
I stopped in front of them and introduced myself. "Hi! My name is John and I'm testing this little car. Would you like a ride?"
The little boy didn't wait for his sister to give him her okay. His eyes lit up, and he instantly began trying to climb aboard.
Though it was not very fast, driving this little
car took both hands. I needed one to steer with the tiller and the other to operate the spring returned throttle. So, I looked at the excited kid's sister and said told her,
"You come too. You'll need to hold Jr. here so he doesn't fall out."
With a bright smile, she put the boy in the seat
between us and climbed aboard. Melanie introduced herself
and her son, Bobby. She then thanked me for the ride.
Melanie was a very petite girl and looked to be about 14. As it turned out, she was the mother of the little boy and was in her mid twenties.
When they were safely seated, I pulled away from the
curb. We drove around the neighborhood for about twenty or thirty minutes until I was certain the car would not fail its owner during a parade.
Bobby never stopped talking. As most kids do, he asked a million questions. He was a smart kid. Most of his questions were good ones about the operation of the car. All of which, I answered as best I could to the satisfaction of a young boy.
Melanie didn't say much. She just sat there with a
wide smile, staring at me. She was intently listening to my
If not for the fact that I was driving, I may have returned the favor and not taken my eyes off Melanie. Even though she looked like a young teenager, there was just something about her that piqued my interest.
Melanie was a petite young thing. As an adult woman,
she stood only 4'11" tall and weighed about 85 to 90
pounds. Little Mel, as I later came to call her, was as
cute as they come. Her rounded, lightly freckled, face
was surrounded by an abundance of well kept bright red
hair. Bobby had the same hair. They also shared a pair
of light green eyes. Her eyes were set over a button of a nose and full kissable lips.
As the ride came to an end, I handed Melanie my card
and asked her the million-dollar question. "May I call you some time?"
Her smile quickly turned to a frown. She lowered her head, and, with a hint of sadness, she answered me. "He's not around much, but I'm married."
I replied, "That's too bad. If you ever need
anything, or change your mind, give me a call. The name
and number's on the card." When I offered her my hand,
she reached out and gently squeezed it.
She looked down at my card and said to me, "Thanks
again, John. I just may take you up on that offer sometime." Melanie then smiled, turned, and led Bobby toward their house.
Bobby was a polite kid. Before going into his house,
he turned at his door, waved, and yelled, "Thank you!" He
and his mother then disappeared into their house.
Several weeks passed, and I had let the memory of
Melanie and her boy fade from my mind. Then, late one afternoon, out of the blue, the phone rang. It was
Melanie. She sounded like she was upset and crying.
With a voice just above a whisper, she asked. "Can
Bobby and I meet you somewhere to talk?"
I began recalling the cute girl and her little boy to
whom I had given a ride on a parade car. I quickly agreed
to meet with them. "Where would you like to meet?"
"Some place private and quite, please." With a bit of hesitation, she asked. "Can we, maybe, come to your place? Please." She begged softly.
"Well, sure, I suppose that will be OK." I asked, "Is something wrong?"
We just need to get out of here for a while. How do I
get to your house?"
I gave her the directions to my home. I then advised her, "It should only take you about 20 minutes to get here."
She said, "Okay!" She then hung up. About 30 minutes later, Melanie and Bobby pulled into my driveway.
I went out to meet them. As I approached, Melanie had her back to me. She was helping Bobby out of his car seat in the back of her little car.
With a broad grin, I cheerfully greeted them. "Hi guys. How ya doing?"
As she let Bobby climb down out of the car, Melanie stood and turned to face me. Her eyes were brimming with tears. With a whimpering voice, she replied, "Not very well."
I was shocked! Her cute face looked terrible. She had a blackened and swollen left eye, her right cheek was bruised, her lower lip was badly swollen, and her eyes were red from crying.
"What the hell happened to you? Will you be alright? Do you need to see a doctor?"
She began crying and said. "I'm sorry. I know I shouldn't be here. I hardly know you, but I had no one else I could call. My family is back east, and the few friends I have here can't, or won't, help me."
I put my arm around her shoulders, and pulled her toward my front door. "Come inside, tell me what happened, and I'll do what I can to help." I then guided her and her young son into my living room and had them sit on the couch. I brought her a cup of hot tea and Bobby some milk and cookies. I then got her an icepack for her bruised face.
As she sipped the tea, with tears flowing down her cheeks, Melanie told me of the abuse she had suffered at the hands of her husband, Rob. Bobby sat quietly beside his mother eating his cookies and sipping his milk.
Melanie told me, "Rob drinks too much. He used to just cuss at me, but he'd do that even when he was sober. Lately, when he comes home drunk he hits me. Until today, he just slapped my face. Then, after slapping me around, he expected me to make love to him that night. Today, when he came home, drunk as usual, he started hitting me with his fist. Bobby started crying and yelled at him to stop hitting me. Rob then slapped Bobby and knocked him down. That's when I knew we had to get out of there. You're the only one I know around here that Rob doesn't know. I hid your card the day you gave it to me, and he has no idea who or where you are."
"Damn, girl! No one should take that kind of crap. You and Bobby can stay here for a while, if you like. I have an extra room you can use. Or, I can help you get a room someplace. I have a friend who owns a motel. It's not in the best part of town, but it's cheap, and it'll be safer than your place. But first, have you had dinner?"
"No. We left as soon as Rob fell asleep." She replied.
"Then you two relax and let me fix you something to eat." About 20 minutes later, I served them cheeseburgers and fries.
Shortly after dinner, I turned on some TV cartoons for Bobby. Melanie and I went to the kitchen to talk quietly. We talked at length about her short and long-term options. She said she knew she could never go back to Rob.
Bobby was soon fast asleep on my living room floor.
"It looks like Bobby has decided to stay here. How about you?" I asked.
Melanie perked up a bit and replied, "I'd like to stay here a little while, if you don't mind. I promise to stay out of your way. I can't pay much in rent, but I can cook and clean if you'll let me."
"You can stay as long as you need to. Don't worry about being in my way or doing anything to pay for your stay." I then gathered sheets, blankets, and pillows to make them a place to sleep in my spare bedroom. There was no bed, but with several blankets and a carpeted floor under them, Bobby and Melanie soon had a fairly comfortable 'bed' to sleep on.
Melanie carried Bobby to their new room while I moved her car to the back yard. That way, it could not be seen from the street. Melanie didn't want Rob, or any of his friends, spotting it. After moving her car, I took their small suitcases with me when I went back inside.
Melanie and I then sat on opposite ends of the couch, sipped tea, and talked for several hours. Her tears had dried, and she was beginning to relax. However, the stress of her day had taken its toll. She was exhausted. She apologized when she started yawning. She agreed when I suggested she take a hot shower and go to bed. We could continue our talk in the morning.
As I cleaned the kitchen, Melanie disappeared into the bathroom. A short time later, she went to her room.
When Melanie left the bathroom, I took a quick shower and went to bed as well. I didn't fall asleep easily. In my mind's eye, I kept seeing the cute girl and little boy I had given a ride to on the small car. That picture would quickly be replaced by one of the bruised woman that had shown up in my drive a few hours ago.
I heard Melanie get up several times that night. I guess she couldn't sleep very well either. The stress she was under apparently wouldn't let her relax.
.... There is more of this story ...