shelves, wandered to a nearby table and sat.
He opened a cover and flipped to the introduction. Facts immediately jumped out at him, facts he wanted to brush away and eliminate. Nearly one-third of American women were abused by husbands or live-in partners. Violence by an intimate partner accounted for over one-fifth of all violent crimes against women.
Andrew’s stomach churned as he read from an FBI crime report. Among all female murder victims in the U.S., one-third were slain by husbands or boyfriends. He fell back against the chair. Murder? Could this happen to Hannah? And JJ? Had her neighbor been correct? Andrew’s gaze slipped to a magazine statistic. Child abuse occurred in thirty to sixty percent of family abuse cases.
The facts and statistics pressed on his heart, but he felt God’s hand leading him along this path. He’d learned much from his life choices, yet what could he do for this woman and child? Nothing really. Hannah was in control of her own life. He could do nothing but pray.
Amazed at his urgent compulsion to help, Andrew rose and checked out the books. Outside he took a deep breath of fresh air and tucked the volumes under his arm. He wanted to clear the dark feelings from his mind. He longed to figure out what God wanted him to do.
A week later, Hannah sat on the back porch of Loving Arms. Though a chilly Monday morning, the sun felt good, and she was tired of feeling trapped indoors. She’d called the apartment manager to request her locks be changed, and when that was completed, she longed to go home.
Annie had encouraged her to give Jack’s note to the police the week before, and Hannah had been granted a protection order. She hoped that Jack would get a lengthy jail sentence for his threats and give her time to move or make changes in her life. But would it be enough, and would it stop Jack from another attack after he was released? Her questions were endless.
She loved having the day off. She’d worked long hours Saturday and Sunday so today felt like a gift. Hergaze shifted to the backyard where JJ played on a rusty set of swings. If she had the money, Hannah thought, she’d buy a new set of playground equipment for the shelter.
In the week and a half she’d been there, a few women had arrived, but most spent a day or two and then left to stay with family. Hannah rarely missed her family—her family had created their own realm of problems—but at times like this, having someone to turn to would have made life easier.
Instead she felt grateful that Loving Arms had given them a home for the time being. So far, Jack hadn’t bothered her here, and she was grateful for that. Soon she would start a new job at a chocolate shop, and she’d feel safer, but going back home still concerned her.
Conversation from inside interrupted Hannah’s thoughts, and she glanced over her shoulder to hear who’d arrived. She could make out Annie’s voice, then a man’s deep chuckle, followed by Annie’s laugh.
When the screen door squeaked, Hannah pivoted her head to see who Annie was bringing outside. When she saw Andrew’s face, her pulse skipped.
“How are you doing?” he asked, seeming pleased to see her.
“I’m fine, thanks, and you?” The polite conversation seemed silly, and she recognized the same realization in his eyes.
“What brings you here?” Hannah asked, giving in to her curiosity.
“Andrew’s part of a volunteer group from United Christian Church. They do repairs and maintenance onthe building,” Annie said, answering for him. “We’re so grateful for their help.”
“I’m happy to help.” Andrew shifted his gaze to the porch ceiling. “So this is where you spotted the sawdust?”
Annie led him to the edge of the porch. “Right here.” She pointed down, then up to the ceiling. “I think it came from up there.”
He tilted his head and eyed the support beam, then gave it a poke. A shower of fine beige dust fell to the floor.
M. R. James, Darryl Jones