Finding Her Reason

Submitted by Sandra Lester to Contest #5 in response to: Write a story about someone who finds life meaning in an unexpected place.... view prompt

When Ellie Pearson's parents passed away, they left her the cabin in the rich forest of New Hampshire. Periodically, she would go there for a "short retreat from the rest of the world," is how she'd put it when she told people where she was going. She loved the silence of the forest that surrounded the quaint little cabin. To bring anyone to the cabin felt like an invasion on her solitude. 

  

When she would go there, she rarely ventured away from the cabin, unless she was staying for a week. The rest of the town was about five miles away. The road getting to the cabin was packed dirt. Not many cars, or people passed by. A short way down the street, there was a church.  Rarely did Ellie see anyone there.   

  

During the week, Ellie would work as an office receptionist.  It was during the summer months when Ellie would go to the cabin. In the winter, the road wasn't paved from snow, making it impossible for her to get there. It was during those months when she'd catch up with family or friends on the weekends.   

  

Sometimes Ellie contemplated about how mundane her life felt. She felt as though something was missing.  She couldn't figure out what it could be. It was as though she was longing for something unknown. She dove into self-help books, hoping to find the answer to her feelings. Nothing ever came of it, however.  Day after day, the longing grew, but nothing satisfied it.   

  

One balmy summer night, Ellie was sitting out on the back porch of the cabin. She loved listening as the daylight noises switched to nighttime ones. Ellie was watching the glow from the fire in the firepit.  A sound brought her back into reality. She listened.   

  

When she heard it again, she got up, retrieving the small pistol from her side. One never knew if an animal was on the prowl in the area. She heard it again, this time closer. She took up the bright flashlight and shone it around, searching for what might have made the noise. 

  

The beam of the light landed on a woman, huddled against a tree. She had the look of horror on her face when the light landed upon it. "Hello?" called Ellie into the darkness. The woman cringed further. "Please don't worry, I'm here to help you," Ellie called to her.  

  

As Ellie continue to slowly approach the woman, she relaxed. She nearly fell into Ellie's arms when she helped her up from the ground. She guided the trembling woman into the cabin, and wrapped a blanket around her shoulders. 

  

She had the young woman sit beside the fire pit. She went into to brew some tea. When it was done, she brought it out to the woman. The woman looked up at her and smiled weakly, accepting the warm drink.  Ellie sat down next to her. 

  

"Can I ask, what you might be doing out in, essentially, the middle of nowhere?" Ellie asked, curiously. The young woman looked at her for a long while, sipping the tea. No woman spoke into the silence.   

  

The young woman broke the silence when she said, softly, "My husband hit me. Left me here," was all she could muster through the abrupt flood of tears.  Ellie's heart went out to the woman. She wrapped her arms around the young woman in a warm hug.   

  

"I'm so sorry. Can you tell me your name?" she asked further.   

  

The young woman shifted, visibly uncomfortable. "Helena," was the reply.   

  

"Helena. That's a nice name. I like it. Do you know where you're at?" she asked. 

  

Helena shook her head. "Thank you. No. I didn't recognize the area where he drove to. It was out of town. I guess that's all I know," she shrugged. "I live in Oteka," she added.  

  

"I know where that is, it's not that far away. Do you have anyone you need to call? Do you have any relatives who you might stay with?" Ellie asked in a concerned tone.   

  

Helena broke down into a sob. "N...n...no. I don't have anyone close by. M...m...my family lives in Illinois. N...n...no one t....t....to call."   

  

"Oh, Helena, I'm so terribly sorry. I'm sure you don't want to return home anytime too soon." Ellie said. 

  

"No.......I don't .......want to......return home......to that.......awful man," Helena sobbed. 

  

"I don't blame you. You can stay here with me, if you'd like. You're safe here, in case he might come looking for you," Ellie assured Helena. "Can I ask how old you are?" 

  

"i'm 20," Helena stated.   

  

The rest of that night, the two women stayed up, cuddled on the couch, a fire blazing in the fireplace. They talked mainly about Helena, her husband, their marriage, the miscarriage, and the fighting. Ellie felt it was her duty to remain awake to stay vigil in case the man doubled back trying to find Helena. 

  

When the weekend ended, Ellie knew she had to return home to go to work for the week. Ellie couldn't fathom leaving the poor young woman there by herself for a week. The best option was to take Helena home with her. When she presented the idea, Helena agreed, saying she felt safer if she were somewhere where her husband couldn't think to look.   

  

As Ellie learned more and more about Helena's situation, the more sympathy grew in her heart. She'd grown up in an environment where violence never occurred. She couldn't see how a man could hit a woman. She'd never thought anything of such existed. Boy, where her eyes opened! 

  

Ellie had learned about abused women's shelters in the area. Something else she never knew existed. She felt so naive. How could she never have known? When Ellie contacted them, inquiring about their services, she couldn't see putting Helena in one of those. It sounded too much like a prison.  A curfew, this rule, that rule, a resident could only stay for a length of four months.   

  

Four months! Ellie knew no one could get their life fully together in four months' time. It took at least six months. That's when Ellie decided that she was going to keep Helena for the full six months.  What she required from Helena was that she do chores until she could find herself a job. 

  

Under her care, Helena progressed quite amazingly. She'd gotten a good paying job within two weeks. She helped with the chores. She was a new person by the time she was ready to move out onto her own.  When Helena left, the house, and the cabin felt empty. It was nice having someone around that she could mentor and take care of.   

  

One night, shortly after Helena had left, she called late. Ellie recognized the number, immediately worrying if something had happened to Helena. The young woman explained how she knew a woman who was going through the same thing with her husband.   

  

"Ellie, you helped me through the hardest, darkest time of my life. Karen is one of my closest friends. I suspected that she was going through the same thing, but she never told me outright. I told her about you, and how you'd cared so much for me during the time I stayed with you. Can you come get her?" Helena plead on the behalf of her friend. 

  

Oh Helena, of course. I'll be right there."  Ellie hopped into her car and drove to Helena's apartment.  After meeting Karen, Ellie knew that she would be taking her in, and allowing her six months to getting herself together.    

  

That night, after Karen fell to sleep, Ellie contemplated the recent events. It occurred to her that taking in, and mentoring young, abused women was her calling. She'd longed, forever, to seek that which she had thirsted for. Here is was, right before her very eyes. 

  

She felt compelled to help these young women. When Karen reached her six months stay, she too, was on her feet, ready to face the world differently.  It warmed Ellie's heart so much that she felt this was her calling.  She quit her job, making her home in the city a shelter for women.   

  

Each weekend, she brought along one of the women in the shelter for a "weekend retreat away from the world." The women loved and appreciated it.  They'd cook fun meals together, talk the night away, or do whatever the women chose to do. Ellie loved her life. 

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