Anxiety blankets the young mother sitting before me. Her pensive brows, the furtive movement of her hands, belie her tailored appearance; crisp white shirt, slim pressed slacks. Her ready smile is gone.

She has heard of my past, of my overcoming, of my surviving. We’re sitting in armed straight-back chairs, inches from each other. I’m glad I’m not wearing a suit today. She looks more professional than me, here, in the company I own. Formalities don’t exist in this room with its tile fireplace and local art. Children’s toys are piled in a corner and soothing piano music emanates from a small CD player.

I listen.

“I thought if I married him, everything would be okay. He’d know I loved him. He wouldn’t hurt me any longer,” she says, her voice a plea of please understand. “I don’t know what to do.” She wrings her hands and drops her head.

I wait.

She stands, brushing her sherry hair from her face, “Thank you for listening to me.”

I want to pull her into my arms. Desperate, I grab a piece of paper and write down my phone numbers; home, office, mobile. “Call me anytime, day or night…call me.”