Seeing Mel

Mel is lying content across the sofa, reading a book. She wears tortoiseshell spectacles and a thick, hand-knitted jumper. It’s hard to believe that this time last week, she was sleeping on the streets.

The bruises were hard to ignore. Her plea for help came in urgent snippets, when Steve was out of earshot. I just listened. I didn’t know what else to do.

We heard yelling in the back laneway and rushed down the stairs. We stood between the pair as Steve waved his fists. He left with Mel’s bag.

Gemma and I spent the night with Mel in a cramped motel room with a loud air conditioner. We drank red wine and tried to go to sleep. In the morning Gemma dialled numbers while Mel sat outside the room, chain smoking. Gemma’s voice grew weak and desperate as the options shrank. We decided to pray. We didn’t know what else to do.

Today we wandered the city, helping Mel rebuild her identity. Pension card, bankcard, Medicare card. Her presence seemed to strengthen with the swelling of her wallet.

I glanced over her shoulder as she wrote an email to her daughter. ‘Love Mum’, I read, and nearly cried. I’m starting to see Mel.