A Kind Man

Wayne started beating me five months into our marriage. Initially, it was simply an unexpected slap or a punch to the kidney. It was so unpredictable and out of character that I deemed it my fault. I reasoned that I must have brought it on myself, and that I deserved it. That naïve perspective changed when the abuse became far more regular and intense. After two further months of humiliating, soul-wrecking beatings, I finally walked out. I left with only the clothes on my back and firm resolve burning in my heart. I moved in with a friend, but I knew I needed help. “Speak to Mr. Eden,” Sinead advised me. “You know he's always been kind-hearted to us and helps everybody without hesitation,” she added persuasively. And that's how I ended up outside his office the next morning, clutching my college bag and courage firmly to my breast. Mr. Eden was the College Counselor, and one of the most unselfish men I had ever met. Not a single student had ever been turned away by this gentle, unassuming man. And I was about to ask him to not just go the extra mile, but to also go out on a limb for me. How classically clichéd. “Marina, come inside,” Mr. Eden invited me the minute he saw me. “Have a seat. How's life been treating you?” he asked innocently, but his tone and the innocuous question triggered a flood of sobs. I was embarrassed; I chastised myself for making such a spectacle of myself. Mr. Eden instantly took charge, soothing me with encouraging words and a soft tone. He offered me a bottle of water, which I gratefully accepted. I confided completely in him. I was surprised by the first words he said, but I shouldn't have been. “We need to get you into a women's shelter today. I know a place near the college. I will take you there after I've called them to give them a heads up, all right?” As if that wasn't enough, this amazing man then spread the word – with my permission – on the college WhatsApp group that a student needed donations of clothes, toiletries, food; the works. The response was overwhelming! Mr. Eden took me to the Saartje Baartman Women's Shelter, and they agreed to house me as well as try to resolve the problems Wayne and I were having by giving us marriage counselling. All absolutely free of charge! I received so many donations of barely-worn clothes, brand new underwear, toiletries and even money that I could give some of the things to Sinead to thank her for having granted me a safe haven when I had needed it. And the best thing of all? Wayne is a changed man. The couples therapy had opened his eyes, even bringing him to the point where he apologized tearfully to me for ever having lifted a hand to me. “You are a treasure, Marina,” Wayne said to me on the first night I returned home. He was holding me gently in his arms while he spoke in a voice shaking with emotion. “I nearly lost the most precious gift I had ever received, but I will never again be this careless.” “If not for Mr. Eden, both of us would have lost each other,” I said and smiled, feeling the heavy burdens lift off my shoulders like fog burned off by the warmth of a rising sun.


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