She’s healing on inside, out
Stab victim tells of unstable life.
Cold drizzle on a gray May day.
Inside her adoptive grandparents’ house, 21-year-old Melanie Miller clutches her May 8 birthday present.
Deja, a Chihuahua, licks her chin.
Love wrapped up in a fur-covered bundle. Love that has been elusive for so long.
* * *
Twenty years of moving 47 times came to an abrupt halt April 11.
In a motel in Gothenburg.
A boyfriend of Melanie’s mother allegedly smacks her mother’s face with a Bible.
“She was crying and had lines on her face so I asked him to chill,” Melanie said. “I tried to calm him down.”
The boyfriend comes toward her. Pushes her down.
A knife appears.
“I thought I was going to die.”
After he stops, she stumbles to the bathroom. Leaves a trail of blood.
Melanie locks the door. Calls 911 on her cell phone. Passes out.
Local medical personnel stitch her up, send her to a Kearney hospital.
A deep stab wound to a heart vessel means open heart surgery.
Melanie’s sternum is broken to repair her heart.
Physical wounds on the outside. Emotional ones on the inside.
“I woke up wondering why I was in so much pain and then I saw stitches everywhere.”
* * *
Nine pink crosshatches, that look like tattoos, dot Melanie’s arms, torso and chest.
A white brace around her chest protects her sternum.
Recuperating in her grandparents home in Gothenburg, Melanie finally feels safe.
But she almost loses her life getting there.
* * *
Melanie was born in Warren, OH, where she graduated from high school in 2009.
Inbetween, she moved away with her mother, stepbrother and stepsisters to seven different states numerous times before returning.
“It was hard to keep up my grades but I did.”
* * *
An abusive stepfather, convicted of murdering a young girl, dies in prison when she’s 8.
Another stepfather whips his children with a belt.
At age 12, she meets her biological father.
Her mother leaves for several years. The children live with a grandmother.
“We never had a stable life.”
A desire to start fresh in the middle of the country. Melanie, her mother and siblings move to Gothenburg in 2002.
Befriended by Amanda Mann at school, she then attends church and youth group.
“I consider them family.”
Staying in Gothenburg for two school years is a stark contrast to what Melanie calls life in the ghetto elsewhere.
For a time, she lives with Jim and Jamie Mann and with Matt and Sherri Langley.
For Melanie, Harvey and Betty Wing also represent stability and show her love.
She moves with her family to Idaho and then back to Ohio.
After graduation, she takes a bus to Louisiana to stay with her biological father and his children.
After seven months, it feels awkward. She rejoins her mother in Connecticut before they move back to Ohio.
In the meantime, Melanie longs for Nebraska where she feels safe.
“I told Mom I wanted to get away from the violence in Warren. A lot of gangs and shootings.”
At age 11, when she lives there, she’s shot in the knee.
“But being stabbed hurt worse,” she confesses.
One night, she witnesses the Ku Klux Klan with torches, walking down the street and singing.
Melanie and her mother earn money for a trip to the Midwest. Detailing trucks.
They arrive, with the boyfriend, on a spring-like day April 9.
The Wings open their home for two days. The house becomes too full.
Someone pays for a motel room for the threesome.
Forty-five minutes later, sirens scream. Melanie fights to stay alive.
* * *
These days she heals at the Wings. Hangs out with the Manns.
“They’re my surrogate grandparents and parents.”
Feels love she’s never felt before.
Melanie says she’s got her Christian family back, something she never had until she first lived here.
She also feels in touch with God after years of “bad stuff happening.”
“I still have trust issues with certain people,” Melanie says. “But I’ve learned to stay away from people with bad vibes.”
Her mother moved to another town.
“I still love her but it’s not safe.”
Melanie might always be scared of knives.
But here, in what she calls “sweet little Gothenburg” where she almost lost her life, she feels she has a chance.
“I’m not going anywhere.”