TEMPLE TERRACE — The attack that nearly killed Sharon Reynolds lasted 15 to 20 minutes but felt like forever.
She had kicked her obsessive ex-boyfriend out, told him to stay away. Twelve days later, he returned for blood. He shot at her twice with a crossbow as she walked to her laundry room. When he missed, he dragged her inside and stabbed her nine times with an 11-inch knife.
Telling this story, as she did Monday from a hairstylist's chair, still makes her chest feel tight. But she got it out in a steady tone, even managed a smile.
Sitting in that chair at all was a major accomplishment for 39-year-old Reynolds, who didn't want to leave her home for a year after the 2005 attack that put her in a hospital for five surgeries and sent her attacker, Earl Metty Jr., to prison for life.
"If I don't go, then he wins anyway," she said. "And I ain't going to let that happen."
The owners and the staff at SerenBe Spa in Temple Terrace honored that spirit Monday, celebrating survival by pampering hair, nails and skin. They treated Reynolds and three other domestic violence victims selected by the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office to four hours of spa treatments, plus hugs, tears and chocolate-covered strawberries by candlelight.
"We wanted to empower them, share womanhood with them, make them feel beautiful for a day," said Kelly Seeley, one of the spa's co-owners.
Female-owned businesses donated gifts and food, and the spa's all-female staff came in on its day off to provide services. Several victim advocates also came in support.
Each of the survivors, including a mother and daughter, had left their abusers. The criminal court cases had run their course. Though souvenirs of violence lingered — recurring nightmares and physical scars, among them — the women did their best to relax as they got polished, buffed, waxed and styled.
Victim advocate Manuel Gonzalez was the only man at the gathering, but his face crinkled with delight as he recalled how thrilled Isabel Guartanga, 48, had been when she was chosen to participate.
At her request, he snapped a picture of her "before" look Monday morning.
Her life since leaving her abuser had not been easy. But on this day, with her skin smooth and her black bob haircut shiny, Gonzalez knew she would have reason to smile.
Colleen Jenkins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3337.