The mixture of multiple footsteps that paced outside Ava Williams’ dressing room door kept her on high alert. Voices mumbled just quiet enough to keep her from the details, but still she knew. With every beat of her breaking heart and every sinking breath that filled her lungs, the realization crept into her knotted stomach. He wasn’t coming.
Her sister Lucy sat across from her in silent comfort. Thankfully they spoke no words between them. Ava needed time for her unsettled thoughts. Julia, her best friend since grade school, sat beside Ava with tissues in hand, clearly waiting for her to break down and unleash a flood of tears. Surprisingly this hadn’t happened yet, partly because of stubbornness and partly because she desperately hoped she misunderstood the tension that formed outside the door.
How long had she been sitting here in this room, waiting? Minutes or hours, she didn’t even know anymore.
Ava scanned the room, assuring herself the walls weren’t closing in on her. If she could make a clean escape possible, she’d kick off her three-inch heels and run. But the fear of being seen kept her glued in her chair.
Ava stared down at the flowing white dress that covered her in a massive puff, sighing in disbelief. How could this be happening? He loved her, or so he claimed.
He seemed happy.
Or maybe that’s just what she wanted to believe.
As he’d hugged her good-night after the rehearsal, a different look appeared in his eyes. She didn’t think much of it, until now. Did he look nervous? Maybe a hint of anxiousness smothered in guilt?
What did he say before he drove away?
“I do love you, Ava. Always remember that.” Then he’d kissed her on the forehead.
She placed her hand on her throat as the unknown caused her windpipe to close.
A knock at the door tore her away from the sinking thoughts. Ava glanced up to see her mom walk in perfectly tailored for today’s event, from her pink dress and matching nails to her professional hairdo and makeup. She turned and shut the door behind her with a gentle click.
“Ava,” her mother proceeded into the room with concern etched across her face. She lowered herself onto the chair beside Ava. Her lips pursed, delaying the inevitable. In almost slow motion, she put an arm around her, her strong-scented rose corsage scraping against Ava’s bare skin. The pain in her eyes spoke volumes. Her mom didn’t even need to continue.
Ava took a deep breath and fought the impulse to cover her ears and go to a happy place where the news couldn’t hurt.
“Tim isn’t coming, sweetheart. His family just arrived and informed us that he has cancelled the wedding.” She pulled a white envelope from her purse and handed it to Ava. “This is for you.”Ava swallowed, trying to clear the lump that had formed in her throat. The word AVA was written in Tim’s handwriting on the top of the white envelope. The black ink screamed rejection. Black … the color that dominated her sight while the room began to spin. She put her head down, covering her eyes with her palm. Sweat drops pooled on her forehead. She swabbed her brow with clammy fingers. “I don’t feel well.”
Lucy jumped up from her chair. “Ava, its okay,” she said while scrambling to her. “You’re going to be fine. Let me get you some water.”
They sat her down with her head against the back of the chair and urged her to drink some water. Each sip brought her back to reality.
And reality really stunk.
“Ava, are you all right?” Concern coated her mom’s words.
“Yes. Thank you. I feel better, just a little dizzy.”
Ava stared down at the letter that held her disappointing fate.
“Would you like some privacy?” Lucy asked.
She made no attempt to leave.
“No, I need you all with me.” She held onto the letter so tight that her knuckles turned white. As badly as she wanted—no, needed—to know the reason behind his hurtful behavior and decision, she was also terrified to know the truth.
Oh God, she prayed, Give me the strength to endure these words and the faith to know that You will comfort me in every breath. You are my rock. Help me!
With a final look at the most important women in her life, her hands still shaky, she opened the envelope and began reading out loud:
First of all, I’m sorry for hurting you and ending our relationship this way. I couldn’t trust myself to explain in person for fear I would change my mind once I saw your beautiful face. I know that despite my horrible timing and the gut-wrenching feeling it is to hurt you this way, I am still making the right decision. I can’t marry you, Ava. I do love you, but I can’t stand before God and make you my wife. You are everything I have ever wanted, but the peace I need is not there. I do not want to create a lifelong “what if” marriage, so I need to let you go. I am truly sorry. I pray that you will find happiness again.
Ava wiped the flood of tears that drenched her face. Her mom rubbed her other hand while Julia continued feeding her tissues.
“Why was I not enough for him?” she cried between hiccups and sobs.
She gasped, struggling to breathe as the pain stabbed her heart. Ava clawed at her chest trying to remove the agony. She had no warning, no insight into his thoughts. Within a day she went from rejoicing in the future laid out before her to being alone and empty. If she could have only prepared herself, maybe the blow wouldn’t have hurt so badly.
“What am I going to tell everyone? How can I face all those people again, knowing they pity me? How could Tim leave me to handle all of this?” she snapped. “What a coward!” She covered her face with her hands, allowing the walls to break. Finally, after many rounds of trying to compose herself, a new strength built inside, and she shed the last tear, for now.
“Ava,” her mother waited until she had her attention. “First of all, you are an amazing woman and you will survive this. Now, your dad and brothers have already taken care of all the guests, so there is nothing to worry about. You just take care of yourself and tell us what you need us to do.”
“Thanks. What I really need is our family. Could you have the guys come in? It would make me feel better to see them,” Ava said. She could almost feel their comforting arms.
“Of course, honey.” A warm smile lightened her features. “I’m surprised they haven’t busted down the door already. You know how protective they are of you.”
Her mother stood and walked to the door. Lucy rushed to Ava’s side, filling the vacant spot. She wrapped her arm around Ava’s shoulder and squeezed. Ava leaned her head against Lucy’s shoulder.
In an instant her dad entered the room, wrapping her up into his arms. “Oh Ava, my sweet girl.” He pulled her back a bit so he could look her in the eyes. “I would give anything to make your pain my own so you wouldn’t have to suffer another moment.”
“Thanks, Dad.” Not many girls were blessed to have such a strong and affectionate father. He didn’t waste many words, but people listened when he spoke. The silver that painted his long ago black hair proved his years of wisdom and Ava appreciated the advice that he gave when asked, not forced.
Her older twin brothers entered with scowls on their faces. Despite her sudden crummy life, she remained very thankful for family. As her dad stepped aside, her brothers sandwiched her into the tightest hug.
“Ava, all you have to do is say the word and we can take care of Tim,” Jake snarled. She caught a glimpse of his chest puff up slightly. He was serious.
“I see you’re hesitant. We don’t actually have to hurt him—maybe just scare him a bit,” Josh offered.
Ava almost giggled. Her hesitancy wasn’t because she didn’t want them to hurt him. She was hesitant because she actually considered it. “Thanks guys, I really appreciate it. But I guess if I’m not worth his time, he shouldn’t be worth ours.” Her anger surfaced easily.
“Ava, you are priceless. Don’t let some guy make you feel otherwise, not even for a second,” her dad chimed in behind them. He was always her biggest fan.
His words dripped in kindness and what she needed to hear to fill the hollow ache in her heart, but his words were wasted effort. She could identify the shock setting in. She felt numb and empty regardless of the love that surrounded her. Her self-pity had just won the battle placed before her. She fixed her eyes on the picture hanging on the wall, not seeing it, just giving herself a distraction.
She had no more tears. A stone never sheds tears, and that is what she felt like, a stone. No emotion, no senses—just hard and unmoving.
Her mom spoke first. “Okay men, out you go. We need to get Ava undressed and get her out of here.” She waved her hand toward the door to help scoot them along.
The guys filed out as Ava sat down in the chair where she had earlier gotten ready. She looked up at the mirror for one last glance. The dress she had once thought would remind her of the happiest day of her life now turned into weights that she couldn’t shed fast enough.
The dress she had dreamed about since meeting Tim ended up a waste. Hopefully she could get a good price for it at the consignment shop downtown.
She twisted her engagement ring around her finger, debating whether to throw it across the room or place it on the table beside her.
She left it on.
Julia stood behind her and they looked at each other through the mirror. They shared no words. None were needed. They had years of speaking to one another through looks and signals.
Without asking, Julia freed her hair from the million bobby pins that the hairdresser thought needed to pierce every square inch of her head. The loose black curls softly bounced down below her shoulders, stopping at the middle of her back.
Ava took a deep breath.
Yes, she would survive, but at what cost? Would she ever let herself love again?
Death comes in many forms…her death was a love squelched by rejection…
SWAT officer Matt Thompson lives for saving and protecting others, but can he rescue Ava from herself? For him it’s love at first sight, and convincing Ava to trust him and prove to her his love is real and unending is a battle worth fighting.
While Ava begins to break free from the bondage of her past she discovers that a student’s mom is suffering from her own bondage of domestic abuse. Ava’s determination to help becomes complicated when she is caught up in the tragedy that begins to unfold. Can Ava help her find freedom and God before it’s too late?
An irreversible decision is made that causes a backlash of chaotic events. Ava’s life is in danger and Matt is determined to save her…even if it costs him his own life.