When Hope Ends: Life Begins

It’s the best day of his life—the worst of hers.

She left her soul behind in the dead silence of a hospital room.

He is bright with hope after being so close to losing faith.

One moment in time leaves their paths unavoidably entwined.

An invisible connection held by one heart beating between them.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Ainsworth, but on this I have to agree with Ms. Spencer.”

The relief I feel at Judge Winslow’s words, walking out of the courtroom, is short-lived. The reality hits me in the face the moment I step into Kenny G’s holiday classics streaming into the otherwise empty elevator cab. My knees buckle and I end up on my ass, sitting on the floor with my back against the side.

The frenzied battle waged in and out of the courtroom, these past five days, suddenly seems insignificant in the face of what’s ahead. Today, in fact. The judge ended up giving Emmett and his family until four this afternoon to say their goodbyes, and after that it will all be up to me.

The heaviest of responsibilities my knees clearly can’t hold up under.

The moment the door hisses open, I’m blinded by flashing lights.

Stupid. I’d all but forgotten they were here.

I scramble to my feet, an endeavor made more difficult with microphones and recording devices shoved in my face, and block out the questions that come at me from all directions. Hard to believe I was part of the pack not that long ago.

I should’ve let Sam come. When I talked to her briefly this morning and she mentioned Demi—her youngest—had been sick all night, I insisted she stay home and look after her. I regret it now. Sam would’ve plowed her way through the small crowd of my peers and hustled me out of there.

I will myself not to show emotion, a copy of the judge’s order being crumpled in my hand from the effort. I fight the panic crawling up my throat as they hold the elevator doors open, but block me inside. My eyes aim over their heads to look for help.

It comes in the form of a gray, potbellied security guard who comes to my rescue. He forces himself through the throng and grabs me by the arm. I follow behind him like a frightened child, as he drags me into a small room beside the security checkpoint at the door.

“Breathe,” my Good Samaritan orders. “Where the hell is your lawyer?”

“Another case,” I manage, trying to control my breathing.

“Do you have a car or should I call someone to pick you up?”

“Just a taxi, please.”

I’d left my car at the hospital. Driving in Boston is a nightmare on the best of days. I had no desire to get stuck finding a parking spot, so I opted to cab it.

Ten minutes later, the same kind guard leads me down the courthouse steps and into the cab waiting below.

“Tufts, please.”

“Which entrance?” the driver asks.

“Emergency,” I quickly say, hoping to avoid the press likely to be hounding the main entrance, as they have the past few days, since Emmett made our battle a very public one.

My job, not so long ago my passion, has turned on me these past weeks. Even after being out of the spotlight the past nine months, unfortunately I’m apparently still newsworthy. Of course, Emmett and his parents are mostly to blame for that, probably thinking I would cave under public pressure.

I haven’t. Not when the only redeeming outcome in this nightmare was dependent on my strength.

The emergency entrance to the otherwise busy hospital is blissfully quiet, and I send up a brief thank you to whatever power is up there. For one who’s not particularly religious, I’ve sure sent up my share of prayers these past nine months and even more so the past week. Pretty sure no one is listening, but even knowing intellectually there’s no avoiding what is coming, I’m not willing to leave any stone unturned.

On the third floor, I force myself to grab a coffee and a sandwich, knowing I’ll need to keep up my strength. Besides, Emmett and his parents are probably with him already. They left the courthouse while I was waiting for a copy of the order.

They have another hour before it’s my turn, time I need to set the wheels in motion. Lives may depend on it.

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