Like a beautiful clinging vine trust had spread between their hearts. Its roots held tight. It grew deeper every day.
Yet Tessa wanted to stint its growth. He didn’t know her past. She felt as though she’d deceived him. Betrayed him. Tricked him into loving someone he didn’t really know. Guilt was a burden that weighed her down every day. Dawn brought no new page—fresh, clean, white. But if she uprooted the vine—broke his trust—everything would fade away. Their love. Her hope. Her life.
But concealing it any longer would only pain her more. He saw her in a light so much different than it should be. She would never feel innocent and pure. Never worthy of being loved. Yet all she needed was someone to hold her close and tell her she could be forgiven. That she was forgiven. And could forgive herself. She wanted Tristan to be that person.
Glossy eyes set in a weary face glared back at her in the mirror the next morning. Dark clouds concealed the sun and promised a heavy rain. Was this God’s way of telling her how wretched she was? How unworthy of forgiveness? Unworthy of even hope? But Tristan. Her small faith in him flickered ever so softly inside her.
Yet hours later reversed her faith in him. Her hope. It had been shattered into thousands of tiny pieces. Guilt flooded her body and she gasped for breath as she ran, seeking to empty the pent up emotions. She would never forget that rejection. His facial expression. The way he’d avoided meeting her gaze, shifted his body away from her. She couldn’t forget those painful moments. She never would. Remembering them brought a fresh pain to her heart. A physical pain that cried out for release.
She was surrounded by towering tree trunks when she collapsed to the ground. All around her colorful arrays of dying leaves clung to their branches. They would all die eventually. Flitter from that height down to the bitter earth. Shrivel into crisp brown triangles, soon to be trampled and forgotten. She wanted to die to. To be forgotten. To forget.
Face buried in her arms, she cried, letting the troubled, angry tears free. She couldn’t live this life anymore. No one could forgive her. And she couldn’t forgive herself.
The tears slowly subsided, leaving her eyes a darker, more melancholy brown than before. Numbness filled her; yet the sound of bubbling water drew her mute and careless attention. She turned her head and watched the rushing ripples for several seconds. The water, flowing over the rocks, pulling twigs downstream, softening pebbles, nourishing moss. How…peaceful. As she rose to her feet, nearing the bank, a calming, restful thought consumed her mind. The pain could end. That rejection. It wouldn’t exist anymore. Not another day would be filled with grief and regret. The illusion consumed her mind. Like a corrupt, black smoke it swept her away in misery. She bent to the water’s edge, not bothering to take her shoes off. That wouldn’t matter. Several more steps and Tessa stood chest deep. The water tugged at every layer of her dress, weighing her down. She closed her eyes and let the sound of the river intoxicate her. She exhaled deeply, letting the air pass over her lips slowly. She let the soothing waters call her in—deeper, much deeper—until she was spiraling in darkness, eyes closed, body motionless. Her head was starting to ache, but there was no grief. No noise. It would all end soon. Soon… Every hope had been shattered. But now she was almost complete. Fitting the last piece of her life’s puzzle in place.
For a second she wanted to defy the piece. To reject it. To create a new one. But no. There was no other way. Her head was pounding. Her whole body going limp. There was no other way.
The illusion, the smoke of her mind, the waters—they all claimed her. They stole her body into the water’s depths. As she lay against cold, smooth rocks, the water caressed her face and hands, wondering with great curiosity at the potential of the life, at the beauty of that precious face. And all the while pitying the confusion wrapped up in the soul. The puzzle had been destroyed, not completed. There was another way.