It’s Friday night on Day 67 of the Pink Collar Savvy & Chic on Purpose Project, and I can’t imagine spending it any better. I’m so excited to finish my the first short story in my effort to blog a book and hope you enjoy reading it as much as I loved writing it.
I’m trying to figure out how to emphasize the strategy and solution pieces so this initial attempt won’t have those outlined, though they are embedded in the story. Any feedback is appreciated. Thank you!
And, as Pink Collar Savvy & Chic on Purpose chicks, even if you won’t be making a career change, I hope you find ways to incorporate your avocation into your vocation. : )
Ava Turns Her Avocation Into A Vocation – Post 3 of 3
Determined to eventually make advocating for women her full-time career, Ava resumed teaching that fall, but rather than limiting her court advocate work to summers as she’d originally planned when she started volunteering at Women Helping Women, she made it clear to the Volunteer Coordinator that she was available during breaks and holidays as well. And since court arraignments also took place on Saturdays until noon, Ava took those on too. As if that wasn’t enough, in addition to attending the continuous educational opportunities available as part of the support offered to volunteers through WHW, Ava she spent so much time checking out nonfiction and fiction books on domestic violence from her local library on Saturday mornings that the librarian started greeting her, “Good morning, Ava the Avid Reader.” Ava was a little embarrassed but more pleased by the name and wondered how no one, including herself, had come up with it before.
Considering it was the early 90s, Ava also took full advantage of the booming World Wide Web which had been gaining in popularity since its invention her junior year in college. A lifelong learner, Ava was delighted with the wealth of information available only a few finger clicks away and wished it had been around when she had to use microfiche back in her middle school research project days! She shared this with her students and realized how much she’d dated herself when one asked, “Uh, how old are you anyway?” So much for being the cool teacher, Ava thought to herself.
Ava’s cool factor may have dropped a bit with her students, but it was pretty high with the women she accompanied to court. All of them were special to Ava, but Solange held a special place in her heart. The young woman had arrived in the United States after fleeing persecution in her native Cameroon, Africa. With skin the rich brown of dark roast coffee and English spoken with a French accent just as smooth, Solange was a unique blend of sweet, smart and incredibly strong. In a short amount of time she’d gotten a work visa, a good job at a customer service center, her own apartment, a car, and was even studying for her citizenship test. All of that was threatened when a man she’d gone on one date with began harassing and stalking her. Recently, she’d come home to find him waiting outside the door of her apartment complex. When she’d asked him to leave, he’d grabbed her by the arm. Thankfully, the landlord just happened to be in the building showing a vacant unit down the hall. He’d intervened and sent the man packing. A father of teenage girls, he’d then insisted Solange file a temporary protection order, which lead her to Women Helping Women.
“Ms. Ava”, she lamented when they met for the first time outside the court room before the arraignment began. “I shouldn’t have gone on that date with him. He works in my department and it is against the rules. I tried to tell him no, but he would not accept my refusal.”
“We call that ‘not taking no for an answer’,” Ava responded, with no censure. Solange wasn’t interested in returning to Africa given the danger she’d escaped. America was now her home and she was eager to assimilate.
“Exactly!” she exclaimed then, her voice louder than Ava had ever heard it. “He would not take no for an answer. I thought if I accompanied him on one date, I could tell him we were not well suited.”
About to say, “You weren’t a good match”, instead Ava held her tongue. One of the best ways to support women, she’d learned, was to do more listening than talking.
Solange continued, wringing her hands. “I do not want to go in front of the judge. It is bad enough that Michael has already been suspended from work since he is forbidden to be near me with the temporary protection order in place. If the judge issues a permanent one, he will lose his job and then come after me. It is better if I say nothing.”
For a long moment, Ava was at a loss for what to do or say, so she remained quiet. Solange was so distressed that she leaned forward and began to take in quick, jerky breaths. Recognizing a panic attack when it was about to happen, Ava asked, “May I touch you?”
Solange merely nodded.
Ava placed her hand firmly on Solange’s back. “First, you need to slow down and breathe properly. Take in a deep breath, hold it and count to four, then exhale as I count back down. Alright, now breathe.” Normally Ava wasn’t this authoritative, but Solange’s case was next on the docket, so time was of the essence. While Solange did as she was instructed, Ava summoned the courage to tell the story she’d never told anyone. Once the other woman’s breathing was normal, Ava forged ahead.
“You were about to hyperventilate. It reminded me of when I was a little girl. My babysitter’s teenage son molested me. He pushed me down on the bed and called it tickling, but it was really touching my body all over in places he had no business. That only happened once because I threw such a fit I didn’t have to go back to his house.”
“It is good that you did something to prevent him from touching you again.” Solange had listened intently and Ava could tell she’d forgotten her own situation for a moment.
“Yes, Solange. I did something to stop me from having to go back to the house, but I didn’t say anything to stop him from trying to hurt me again. Shortly after that, he followed me home and came in through my bedroom window.” Solange gasped, anticipating that he’d gotten what he came for. Ava patted her knee and assured her, “No, thankfully, a neighbor saw him. She made sure I got out of the house and called the police. He was arrested and went to juvenile detention. That’s jail for young adults,” Ava clarified for Solange’s sake. It took her a moment to compose herself before she continued. “He went to prison for raping and killing a girl who grew up on my street.” Ava recalled how she’d seen one of the older guys who used to attend her Sunshine Club in the parking lot of the grocery store a while back. They’d had a great time catching up until she asked about his sister and learned that Dougie had raped and murdered her and was serving a life sentence. Ava shuddered involuntarily, still unable to process it.
“Ms. Ava. You did not deserve what that boy did to you. And the woman he brutally attacked and killed did not deserve it. You carry what he did to you and you blame yourself for her death because you did not speak up. But you were a child. The Bible says, ‘When I was a child, I spoke as a child. I understood as a child. But when I became a man, I put away childish ways.’ You could not understand what needed to be done then. And you could not speak what you didn’t know how to speak. Now, you are a woman, Ms. Ava. You understand as a woman. You speak as a woman. Not only for yourself, but you give others the courage to speak for themselves.”
By this time, both women had tears rolling down their cheeks. Then suddenly, the bailiff appeared and called Solange’s name.
“Some advocate I am!” Ava cried. “I’m supposed to be cheering you on, and instead I took too much time telling you my story. Now it’s time for you to take the stand,” She squeezed Solange’s hand in a last show of solidarity. “Lord, please, help Solange to speak boldly and with confidence. Help her to win.”
“Don’t worry, Ms. Ava. You found your voice and told your story. That will help me tell mine. I believe we’ll have victory,” Solange said as she squeezed Ava’s hand then rose to enter the courtroom. Just before she did, she turned and said, “I couldn’t have asked for a better cheerleader.”
Solange was granted the protection order and fortunately never saw Michael again after the arraignment. He didn’t return to her office and she later heard on good faith that he’d moved several states away, so the trial was never held. There was a warrant out for his arrest but those who knew him well doubted he’d ever resurface, for which she was relieved.
For Ava, finally speaking about her childhood trauma freed and empowered her to finally make the career change she’d been contemplating. Instead of earning her master’s in education as she’d planned before she started volunteering with Women Helping Women, she earned one in nonprofit management.
“Wow!” Collette marveled when she visited Ava’s new office soon after she applied for and got the recently vacant Director of Advocacy position at Women Helping Women. “Who’d have thought you’d turn volunteering into a new career?”
Though Ava was a cheerleader and an advocate who used her voice well, she smiled but remained quiet. She’d done it! She’d turned her avocation into a vocation!
In her mind’s eye she could see that sign hanging above the doors of the church. Smiling an even broader smile, she opened her laptop and the folder where she captured writing ideas lest they slip away. Having shared an apartment for five years, Collette knew what she was doing and wandered around checking out her best friend’s new work digs.
Knowing she’d write about it one day, Ava typed: Worship begins when you enter; Service begins when you depart.