Ava (chapter 4) - The Past

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
Here it the fourth chapter of my novel Ava. I can't get the chapter links to work in my novel so here it is.

Submitted: May 05, 2011

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Submitted: May 05, 2011

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Dinner was oppressive.  First, the family sat in silence for fifteen minutes.  Next, they moved on to discussing everyone’s accomplishments.  It was all relatively boring.  Ava did, however, find out that Tina and George now had a son named Jake.  She barely cared but did find it disconcerting that she was unaware of a member of her own family.  She wanted to ask where Grandma Pearl was, but didn’t feel like breaking the awkward silences.  She was also mildly afraid that she would ask and find out that Grandma Pearl had passed away.  She was fairly certain that she would have noticed, but she hadn’t exactly been paying close attention to her mother recently.  At the first possible opportunity, she escaped towards the kitchen.

She closed the kitchen door behind herself and rolled her eyes.

“Can I help you?” Came a voice that made Ava jump.  She relaxed as she saw Anna the elderly cook peer around the corner.

“Oh.  No.”  Ava said.  “I just needed to get out of there.”

“Oh I understand honey.”  Anna said as she wiped her hands on her apron.  “Your family can be a handful.”

Ava pulled out a stool and sat down.  Anna’s daughter Alisa was grabbing something from the refrigerator and Ava nodded at her as she turned around.  There was something different about Alisa but Ava couldn’t put her finger on it.  Alisa’s dirty blond hair was longer and she was still a little bit heavy set.  Alisa was clearly older.  But then again so was Ava.  No it was something else.  She tore her eyes from Alisa and looked back to Anna.

“Was there always so much tension?”  Ava asked.

Anna shook her head as she made her way over to the stove.  “Things changed when your father died.”  Anna paused and looked over at Ava.  “Nobody really knows what to do.”

“Do about what?” 

“Your father was hand picked by Henry Sr. to take over the company and I guess that meant the family as well.  But with him gone…everyone’s a little bit on edge.”

“I thought uncle Henry took over as CEO.”  Ava said grabbing a grape from the table in front of her.

Anna smiled as she picked up a ladle.  “He did.  And as far as I know the company’s doing better than ever, but the family…well it’s the opposite.”

“What is?”

“Ava darling I’ve worked for this family for nearly half a century and there are so many secrets in that room out there, it’s a wonder you all can even have dinner like civilized company.”

“What do you mean by that?”  Ava asked.

Anna shrugged.  “You’ll find out one day.”

Ava looked out the window.  She wasn’t really interested in whatever was going on between her relatives.  She didn’t really even think that she belonged in this family.  But something about the way that Anna talked about them - like her family was some bizarre version of the Kennedy’s - peeked her curiosity.

*******

The next morning, Ava sat on the edge of the pool with her feet in the water.  Jake was splashing around in a kiddie pool to her left while Savannah and Bea were running around the pool playing goodness knows what game.  She sighed. 

“Stop running.”  She yelled.  Neither Savannah nor Bea paid any attention, they never did.  But at least if one of them broke a leg she could say she told them not to. 

She kicked her feet around in the water.  What a two weeks this was going to be.  She looked up at Kimberley across the pool.  What a cliché.  Ava’s eyes swept over her cousin’s perfectly toned body covered in tanning oil and dialed in on her toe ring.  Who had a toe ring? 

The door to the house opened and closed and Sean strode out. 

“Nice day huh?”  He said flashing a smile.

Ava gave him a shrug, while Kimberley neglected to even open her eyes.

“Tough crowd…” Sean joked as he took off his shirt and dove into the pool.

Ava flinched slightly as he hit the water.  He came up and shook out his hair.

“Water’s nice.  Why don’t you come in?”  He asked, turning to Ava.

“I’m trying to save some fun for the other twelve days I have to be here.”  Ava smiled.

“Someone’s riding the bitter bus.”  He said giving a fake pout.  Ava wanted to slap him.

“Ow.”  Savannah screamed.  “Ava! Bea pulled my hair.”

“Stop pulling Savannah’s hair.”  Ava half-heartedly scolded.

“She kicked me!”  Bea answered.

“Savannah don’t kick her.”  Ava said.

“Wow you have such a talent in parenting.”  Sean said.

“They aren’t my kids.”  Ava said shrugging.  “It’s actually in my interests if they kill each other.”  She smiled.

Ava turned as the buzzing of the lawnmower grew louder and Holden, the gardener came into view.  Kimberley immediately opened one eye and peaked over.  As Holden grew closer she waved.

“Hey Holden.”  Kimberley yelled, smiling as widely as she could.

“How pathetic…” Ava murmured under her breath.

Holden waved back. 

“Hi Ava.”  Came a quiet voice from behind her that made her jump.  She spun around to see Ian standing just inches behind her. 

“Jesus Ian you scared me.  Where did you just come from?”  She asked.

“The underworld.”  He said quietly before laughing.  Ava didn’t understand his humor.  She found it a bit off-putting.

Ian crossed to sit in a chair in the shade.  Ava leaned back and let the sun fall on her.  This family was so weird.  How could she possibly be a part of it?

“Ava!”  Savannah screamed.

“What?”

“Come in with us!”

“I don’t want to get wet.”

“Please.”

“No.”

“Pleeeeease” Bea added.

“No.”

Before she could react, Bea had grabbed Ava’s cell phone from her side and held it high above her head.

“Give it back.”  Ava said.

“Come and get it.”  Bea said, taking a step backwards.  But as she moved she lost her balance on the step and toppled backwards, dropping the phone into the pool.  She came up for air and both her and Savannah stood looking at Ava.

“Get it!”  Ava said.

It had only been under water for maybe a minute but it was beyond resuscitation.  She tried everything.  She took the battery out and let it dry.  She even tried putting it in a bowl of rice.  Nothing worked.  She stared at the blank screen hopelessly.  She could have killed her sisters.  They were like the plague.  They made everyone around them sick and left death in their wake.  Her phone had only been the most recent casualty.  She’d lost a good portion of clothes, her lamp and a trophy she’d won years ago before she decided to keep her door locked at all times.  But still, the plague stops for no man or in this case, small child. 

“No luck?”  Anna asked entering the kitchen.

“Nope.”

“You look like someone died.”  Anna chuckled.

“Might as well have.  My only connection to the outside world is gone.”

“Why don’t you run down to the mall?”

“My mom will never let me.  She’s probably happy I can’t talk to my friends.  She hates them all.”

Anna paused before saying.  “Well, maybe don’t mention why you’re going to the mall.”

Ava looked up at Anna and smiled half-heartedly.  She felt too deflated to come up with a scheme. 

Ava turned as the kitchen door opened and saw her mother enter the room.  She quickly shoved her phone into her pocket.

“Ava.  I’ve been looking for you.”  Her mother said.

Ava didn’t respond.

“Will you go up to Grandma Pearl’s room and read to her?  She’s stuck up in that room all day.  It’s the least we can all do to go visit her occasionally.”

So her grandmother was sick, Ava thought to herself. 

“I’m kind of in the middle of watching all the small children.  Remember, I’m the designated baby sitter.”  Ava tried not to sound too snotty. 

“I can see that.”  Her mother responded.  “Where are they exactly?”

Ava smirked.  “Out by the pool.  I was getting them a snack.”

To be honest she had been getting herself a snack but that was only a small lie, she’d told worse.

“I’ll watch them.  Go visit your grandmother.”  Her mother responded more sternly before turning to Anna.  “Anna.  Henry wanted me to remind you that Ian is allergic to apples.  He had a mild reaction last night and I just want to make sure it doesn’t happen again tonight.”

“Yes ma’m”  Anna responded.

“Good.”  Ava’s mother responded briskly.  “Ava visit your grandmother.” 

And then her mother was gone from the room.  Ava and Anna were silent for a few minutes before Ava broke the silence. 

“What’s wrong with Grandma Pearl?”

“Pneumonia.”  Anna responded.  “Nothing she won’t recover from in a few weeks.  You know Pearl.  Strong as an Ox.”

“Yeah I know Grandma Pearl.”  Ava responded.

******

Ava pushed the door open slowly.  It was dimly lit inside and she could make out her grandmother’s outline in the bed.  The room smelled a little bit musty, as if the windows hadn’t been opened in days.  Ava slowly sidled into the room, shutting the door gently behind herself.  She approached the bed with caution.  It felt almost wrong to disturb the air of peace in the room.  Her grandmother was sitting up in the bed but her eyes were closed.  Ava looked around cautiously and then walked around to the side of the bed.  Just as she began to wonder whether she should come back later, her grandmother’s eyes flung open.  She jumped back with a start and clutched her chest.



“Ava.”  Her grandmother wheezed out.



Ava simply swallowed, trying hard to regain her composure.



“I haven’t seen you in two years.”  Her grandmother continued, searching Ava’s face.  “You’ve grown.”



Ava sidled up to the bed again and cracked half a smile.



“Come to read to me I suppose?”  Her grandmother cackled.  “Ever since I’ve been in this damned bed your mother’s been sending people in to read to me.  I’ve been through three books this week.”



“Yeah.”  Ava said.  “Is this the book?”  She asked, grabbing the only book on the bed-side table.



“Yes.  I suppose it is.”  Her grandmother said without turning her head.



Ava looked down at the book.  The cover was worn and the binding was falling apart. 



“Pride and Prejudice.”  Ava said.  “We had to read this in school this year.”



She hadn’t actually read the book but she wasn’t about to tell Grandma Pearl that.



Her grandmother coughed.  Ava pulled a chair up to the side of the bed and sat down.  There was a folded up piece of paper sticking out the top of the book and she pulled it out as she turned to the correct page.  The page she turned to was in the middle of a chapter. 



“Where exactly did you leave off?”  Ava asked.



“I’m not sure.”  Her grandmother replied.  “I wasn’t really listening.”



“You don’t want to be read to?”  Ava asked.



“Not particularly.”  Her grandmother replied.



Ava bit her lip.  “What do you want me to do?”



Her grandmother turned to look at Ava fully for the first time.  Ava felt like she was in an x-ray machine.



“What’s that in your nose?”  Her grandmother asked.



Ava instinctively reached up and felt her nose ring.  “It’s a nose ring.”  She responded.



Her grandmother turned back to look out past the foot of her bed.  “You’ve changed a lot in the past two years.”



Ava didn’t know how to respond, so she held her tongue.  Of course she’d changed.  She was basically a child when she’d seen Grandma Pearl the last time.



“You know in my day going wild meant something very different than it does today.”



Ava’s heart began to beat a little bit faster.  There was something much less threatening about her mother and the idea of receiving a lecture from Grandma Pearl was painful.  Something about the way that she phrased things, her deep brown eyes; it all reminded Ava of her father.



“And to be a Smithfield.”  Her grandmother wheezed louder.  “That meant something.  It meant being the picture of grace and elegance.”



Her grandmother turned and focused her beady eyes on Ava’s.  “Not stumbling about drunk like some common whore.”



Ava swallowed hard.  “I….” She froze for a second before gaining back some of her confidence.  “I already got this speech from my mother.”  Ava shut the book in her lap with as much authority as she could muster and threw it on the bedside table before getting up and heading for the door.



“Wait.”  Her grandmother commanded.  Ava paused then turned around slowly.



“Come back and sit down.  Never leave angry.”



Ava didn’t know why she complied.  Most likely it was because she knew Grandma Pearl would tell her mother everything.  Ava sat back down in the chair forcefully.  She still had the piece of paper that had been serving as a bookmark in her hand and she began to twirl it through her fingers.



“I’m sorry.”  Ava began. 



“I’m only saying what your father would, if he were still around.”  Her grandmother said.



“Well he isn’t…”  Ava whispered.



“You know your father hit a bit of a wild patch during his teens.  Stole the family car and disappeared for two weeks.  Still he was a good boy at heart.  Just like I know you’re a good girl at heart.”  Her grandmother attempted to sit up a little bit straighter.



Ava looked down at the paper in her hands and let her eyes unfocus.  She hated when people mentioned her father.  It felt like someone stabbing her every time.  Her therapist said she had unresolved feelings surrounding his death.  Ava thought that was a fancy way of saying that no one knew what the hell was wrong with her.  Sometimes she felt like her father was standing right beside her.  Not in a metaphorical way.  She could literally feel his warmth and almost smell his cologne.  She never told anyone this.  She didn’t need to be labeled a freak.  It was worse in this house though.  Every corner of the property reminded her of him.  Every person in the house looked like him, talked like him, made a hand motion like he used to.  When she was with her friends, she could almost forget. 



She felt something warm on her face and reached up to find a single tear sliding down her cheek. 



“What’s the matter?”  Her grandmother asked.



“I don’t want to be here.” Ava said meeting her grandmother’s eyes.  “Everything here reminds me of him.”



She sighed.  “He’s always going to be with you.  Not just here but wherever you go.”



Ava felt new tears spring to her eyes.  She hadn’t cried about this for a year and a half and she felt herself regressing as if she was sliding back down a slope.



“I can’t.”  She struggled out.  “I can’t talk about it.”



Her grandmother sighed and Ava wiped her eyes, taking a deep breath.  All of a sudden she felt a pinch on her finger and realized she’d cut herself on the note in her hands.



“Ow.”  She said, sucking on her finger.  She looked down at the note and for the first time saw that it had Pearl written on it.



“What’s this?”  She asked her grandmother as she opened the note.



“Don’t open that.”  Her grandmother cut sharply.  But it was too late.  Scrawled across the note in slanted writing was the message.  Don’t do anything stupid.



“What does that mean?”  Ava asked.



“It means nothing.”  Her grandmother said.



“Who’s it from?”  Ava asked.



“It’s from nobody.”  Her grandmother replied.  “Now if you don’t mind, I need to sleep.”



“But…”Ava began.



“Thank you so much for reading to me dear.”  Her grandmother cut in.



Ava got up slowly and walked to the door, reading through the note again as she went.


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