Chapter 15, Silence Broken
“Ava?” I was astonished. I just stood before her, door open, my hand still resting on the door knob. She looked cold, still donning her lovely dress, though now adorned with a jacket. She clenched her clutch in front of her, both hands on handle. “Wh-what are you doing here?” That was not the only question running through my mind. I was also wondering, how did you know where I was? Why are you here in the middle of the night?
Stella approached my side, lightly placing her hand around my waist. It took me a moment to realize she was guiding me from the entry, to allow Ava passage into our warm cabin. “Hi, I’m Stella, Ivy’s friend. I just joined her. Please, come in. We have coffee. Would you like a cup?”
Ava tentatively crossed the threshold, unsure if she was truly welcome. Glancing at me, I came to and smiled, quickly saying, “Yes, I’m sorry. I seem to have forgotten my manners.” Able to move on my own accord, once again, I led Ava to the kitchen. Stella took her jacket and purse to the hall lockers. Suddenly, concern draped my body. Something had to have happened for her to come all the way out here, at two o’clock in the morning. “How do you like your coffee?”
“Two scoops of sugar and some cream, please.” Ava stood against the counter, fidgeting with her fingers. I peered over at her, wondering what was on her mind, but deciding it would be best to allow her time, said nothing. “I’m sorry to just drop in like this,” she sighed, “Particularly, after the way I’ve been acting toward you.”
I resisted the urge to say, that’s ok, feeling the need to be silent. Instead, I busied myself with the act of making her beverage and refilling our mugs. Stella still had yet to return from the hall. I assumed this was to give us privacy. I noticed Ava shiver, wrapping herself with her arms. “Would you like some warmer clothing? I have sweats you could change into, then we could sit by the fire in the family room?” She looked up, making eye contact for a moment. It was as if she was willing me to read her mind, fearful of having to say what she came to say aloud. An imperceptible nod eventually followed.
I handed her the mug, and turned to take her to my bedroom. We didn’t see Stella in the hall. If she were a comic book character, her name would be Stella the Stealth. At this though, I smirked. While Ava changed into warmer clothing, I went in search of Stella. She was sitting at the dining room table.
“Hey, sorry for going MIA, but I wanted to give you some space,” she whispered.
Matching her volume, I responded, “That’s fine. Actually, I appreciate it. If you don’t mind, we’re going to sit by the fire. Can you give us thirty or so minutes before joining?”
“Of course,” she answered, quickly, an expression of understanding apparent. She would give us as much time as we needed.
I retrieved her mug from the counter, handing it to her as I thanked her. I could not imagine dealing with whatever was to come, without Stella here. Once again, God’s timing is perfect: He sent my best friend to my door, hours before someone from my past graced my threshold. What a beautiful way to show me He has my best interest at heart. This thought calmed me, adding to my resolve. I can handle whatever comes from Ava’s mouth; regardless of how it may affect me. No matter what, I will transcend this period of my life – and be the better for it. This is what I asked for: my truth. Now, I have no choice but to be prepared to receive it.
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“So, Todd is your brother-in-law…” Well, don’t I feel ridiculous. We were sitting in the two arm chairs against the windows, the lamp between us on, the fire’s steady heat emanating into the room. Ava was no longer shivering. Stella, though visible, was lost in her own world on the computer, content at the dining room table. The only light she was using was the kitchen light I forgot to turn off.
“Yeah, I thought I should clear that up first. His family moved here about fifteen years ago, shortly after…uh, well, we’ll get to that. Anyhow, I met his older brother, Adam, at school, but we didn’t start dating until I started college. He is a few years older than us. A few years later, we got married. I fell in love with Adam's family. I enjoyed having a brother, since I had no sibling of my own….”
“Not that I have any right, but I am relieved.” I almost laughed in relief, turning from Ava; I felt simply foolish for my thoughts and actions at the bookstore.
“You know, Todd has been talking about you a lot since he met you. I…I just never told him I knew you…”
“He talks about me?” Uh-oh, I began to panic. I have been a crazy person these past five-ish days. What in the world would they think?
Reading the fear on my face, she quickly clarified, “Oh, nothing bad!” She got lost in laughter, which seriously lightened the atmosphere. “He is clearly smitten.” And she smiled a warm smile. She was beautiful, her straight blonde hair framing her face, falling below her shoulders. “It wasn’t until tonight that Todd shared what’s been going on, outside of your fun times together." She paused a moment, placing her mug on the table. "Which brings me to why I stopped by: Todd told me that you have been having trouble with your memory. And, the only reason he told me now, is because of what transpired at Reticence Unlocked. He is really concerned about you. I told him we used to know each other, but that I couldn’t share anything with him until after I talked with you…”
So, that’s how she knew where I was. He told her where I was staying after expressing his concern, thinking she might be able to help. A look of pain flashed in her eyes, hoping for me to see her. “Do you remember us playing together, at all?”
“Honestly, no, I don’t. But I did have a memory rush back to me while in the bookstore. It was of the two of us running through the store, and my mom scolding us, then she sent us off to get treats before unloading boxes of books…but, I only remembered that after I saw you walk away from us. I honestly have no memories of being here. Well, except my recurring dream. But, while my mind shows me these things, I don’t feel the memory. I don’t remember living these images.”
A look of disappointment crossed her face. “A part of me isn’t surprised. Shortly after that memory you are referring to, of us at the book store, a lot of stuff began to happen with your family. I don’t know all of the details, but your uncle, Oliver, started getting into a lot of trouble. Then after his murder – at least, the general consensus was that he was murdered, though never proven – something awful happened at this very cabin.” Ava shuddered. She became hesitant, as if not wanting to continue. I held my breath, waiting. “Not much information was shared. Everything was hush-hush; the people of Copseville fearful to even speak of the events that took place…
“I wouldn’t see you for days at a time. You told me you were being kept in a secret room. I thought you were kidding, or lying. I figured you had a good reason for keeping things to yourself, but I also didn’t understand why you wouldn’t share things with your best friend – especially a secret room. I was hurt. Then, I just never saw you again. I was a kid, and I blamed you for dumping me. I didn’t understand what I had done to make you not want to be my friend anymore.
“Your mother and grandmother would come to the bookstore, but never together; and never with you. I thought that was because you didn’t want to see me…Your mother died, your grandmother got sick, and then one day, you were gone and the cabin had been sold…Without a word.”
I was dumbfounded: so much information to absorb, yet no details to fit with what I already know. Clearly, I grew up in the village of Copseville. I had a best friend named Ava. My grandmother owned a book store, Reticence Unlocked. How perfect of a name, considering that it is the place that brought Ava’s silence to an end. My mother died here. I wonder if it was a natural death, an accident, or if she had been killed. This was not an accident. The writing on the obituary was a threat, a message; But a message for what? What did my mother have to hide? What did she have to be afraid of? What had Oliver done to be murdered?
And what exactly happened the night of my recurring memory?
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