Creating Two New Novels. Writing One Chapter Weekly. Podcasting As I Go. Welcome to The Experiment.
Chapter 3 Part 1 Summary: Ava wakes up eager to see Lily. She brings a friend along to meet her.
Jane’s Favorite Line: “Ava was sitting on the bed with her tiny waist and full breasts packaged inside of another adorable dress.”
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Chapter 3 Part 1 Note:
Because one of my final outputs for my novel will be broadcast on podiobooks.com, I separated Chapter 3 into two parts. Podiobooks recommends that we keep the length of the episodes consistent. My chapters are around 19 -20 minutes in length. Chapter 3 is doubled that length, so it will be released as Part 1 & Part 2.
Click here to listen to Chapter 3, Part 1 on this blog:
Read Chapter 3, Part 1 below:
Chapter 3, Part 1
Ava was in that space where the best part of your dream fuses with the best part of your reality before you fully wake up.
She slept on the far right side of her California-king sized bed. The far, far right. If she moved an inch, she’d drop straight to the floor. A strange risk to take given all the space she had, but Ava had stopped sleeping in the middle of the bed twelve years ago when Carson had stopped sleeping there with her. He had tried. She knew that. For a week after he learned of her and Carly, he still slept with her every night. The second week it was touch and go. The third, their nights together became even more sporadic. The fourth week…he moved into his own room. One on the first floor. Now, not only were they rooms apart, but also three floors. Might as well throw in the emotional distance. It was the greatest between them.
All alone, the bed was too vast. Sleeping alone in the middle of it made Ava feel she was lost at sea destined to be drowned by waves of white silk sheets. So instead, Ava slept on the far right side of the bed with her back to the edge.
At this moment, Ava was coming into reality, but part of her mind was still asleep. Although she could now feel the firm pillow she was hugging in her arms, her lingering dream state told her brain that she was hugging Carson. She smiled to herself and hugged tighter. The pillow caved in too much to accurately represent Carson’s muscle-filled frame, which caused the delicate balance between dream and reality to topple over and take her heart’s comfort down with it.
Ava opened her eyes. She pushed the pillow to the side and rolled onto her back. She felt her heart turn into a dead weight and the heaviness of it held her hostage against the mattress.
No. She told herself.
Ava had spent too many years feeling helpless. Staying in bed all morning and recounting her mistakes. Playing the “what if” game. It was a bad place for her. One morning, years after her one-night stand and a few dozen of Carson’s mistresses later, she shook herself loose of her guilt. Not completely free, but loose enough to function. Every morning without fail the emptiness started to make its way through her soul, but she had become apt at stopping it at the first inkling of its appearance. She busied her mind with other things.
Today’s things? Let’s see: ten o’clock is reading to the children at the hospital. That only lasts until eleven. But between then and dinner…she could spend the day showing Lily-
Lily! Ava sat straight up in her bed. How had she forgotten Lily was in her home even for a moment? Especially when last night she thought she would never fall asleep due to thoughts of her. Although Ava woke up this morning thinking the pillow was Carson, she went to sleep pretending it was Lily. She hopped out of bed to get dressed.
Just before eight Ava was fully dressed and rushing to tuck in the last corner of her comforter. She knew she would get an ear full for doing this in five, four, three, two, one…
A knock on her bedroom door. Ava ran to open it, but was still a few seconds away before it opened on its own. Claire began to step into the room as she spoke. “Good morning, Deary.”
Ava made it to the door and placed her body between Claire and the rest of the room, “I’m ready. Let’s go.”
This was a pointless maneuver. Claire is over three feet taller than Ava and simply looked over her brown wavy hair and spied the made bed. “Why did you bother to have me come so early if you’re still just gonna do every thang yourself? I thought company might slow you down a tad.”
“I have a bed for you to make. Come on.”
Ava’s perfectly polished pink toes were inside of the cutest size seven, white sandals and scurried down the hallway. They added a half skip in between every sixth or seventh step. The skip may have been overly youthful, but it was all Ava could do to keep from running full speed to Lily’s room. Which, if it hadn’t been for the black sneakers following at a creeping pace behind her, she may have done.
Claire didn’t mind that Ava sped off without her. She didn’t see why Ava and her visitor hadn’t share the same bed like they both knew they wanted to. They already crossed a doozy of a line by introducing Lily to Carson in the first place. But Claire guessed there was always one more line to cross even scarier than the last. Crossing the first line was a good thing in Claire’s eyes. It was good to see Ava happy about someone for a change. Even if it was this particular someone. Yeah, Ava was always smiling out of excitement for one charity or another she was running, but those were thing. Lily was a person. A person her Ava was happy about seeing. As far as Claire was concerned, Ava could sprint down those stairs she just reached and she’d be right along behind her in two minutes.
Ava stopped at the top of the third floor stairwell, but her heart had already leaped out of her body and down to the second floor where Lily’s room and, more importantly, Lily resided. She looked behind her. Claire was still forever and a day away from the reaching her at the stairs. Okay. Maybe she wasn’t that far away. Twenty seconds at most, but twenty seconds was a long time. Had Claire always walked this slow? Fourteen, thirteen, twelve…
“Claire, I’m going to wait on the second floor…incase Lily is on her way down to breakfast. I don’t want to miss each other.”
Claire smiled and waved Ava on. Nothing had been wrong with her walking pace for the last five years. She was happy for Ava, but she didn’t have enough excitement to add any more pep to her step than she had already done. “You go on ahead, Deary.”
Ava was gone.
When she reached the outside of Lily’s bedroom door, she realized that she now had nothing better to do than to hurry up and wait for Claire. Ava traced back a few steps to the bronze hallway mirror. Smoothing out invisible wrinkles from her flawlessly pressed dress, she started fretting about whether or not she looked believable. It was nonsense, of course. Ava always emerged from her room ready for the day and today was no exception. Sure, she may have spent more time agonizing over which dress to wear, but that’s nothing to nail her to a stake for. Overall-so far-she had managed to be herself. Not too giddy and not too anxious. But to Lily, would she look overly made up in her pink sundress for eight in the morning?
An hour later, Claire’s reflection finally stood next to Ava’s. An hour may be a slight exaggeration. But it felt that long to her.
“You look fine, Deary,” Claire assured her. “Let’s get the day started.” The pair turned towards Lily’s room. Ava’s damp with sweat hand grabbed Claire’s as they neared the door. Claire gave it a loving squeeze as she opened the left side of the double wooden door with her free hand.
“Good morning, Lily!” Ava sang out as Lily emerged from the pathway connecting her bedroom to her private bathroom.
“Heeey, Ava.” Simply laying eyes on Ava caused the silliest grin to form on Lily’s face. Oh, do we ever really grow up? Ava was sitting on the bed with her tiny waist and full breasts packaged inside of another adorable dress. Ava looking like the perfect, sexy little housewife didn’t help ease Lily’s excitement.
But you would have never been able to tell how excited, or embarrassed, Lily truly was. Other than her pitch being a little off and her Titanic-sized grin, she stayed collected. Way more collected than your average person wearing nothing but drops of water fresh from the shower would have been. Lily had been outside with Sarah and Emanuelle for less than three minutes, yet the dry heat caused a thin layer of sweat to cover her entire body. And it was only seven a.m. at the time. She didn’t know how these people survived.
Lily removed the softest towel she had ever touched from around her wet hair and moved it to its new location around her body. As she did this, she quickly surveyed the scene. Her bed across the room had been made with perfectly tucked corners that reminded her of military precision. An older lady, possibly late forties, paused arranging the fresh flowers on the nightstand to place her eyes on Lily. The scent from the dozen red roses filled the room as if she were in a garden.
Ava hardly took note of the fact that Lily had been naked just seconds ago. She had started bouncing up to Lily the moment, “Heey, Ava,” had left Lily’s lips. She gave Lily a big hug. And a strong one, too. Otherwise, Lily would have been knocked over. She was in mid-step when Ava threw her arms around her. Lily’s first thought was to hold the towel in place. Her hands went to it instead of opening up to Ava, which made the hug a bit stiff from her end.
“Well,” Ava teased when she saw the dark wet spots form on her dress, “thanks for the cleaning.”
Before Lily could give a witty reply, Ava leaned in and gave her a quick, “thank you”, kiss on her left cheek. When she pulled away, Ava was beaming at the seams. The kiss was nothing. Ava had delivered it so lightly that her pink lipstick didn’t leave the slightest trace that her lips had been on Lily’s cheek at all. Still, Lily was stunned and reacted with more shocked than she had when caught off guard in her birthday suite. It didn’t help that the woman across the room was smiling at them. She smiled as if she had played the matchmaker and was now watching her two candidates hit it off right from the start.
“Ava, we can’t-”
“Oh, Lily, what? It’s just a friendly little kiss on the cheek. Friends do that. Don’t they?”
“Yes, they do, Deary,” the woman offered and completely left off tending to the flowers to make her slow shuffle over to them.
The word “deary” aged the woman a bit more. It caused Lily to look at her more closely. She could now see that Claire wasn’t a plump forty-something-year-old mom who was possibly working part time just to fill in her days. She was older. In her sixties perhaps.
Lily extended her hand, “You must be Claire.”
“None of that here,” she corrected by pushing Lily’s hand to the side and giving her a hug the moment it was out of the way. Hugging, Lily concluded, must be the South’s preferred way of saying, “hello”.
It was also another hug Lily wouldn’t have expected based on the woman’s appearance. Her extra weight didn’t make her seem jolly, but solid like a football player. The lines on her face were split between her forehead and running parallel down both sides of her lips. The effect of this made her face look stern. Corporal in the army stern. She looked like the type of woman whose house kids would avoid even on Halloween and make her the mean old lady in their ghost stories instead. A former principal who ate the bad students is how the story would be told. But her speech and friendly hug obliterated that not-at-all-close-to-the-truth image.
Claire released her. Lily quickly stopped her towel from sliding down and retied it. No one seemed to notice. “Alright, then. I’ll be here every mornin’ to make your bed, put out fresh flowers and warm towels. Tidy up, you know? If you need somethin’ personal like a bath drawn, ironin’, a cup of cool tea, page me. My number’s in the night stand drawer.”
Lily shook her head in an attempt to let this particular type of southern hospitality sink in. She didn’t know how to reply to it other than to politely refuse it.
“Thank you, Claire, but really, I can handle it. There’s no need to wait on me.”
“Don’t be like that. This is a privilege. You being Ava’s long lost cousin and all.”
Although Lily felt like the butt of this joke once again, Claire’s sparkling eyes had actually turned towards Ava.
“Claire, don’t poke fun at me,” Ava playfully whined while giving the old lady a gently nudge.
“Who me?” Claire asked a little too innocently.
The two women laughed at the end of their familiar refrain.
“Honestly, Claire. I told you, I had gotten so nervous. It’s the first thing I thought of.”
“Say the second thang next time, Deary. Back to you,” Claire said turning towards Lily. She smiled at Lily as if she had been in on the recent banter. “Two hundred extra dollars daily to make you feel like a queen. Don’t be a demandin’ one if you don’t wanna be, but cleanin’ and flowers are part of the deal.”
Lily smiled. “Daily, uh? I’ll sleep in that bed every night.”
“Good! Most of the house don’t get up and about until eight or so, but the kitchen’s ret to go with breakfast ‘bout six.”
“But I just saw…” Lily realized she didn’t want to mention she had seen Carson. It felt like an unnecessary omission, but omit it, she did. “…Sarah off to school at six fifty.”
“I meant the most of the house you’re interested in,” Claire took in Lily’s reaction. “Don’t go lookin’ shocked. The whole house knows who you’re here for. Page if you want somethin’ specific. I’m a go wipe down your washroom and change out the towels.” Claire gave both ladies a quick hug and a knowing smile before she began making her slow crawl from the room.