Creating Two New Novels. Writing One Chapter Weekly. Podcasting As I Go. Welcome to The Experiment.
Chapter 4, Part 2 Summary: More of Carson’s lovers come to the fore, and Lily begins to wonder if Ava had alternative motives for asking her to visit.
Jane’s Favorite Line: “I can’t expect gossip to stop just because it’s about me.”
Subscribe on iTunes: Enough for Four – iTunes
Click here to listen to Chapter 4, Part 2:
Read Chapter 4, Part 1 below:
Chapter 4 Part 2
Lily held the baby closer to her chest and took more time to stand than she ever had in her life considering her cargo. “I should get this baby into the right arms. Help me find someone, Ava.”
“You don’t have to go anywhere for that. Nurse! Nurse!”
Lily frowned as the sleeping baby stirred. Why was this woman so loud? The baby had settled again before a nurse from behind the counter came to Lily’s aid. “Thank you,” Lily said placing the baby in her arms. “We should get to reading that last story, Ava.”
“Okay,” Ava replied with no assurance as to what she had agreed to. Her mind was still fixated on Chase’s belly and her last words.
“Don’t you two just leave me down here. Help me up,” Chase waved a hand in the air for assistance.
Lily stopped her eyes from rolling and took Chase’s hand. She braced herself to pull when-
“Do you want to end up on your back?” A nurse with a round face full of freckles stepped off of the elevator and jogged over to them. “Chase, I don’t know why you even get on the floor.” She squatted down and put Chase’s left arm around her neck. Lily fell in line and did the same with the right, though; the nurse’s medium build was better suited for the job. Together, the two women managed to aid Chase to her feet.
“I don’t want to be the lame one at the party,” Chase answered once on her feet and teased out her punk hair again.
“Your pregnant tail shouldn’t be at the party,” she took a playful swat at Chase’s behind. “Hi, Ava!” The nurse threw her arms around Ava. As they hugged, Lily saw Ava returning to her pre-Chase self. “I told them I had to go pee so I could sneak away. Couldn’t let you leave my fort without saying, ‘hi’. Who’s the new face?” She beamed an energetic smile at Lily.
“You know her, Sandra,” Chase interrupted Ava’s introduction.
“Do I?” Sandra looked embarrassed. “I’m so sorry, but I don’t remember meeting you.”
Lily sensed Chase was setting them up for a ‘checkmate.’ She considered her possible moves and saw that Chase had her screwed no matter what play she made. She stepped into the line of fire. “It’s our first time meeting, but it is nice to meet you, Sandra. I’m-”
“I didn’t mean to imply you’ve meet before,” Chase said as if she had made the biggest faux pas of the century.
Here it comes. Lily thought.
“She’s the one Carson told you about. Last night. Remember?”
And, that’s what a deer in headlights look like.
Sandra’s eyes went a little too quickly to Ava’s and even more quickly away. “This morning, Chase. When he came by to quote my windows. Carson did mention you this morning. You’re Lily. I didn’t put it together.”
“My bad. I could’ve sworn you said he came late last night because he had to wait to eat dinner with Ava and Sarah first. I swear because I remember thinking you must have some really dirty windows.”
“Breakfast. It was breakfast, Chase.” Sandra’s voice was drenched in desperation. “Carson said he couldn’t come last night because of dinner. I might have said he would try if dinner didn’t run late.”
Methinks the lady doth protest too much. Lily thought to herself. She could not tell if Ava shared her thinking.
“Whichever,” Chase said in a cool tone, which let the other ladies know that she was not the one mistaken. “At any rate, Lily’s the cousin he told you about from Chicago. Although, they’re not cousins, they’re…what are you two exactly?”
“Lily’s my friend,” Ava’s voice was void of emotion. She looked defeated.
“Hum. I thought we knew all of your friends as well as we know all of your family.”
Lily wondered if it was really all that wrong to hit a pregnant woman. There had to be exceptions. “I guess I slipped through the cracks,” Lily heard the warning tone in her voice telling Chase to back the hell off.
“I guess so,” she smiled satisfied at taking the queen in this game. “You know, Ava, I will read that last book. I’ll see you tomorrow for the summer kick off meeting. You should bring Lily,” Chase left the three ladies standing and sat in Ava’s deserted spot at the other end of the circle. “What should I read for the last book of the day?”
A flurry of suggestions sprang forth from the children. Chase’s laugh sounded completely opposite of the wicked witch she truly was.
“You should come, Lily,” Sandra offered with way too much enthusiasm. Lily wouldn’t have mined slapping her as well. Not because of that moment. Sandra seemed to be as much of a doll as Ava. But she wanted to slap her because of the moment between her and Carson that Chase was all to thrilled to allude to. And how could Carson forgo Ava’s curvaceous body for one that was flat chested with no butt whatsoever.
Lily decided to play nice. “I’d like-”
“No,” Ava cut in. “I mean,” she smoothed out more invisible wrinkles in her dress, “like I said, don’t let me wear you out with my schedule.”
“It’s really no problem.”
“It’ll be fun. And we could probably use her big city ideas.”
“Lily is on vacation, Sandra. She doesn’t want to spend four hours of her Saturday morning planning a party she won’t be here to attend.”
“But what else would she do?”
“Really, I don’t-”
“Carson can show her around.”
How far did Ava reach for that answer? Lily didn’t want to be alone with Carson no more than Sandra wanted Carson spending time with yet another lady. But both women understood Ava didn’t care what Lily did as long as she didn’t come.
“That does sound more entertaining,” Lily agreed.
“Alright. Sandra, we’re about to go and you should, too. They’re gonna start to doubt you only had to use the restroom.”
“Alright. See you tomorrow.”
“Okay,” Ava said and delivered the first non-hug Lily had seen to Sandra. “Tomorrow.”
Sarah had said Lily’s guess of a personal chauffer was a good one because the Wells actually had a personal chauffeur. Ava remained quite during the elevator ride down from the children’s floor, but loosened with each step closer to the hospital’s exit. By the time they slid into the back of the purple BMW, Ava was back to being Ava.
“Are you hungry, Lily? We could do brunch.”
“That sounds good to me.”
“Keith, please take us to wherever we can get brunch.”
“Yes, ma’am,” the driver replied from the front seat.
Ava faked exasperation and mouthed the word, “ma’am.” “Goodness. I’m only thirty-five. People keep making me feel old before my time.”
Lily smiled. She had to keep reminding herself that she was five years younger than Ava. Ava’s appearance coupled with her demeanor kept tricking Lily into viewing her as twenty-six or seven. Sometimes twenty-five when her accent was in overdrive.
“Ava, I’m sorry about up there.”
Ava let out a puff of air. “Don’t fret about it, Lily. I can’t expect gossip to stop just because it’s about me.”
Despite her composed response, Ava turned to look out the window and didn’t turn back the remainder of the drive.
Lily wanted to reach out to her, but being new lovers, didn’t know if Ava preferred her solitude in moments like this one. Instead, Lily looked out her own window and patiently waited for Ava to come back to her again.
Buckled into his passenger’s seat sat a bundle of flowers as tall as any human passenger would have been. Carson gritted his teeth as the green sign for, “Morning Gold Lane,” passed over his head. He was half a mile away from his fork in the road.
He gritted his teeth harder as he maneuvered into his chosen lane. His knuckles change from tan to red from the force with which he gripped the steering wheel. He dug into it as if it was the car’s fault for taking this particular road. Carson knew the truth was that he would be pissed no matter which way he went.
“Skittles,” he named his car after his favorite candy because buying it was the sweetest thing he ever did for himself, “call home.”
“You are something else.”
Dominic looked up from his computer, his smooth smile on his face. He held up both of his hands. “It wasn’t me. I swear.”
His boss turned to leave. “Alright. I’ll find the correct person to congratulate.”
“Whoa!” Dominic stood. “That might be me.”
Hearty laughter burst forth from Mr. Foray. “I don’t know. We may have another. Mr. Liner who presented a killer concept to Midriff Technology.”
“I assure you, that was me. Killer? That’s pretty good.”
“Slaughtered is more accurate. They brought your write-up and are running with it.” Mr. Grey slapped his hands together.
“From this morning?” Dominic leaned against his desk. “That was a first draft.”
“It was the final cut to them.”
“It’s supposed to be a two month project.”
Mr. Foray became serious. “I need to talk with you about that. Kildreg’s project could use an extra hand. Or,” he leaned in conspiratorially, “you can pack your bags and that wife of yours and go on your first vacation in three years.”
Dominic returned his boss’s smile. “Kildreg’s my boy. I don’t mind helping him out.”
“Good to know. It’s good for you to know that I don’t mind calling the police to escort your ass out of here. Enjoy your vacation.”
Mr. Foray grabbed a handful of Jolly Ranchers from Dominic’s candy bowl. “Congratulations!”
His boss left and Dominic looked at his cell phone: seven thirty pm. He couldn’t believe it. He was getting off early. And a vacation.
“We’re home!” Ava called ahead of herself and Lily as they neared the formal dinning room.
Brunch had turned into lunch and lunch had turned into seven as they talked, laughed, and lightly flirted with one another. Keith treated every stop sign as a rolling yield to get them home only thirty minutes late for dinner.
Rounding the corner, they saw Claire, Sarah, and Emanuelle finishing their salads.
Ava apologized as they took their seats across from the young couple. “Time got away from us.”
“It’s fine mom. Daddy’s not with you?”
“Hm, no,” Ava had noticed Carson’s empty seat at the head of the table, but she assumed he was in the restroom.
Claire timidly cleared her throat. Probably the only timid gesture she ever made in her sixty-eight years. “I forgot Carson called. He said he ain’t able to make dinner.”
The air around them became thick with discomfort.
“No way,” Emanuelle was the first to verbally express his shock.
“Daddy never misses dinner with us,” Sarah offered as way of explanation to Lily for everyone being dumbfounded. Sarah’s own moment had not completely passed.
From Claire’s feeble announcement of the news to everyone’s reaction to it, Lily had no doubt that “never” meant never.
“Yes, he values family dinner,” Ava said with a calmness that didn’t match her watering eyes. “Excuse me.”
Out of the three remaining at the table, Lily felt most comfortable looking at Sarah and Emanuelle. Emmanuelle’s discomfort presented itself as beads of sweat on his forehead. His head was facing Lily, but his eyes were looking down and to the right. Sarah looked straight at Lily with eyes full of sympathy. Lily tried to avoid those eyes.
“So, do you two always volunteer together?” Lily asked poking at her salad.
“Yes. Sarah’s my angel in stilettos. She’s-”
Sarah put her hand on top of Emmanuelle’s as a signal to pause. “My mom’s room is on the third floor. You can’t miss it. When you get to the second floor, make a right. At the end of the hallway is another set of stairs.”
Lily wanted to play it cool. To continue to make small talk as if her heart wasn’t aching for Ava. She couldn’t. She couldn’t match Sarah’s maturity. Lily couldn’t find her voice to even excuse herself. She nodded and left.
Carson set down his airport burger. “I’m not.”
Kate’s chubby hand brushed against the leaves of the flowers he brought for her as she reached for his. The flowers were in their vase on the floor, but some foliage still reached and flowed onto the edge of their table.
“It seems to me you rather be somewhere else.”
“I’m happy to be here with you.”
The wrinkles under Kate’s eyes deepened when she smiled. “Your response didn’t answer my question.”
Carson constantly found it peculiar that he could view someone as unattractive as Kate as beautiful. But Katie has such a kind manner behind everything she said and did. The quality was beautifying.
“You did not ask a question.”
“How sweet!” A passenger hurrying to her gate took the time to holler their way. She was the eight one to do so.
“These flowers are getting a lot of attention. There is no way I’ll get those on the plane.” Kate plucked a white one with three big floppy petals and red sprinkled in its mouth. “I’ll take this one and you can give the rest to your out-of-town guest.”
Sometimes, Carson felt something similar to love for this girl. He took her hand back in his, brought it to his lips and kissed it. “They are for you or no one.”
Ava’s room was easy to find. It was the only one on the entire third floor.
Lily knocked on the only door she saw. No answer. “Ava?” She called pushing one of the double doors open.
The grandness of the room astounded her. Lily didn’t have time to take in the acres of land visible through the wrap-around, floor to ceiling windows. Ava’s sleigh bed was placed upon a platform in the center of the room facing the window. Upon it sat Ava, not crying, but staring blankly out of the windows. She was at the bottom edge of the bed, feet planted on the floor, both arms beside her like two pillars holding her upright. Lily went and stood in front of her.
“Ava, are you okay?” Lily thought there should be a book with better questions to ask in tough situations to avoid the stupid one she asked that had an obvious, negative, answer.
Ava gave a sad smile and shifted her weight onto her right arm. “I think his goal is to sleep with every female in this town before I do. The last hold out must have opened up.”
There wasn’t a response for that and any question, even out of a book, would be inappropriate. “Ava, we’re going to lie down and hold hands. Friends do that.”
Ava nodded. Lily climbed the four steps onto the platform and then the two scooted onto the middle of the bed in silence. They lay facing each other. Ava put one hand under her head and the other she reached out to Lily. Lily mirrored her friend’s position.
Ava felt comforted by the silence and Lily’s company. But the silence gave room for her painful thoughts to talk.
“Lily, I may have over-did this. Seventeen years gone in an instant.”
“This?” Lily thought. Am I “this?”
Lily tried to ignore the question, but couldn’t. “Ava,” how could she word it? “Am I here out of revenge?”
It was a fair question. Ava had to give her that. But it wasn’t one she had the emotional strength to deal with. She was drowning. And she wanted to drown in peace. But Lily was drowning now too. Although Lily had sounded so brave with her voice so steady, her eyes were shut while she asked the question. Her eyes were still shut as if awaiting the sharp sting of a needle before she could open them again.
“No,” Ava said softly. Lily’s face wrinkled with tension now. ‘No’, apparently was only the needle breaking the skin. Ava needed to pull it out before Lily could relax. Ava squeezed Lily’s hand. “Look at me.”
Lily hadn’t realized her eyes were closed. It was painful to open them, but when she did, she did to the view of Ava’s kind eyes.
“Despite everything, Carson has provided wonderfully for me and Sarah,” Ava exhaled. Oh, good Lord, was she tired. “But he’s moved on from seeing me as his wife. It’s time I move on, too.”
Ava’s heart began to race. The first part was easy to say. Like telling the story of how you got a bad scar that as been healed for years. This next part, she felt like she was putting herself out there. “You’re here because I want you to be a part of my life. I would like to move on to you, Lily. Though we’re together, Carson finds his love in other places, I need a place to find mine.”
Ava lifted herself up and placed the softest, closed mouth kiss onto Lily’s lips. She lay back down and closed her eyes.
The kiss had been one hundred percent a-sexual. As innocent as placing a kiss on a newborn baby’s cheek. The reassurance the kiss provided, though, put a craving inside of Lily for another one. Before she knew it, she made her way over to Ava, who, in response to Lily’s movement, rolled onto her back. Ava looked up at Lily who had paused in the air over her.
Ava laughed softly after a few seconds of nothing-no move on Lily’s part. Her laugh would have sounded refreshing if it hadn’t been intertwined with her words. “Isn’t this ridiculous? Carson is sleeping with my best friend and here we are weighing the sin of a little kiss.”
In that moment, Lily understood Ava: Ava laughed to keep from crying.
Lily pushed a strand of hair away from Ava’s face. Ava locked soft eyes into Lily’s, pleading for something Lily knew she shouldn’t give her. Not yet. She allowed her hand to glide down the side of Ava’s face. To trace Ava’s jawline softly and bring it to her other cheek. Ava pressed her cheek to Lily’s hand in the delicate manner a kitten nudges against its owner. Lily brought her hand down Ava’s neck and willed herself to stop before it came in contact with the top of Ava’s breasts, sitting upon her chest like a mountain waiting to be conquered.
“You’re better than that,” Lily said with a control she didn’t feel. She leaned in and placed a soft kiss on Ava’s cheek. She gave herself a second to close her eyes and inhale the scent of her.
Get up now. She warned herself.
Lily moved from over Ava and both girls turned onto their sides, facing each other once again. They reached for each others hand and held them together between them. “Lets get some sleep,” Lily said and immediately closed her own eyes to block out further temptations. Out of sight, out of mind.
Ava smiled and closed her eyes. She realized this would be the first time she slept in the middle of her bed in a very long time. And it didn’t feel like drowning. It felt like being rescued.