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She had always believed that they were soul mates. She couldn’t imagine being with any other man. They fit together perfectly both physically and mentally. She watched him now from the patio sun lounge. He was sitting on the grass with their eight month old daughter pulling faces and making her giggle with delight. Their daughter had her thick curly red hair and his deep green eyes. A perfectly melded product of themselves. She laughed thinking how narcissistic that sounded. Noah would smile and say it’s alright to be narcissistic as long as you’re proud about it. Noah could always make her smile. Noah picked up their daughter and joined her on the sun lounge. She reached out for her daughter and protectively placed her in her lap. Noah wrapped his arm around them both and rested his head on her shoulder. She could feel his chest rising and falling against her arm.
“Hmmmm this is nice.” He murmured closing his eyes.
“I could stay here forever.” She smiled in reply.
He suddenly sat up; “Well we can’t if you want to go and see your sister this weekend.”
“I’m happy to skip it – it’s not like her 21st is that important.” She was laughing now. Noah stood up in front of her and leaned down kissing her forehead.
“You two my beautiful angels stay here and soak up that warm sun while it lasts. I’m going to finish packing.” He rubbed his daughter’s head affectionately and went inside the house. Her daughter snuggled into her chest and started closing and opening her eyes again when she is tired. They decided to name their daughter Abigail after Noah’s grandmother. Noah was raised by his grandmother after his mother disappeared. He was three years old when she dropped him at his grandmother’s and never returned. To this day no one knows where she is. Noah’s father was never told of his son and Noah never wanted to find out who he was. He said it is unfair to find this stranger and tell him he is a father. Noah said it was his mother’s mistakes so it was hers to fix, not his. She never understood this; if it was her she would want to at least know his name. She often mentioned to Noah it would be nice to know his family medical history for the sake of their daughter – even this didn’t change his mind on the matter. Maybe she didn’t understand. She grew up with both her parents in her life and they are still married after 36 years. Noah’s grandmother died last year before Abbie was born. Noah was more than devastated that she never met her only great grandchild. She only though it was right that they share a name. She remembered when she told Noah she wanted to name her Abigail. They were in the hospital and she had been in labour for eight hours. They knew they were having a girl but hadn’t yet decided on a name. They just couldn’t agree. She turned to her husband who was looking worn and tired. She told him about the name and she remembers the way his eyes shined with tears as she spoke. He never said a word just kissed her hand and smiled and that was that. Abigail Faith Scott was born nine hours later.
“Ava where is Abbey’s portacot?” Noah called out the lounge room window.
“Under our bed babe.” She replied slowly standing up so as not to wake up Abbie. She gently carried her inside and laid her down in her cot. Abbie moved her head to the side and sighed but stayed asleep. Noah came up behind her and gathered her in his arms. They stood there for a while embracing and looking down at their daughter.
“Ava…” he said after a while “The car is all packed, it’s time to go babe.” He kissed her neck then picked up his daughter and carried her to the car. Ava stood a moment longer in the nursery and smiled. What more could she ask for?
They had been travelling for seven hours when it happened. Noah was asleep as he had done most of the driving so far they switched at the last rest stop. It was getting dark but the freeway was fairly quiet – not many people travelling to Melbourne on a Wednesday. Ava was thinking about her little sister turning 21. She couldn’t believe it but then she couldn’t believe she was 24 with a husband and eight month old daughter. The large Patrol 4WD came up behind her very quickly and she mentally cursed him for tail gating her. He moved into the middle lane of the freeway to overtake her and she watched out her window as he did. His car was swerving slightly in his lane so she moved over more to try and avoid him. Ava was holding her breath until he passed her and slowed down once he moved in front of her to try and gain some distance between them. She watched as the big car drove over a hill and out of sight. Abbie started to stir from her car seat in the back. Ava looked over her shoulder to check her daughter and when she looked back out the windscreen it was too late to stop. The 4WD had stopped dead in front of her. Fear gripped her and she instinctively pulled the steering wheel hard to the right but there was no time. The car skidded sideways for mere seconds before the left side of their station wagon collided with the back end of the 4WD. Ava felt the car shudder, heard glass smash and she was launched to the left and pulled back hard when they hit the other car. She hit her head on her window and blacked out. The last thing she heard was her daughter crying.
August 2010: Ava
I was awake but kept my eyes shut. The thought of waking up for another day sunk heavy in my chest. I can feel the sun trying to break through the curtains so I turn my head away from the window toward the door. I open my eyes and stare at my reflection in the wardrobe mirrored doors. Who was this woman? So pale, thin, ghastly and broken. When did I turn into her? I blink and turn my eyes back to the ceiling. What would happen if I just lay here until I die? Would hunger release a primary instinct of survival or can one be that determined to die?
I should already be dead.
I sigh. I can’t lay here and die; it would only be a day or so before my mum had the doors bashed in. Then I would be placed in a hospital and forced to eat. In fact the morning phone call should be ringing through the house at any moment now. I’ll hold my breath until she calls – if she takes too long well then my death would be fate wouldn’t it?
The phone begins to ring 15 seconds later.
“Hello mum.” I say dryly into the receiver.
“Morning baby how are you feeling?”she asks already knowing the answer.
“Same as yesterday, same as the day before, and the day before and the day before and the same for the last six months. I’m the same. No miraculous epiphany overnight. Just the same empty hollow gut wrenching pain!” I respond with more spite then I actually intended. I heard her sigh loudly and inhale on her cigarette. That’s exactly what I need. I slowly roll out of bed and slip on my dressing gown.
“Are you out of bed at least?” mum asks.
I walk to the sliding door and out onto the small patio from my bedroom. I place the phone on the glass table and pick up the smokes and lighter.
“Ava?” the voice floats quietly into the air.
I spark the lighter and take my time lighting my smoke. I inhale deeply closing my eyes and letting the sun soak into my pale face.
“Ava? Ava? If you don’t respond I will send the cops over to you!”
“Mum, I’m here ok calm down.”
“You may be physically here but you’re locked away in that head of yours. I feel like I’ve lost you and it’s breaking my heart Ava. I need you to come back to me.”
I scoff. “You need me back? I need a lot of things back mum… if I can’t have what I want why should you?” and I hung up on her and threw the phone over the edge of the balcony. I listened as it bounced off the roof of my garage and onto the concrete driveway smashing into pieces. I imagine it broken and useless and wish it was me. I immediately regretted throwing the phone out the window. Not because it broke but because now my mother would come over to make sure I’m alright – well as alright as I can be. I put on my dressing gown and went downstairs to unlock the front door so she could just walk straight in. She would be here within twenty minutes easily. I flicked the television on more for background noise than to actually watch anything and went to the kitchen to make coffee. I never use to drink coffee but now I can’t function without it. I pulled out two mugs preparing for mum’s arrival and stared blankly at the jug while it boiled and lit another cigarette. I hadn’t smoked in 5 years until the accident. I gave up for him; he hated it, knowing what it could do to me.
“I don’t ever want to see you like that Ava. I’ve seen so many people die from the consequences of smoking. It’s not pretty. I can’t see that happen to you.” He told me one morning after I had lit up. “You’re too beautiful to ever deteriorate like that.”I looked up at him and into his eyes. There was real concern there, this wasn’t like a hypocritical lecture from my parents, and he was really scared for me. I put the cigarette out immediately and never smoked again until after the accident. There was a lot of things I never use to do then but do now like smoking, drinking before ten in the morning, not caring for myself at all. I would go days and days without a shower or food. I didn’t care. The jug flicked off and I mindlessly poured the boiling water into the cups and stirred.
“Hello?” my mother’s voice radiated from the front door.
“Kitchen” I replied with coldness.
“Well, I found your phone!” she said holding up the broken black plastic receiver.
“Hmmm.” I said uncaring as I took my coffee and walked out onto the patio. I sat in the sun lounge and stared blankly ahead. Mum got her coffee and joined me.
“So Stephie called this morning. She flies up here tomorrow night around 6pm and wants to go out for dinner with us.”
“And by ‘us’ she means you too.” She said flatly staring at me. I didn’t look at her. I couldn’t.
“Ava, she is your sister!” mum bit. I didn’t respond just kept staring out at the garden. If I tried really hard I could still see them, sitting on the lawn pulling faces and laughing.
“I called Kyle this morning.” She suddenly announced.
I groaned “Mum, why?”
“Because you won’t return his calls and he is worried about you. And he isn’t the only one goddamn it Ava. You need to talk to someone!”
“Mum, in the kindest way, fuck off!”
“No,” her voice stared getting higher and she was talking faster now “I will not fuck off, I won’t shove it up my arse and it is my goddamn business! Now you are coming to dinner tomorrow night even if I have to come and wash you, dress you and drag you there. You will see your sister and Kyle.”
“Fuck, I will call him then. Will that solve your problem mum?” I couldn’t help biting at her.
“No, but I might start to solve yours! Look at this place…” she said throwing her hand toward my house “…look at yourself!”
“Solve my problems?” I was on my feet now staring down at her and I threw my cup at the wooden fence breaking it “I lost my husband and my daughter. They died mum! They are dead and NOTHING is going to solve that!” I stormed back inside and up stairs. I threw myself on my bed and starting crying. I didn’t hear her climb the stairs or enter my room but suddenly she was there gathering me in her arms like when I was a child. She held my head against her chest, gently stroked my hair and rocked back and forth.
“Shhhhh I know baby.” She whispered softly over and over as I began sobbing loudly and crying out. Tears fell heavy off my face and landed in my lap. My cries echoed down the hallway and stairs, down into an empty house.
“Mum…” I choked “I want to die too.”
I don’t know if she heard me or not. She didn’t acknowledge my words. She just kept rocking me.
Copyright 2010 Tegan Erin Graham Australia