DISCLAIMER: Guiding Light and its characters are the property of Proctor & Gamble. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: For DiNovia, because she knows I love Ava.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Three Reasons Ava is Glad She Lives Far, Far Away
It isn't that Ava doesn't love her mother. She does.
It took a while. Took some serious time and effort to move from absolute loathing to genuine affection, but they managed it. And she loves Emma. Who wouldn't love her smart, funny, adorable little sister? For most of her life, she had been an only child.
So having a sibling, someone who shares at least half her genes, that's something. Something good. Something solid and grounding. Something that makes her feel less alone in the world.
One day soon, Emma will be a grown woman, and maybe, if Ava is lucky, they'll be able to talk, to offer each other support and comfort and a sense of belonging to something a little bigger, to a family. Maybe they'll be able to commiserate with each other over being Olivia Spencer's daughters.
Because being the child of a veritable force of nature isn't easy. In fact, sometimes, it's just fucking exhausting. Growing up, Ava's life was simple and sane and completely lacking in drama. She went to school, she did her homework, she talked with her friends, she went on dates. Normal, mundane, pedestrian stuff.
Then her adoptive mother died and she ended up in Springfield, the Mid-West's answer to Peyton Place. Where fathers shoot their own sons, where people trade partners and spouses as often as other people trade in cars. Where her own biological mother hired a hitman to kill her. Granted, she called it off once she learned who Ava was, but still.
It is as if the citizens of Springfield are just bit players in some over-written, badly produced, clichéd excuse for a melodrama, complete with villains and damsels in distress and an occasional moment of comic relief. Whoever's writing the stuff that goes on in that town, Shakespeare they ain't. Hell, they aren't even Aaron Spelling.
Which is why Ava is happy living in San Francisco. There's a reason the locals call it the land of fruits and nuts, but compared to the small town where her mother lives, California is a haven of sanity.
Every once in while, Ava wonders what her mother would be like away from Springfield, no longer subject to the dozens of dramas that play out daily. She used to believe that Olivia was the source of all the catastrophes and calamities that befell her, but she knows now that it's that fucking town. So now, when she talks to Olivia during their weekly call, she mentions casually how great the weather is, or about the last show she went to see, or the amazing shopping or the even more amazing food.
She mentions how much Emma would love the museums and the parks and the ocean. How great the schools are. How wonderful it is to live in a place where no one judges you, where no one cares if you wear your underwear outside of your pants. Where no one looks twice if you kiss your girlfriend on the street. (This latest one she thrown in since her mother told her about Natalia.)
Because, the thing is, as much as Ava is so fucking glad she lives far away from Springfield, she misses her family. Misses her mother's cool sarcasma cover for a tender heart, a borrowed heart. Misses Emma's smiles and laughs. Misses being a part of a larger whole.
Tomorrow, when Olivia calls, maybe she'll mention the gorgeous purple Victorian she saw for sale on Telegraph Hill. A house with more than enough room for Olivia and Natalia and Emma. Hell, even Rafe if he ever decides to stop being an insufferable ass. A house just begging for a family.
(Set sometime after Jeffrey sets himself up for Edmund's purported murder and takes off with Dinah to look for Edmund.)
"Mother, what do you mean, Jeffrey's missing? Where is he?" Ava knew her voice had gotten a tiny bit shrill, but she couldn't help it.
"Ava, honey. If we knew where he was, he wouldn't exactly be missing, now would he?" Olivia postulated jokingly, a joke that fell flat on its proverbial face.
"Mother! This is not the time for your warped sense of humor. There's a reason Natalia tells you that you're not funny. Now what do you mean, Jeffrey's missing?" Ava knew she had gotten louder, too, but Olivia just seemed to bring it out in her.
"He's not exactly missing. I mean, he is, but he's missing on purpose," Olivia explained, trying to keep her tone calm and neutral.
"And being missing on purpose is somehow better than being missing by accident, is that what you're telling me, Mother?" Shriller still, but really, Olivia wasn't helping. It really was a good thing that she lived far away from Springfield, or Ava had no doubt Natalia would be breaking up a fight right about now.
"You know, it would be wonderful if you didn't make that word sound like an insult," Olivia noted, shooting for teasing and falling short. Way short.
"What word, Mother?" Okay, that one had been intentional, but she couldn't help it. Olivia was being deliberately obtuse.
"That word, Ava. The one said with such disdain," Olivia couldn't help it. She knew she shouldn't let her daughter bait her, but sometimes it was just too much to ignore. "You know, you are living proof that genes trump environment every time."
"Well, if that isn't the most depressing thing I've heard all year, I don't know what is. Oh, wait, that's right. I found out where all my lovely genes came from. Talk about ignorance being bliss." She wasn't sure why she'd rounded on Olivia like a cobra, but the woman had always been able to push her buttons. Some small part of her brain recognized that she was sublimating her worry about Jeffrey to irritation with Olivia, but the rest of her brain didn't really give a shit.
"Nice. Nice kid I've got. Are you done, or was there some other insult you wanted to hurl this way?"
Ava heard the hurt in Olivia's voice and as suddenly as it had come, her anger melted away.
"I'm sorry, Mom. I didn't mean any of that. I guess I just freaked a little. Forgive me?" Ava's voice sounded as young and as small as Emma's and Olivia felt a twinge of pain in her chest that had nothing to do with her pacemaker.
"Of course, I do. You're my daughter and I love you. I'm sorry I don't have any more information than what I've told you. I just didn't want you to hear it on the news, or from someone else," Olivia said quietly, and Ava could almost see her mother's eyes and the uncompromising love in them.
And for the first time in a very long time, Ava wasn't quite as glad that she lived so far away. Because feeling Olivia's hand on her cheek, and having her mother enfold her in a fierce hug might have been just enough to balance out the sense of chaos and madness she always felt in Springfield.
Actually, it would have been more than enough. Much more.
"Danger, Will Robinson, danger!!" Warning: The next section contains extreme angst. I mean, really. Extreme angst. Continue at your own risk. You have been warned.
Ava sat in a hard plastic chair in the airport terminal. Her plane was late, not that it mattered all that much. She'd told Emma not to bother meeting her in Chicago. She'd rent a car and make the drive to Springfield alone. It'd give her time to clear her head. To come to terms with what she'd lost.
Natalia had called her, of course. The sharp red sound of the phone in the darkness of her bedroom had startled her from a restless sleep. A glance at the clock on the bedside table confirmed the sense of dread that came with the shrill ring. Phone calls at four in the morning never brought good news.
The pain in her step-mother's voice, distilled into the brief syllables of her name, told her all she needed to know. The sense of surrealism, of watching her life from a vast distance persisted through the day, increasing as she noted the commonplace, mundane activities around her: the businessman with a Bluetooth on his ear and Blackberry in his hand, the students lounging on the floor near the gate entrance, backpacks strewn around them like confetti.
The mother brushing back the hair from her toddler's face, an expression of such complete devotion in her eyes that Ava had to look away, the tears that she refused to allow to fall clouding her vision.
When she got to Springfield she'd stop off at Company before she went to the farmhouse. Maybe pick up some Buzz burgers for her little sister. Not that Emma was little anymore. She'd be thirty in the fall and a mother herself in November. Still, some things didn't change and there was something in the familiarity of a burger with onions that she knew Emma would appreciate. Comfort food. And God knows, they could all use a little comfort right now.
Her brief conversation with her sister hadn't given her much of a clue as to how Natalia was coping, but Ava couldn't imagine that even God was providing the woman with the comfort she needed right now. That He, or anyone, ever could. Ava had never seen two people who belonged together, who belonged to each other, the way her mother and Natalia did. Like the intricately carved ivory she seen once in a Chinese puzzle box, the pieces so flawlessly, so seamlessly woven that only the greatest skill, or the greatest destruction could break them apart.
No one had ever possessed that skill, not even Rafe in the early days of their relationship; only the utter destruction of death had been able to reduce the puzzle to scattered, broken shards of ivory. Her mother's death.
Even now it was impossible to comprehend that, after more than sixty years on this planet, the force of nature that was Olivia Spencer was stilled. And not by her second-hand heart, as she called it. By a drunk behind the wheel of a car. Ava knew her mother would appreciate the irony.
She just had to make it through the next week, make it through the funeral. Make it through the endless expressions of sympathy, through the hugs and the tears and the sight of her step-mother's devastation. Of her sister's numb incomprehension that her child would never know her other grandmother. Of not hearing her mother's laugh echoing in the farmhouse kitchen.
Then she could go home. Go back to San Francisco. Back to her house looking over the Bay. Back to streets winding up endless hills. Back to the bustle and noise and emptiness. Because she knew, if she had to stay there, stay in Springfield, and drive past the Beacon, or walk in the Olivia Spencer Memorial Park, or stand at her mother's grave every few months and leave flowers, that she wouldn't survive.
If only she could find a way to leave her grief there in Springfield, leave it with the flowers and her sister and Natalia, she just might make it. For once, Ava was glad she lived far, far away.
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