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The phone vibrates on her desk and the caller ID flashes; Rocks. Her cousin Ezme Rose-Jones, Rocks to all, is calling from New York, whatever time it is, it must be super early, but Ava doesn’t answer. Just like she has not answered any of her cousins calls since everything happened. Her cousins wanted to be there for her, they were all so close, in and out of each other’s lives but Ava felt too shame faced with everything still so raw.
The phone vibrated with a text:
One of these days you will have to answer my phone calls. I love you.
That makes her smile because she can hear it in Rocks’ voice. She isn’t mad at her and that goes some way.
A knock at the door takes Ava away from her turmoil, she needs to prep for her next meeting with River Huxley and a potential new brand whose business they wanted exclusivity to for six months. Huxley has the name and power, but they have stiff competition from another well-known luxury retailers online and in bricks and mortar. This meeting was their last pitch. Her assistant looks in, ‘they’re ready for you.’
Ava goes through her talking points one last time, satisfied, she collects her iPad and Lacroix notebook from the side console before heading out to the boardroom.
She spied the look on Lydia’s face as she walks past her desk, she is hiding something behind her.
‘Nothing.’ Lydia shifts uneasily. This is an important meeting, and Ava needs to have her wits about her.
‘What do you have there?’
‘Nothing, just some mail.’
‘I’m sorry I cannot give it to you now, you have to go into the meeting.’ Lydia tries to be forceful.
‘Lydia, give it to me.’
Lydia hesitates before reluctantly handing the envelope to Ava. She had a bad feeling about whatever was in it because it came from AJ’s lawyers, the courier just dropped it off.
Ava sees the lawyers stamp on the envelope and against her better judgement, opens the letter
Petition for custody of child.
Her heart falls heavily against her chest, AJ is filing for custody of their son? Of Oliver. A tear falls down her eyes and Lydia ushers her into the office away from prying eyes; she knew the envelope was bad news and for him to have it delivered to her at work could only mean he wanted to hurt her even more.
Ava rests against the wall, trembling with fear. A thousand scenarios run through her mind. He wants to take Ollie away from her. The most precious person in her entire world, the only one that kept her sane some days, the reason why she gets out of bed most mornings because she is so paralysed by the pain of it all. Her mobile phone rings; her lawyer.
‘Ava, take a breath, we just received the papers. He should never have sent it to you.’
‘Can he do this?’
‘The desk phone rings; River Huxley is probably wondering where she is; she is late for the meeting but too bad, this is more important.
‘No, he cannot. We will fight him. Let me handle this.’ Annabel Cooper her powerhouse attorney and best friend tries to calm her down.
‘He sent me this at work-’
‘Because he is a prick.’ Annabel did not disguise her contempt for AJ. ‘I won’t let him get away with this.’
Ava tries to steady her breath, that desk phone is ringing again, River Huxley.
‘Go back to work and let me do what I do.’ Annabel hangs up the phone, supremely pissed.
Work might as well be slipping away from her, her marriage is dead and now he is coming for her son. ‘Bastard.’ Ava stands on the spot unable to move, life is running circles around her and she has no idea how to make it all stop. Like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, only there will be no tea parties only the mad queen who wanted to off everything.
Lydia lets herself in the office with a glass of ice cold water in her hand. ‘Drink this.’
Ava nods and does as instructed. The water forces down the bile rising in her throat, she is desperately late for her meeting. She freshens up in her bathroom, barely, before hurrying out to the meeting room.
‘Sorry I’m late.’ She slips into the seat opposite River Huxley, he doesn’t betray any emotions, rather he listens to the designer schpill about margins and timelines. Ava’s mind is not there…
Oliver James Beckerman. Born on a sunny May morning, she’d been in labour for 72 hours with him, and every second was agony but when he came into the world it was the most magical thing. She cried, AJ cried. Oliver was the perfect baby, even his cry was perfect. She would say that wouldn’t she. She never knew such love, such complete love. She took two years off work to be there with him, never wanting to miss a moment with him; and she didn’t. He changed her world, brightened it, made the world a better place by simply being in it. He grew to be a bright, loving and caring boy. His laughter filled her heart, his smile brightened any space, when she held him, the world was right from within…
‘Mrs Beckerman.’ River Huxley’s voice is a little louder than necessary, he’d called her several times.
‘What do you think of the plan?’
What plan is he talking about? ‘Sorry, I’m sorry I have to go.’ Ava walks out of the room, hightailing it to her office. She grabs her handbag and coat and heads for the stairs.
The car meets her out front, Lydia must have called the chauffeur.
‘Oliver’s school please.’
She wants to steal him away, far away from here, to where no one can reach him, threaten to take him from her. She’d had two miscarriages before him, and they’d been trying to conceive the past couple of years without much luck. She cannot bear to lose him. This is all she has left of her life, the beautiful thing that came out of her marriage, made from love. She cannot lose him.
Marcus pulls outside the gate of the school.
‘I won’t be long.’ She jumps out and heads straight to the head’s office. Her chest beating so fast any minute now she will pass out.
‘Mrs Beckerman, good afternoon, it’s not closing time yet. Is everything alright?’ Headmistress Jacobsen was speaking to her receptionist when Ava walks in.
‘Sorry headmistress, can Oliver be excused for the rest of the day?’
The Head looks at her peculiarly, she’s always been kind, kinder still with the divorce and the upheaval of Ava’s life. Everyone knows about the Beckerman divorce; the rag tops made sure of that. She saw the looks from the other school mums, heard the whispers in the cafés, at the shows, heck she’d even read some of the stories about her life.
‘Of course, come into my office.’ The Head steers Ava almost, willing her to move, ‘Teresa please get a glass of ice-cold water for Ms Sinclair.’ She leads them into her office shuts the door behind them. ‘There we go, sit down.’
Ava’s breath returns steadily. She’d gotten served custodial papers, screwed up a meeting at work and now she was contemplating running away with her child. She needs to get off this hell ride she is on. This cannot be her life. It simply cannot be.
‘Here, drink this.’ Headmistress Jacobsen hands her the glass of water from her secretary.
Why does everyone want to give her water? She does as the Head instructs, and the cooling sensation calms her jagged nerves.
‘Better?’ Her tone is so kind.
‘Yes. Thank you.’ She places the glass on the table, ‘sorry to show up unannounced I just… I need to see him. I’m so sorry.’
‘That’s quite alright. Some days are harder than others, I get it. I won’t tell if you won’t.’
The door opens and in walks Ollie.
‘Mummy!’ He runs into his mother’s arms.
‘Hey sweetheart.’ Those hugs…
‘I didn’t do anything.’ Ollie says cheekily.
‘Of course you didn’t.’ The Head laughs.
‘If you would like to, Headmistress has allowed us a pass for the rest of the day for us to do anything you want to do, but only if you want to come with.’
‘Can we go see granny and grandad?’
‘Of course we can.’ She expected him to say the Natural History Museum in South Ken, but he is equally obsessed with his grandparents.
‘Hello you two, what a lovely surprise.’ Ali walks out of his office at the sound of the butler opening the door.
‘Grandpa!’ Ollie is in his grandfather’s arms, who swiftly buried him in kisses, the two of them are like peas in a pod.
Miriam walks out of her studio to see the source of the joyful noises coming from the hallway. One look at her daughter and she knows. Whilst Ali busies himself with Ollie, both women retire to her drawing room.
‘What’s the matter my sweet girl?’
‘He wants to take Ollie away from me. He filed for custody.’
‘Have you spoken to your lawyers? What do they say?’
‘Annabel is pissed. She says not to worry.’
‘Then don’t worry.’
‘But why would he do this? He knew what I went through, how many miscarriages I had before Ollie. He knew we were trying for two years even when he didn’t want to try anymore. Why would he do this?’
‘I don’t know my darling but let the lawyers do what they are paid to do.’ Miriam holds her daughter close, ‘everything will work out in the end I promise.’
Ava isn’t so sure because the next time she sees AJ might be his last moment on earth, then she’ll go to jail only to lose Oliver in the end anyway. Then what?