Today Ava is early, they are on time for the gates, her son had a good breakfast this morning, as good as can be; yoghurt, granola and berries. It involved no stove or hot stuff. He ate, he loved it and they were out the door in time to make the gates when every normal parent was there making the gates.
Moms at the school gate are an especial level of hell to deal with and especially in light of her still fresh divorce, the stares, the snares, the back chats… she feels them all. Hence being a little late or just in the nick of time.
‘Bye bye mummy.’
‘Bye darling have a great day.’ Ava sees the stares coming her way, some with pity, others with glee. Bitches.
‘Mummy.’ Ollie tugs on her coat.
‘You forgot my kiss.’ His eyes twinkles.
‘Oh.’ Ava squats to his eye level. ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to forget, I thought you wanted to play it cool in front of your friends.’
‘I’m not cool.’ He leans in and kisses her. ‘I love you mummy.’
Gah! How did she get so lucky with a child like hers? Children were supposed to throw tantrums and be obstinate and in times of divorce, even worse or so she’d read. And here he was proving her wrong even she knows she is failing him. ‘I love you my darling. So much.’
He scoots up the steps to join his three best friends who were waiting on him and off they walk through the double oak panel doors, yammering on about everything. The Head smiles as she hurries them along.
Adelaide Murphy, a newbie-ish mother at the gates, one she was quite friendly with. They drifted apart in the early days of the divorce, as she did from everyone else in her life.
‘Hey, how are you?’
‘I’m well. How are you?’
‘I’m so glad I ran into you today, I was hoping we could have coffee or something.’
Her kindness takes Ava by surprise. ‘Oh. Sure… um I’m heading to work but sure let’s do it sometime.’
‘I’d love to.’ Adelaide presses, ‘I know what you think people must think about what happened with AJ but you were friendly to me when I moved, your son and my son are friends I see no reason why we shouldn’t be. I have your number I will text and we should meet up some time.’
Ava is touched. ‘I’d love to and I promise I will not blow you off.’
Adelaide laughs, ‘I will hold you to that.’
Before heading to the office Ava asks the chauffeur to stop off at the restaurant. She needs a word with her ex-husband even if they are hardly on speaking terms at the moment. A pang settles in her heart at the thought of losing her son. Oliver is everything to her, that AJ filed for full custody can only be something sinister and petty.
She sees them before they see her, the two of them making out in the kitchen. Wendy is on the high stainless steel work surface, straddling AJ who is between her leg. She had been in this position before with AJ; several times as a matter of fact. Ava stands by the door watching them make out for some reason, it saddens her. Had they ever been this passionate with each other? She’d like to think they were, that they were happily in love with each other and that their love meant something… at least while it lasted. And so it goes.
AJ and Wendy looked happy and in the moment, she hates them for it.
Deep breathes. ‘Mm. Mm.’ Ava clears her throat.
AJ and Wendy look as guilty, as if she’d caught them out; they needn’t be, they are together after all. Wendy leaves the two of them to it, the last time she was with Ava, she had received a verbal beat down, she does not want a repetition.
‘Hi.’ AJ is pleasant enough, maybe a little too having been caught out by his ex-wife with his girlfriend.
‘Don’t ever send her to collect my son from school or anywhere. Ever again.’
‘I was held up so I asked her to collect him.’
‘You call me. I am his mother. He doesn’t know her like that, and I do not want him knowing her like that. I gave birth to him you call me and that’s it.’
‘You see to forget that I am filling for full custody.’
‘Good luck with that. Whilst my son is with me full time, you will abide by these rules but I can promise you this, you will never get full custody of him. Never.’ She folds her arms, ‘you who don’t know his friends, hardly ever picks him up from school, have no idea what his ailments are. I have been there for him all his life; I gave birth to him and you know what happened to me after that. You know how many miscarriages I had, and you want to take him away from me because you feel entitled to? Because you want to play happy families with the woman you were fucking whilst married to his mother? There is a special place in hell for you and I will help you get there.’
AJ is stung by those words. He does know what having Ollie did to her, the toll on her body afterwards. She was bed bound for three months, killed herself to be the best mother even then. They lost three babies and Ollie was their fourth. They were trying for another child for two years before he got tired of the regiment of that toll. He knows filing for custody was a dick move but he misses his son. Shit. How had it gotten so complicated so fast? He and Wendy started off casually, light flirtation and before you knew it, they were in each other’s beds. Ava was out on business travel a lot, so it was easy. Whilst he still loved his wife, the thing with him and Wendy was hot and heavy, so he fell into it and decided to file for divorce in the lamest way ever. He left her with a note on the console table in their hallway.
The morning he filed for full custody was to get his own back. Her cousin, Ezme Rose-Jones, the Ezme Rose-Jones or Rocks as she is fondly referred to by her friends, cancelled his biggest booking; he was meant to cater for a party in New York for one of her ventures and she cancelled. He knew it was personal because she did it herself in a one sentence email that invited no fight back. Filing for custody was his way of tatting her tit albeit, Ava suffered the consequences. He knew how much it would hurt Ava when he filed; he was simply reacting to something he knows she was unaware of.
‘Your cousin cancelled my gig in New York.’
‘Ezme, she cancelled for the party in New York, and I’d already paid the vendors and suppliers.’
‘And that’s why you filed for custody?’
‘It wasn’t my finest hour.’
‘How long are you going to keep blaming people for your bullshit? You file for divorce from me because you blame me for giving you the connections to build your career. You file for full custody for our son because my cousin cancelled your gig with her. She’s my family, whose side should be she be on? Yours? Don’t make me laugh.’ Ava never wanted to punch someone so hard in her life; had he always been this insufferable? Was she so blind as to accept his sub par offering for the holy grail. ‘When will you start taking responsibility for your actions? When will you own up to the fact that whatever the hell is going on in your life is because you decided to fuck your sous chef?’
‘Wendy has nothing to do with this.’
‘No, you do. You are the common denominator so take responsibility for your own pathetic actions and stop blaming everyone else for your bullshit. This better be the last time I repeat myself; don’t ever send her for my child again. If you’re dead send a smoke signal.’ Ava slams the door to the kitchen on her way out.
AJ sighs. She hates him and he cannot blame her. What he did was awful, everything he did was awful and worse he knows it too. His parents are mad at him, his sisters are mad at him, his ex-wife is mad at him.
‘So I guess you never talked to her about the way she spoke to me?’ Wendy listened from the office, she heard everything Ava had to say, hoping that AJ would stick up for her. He didn’t.