ADVENT STORIES 23 | AFTERMATH OF A KISS

Ava cracks open her eyes slowly to stave off the effects of the harsh winter morning sun, Oliver is snuggles against her; he came into her bed last night, the rain must have woken him up. She inhales his childlike scent, it brings her comfort. Is this it now? Is this her lot in life from now on? She is fine with it, but she would just like to know, some sort of sign from God that this is it. That kiss gave her a glimmer of another life, one running parallel to her real life but it was only a glimmer. They have not talked much since Paris. Since that kiss… She signed the papers yesterday and a press release had gone out to the industry; it made the six o’clock and ten o’clock news bulletin. She is in work half day today, and then she will not be back in the office until the second week of the new year, when she will officially start in her role as co-owner of Huxley Retail Group.

Oliver stirs sleepily and she kisses his thick afro; he is in desperate need of a trim. They spent last night decorating the tree, eating baked cookies and drinking hot chocolate; a long delayed holiday tradition. A lot of their traditions went undone, she has neglected him so much this holiday, he spends a fair bit of time with his grandparents on both sides, this is AJ’s busiest time of the year too. She is determined to give him the best Christmas, complete with a very decadent Christmas breakfast courtesy of The Ritz hotel, catering specially for them since her staff will be out for the holidays. AJ will pick him for lunch with him and his parents, whilst she spends the evening with her parents. After much doting from one set of grandparents, AJ will drop Oliver off at her parent’s, where the doting will continue. They’ll have dinner before heading home. Ava feels guilty at the constant carting around, but everyone will dote on him and that should go some way.

Her phone buzzes with a text message.

Are you joining us for Christmas lunch?- AJ

Ava rolls her eyes. What is it with men and their radar? Whenever it seems she is moving on, AJ randomly pops by hoping to burst that bubble. Idiot. No, she will not be joining him for Christmas lunch.

No. she texts back.

I’m making more than enough food… we would love you to join us. 🙂

Ava ignores it, not today, Satan.

*

‘What are you doing here?’ Of all the people River did not want to see, Bree is sitting waiting for him in the reception of his office.

‘Hi River.’

‘What are you doing here?’ He repeats the question.

Lara gives them some privacy, shutting the door behind her. This is not a conversation for her.

‘I thought this is the only place you wouldn’t throw me out.’ Bree took a punt coming to see River at work. She’s been thinking about everything with them lately, and was taken aback by the fact that he’d done a kind turn to her.

‘You’ve still not answered my question.’

‘I wanted to thank you in person for allowing me see the children without-’

‘I didn’t do that to be kind, speak to your husband about that. You didn’t have to come, I received your emails.’

‘But you haven’t replied to any one of them.’

‘And that should tell you all you need to know. What do you want from me?’

‘River, I-’

‘I don’t need your apology.’

‘You won’t say my name. Why?’

‘Because it would mean I want to be familiar with you and I absolutely do not want that. The last time I said your name was when I found you fucking my brother, so I won’t say your name.’

‘River I am sorry.’

‘You already said that. Several times.’

‘Will you ever forgive me?’

‘No. Is that what you want to hear?’

Bree nods, she’d been working her way to this meeting with River, he refused to engage in any communication with her. The divorce was painful, she hurt him; she knows that much. If it were with someone else it might have been forgivable, but Raymond is his brother, the closest person in the world to him. She understands that.

Just then the door opens and Ava walks in with a package. She stops at the sight of River and his ex-wife; she recognises Bree from the press.

‘Oh sorry. I’ll come back later.’

‘No. My ex-wife was just leaving.’ Something about seeing Ava makes all the difference.

‘I’ll come back.’ Ava says firmly, before walking out.

‘You need to leave.’

Bree smiles, at least she still knows him a little bit. ‘She’s good for you.’ It only takes her a few seconds to know how River feels about the woman who just walked in.

‘What?’

‘You like her. That’s Ava Sinclair right?’

‘I have work to do.’

‘River I’m sorry. I will spend the rest of my life trying to apologise-’

‘You needn’t bother.’ River walks into his office and slams the door.

Bree does as he says, leave; he is still so mad at her. She looks around for Ava, but she is nowhere to be found.

*

‘She was here.’

‘Who was?’

‘River’s ex-wife.’

‘Shit. In the office?’

‘Yes.’

Ava went back to her office and three ways her friends.

‘He was so cold to her.’ Ava could read that look on River’s face when she walked in on him talking to his ex-wife.

‘You can’t blame him.’ Jamilah says.

‘Do you think I should still ask him?’

‘I think you should. But leave it a day when the ice man has thawed.’ Annabel says.

‘I still say go for it. What’s a day?’

Ava winces recalling the kiss in Paris.

‘What?’ Jamilah asks.

‘She’s thinking about the kiss.’ Annabel answers.

‘You need to stop thinking about it its done, it’s over and done with.’

‘I wish I didn’t kiss him. I’m never having a damn cognac again. Ever.’

‘But you did say you didn’t want him to-’

‘I know what I said! I also wanted him to not not say something about it. I didn’t want him to totally ignore it even if I think I wanted him to. UGH!’

‘Okay… calm-’

‘If you tell me to calm down, I swear I will return the Hermes jewellery I got you for Christmas.’

‘Sheesh!’ Annabel sucks her breath. She’d never seen Ava so out of sync before.

‘I mean why the fuck do we do this to ourselves?’

‘Blame our mothers.’ Jamilah answers.

Just then there is knock on her door, River is standing at the doorway.

Shit! How much did he hear and how long has he been standing there?

‘I’ll call you back.’ Ava hangs up the phone to her friends before they say something silly. ‘Hi.’

‘Sorry about earlier.’

‘I shouldn’t have barged in-’

‘You didn’t barge in… sorry. What was it you wanted?’

‘It’s not important.’

River smiles, looking at Ava, ‘important enough for you to come to my office.’

‘It’s not I promise.’

‘So tell me. What’s up?’

‘It’s nothing. I promise its nothing. I have to get to a meeting.’ Ava grabs her notebook and walks out of the office, hightailing it out of there with River staring in her wake. He heard everything she said; he knew he fucked up on the kiss.



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