ADVENT STORIES #17 | SHOOT YOUR SHOT

‘Hello?’ Fresh off a conference call and hoping to grab some lunch, Ava’s plans are scuppered by the ring of her desk phone. Lydia. ‘Hi Lyd.’

‘I have AJ here to see you.’

‘What?’

‘Yep.’

‘Out there?’

‘Yes. Do you want me to send him in?’

‘Ten minutes.’

‘Okay.’

Ava immediately calls Annabel, ‘AJ’s here. Is there something I should be aware of?’

‘No. I haven’t heard anything from his lawyers. Do you want me to come over?’

‘No I’ll be fine.’

‘Remember, keep your cool.’

‘Promise I will.’ She hangs up the phone, collects her thoughts, and asks Lydia to send him in.

‘Hi.’ AJ is dressed smartly in blue jeans and a navy jumper, beige coat and tan Chelsea boots. One of her favourite combos on him. They got that coat in New York the Christmas before last when they took their annual Holiday trip to New York before Christmas.

‘Hello.’ Ava cannot disguise the surprise.

‘Sorry to drop by unannounced.’

‘Everything okay?’

‘Yes. Everything is fine but we never got to talk after your party.’

‘Okay.’ Ava asks Lydia to hold her calls and messages before joining AJ in the soft seating area. ‘What’s up?’

AJ is nervous. ‘Look, I will admit that what I did was awful. I should never have left the way I did or at all. I made a mistake, a grave mistake and I am sorry. So sorry.’

‘O…kay.’ Ava isn’t sure where this is going but she does hope he will get there soon.

‘Ava, I want you back.’ There. He said it. Put everything on the line; this is not a five minute conversation.

Things with Wendy have gone way sour, they broke up a few days ago but it isn’t rocket science that they have fizzled. She went back to her girlfriend, quit the restaurant and has gone travelling. He’d been a phase for her, she didn’t think twice about leaving him; he was essentially inconsequential. What was hot and heavy for him was a blip on her radar and when it came to it, she could not compete with the place Oliver holds in his life and by extension Ava. But it isn’t just that, he misses the home he had with Ava, misses their life together. She was right when she accused him of having an ulterior motive at the Cartier event; he wanted to remind her of their happier times together, the nights they spent in his apartment in New York when they were inseparable. The years they spent in Paris when on the weekends they’d go on an adventure to some little village with Oliver, just the three of them. He misses that. Misses her a lot.

‘Are you mad?’

‘I’m not.’ He expected that.

‘You come here to my office to give me this bullshit? Are you fucking crazy?’

‘I know, I know-’

‘No, you don’t know AJ. You pulled the rug from beneath my feet without any warning. I didn’t even see it coming. You were there in the morning, I came back home at night and all that was left of you was a note with five lines. You reduced a decade of our lives together to five lines. You left me to explain your choice to our son and I am just now coming to terms with it. To top it off, you file for full custody of Oliver, knowing what that would do to me. You know what I went through before I had him, you know what I went through afterwards. You did this to me and then you come here and tell me you want me back. You must be mad.’

AJ looks down at his feet. She has a point, several, but he needs to try. ‘Ava please. I know I fucked up, I know I hurt you-’

‘You destroyed me without warning. I can never forgive you for that. I am not that woman. You need to go I have work to do.’ She opens the door to show him out and see River sitting in the reception of her office with Lydia.

AJ seizes River up as he walks out with Ava looking askance.

‘Hi, come on in.’ Ava invites River into her office and shuts the door on AJ’s despondent expression.

‘Everything okay?’

‘Yes everything’s fine.’ Her tone is cold.

River understands the meaning behind that bite. ‘I wanted to talk to you about Paris.’

‘Sure. What about it?’ Ava returns to her chair behind her desk, she needs distance from him, from all men.

River sits in one of the two chairs opposite her. ‘I’m heading out there the day after tomorrow. I would like to see the team out there, see how they run things and I wondered if you’d like to come with. If Oliver’s schedule allows.’

‘Oh.’ Ava didn’t think she needed to be in Paris, the soft launch had gone according to plan and the PR team had done a good job gaining social media ground. She is working with a trusted team out there, more than capable of seeing this through. ‘I’ll check with AJ and get back to you if that’s okay.’

‘Of course. Sorry it’s very last minute I didn’t want to be there whilst all this unfolds without you considering you put everything together.’

‘I’ll get back to you asap.’

Great, her ex-husband wants her back and her boss wants her to go to Paris with him. Oy vey.

*

‘So tell us. What happened?’ After AJ’s visit Ava convened her friends for drinks after work. Oliver is with his father so she has the licence to get drunk.

‘He came to see me, said he wants to get back together, says he misses me, he’s sorry.’

‘And what did you say?’ Jamilah sets a glass of cocktail each in front of her friends, the first of many for the night.

‘Exactly what I told you guys, I told him how much he hurt me, he cannot just waltz back into my life and expect me to be that woman.’

‘And then River Huxley asked you to go to Paris with him.’ Annabel giggles into her drink.

‘His wife just had a baby. Ex-wife I mean.’ Jamilah says.

‘How did you know?’

‘You’re talking to a pulitzer price winning journalist here ma’am.’ Jamilah teases, ‘I overheard it at lunch, every woman I work with has a crush on him and after the splash the Cartier party made, too many wanted to know the status of his affairs.’

‘It was bound to come out sooner or later they have been divorced two years now.’ Annabel takes a glorious sip of her espresso martini. She is going to work from home after this drink so the espresso will help her stay awake. Or so she justifies her indulgence.

‘Why are we talking about River Huxley?’

Jamilah and Annabel exchange a glance.

‘What’s that look for?’

‘Because you like him,’ Annabel answers.

‘I don’t like him like that. I find him attractive but so does every other woman I know.’

‘Babe it won’t be wrong for you to have feelings for another man.’

‘I’ve only been divorced six months.’

‘So? AJ wasn’t even divorced when he was schtuping another woman.’ Jamilah motions to the waiter for another round of cocktails.

‘Well I don’t know how he feels about me so I am pretty sure there is nothing going to happen between us.’

‘But if it were?’ Annabel asks.

‘I don’t know. Oliver is my responsibility and so much of his life has been upended by the divorce.’

‘Oliver has nothing to do with this. Besides, he would want you to be happy, just like we do.’

‘So back to her question, what if something were to happen between you and River?’

‘I don’t know… I don’t know.’ She does know. There is a simmering feeling between them, she feels it when they are together, despite that cold front he tries to put on which has melted somewhat, she knows and Ava suspects he knows it too.

Both friends reach out and hold her hands across the table. Annabel speaks for them.

‘Ava, we are going to tell you this as your besties, you deserve to be happy, always. AJ did a number on you, and now you are getting over it. It is not too soon to find love or to be happy. Never apologise or postpone that. Oliver is a child who is loved, well cared for and happy. You have put yourself second for most of your life, putting the needs of everyone ahead of yours. Our included.’

‘True.’ Jamilah says, ‘my wedding, her wedding, your wedding you came second. Mo’s wedding, Oliver, Oliver, Oliver, which is great and why we love you. But we would not be your best friends if we did not tell you the truth.’

‘Which is?’

‘If you feel something for River Huxley, shoot your shot.’ Annabel says.



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