Chapter: 08

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ELENA

"You have a beautiful room, Ava!" She looked up at me, a toothy grin splitting her face. It was all shades of pink put together. Pink was probably Ava's favorite color. Explained her obsession with strawberry milkshakes.
    
The bed was in the middle of the room, almost filled with plushies. My eyes fell on a drawing, presumably the one Ava was at before she got distracted. "Do you like butterflies?" I asked picking up the sketchbook.
    
"Yes. They're so pretty!" I smiled at her.
    
My eyes were still lingering on the partly coloured wings of the butterfly when Ava blurted the question out of the blue. "Are you Daddy's girlfriend?"
    
My hand stilled on the sketchbook before I put it down. "Who told you that?" I casually asked.
    
"I heard Daddy telling Stacey that you're his girlfriend." She replied, unhesitant. Did she snoop on our conversation? I sighed.
    
"Well, that's true."
    
"Are you going to marry him?" Ava fired the question just as soon. I looked at her innocent doey eyes and mentally cursed. Why was I the one having this awkward talk with her instead of Rylan!?
    
I crouched in front of her.
    
"Would you like that?" I was trying to choose my words carefully, acutely wary that she might have a meltdown at the prospect of her father's marriage. My unease increased with every passing second before she finally nodded.
    
"Then yes." Her face remained emotionless at my reply, like she didn't know whether to be happy about this piece of information.
    
"That means we won't be friends anymore." My forehead creased at her conclusion.

Where did that come from?
    
Holding her hands in mine, I drew her closer. "Of course I'll be your friend." She met my assurance with a shake of her head.
    
"If you marry Daddy you become my Mommy. How can you be my friend?" She ended with a head tilt and I would have mused on how strikingly similar she looked to her father if her latest words hadn't fogged my brain.
    
Mommy.
    
I wasn't able to look past that one word and probably was a second away from hyperventilating.
    
"Ava." Rylan's deep baritone voice sliced through the air clearing some of the haze. I was on my feet in a quick second. His eyes fell on me in a blank stare.
    
"Stacey needs your help. Come on." Ava skipped out of the room and Rylan's eyes found mine one final time before he followed his daughter down the stairs.

RYLAN

Honestly I myself hadn't expected Ava to look at things that way. I would much prefer she hadn't. That would just make things difficult for her because Elena wasn't here to stay.
    
My gaze slid over Elena who sat fidgeting in the passenger seat before I focussed on the road. She had been a little lost ever since her interaction with Ava which I had walked in on.
    
I had seen that look on Elena's face. It was different from the surprise that I had felt, more than that.
    
Shock. Anxiety. It was both. 
    
I knew she was considering backing out of the agreement and that she would bring it up. It was only a matter of time before she did.
    
"I can't do this." Elena divulged.
    
Bingo!
    
"Can't do what?" My eyes were trained on the road.
    
"Marry you. I can't marry you!" I sighed.
    
This whole conversation was a pointless one. She was legally bound by the contract meaning she would have to walk down the aisle, at or against her will.
    
Elena was growing agitated with every second I silently spent driving.
    
"Can't you hear me?" I exhaled, a big one, and pulled over.
    
It would have been easier to shut her out till the end of the drive, drop her at her home and be on my way but figured I would appreciate her a little bit agreeable given the fact that I was keeping it from everyone, including Dad.
    
I unbuckled my seatbelt and leaned my head back waiting for her to get on with it.
    
"I want out of this." She announced.
    
"Why?" I asked, looking ahead.
    
She shakily inhaled, an attempt at calming her nerves. One must really hate kids to be this worked up over such an incident.
    
I never guessed it to be the case with Elena. She seemed to like Ava.
    
"I'm not ready to be a parent. I can't…..be her mother."
    
"Good! You don't need to!" I brusquely broke it to her.
    
She indignantly scoffed, striking at my barely there patience. "I don't understand."
    
"There's nothing not understandable in this. I chose you because Ava will be comfortable around you in these two years. That's it." I paused, knowing full well that she would hate me a little more for my next words. Not that I cared.
    
"Besides, you must be knowing that you have signed a contract and that I can choose not to entertain all these talks because they don't mean shit."
    
Exasperation drowned the earlier restlessness in Elena's eyes. Well, she needed a reality check!
    
Her nostrils flared as she spoke. "How generous of you!"
    
"Well you could thank me for it and we can get going." I suggested tapping at the steering and watched as she rolled her eyes while muttering something incoherent.

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