Chapter: 13

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ELENA

It was Saturday, hence the day I was to move in with Rylan. I had been staying with my parents for some months and Dad had grown very much accustomed to my presence. He was heartbroken that I was moving out just like the first time I did when I graduated school and went to college hostel.

Mom was upset but happy for me. Liv on the other hand had been really excited and she promised to visit as soon as she could. Lately she had been drowning in work and her boss wasn't too amiable to say the least.

I flopped back on the bed, totally exhausted and I wasn't even halfway done with all the unpacking. Organizing my room has always tired me more than anything. Here we were talking about settling in at a new place.

Rylan had Chris get my things to his house before he left for some meeting. That had explained his formal wear when he was earlier at my home to pick me up.

That made me wonder why he was there in the first place. Chris was perfectly able to pick me up.

The first time we met, I didn't take Rylan as the guy who would be willing to play chauffeur but surprisingly he had insisted on driving me to every family meet-up, lunches and dinners we had had in the past one and a half month.

Figuring out what's on Rylan Parker's mind was last on my bucket list though. He's unpredictable and I happen to like my life a lot more without the edge.

"Elena!" Ava's cheery voice filled the room. When I arrived, she had fallen asleep while watching cartoons. Stacey said that Ava had a fever a few days back and the fatigue was still there.

"Hey sweetheart! Come here." I patted the space beside me.

Once her gaze fell on the trolley bags and unpacked boxes on the ground, her smile morphed into an adorable pout. "I wanted to help you."

My eyes strayed to one box that was yet to be unpacked. I had thought of opening it later but would rather do it sooner if that had a chance at lifting Ava's mood.

"Well I do need your help opening this one." As expected the smile returned to her face as she eagerly nodded. The box had mainly my books. Ava picked the one which had the brightest cover and held it to her chest.

"Can I read it?"

"You're too young to understand that, sweetheart." I chuckled at her fast fading enthusiasm. "But I do have something for you."

Ava's eyes glinted as I held out a few comics. I found them back at home while packing, sitting forgotten at the lowest shelf. Packed them too. Figured she might enjoy them.

She kept the previous book down just as soon and grabbed these. "Can I keep these?" I nodded and received a splitting grin in return. A fair deal I would say.

"Who is this?" Ava's attention had shifted to a photo frame. It was a childhood picture of me with Mom where I was sitting on the kitchen counter and Mom was kissing my cheek from behind.

"This is me and this is my mom." I smiled remembering the times when I used to sit on the kitchen counter, watching Mom bake cookies and cakes. I had boxed up a few frames last night, the most important ones.

Lost in reminiscing, I had failed to notice that Ava's eyes were blurry with tears and lips quivering.

"Ava, what's wrong?" This question is what it took for the dam to break and tears started rolling down her cheeks.

"What happened sweetheart? Why are you crying?" I was getting more perplexed with every second she spent silently crying.

"Come here." I pulled Ava to my lap and tucked away the loose strands of hair from her face. "Now tell me why are you crying?

"I- My Mommy- she doesn't l-love me." I inhaled deeply, trying to process what she had said. Her mother...

After I had signed the contract, I had looked him up on Google and there wasn't a single thing about Ava's mother. Only if that bossy oaf had told me a bit more about her mother and why she was not in Ava's life, today I would know how to handle this.

"Ava, who told you that?" I tried to choose my words carefully.

"I know. Everyone lives with their family but I live with only Dad. She left me because she didn't love me." Fresh set of tears fell from her eyes.

The words spraying out of her mouth gave out the pain that was inside her. I couldn't imagine how hard it would have been for a child to think that she wasn't loved by her mother.

Sighing, I phrased the words in my head because this was a sensitive issue for her and to hurt her was the last of my intentions.

"Do you know what family is?" I asked gently, wiping away her tears. She had said that everyone stayed with their family and I wanted her to realize that she was with her family.

"The people who truly love you. Those people who are always there for you, protect you." Sniffing, she stared at me as I spoke to her.

"You have these people, don't you? Daddy is always there for you. He is your family. Stacey is your family, your grandfather, Rose, they are your family. They love you and would hate to see you upset."

You don't cry for people who have no regard for you.

Dad had always told me this but I felt the words would be too heavy for her. Besides I didn't know what had happened with her mother and what was the reason she wasn't present in Ava's life.

"And now you are my family?" I blinked in surprise.

"I am your family." I lied, swallowing the lump forming in my throat. Family stays with you and I wasn't here to stay. The feeling of guilt reared its head.

She gave a small nod. I rubbed circles on her back to soothe her or I was kidding myself into thinking so and in reality it was a form of distraction for me.

"Can I call you Mommy?" Ava blurted, making my hand freeze in its place.

I was expecting her to ask this as much as I knew the answer to the question.

That's right, I didn't.

My mind was reeling with a lot of things, one of them being the conversation I had with Rylan.

I'm not ready to be a parent. I can't.....be her mother.

Good! You don't need to!

"Elena?" Ava called when I had been quiet for a really long time. Those big doe eyes were once again welling up at the prospect of being rejected for the second time in her life.

I shut my eyes. I shouldn't. I really shouldn't-

"Yes! You can call me Mommy."

The second the words left my mouth I knew I had fucked up.

I was trying to save her from a hurt by leading her towards a much bigger heartbreak.

"Really!?" Ava mumbled. I had surprised her as much as I had surprised myself.

Me marrying her Dad, us being a family, everything was to end in two years and I didn't want to raise her hopes high only to crush them but one look at her sad innocent face and the rational part of my brain had refused to function.

I settled for a smile, not trusting my words at the moment. Once Ava was assured that I wasn't kidding her, she squealed in delight and tackled me in a hug.

"I love you..... Mommy." I felt guilty that I was leading her on knowing our future.
Pulling away, I kissed her forehead to shut down the feeling of guilt.

"I love you too." I mumbled.

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