Chapter: 46

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ELENA

"Mommy!" Ava came running down the stairs to stand in front of me.
    
"Yes, sweetie? Are you hungry?" I asked keeping the book down. She nodded big causing me to stand up.
    
"Come, I made you a smoothie." I said walking to the kitchen. I had it prepared some minutes ago knowing that she would be coming down any moment.
    
"No, I don't want it." The protest I had expected rang out. Kids normally like smoothies. I did as a child. Ava didn't like it at all but she loved milkshakes. In fact that was pretty much how we had met.
    
"Ava!" I said in a warning tone. She hurried back to Liliana who had been standing there and tugged at her skirt.
    
"Tell her I don't want it." Liliana's eyes flickered from Ava's face to mine. She blinked, unsure of what to say. I didn't exactly know what arrangement she had with Rylan but she was here almost all the time. At times I did feel uncomfortable but then she was trying to know Ava better. Ava too had taken a liking to her and if Liliana was going to be in her life as her mother, it's only right if she spent a lot of time with her.
    
"Ava, come here." She peered up at me before taking a hesitant step forward. I held her hand and pulled her small body towards me.
    
"Drink this, now and maybe I'll read you two stories before bed." Her eyes lit up in excitement. She bounced a little in her place.
    
"Really?" I checked the smile about to fall on my lips and shrugged at her question.
    
"Only if you finish this." She at once took the tumbler from my hand. I smoothed her hair with my fingers as she finished the drink.
    
"There's my good girl." I smiled, taking the cup back. She flashed me a toothy grin before sprinting towards Rylan who had just walked in. He had hardly loosened the tie around his neck when Ava clung to his legs. He bent down and picked her up.
    
"I missed you, Daddy." She wrapped her tiny arms around her Dad's shoulder. She would never miss a chance to get Rylan's attention and that was honestly too cute. I hadn't realized that I was smiling, almost grinning until Rylan's eyes darted towards me.
    
"Daddy missed you too, sweetheart." He kissed her head before setting her down. As soon as she was on her feet, she sprinted towards her room.
    
“Don't run!" Rylan called after her but as usual it went unheard.
    
"You're really good with her." Liliana's voice made me look at her. I passed her a tight-lipped smile, my mind trying to think of something to avoid the awkward atmosphere.
    
"She loves you." She stated it like it was a realization and I wouldn't lie that I wasn't glad to hear it.
    
"I love her as well." This time I smiled genuinely, mostly to myself though. Ava was a cheery and lovely girl. She wasn't the spoiled bratty kid. Pampered? Yes but not a brat. I'm fact, she could easily brighten up your day by just being herself.
    
"So you know everything about her, it seems." My chain of thoughts were broken and I gave a slow nod.
    
"Would you mind telling me a few things about her? I just want to know what her favorite foods are, what she likes to do and all." I looked between her and Rylan's face before focussing on hers.
    
"If I tell you all that, what's the point of spending time with her. I mean that's how it works right? You will gradually get to know everything about her." I said every word clearly, keeping in mind not to come off as rude.
    
"That will take a long time." I snapped my head towards her in an instant.
    
"And you don't have that time for her?" I asked incredulously.
    
"I don't know." I blinked, totally unsure of what she meant by that.
    
"What do you mean by you don't know? Don't tell me you're planning to disappear on Ava after she accepts you in her life!" This time I couldn't help the harsh edge to my tone. When she didn't protest against my accusation and simply looked away, a humorless chuckle left my lips.
    
"Look Liliana, if that's the plan, then you better leave before you make things complicated for her." I demanded with a straight face. She even had the audacity to look hurt!
    
"Elena." Rylan called my name in what I felt like was dancing between a warning and a request.
    
"What!?" I snapped at him, too irritated at the fact that he was asking me to stop. He clenched his jaws and looked away. I stepped out of the kitchen all the while looking at her.
    
"Ava used to think that her mother had left because she didn't love her and I don't want her to think like that again. She doesn't need that heartbreak." I warned her before heading towards my room.
……………………….

"You're already up?" Ava looked up at my voice before giving a small nod. Walking in, I looked around the room and it looked messy.
    
“I thought I'll have to tickle you awake." I said and she absent mindedly hummed.
    
"Want me to do your hair?" Now that got me her attention. She ran back to me with the brush and a tie.
    
"I was thinking we could do something fun today. Sounds good?" I asked while parting her hair.
    
"Not today." My brows dipped a little at that. She usually was always up for these.
    
"No?"
    
"I am waiting for Lili. She said she will teach me how to make chocolate pie." Excitement was evident in her voice. I paused for a very small second before resuming.
    
"She did?"
    
"Yes." I secured the tie around her hair.
    
"There. All done." She immediately turned around to face me.
    
"You know Lili is very nice." The smile on her face while she spoke those words reflected her genuine liking for Liliana. She was happy with her mother around and that's what she deserved and had ever wanted.
    
"Really?" I caged her between my hands and pulled her closer. My question definitely encouraged her.
    
"Yes. She draws with me, tells me stories. She even helped me with homework. I love her." I let a big smile spread on my lips, though not a genuine one. I knew Liliana would sooner or later take up the position I had in Ava's life. The selfish part of me which had been basking in its warmth was having difficulty in accepting it. I exhaled.
    
"Then you should tell her that you love her." She looked unsure at first but then my encouraging smile must have convinced her as a grin broke out on her lips. Before the conversation could roll on, Liliana was heard.
    
"Ava!" Ava's face brightened up at her voice and she immediately pulled back before heading towards the door.
    
"Slow down!" A sigh left my lips and I was just staring off into the distance before Stacey walked in.
    
"Hey!" I smiled at her.
    
"Hey!" She greeted back before bending down to pick up the toys that lay scattered everywhere. I had to keep the consuming thoughts at bay and engaging in some work seemed to be most appropriate.
    
"Let me help you." She looked alarmed at my suggestion.
    
"Oh no, it's my job! I will do it."
    
"Come on, I'm free right now." I
    
"Thank you."
.............................................

Halfway down the stairs I heard Ava squeal. I took a few more steps before coming to a halt. Rylan was chasing Ava around in the kitchen.
    
"Daddy, no!" She giggled as Liliana had blocked her way and Rylan picked her up. He rubbed flour on her face while she tightly scrunched her face. After a quiet second, she gave an adorable little sneeze causing both Rylan and Liliana to laugh.
    
I felt that. The happiness oozing out of the kitchen and however mean it would sound, I felt the uneasiness too. The feeling of not belonging somewhere. I felt that. I creeped back up and into the room.

 I creeped back up and into the room

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