XXXI: THE BEGINNING OF THE END

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chapter thirty one; the beginning of the end

Ava listened to the voicemail on her phone over and over, taking every word in each time and then replaying everything once more, the minute it ended. She held her phone up to her ear, intently focusing on the voices, biting her lip as she nervously rocked back and forth on the chair by her outdoor balcony. It was more than "too cold" to be outside in the chilly weather, especially since there would be a predicted snowfall this Christmas, but with just her big, oversized Harry Potter sweatshirt and some sweatpants, she stayed alone—staring at the skyline with voicemails playing as her company.

She had been sitting outside for God knows how long, contemplating what to do or how to respond, the cold air that nipped at her tan skin no longer bothering or fazing her. She was left alone in the quiet, Becca had already left to Christmas vacation to see her family, bringing Calum along with her, and Ava was waiting for something to spark the holiday spirit inside of her. If she had it, that is. She sighed and put her phone down, locking it, hearing enough of the voicemail now that she was sick of it. It was from her family—who else, really? Everyone else she knew would've called to say a Happy Holiday greeting—who she was now slowly making amends with.

It was a start, but the only thing she could think about was the last time she visited her family.

It was horrible, really. Her and her dad had yet to actually have a real conversation and the insults that were whispered as she walked away were incredibly offensive. She was grateful, honestly, that her siblings and mom were so willing to bond once more, but one could only feel so much happiness while also being so painfully aware of everything else going on in their life. She sighed and held her knees up to her chest, frowning at the thought that she had woken up on Christmas alone with nothing other than a missed call from her sister and short voicemail from the family she was estranged with.

She also hadn't talked to Luke in about twenty hours, but hey, who's counting? She knew that it was entirely her fault anyway, being too afraid and prideful to admit that she could've handled the situation better. It was right about now where she could really use a smoke, and her mind travelled to an unopened box of cigarettes hidden away in her supply drawer, wondering if it was worth giving in.

She had to admit: going these many stressful months without smoking have been incredibly hard and the first weeks of withdrawal symptoms made her feel terrible. Maybe smoking one cig could be her Christmas present to herself, she thought. Then, she shook her head and convinced herself to forget that the idea even passed through her brain. Maybe she could go eat her feelings, or something. She pouted and thought of flinging herself off the balcony, but knew that the whole circumstance would be pointless; plus, thinking about dying only made her overthink more.

Ava Morrison—queen of overthinking and accidentally making things worse while trying to make them better—had felt more defeated than ever, and she knew that this was not the mood to be in for the holidays. She closed her eyes for a moment as a freezing breeze blew by and then opened them up, trying to not do the thing she does best: stress out. And so, with that thought, she got up from her chair and went back into her apartment, determined to spend the whole day watching Christmas movies and Criminal Minds episodes on Netflix while chomping on chocolate bars and junk food.

"I am a strong woman of colour, with badass hair and style and music taste, and if I gain weight from eating all this junk food, it is worth it," Ava chanted to herself repeatedly as she made her way to her bedroom, arms full of chocolate, potato chips, twinkies, and water bottles. "Besides, I'm pretty sure that I, worst friend of the year, am capable of crying off two pounds."

"Actually, that's impossible, Squirt."

Ava let out a scream and dropped all her food at once, making it all thud on the ground softly. She whisked around and immediately started hammering whoever the intruder was, wishing she had her lighter so she could light them on fire instead of using her hands. She had never been a fighter, and now, as her life flashed before her eyes, she regret not practicing her martial arts skills in so long. Her black belt would've been so ashamed of her and her Master Steven would've been so disappointed.

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