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chapter thirty five: siblings can be hell

Ava hadn't even been up for that long, it had only been twenty five minutes after 9 AM, when her phone started to ring, filling her ears with the annoying default ringtone that she tolerated because she didn't want to buy one (and the default one was, believe it or not, the least annoying).

Though she had been up for nearly half an hour on the bright Saturday morning, the sounds of car horns honking outside her window as the city routinely backed up with traffic, she had barely moved an inch. Her body laid in fetal position, curled up underneath the fluffy blankets due to how perpetually cold the apartment seemed to be, and she lazily answered the phone, not paying attention to the contact name.

"Hello?" Ava waited, taking a strand of hair and smiling. The blue shone in the sunlight that displayed itself across her bed. Michael had complimented it at the comic book shop yesterday, approving her DIY dyeing.

She had half expected it to be Becca at work at her journalism gig, who frankly did not care enough that Ava arrived home late last night from a shift at the club, tired as ever, desperately seeking extra hours of sleep.

"Ava?" A female voice answered, light and airy, background noises masked with a sports announcer accompanying it. It certainly wasn't Becca's, but Ava recognized that voice anywhere, and her heart thumped in her chest. "It's Aya."

Aya had kept contact with Ava for the past couple of weeks, ever since Thanksgiving dinner, or at least she tried to. Ava loved her sister, and she hadn't realized truly how much she missed her, or her entire family, until her phone filled with random text messages like the old days. It wasn't consistent, and the conversations weren't exactly long, but it was a start.

It had been hard to believe that the New Year's Day was already long gone, fortnights behind with January almost over. The rest of the last couple of months seemed to have passed by in a blur, and a new year had started. New beginnings, a clean slate. And first thing on that resolutions list of hers was repairing what she had left with her family.

She was starting small.

Throughout texting to both Aya and Hanako awkwardly, Ava had discovered that she had missed much more than she had originally assumed during the course of nearly a year and a half. She knew Aya was out of college by now and engaged, but hadn't known how long, or how far into wedding planning she was. She had learned that Hanako had a whole new group of friends from college football even though all of them had graduated at least a year or two ago, but she hadn't caught all of their names. She heard the stories, but couldn't piece it together well enough.

And while the talking did happen, things were still fragile. With the business of all of their lives, and Ava's intense and uncontrollable quality of oftentimes being the most flustered human being on planet earth ever, her and her sister hadn't talked ever since Aya had invited her to dinner with her fiancé, and Luke and her had fought.

Yikes, Ava thought, grasping the fact that her family knew so little of her life now and who was in it.

Even with herself, she made an attempt to brush it off like it no longer mattered, that her days smoking and crying and avoiding their calls were over, but sometimes it made her want to break down. She had given up smoking, but she still hadn't given up the pain that came with the situation. It was almost like she held onto it on purpose, feeling guilty at the same time she felt too proud.

Nothing can describe the emotion that forces itself into your body and the oxygen out of your lungs when you hear the voice of someone you miss so much, but are too ashamed to talk to.

"Hi," she replied, lamely, choking on the one word. She wondered if part of the reason why she had a hard time speaking to her older sister was because when she needed Aya most, she was silent. She wondered if the other part was that she couldn't forgive herself. She hadn't even thought that maybe she didn't quite forgive her older brother and sister either. "How–how are you?"

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