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chapter forty-seven; wine and chocolate

The rehearsal dinner had gone absolutely splendidly.

Ava managed to walk down the aisle with her designated groomsman without tripping or falling on her face while still in jeans and flip flops, and she kept a mental drawer in her brain open for all the notes Aya and the wedding photographer had given her. Ava had to stand on this side and pose at a diagonal angle, not that side, and she had to make sure she was ready and in line when the bridesmaids and groomsmen would have to start walking on the day of the actual wedding. The wedding was one of Ava's firsts seeing as she had never been to many weddings as a child. That was always an older sibling perk, with Aya and Hanako eating bruschetta and crackers with fancy jams or thinly sliced prosciutto while Ava stayed home with the twins and ate some microwaveable meals.

Truthfully, Ava was just surprised she managed to survive a family event. Her and Luke still felt awkward from the argument they had in the van, and while they weren't exactly mad at each other, they didn't feel okay, and so instead of latching onto him just for comfort, the hardheaded Ava Morrison clung onto her crossbody purse instead to make her feel better. Her mother had been mingling with so many of the guests all night along with her father, that they probably didn't even have time to talk to her, even if they wanted to. Ava knew that her and her mother were closing to patching things up than her and her father would most likely ever be—Jasmine Keiko Morrison was the one who invited Ava to Thanksgiving that fateful night after all, and while phone calls scarce and once in a H moon, her mother still made one more than her father ever did.

Most of the family, extended or otherwise, knew about the great Shunning of Ava Morrison that happened nearly two years ago, the gossip no longer juicy but rather more like old news that everyone had already caught up on. Aunts and uncles, grandmothers and grandpas, and even very close employees and family friends, whispered about Ava, especially after seeing her with a white boy. The same "white boy from Thanksgiving," they would say, wondering whether Ava's terms with her family were good or not. Her cousin Emiko, however, found Luke quite the looker.

"Handsome," she had said at the after party, drinking her fourth flute of champagne. "Very, very handsome."

She was eight years older than Ava was, almost thirty, and she had never been married or had any children, but Emiko was the type of woman who wanted it that way. Besides the fact that she still had plenty of time to do all of that, she didn't necessarily feel the need to get it, and she was successful on her own, starting a small clothing line. Ava hadn't spoken to her in years, longer than she hadn't spoken to her parents, but Emiko talked to her like a day hadn't gone by at all.

"Your sister's soon-to-be-husband, Ian," Emiko added on, "his family is absolutely wonderful. Friendlier than I expected. A bit loud though, I suspect that they're Irish. His dad has been downing whiskey ever since we got here and he's not even the least bit drunk."

What she had said about Ian and his family was true—they were on the boisterous side, but they were cheerful and bubbly, and throughout most of the night, her and Luke had them to speak to when they had no one else, especially since they barely said a word to each other the entire night. It wasn't that Luke and Ava were mad at each other, or were even particularly fixated about the fight anymore; in fact, they still stayed within proximity to each other and sat at the same tables when they could, but the air around them had shifted. And so, they resorted to chatting up others: for Luke, it wasn't necessarily hard considering most of the younger women from both sides of the family had eyed him up, and some guys from Ian's family had done the same as well, and Ava had Emiko, Ian, Aya, and Hanako to keep her company.

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