Sweet Ava: Claire 1

​“Let me turn down this music before I pull into his driveway, I don’t want to hear his mouth today!” Claire said to her husband Eric while turning the volume to a low 7 as she pulled into Jayson’s driveway.
“Don’t trash talk my man, you know I’m going to tell him!” Eric said as he took his seatbelt off.
“I swear you’re more his brother in law you are my husband, Jayson owes me big-time for getting married so he could have a bromance!” Claire said as she skipped a few steps so that Eric missed her with his swipe to hit her butt.  He hated the term bromance almost as much as her brother did.
“I’m still telling him.” Eric said as Claire kissed him before ringing the doorbell.
“WHERE’S THE PARTY AT?” Claire yelled and dancing her way past her brother giving him a peck on the cheek before she yelled some more “AVA! MYA! Where are my girls?”
“Aunty Claire, aunty Claire…” Mya repeated sliding down the stairs on her bottom. 
Claire picked up her niece and sprinkled kisses all over her chubby face and letting Mya know how much bigger she had gotten since the last time she saw her about a year ago.  She missed her nieces so much not having been around for the last year traveling with Eric.
“Where’s your sister?”
“In her room, I’ll take you” Mya volunteered.
“Mya, if Ava doesn’t want you in her room …”
“I know, I know, I have to come back downstairs” she cut her dad off as she proceeded to take her aunty Claire up to Ava’s bedroom.
Claire knocked softly on Ava’s door, already toning down the energy she began her visit with.  She remembered Ava’s 5th birthday when she insisted on wearing Skyler’s heels throughout her entire party and never fell once.  Jayson called her Sky 2.0 all afternoon.  Skyler must have taken a million pictures that afternoon of her little clone.  When Jayson tried to get Ava to take a picture with him and she made sure he got down low enough that she would have a full body picture including her heels.
Ava opened her bedroom door and twisted her mouth to the side in a failed attempt at a smile.
“Hi aunty Claire” Ava hugged her aunt quickly and went back to sit on her bed.  Claire looked around the room before walking in and noticed the balled-up tissues on Ava’s bed and the puffiness of her eyes.
“Hey Mya, why don’t you go tell my little brother I said that you could have some ice-cream.”  Without a word Mya bolted out the door, loving the idea of relaying this message knowing that her dad would do as Claire said making it easy for her.
Claire sat on Ava’s bed facing her and cupped her chin lifting Ava’s face.  “Hey beautiful girl, how’s it going?”
Ava shrugged her shoulder, tears streaming down her face, clutching the diamond on her necklace.
“I know it’s a difficult day for you sweetie, what can I do to make it better?” Claire snapped a new tissue from the box and patted Ava’s big brown eyes.
“Tell my dad I’m sorry.” She sniffled as she spoke.
“What for?” Claire sat closer, laid Ava’s head in her lap and twirled her loose coils around her fingers.
“I walked off earlier after he gave me my present” Ava sniffled and rubbed her eyes taking deep breaths to avoid crying as she continued.  “I miss her so much…I wonder if Mya feels like I do but can’t explain it… or maybe she doesn’t remember… or maybe she doesn’t know what she should feel…I love my car; I just want you to tell him I love it and I didn’t mean to be rude… I just want to be alone” Ava shook as she couldn’t hold back her tears.  She buried her face in Claire’s lap and Claire had no immediate words, she only twirled her loose coils around her fingers.  They sat quietly until Ava cried herself to sleep.
Claire closed Ava’s door softly behind her and headed back downstairs to see her baby brother standing at the foot of the stairs.  “What should I do?”  Claire hugged him and lead him into the kitchen away from Eric and Mya.
“I’m failing right now Claire, you saw her, unless it’s a school day she stays up in her room.  Her friends don’t come by anymore.  I watch her with Mya and if she finds herself having what she thinks is too much fun, this blank stare comes over her face and she finds some reason to excuse herself to her room…I hate to see her punish herself like this…for this long.”
“Well I know we’ve talked about this in the past but I’m going to ask again, have you thought about taking her to see someone?” Claire knew the suggestion would be met by anger but suggested it anyway.
“As much as I hate to, I don’t think there is anything I can do to help her.  She’s never could talk to me.  Whenever something was wrong with her, Sky went in that room for 5 minutes and she’d come running out skipping like nothing happened.  Sky was her best friend.  You know how people say little girls tend to start drifting from their mother’s or don’t talk to them as much once they get older?  The opposite happened.  She’s never been a daddy’s girl.  She came home from school and told Sky all about her day.  Sky actually scheduled her work schedule to have a 30-minute break when Ava got home from school.  She literally set her status to ‘Away’ and her phone on silent.  Ava got off the bus, grabbed a snack and went right into her mother’s office to debrief her about her day.”
Claire could see the despair in her brother’s eyes.  “Jayson… how are you? and before you tell me you’re fine, think again and give me the real answer.”
Jayson wringed his hands together and shook his head.  “I mean, I’m here.  I do what I have to do.  I go to work to take care of these girls.  I try to keep them busy and let them know that I’m here if they need anything.  Mya hasn’t missed a beat and sometimes that worries me.  But sometimes I think it’s amazing.  You know what she said to me?  She came in my room one night and climbed in the bed with me while I was watching tv.  I told her it was past bedtime, she had school tomorrow and couldn’t watch tv with daddy tonight.  She said ‘I’m not here to watch tv daddy, I was sad about mommy and I thought if I was sad maybe daddy was sad too so I came to make sure you weren’t sad and I didn’t want to be sad by myself.”
“wow!” the story made Claire tear-up.  “Ava said she wondered if Mya ever hurts like she does and clearly my little niece does have tough skin.  As far as Ava, she is at a special time in her life right now and it just really does suck that she lost her best friend right before she experienced it.  It must have been really hard to wake up on her sweet 16 and not have Sky here.  I think having her talk to someone is probably the way to go.  I mean and if that doesn’t work, I’m back now, she seemed to let me in a little bit earlier.”
Jayson leaned back in his chair, both hands on his head.  “willing to try anything, something’s gotta give.”
“But back to my question, how are you?”  Claire titled her head raising one brow at her little brother trying to avoid her question.
“I’m f…” he smiled stopping himself remembering Claire’s instructions.  “I mean, I’m better than I was a year ago and better than I was a few months ago.  Don’t get me wrong, I miss her every day and I can’t imagine that there would ever be a day that this would make sense to me…but I gotta do what I gotta do and right now that means I can’t worry about me and what I want or feel.”  Jayson paused and folded his arms on his chest.  “Besides, I’ve had enough good to last a lifetime…guess it’s someone else turn now.”

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