"Mother" is an ongoing fiction series about Avalyn Rosewood and her search for the truth about her history. You can read the first installments here: Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV.
A bell rang as someone opened the door, startling Will from his work. He sighed, not wanting to get up and deal with people. He brushed his hands on his jeans, forcing himself to greet his customer. At this rate, he was at risk of having to close Like Clockwork.
Strolling through his little shop wasn't just any customer, though. Avalyn Rosewood. The name filled him with nerves and excitement. Her chestnut hair was pinned up today, wisps framing her green eyes. As always, her tanned skin seemed to glow, especially in here surrounded by wood and antique clocks.
One clock, in particular, seemed to catch her eye. He didn't have to look to know which one it was.
Nestled in a cabinet-clock, he felt its pull. It had to be the oldest one here, but there was something timeless about it. He watched her pick it up gingerly, studying the tiny pocket watch. The surface had an elegant swirl of trees and running figures. Leading this wild group was a majestic looking woman, both wild and regal at the same time.
It was captivating, just like her.
She popped open the watch, surprise filling her face. He knew what she saw. The interior of the watch was vibrant and magnetic. The inside was rich with the night sky. Minute stars smattered the face, surrounding a kneeling man on a hill. It was a curious sight.
The crown of the watch was simple. It was a gold arrow, pointing up. Her hand inched towards it, and his insides tightened.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you."
Ava jumped, nearly dropping the antique. "Will! You scared me."
He smiled apologetically, carefully taking the watch out of her hands. "I'm sorry."
She rubbed her throat nervously as if it would calm her. She eyed the antique in his hand with longing. "I'm fine—what shouldn't I do?"
He furrowed his eyebrows, confused for a moment. Her eyes distracted him. "Oh, you mean with the watch? If you pull the crown up, the watch tends to break and it takes forever to put it back together." He explained.
"Oh, that's unfortunate."
He laughed, nodding. Indeed, the watch would come apart and would take hours to restore. "Unfortunately. It's my favorite one here."
She looked around the room, confused. "So why do you keep it in this clock instead of your office or somewhere more secure?"
The question made his eyes glaze over. He felt dizzy. It felt like a cloud decided to take cover in his head. There was an answer, but he couldn't find it. He brushed away the familiar sensation. It always crept up around this pocket watch. He didn't want that feeling anywhere near him, which is partly why he kept it here. "I don't know, it just felt right to put it here."
She forced a laugh, clearly uncomfortable. "It's OK, we all have our things. So how long have you worked here?"
This was a safe question. The cloud immediately dissipated and he allowed himself to relax. "Since I can remember. It was my father's shop. Before him, it was his father's. And so on. This shop has been a second home for me; probably more home than actual home, you know?"
Her eyes agreed, but her lips pursed. "You're a law student, though. What do you plan on doing once you have your degree and license?"
He shrugged. "I'll still run it on the side like I do now." Ava turned away, studying the clocks behind her. Watching her turn away reminded him of yesterday when she ran out on him. She looked like she had seen a ghost, splitting with no explanation. Now here she was—again, with no explanation.
"Sorry about yesterday." she blurted. Her back was still to him, another clock in her hands. It made him happy to see her here, in his environment. For months, he had been working up the courage to talk to her. When they saw each other in the coffee shop, the moment seemed right. The rest of the day, though, he felt he had blown it. Yet, here she stood.
He smiled. "No need to apologize. Is everything alright?"
Now it was her turn for her eyes to glaze over. She shook her head and reached up to place the clock back on its shelf, wobbling a little. "It was just a misunderstanding."
Before he could offer to help, though, the clock she was struggling to put up slipped out of her grasp and shattered at their feet. All he could do was stare. Her mouth hung open and her eyes looked like disks. The moment was broken, like this antique. Fifteen hundred dollars lay in pieces below him, and all thoughts of flirting were gone.
"Will, I'm so sorry––."
"Please just leave."
"I can pay you back, how––."
"Fifteen hundred dollars." Will snapped. "Do you have fifteen hundred dollars?"
She blinked in surprise, hurt in her eyes. He couldn't think of that right now. He was on the brink of bankruptcy and he just lost over a grand. "Just leave, Ava."
"Will, there must be something––."
She straightened, more angry than hurt now. "Fine." She huffed, getting to her feet. She crossed over him, then paused, turning back. She grabbed the pocket watch and yanked the crown up, tossing the antique at his feet. "Consider me gone." He winced when the door slammed behind her.
Then he collapsed.