"Mother" is an ongoing fiction series about Avalyn Rosewood and her search for the truth about her history. You can read the first installment here.

Avalyn rushed through the front door, breathless.

"Hi!" She called to the apartment, roughly hanging her jacket on a hook. "Sorry, I got here as fast as I could. Traffic was crawling."

"Hey." Lily poked her head around the corner, her blonde braid swinging. She nodded her head towards the living room before disappearing again. Avalyn paused, reminding herself to breathe and straighten her hair, before walking in.

As she entered the room, a man stood up from her Bergére. His easy smile helped ease her anxiety. He raised a hand in greeting. "Miss Rosewood, hello. I'm Leo Anderson."

"Oh, hello." Avalyn wracked her brain, trying to remember if she should know the name. She extended her hand, but the otherwise confident man seemed nervous at touching her. She raised an eyebrow, but let her arm fall to her side awkwardly.

"I'm here on behalf of Dominic Elhart."

"Oh yes, hi!" She reached her hand out again on instinct, then pulled back, bemused. Why was such a prominent photographer seeking her out? She was expecting someone else, someone different.

He must have seen the question clear in her eyes because he grinned and gestured to the couch behind her. "How about we sit, and I can explain why I'm here?" With a nod, Avalyn accepted the tea her friend offered her and sat opposite him. She noticed his tea sat untouched.

He cleared his throat. "I understand you applied for the National Geographic internship, and you should know they were prepared to send an acceptance letter." He held up a hand when Evalyn was about to interrupt. "However, your application somehow landed on Mr. Elhart's desk, and he insisted on extending his own offer to you."

Avalyn's heart skipped a beat. She glanced over at Lily, who's cup was frozen halfway to her mouth. So she didn't know about this. "Are you saying-?"

Leo smiled. "I am. Mr. Elhart would like to formally offer you a position as his intern this summer. He was completely blown away by your application, and was emphatic about adding you to his team. I realize this is something that could be discussed over the phone, but our company prides itself on how personable it is."

His last words were drowned out by Lily's screaming. She was suddenly plopped on the couch next to Avalyn and shaking her. "Oh. My. Stars! Ava did you hear that? This is unbelievable. Of course she'll take it; this is all she's been talking about for years."

"Thank you, Lily." Ava deadpanned. She turned back to Leo, flustered, not knowing what to do with her hands. "I'm so honored, thank you. I would love to work with Dominic Elhart. As Lily said, this is something I've been dreaming about since I was very young. I greatly admire Mr. Elhart's work, and have often drawn inspiration from him in my own. Please let him know I accept his offer."

He grinned, straightening his jacket as he stood up. "Excellent, he'll be pleased to hear that." He pulled a card from a pocket inside his jacket and handed it to her. "This is my card should you have any questions for me or Mr. Elhart. He'll be in touch later this week to discuss details."

"Sure, but how soon can she start? And will she get paid?" Lily cut in eagerly.

Ava shushed her, but Leo only laughed. "No, it's fine. You're a good friend."

"I know."

"The internship starts at the beginning of summer, but there is paperwork to fill out. Mr. Elhart also likes to get to know his new employees a little before they start. He's all about interpersonal relationships within the office – we're a family, not just a business, you see."

"Would you like to elaborate on interpersonal relationships?" Lily had her arms crossed, engrossed in the conversation as if it was her own. Exasperated, Ava nudged her out of the way.

"I look forward to hearing from him." She smiled one last time before seeing him out the door. She felt jittery inside, as if hundreds of butterflies had suddenly invaded her stomach. She sighed and gave her friend the most exasperated look she could muster. "Why are you like this?"

Lily shrugged, bored already with the conversation. "It's my job."

"To be a pain in my ass?"

She rolled her eyes. "Now who's being dramatic? Look, this random guy shows up and says he's working for the one person you've always said you looked up to. Who's to say he is who he is?"

Ava looked at her incredulously. "You were so excited for me in there, what is this switch? Why are you always so paranoid? I work my butt off and am pretty good at what I do-."

"You're amazing."

"Ok yes, then why is it a stretch that someone who is successful in the field I want to be in, would want to hire me?"

Her friend sighed, throwing her head back. "I don't know, Ava, it's just this feeling. I'm so excited for you; you deserve everything good, but nobody has ever seen a picture of the guy, doesn't that throw up any red flags?"

"We've discussed this time and again." Ava threw herself on the couch, draining the rest of her tea. "It's his 'thing.' He wants the world to-."

"Yeah, yeah, see his work, not his face. I hear you." Lily grumbled around her own cup.

Ava leaned forward. "Do you? Today's world is not what it used to be."

Lily raised an eyebrow, her interest piqued. "What do you know about how it used to be?"

"I can read."

"Mhm." Bored again.

"The world used to be about skill, not how loud you could be. Today, people care about how flashy and interesting things are. They don't appreciate beauty and truth for what it is; they need a face behind the art and the story."

"Is that so bad? To celebrate the artist as well as the art? You know, appreciate individuality?"

"No, of course not. It's not bad when they can celebrate both, but it's gotten to a point where knowing the person behind the art has compromised the integrity of the art itself."

"Go on."

"Well, people will appreciate a song, a movie, a character, a piece of art by itself. The moment an artist does not live up to someone's expectations, however, that piece of art is tainted. It's like it never existed. Am I wrong?" Ava sat back, feeling the intensity of her thoughts.

Lily twirled a lock of hair around her finger, considering Ava's point. "You're not wrong, but let's say a musician went on to commit murder, do you really think his art deserves to be seen or appreciated?"

"Deserves? Not on ethics, no, but there's a truth to art. There's something to be learned from it, you know. There are prisoners who are allowed to create art, and from that art, you learn about the circumstances they've been put in. You learn what's going through their mind. You don't have to know all about the prisoner to understand their art. It just is."

"Agree to disagree, then."

Ava sighed. "Be it as it may, we don't need to see Dominic Elhart's face to know he's a good artist, and that he throws life and passion into his work. Anyway, if you're so against this, why were you for it?"

"I told you, I am excited for you, this is an amazing opportunity if it's real, but I just think you should be careful."

"You always think I should be careful, but you never are."

"Do as I say, not as I do."

Ava rolled her eyes, flipping on the television. "You're just so funny."


Other installments in the "Mother" series:
Part III
Part IV
Part V