"Mother" is an ongoing fiction series about Avalyn Rosewood and her search for the truth about her history. You can read the previous installments here: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV , Part V and Part VI.
The haze lifted as quickly as it came on.
One moment she's stumbling out of the taxi, and the next thing she knows, her head is as clear as the blue eyes haunting her.
Maybe she is crazy.
At least she wouldn't have to explain to Lily that she hadn't, in fact, been drinking today.
A low rumble starts, and she frowns, putting a hand to her stomach. When was the last time I ate?
"Ava! Get inside!" Her friend waved her arm from the house as if to flag her down.
"What?" She freezes, finally taking in her surroundings. Her mouth drops. It's getting darker. Mid-day in the middle of the south, and it's dark-thirty outside. Quickly, she takes stock of everything she can remember from the last few news reports, but none suggest anything like this.
The sun is completely covered, but the moon is nowhere to be seen. The trees are rustling, but there's no wind. The clouds are gathering too quickly, forming a sea of swirling silver. Pretty soon, they'll drench everything.
The equivalent of a category three hurricane just formed in less than an hour. That's not possible.
"Avalyn!" Lily's voice carried further this time, clearly irritated. She looked a mess. Her blonde hair didn't seem so shiny right now; in fact, it was the complete opposite.
"Lil," Ava chuckled despite the moment, jogging up to the front porch. "Is your hair in a messy bun?"
Lily's eyes flashed as a crack of thunder split the sky above them. "We're not talking about that," she muttered, pushing Ava inside impatiently. Wind is starting to pick up now. She watches as the trees start knocking against each other, each more violent than the next.
She turns wide-eyed to her friend. Lily only inhales sharply and gestures vaguely to the living room. She can't speak. Murmurs become clearer as she enters the room. The local meteorologist looks panicked, trying desperately to explain a phenomenon she didn't see coming.
"…stay indoors, folks. Shelter is the first priority right now." The pregnant woman takes a deep breath, searching for her next words. Her eyes dart in and out of focus. "We have eyes and ears on the storm as I speak, but currently we have no predictions as to where and how this will develop. The storm didn't show up on our radars until 12:30 this afternoon—that's half an hour ago as of right now. Stay tuned for more updates."
Half an hour ago she was in Will's shop. She shudders, grateful she made it back in time. Hopefully he's safe. Lily switches to another channel, where another apologetic meteorologist tries to explain how they didn't catch this massive storm days ago. She keeps going until she lands on an anchor and a headline.
Ava grabs her arm. "Wait."
The news anchor looks solemn. Rain, violent wind and trees are projected on the screen behind him as he clears his throat, shuffling papers. "Barely an hour into this flash storm, and tragedy has already struck. Five children have gone missing from their backyards. There is no known link between the children or their families. Local law enforcement has sent out scouts to search, but they also suggest the children may have become confused and lost due to the weather. The families ask the community to remain vigilant and keep your children close. If you see any of these missing children, you can call…"
The television shuts off.
Ava blinks, raising an eyebrow at Lily. Her friend just puts her hands up. "Don't look at me. I didn't do it."
The power flickers before snapping off. The only sound is the wailing wind against the house. The girls groan, thanking their lucky stars for their love of candles.
Lily's anxious eyes flicker in the candlelight. Ava rests with her arms on her knees, ever the calm one.
"Stop looking at me like that," Ava mutters.
"Like I'm a ticking time bomb."
Lily stays quiet, pursing her lips. "You aren't the ticking time bomb."
"How very cryptic of you."
Lily shrugs, leaning against the bathroom wall with only the couch pillow as cushion. The wind is howling now, and it looks like midnight outside. It's the middle of the afternoon. They had decided the bathroom was safest for the time being. "Maybe I'm the ticking time bomb," she suggests lightly.
"Sure." Ava laughs. Lily, as eccentric as she can be, is the most responsible person she knows.
Lily tips her head, thoughtful. "You know what I did today?"
"I slept in." She nods when Ava mocks her. "Yes, I know. I had a cup of coffee—don't look at me like that. Then I dressed up and Jon took me to lunch."
Ava smiles warmly at her. "I don't remember the last time you did anything like that for yourself."
"I don't either." They're quiet for a long moment, unsaid words hanging heavily in the air. "What did you do today?"
"You mean besides survive a monsoon?" Ava chuckled, tapping her knees nervously. She shouldn't be so anxious around her best friend. Words tumble out. "I saw Will today." Despite her best efforts, Lily seems unsurprised. "You're giving me that look again."
Lily ducked her head, smoothing her hands over her hair. "No, it's just that I had a feeling you'd see him again. I could tell how bad you felt ditching him like that." She ended in laughter, hiding behind her hand.
Ava dragged a cushion from behind her back and threw it at her. "I wouldn't say ditched. More like—"
"Ok, yes then, I ditched him and I felt bad." Her grin faltered. "Anyway, I went to his store. You know he owns a store."
"You've only mentioned it several times, but go on."
Ava felt her face go red, and she rolled her eyes. Not the time, Lily. "Yes, well, I was looking at this pocket watch. It was gorgeous."
Lily snorted. She leaned in close. "Did you just call a pocket watch gorgeous? And... do not tell me you two bonded over a clock."
Ava bit her lip, embarrassed now that the words were out there. It was times like these that showed just how different she was from her peers. Her love for nature, old things, mysteries… set her apart.
"It wasn't really the clock. That would probably be ridiculous."
"No, it absolutely would."
She huffed, glaring at her friend until she piped down. "Nevermind, I don't know how to explain it."
Lily's gaze softened. Whether it was pity or understanding, Ava couldn't really tell. "How about you try?"
Ava sighed. How to say it when she couldn't even say it to herself? She focused on a ceiling tile so she didn't have to look at Lily or her pitying eyes before continuing. "You know when you meet someone and you just click? You feel like you know them already?" She took the silence as a 'yes.' "I feel that… with him. It's not completely romantic, either. I don't know." Ava paused, running her fingers through her hair in frustration. "I like him, but I feel connected. I feel different around him. It's like I've known him for years instead of a few months. And the moment I saw that clock, I think that all clicked."
When she looks down, Lily is locked up. Tense.
Outside, the wind picked up speed, nearly drowning out her next words. "When did you start feeling this way about him?"