The Man in The Mansion

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Depression thy name is bitch

Edmund softly knocked on Ava’s bedroom.

“Ava, breakfast is almost ready.”

Nothing.

“Ava? Are you awake?” He asked glancing at his watch. It was 9am and she said she was usually up at 8. He knocked on the door once more but alas, there was still no response.

“Ava?” he called, slightly worried. He cracked the door open to see that she was still in bed.

“Ava, are you alright?” He asked walking over to the side of the bed. She covered her head with the blanket before he could see her face.

“Ava.” He said softly as he lightly shook her.

“Not today, Ed. Just leave me be, please.” Ava said hoarsely. Edmund didn’t need to be a genius to understand what was going on. He tucked her in and went back downstairs.

“Is Ava okay?” Jo asked as Edmund walked into the kitchen. He pulled a platter from the cupboard and began arranging food on it.

“Yes, she’s alright. She’s not feeling well so I’ll be taking the day to tend to her.” Edmund explained as he made Ava’s coffee.

“Is there anything we can do to help?” Katie asked. Edmund glanced back at his worried children and smiled.

“I’ll let you all know if I need your assistance. For now, you may start on your breakfast, I will be down to join you momentarily” He said as picked the platter up and walked upstairs.

~

Ava hid back under the covers as Edmund opened the door.

“Ed, I just want to be left alone right now, okay?” Ava said.

“I’m not here to drag you out of bed, Ava. I’m only here to make sure that you’re taken care of and that includes making sure you’re well fed.” He said as he set the platter on her nightstand.

“I’m not hungry.” Ava mumbled.

“You don’t have to eat all of it. I do however expect you to eat some of it. I refuse to let your depression keep you from eating.”

“How do you know I have depression?” Ava asked as she peeked her head out of the blanket.

“My brother had depression when we were teenagers. He had many days like this. I took my days to care for him as I will be doing for you.” Edmund explained before he walked over to the door. “Please try to eat at least eat something, even if it’s just your toast.”

Ava sat up after he walked out of the room and looked over at the platter. As much as she didn’t want to eat, her stomach kept growling, and she didn’t want Edmund to worry too much over her. She grabbed the platter and slowly ate her food.

She genuinely didn’t understand why he was being so nice to her. He didn’t have to deal with her moping and whining for no reason whatsoever but, for some unknown reason, he was taking care of her instead of doing something productive. She wished that she had just left when she was supposed to instead of dumping her problems on Edmund. He was too nice and too busy to deal with her bullshit. She was being overly dramatic, and he didn’t need that in his life. She set the empty platter on the nightstand and hid back under the blankets. All she wanted to do was hide from everything, including Edmund and the kids. She felt pathetic and she wanted nothing more than to disappear off the face of the Earth.

“Ava? May I come in?” Edmund asked after softly knocking on the door. She sunk deeper into the covers.

“Sure.” She answered quietly. She peeked her face out of the blankets to see him smile at the empty platter. She quickly returned under the blanket as he looked her way.

“Thank you for eating, Ava. I brought you some water so you can stay hydrated. Is there anything you need me to get you?”

“No.”

“Alright. I will be running some errands today, would you like to come with, or would you prefer to stay here?”

Ava stayed silent.

“You don’t have to come with if you don’t want to. I’m merely asking if you’d like to get out of the house for a bit.” Edmund assured her.

“I’ll come with.” She said.

“Alright, I will be downstairs when you’re ready.” He said before leaving the room. Ava got up, took a swig of water, and threw on the comfiest clothes she had with her before walking to the bathroom to see if she was presentable enough for the public.

Though she was getting plenty of sleep, her dark circles seemed darker than usual and her hair was an absolute mess. On the bright side, her eyes were no longer red. She combed her hair out and grabbed the water bottle before going to join Edmund.

“You look astonishing.” He said as he set her shoes down for her.

“Shut up, I look like shit.” She scoffed as she slipped her shoes on.

“Nonsense, I happen to find you quite beautiful.”

“Come on, you flirtatious bastard.” She said as she shoved his arm. He chuckled as he opened the door and closed it behind the two of them. Ava glanced back as he locked the front door.

“Are the kids coming with?” Ava asked once they were in the car.

“Unless they’re getting something, they tend to stay home while I run errands.” Edmund explained as he pulled out of the driveway.

“So, what all do you have to do?”

“I have to drop by a friend’s house to drop something off and I have a few things to get. Since it will be close to lunchtime before we get home, I will be grabbing lunch on the way if that’s alright.” Edmund said.

“That’s fine. Though there is something that’s bothering me.”

“What’s that?”

“You said you had to drop something off at a friend’s house?”

“I did.”

“I’m just a bit surprised; I didn’t think you had friends.” Ava said with a slight smile. Edmund chuckled softly.

“It is quite shocking, I know. We’ve been friends for 9 years and it’s still baffling when she sends me Christmas cards.” He said making Ava laugh.

“Why does she send you Christmas cards if you live close by each other?”

“Christmas cards don’t always have to be for distant loved ones, they can be sent to those whom you would consider more professional than personal.”

“A professional friend? What the hell is a professional friend?” Ava asked with a laugh.

“A professional friend is someone who is more than an acquaintance but the relationship you share isn’t overly personal, either.” Edmund explained.

“Are you two close? Like, does she know everything about you?”

“She doesn’t know everything, but she does know more than the average friends would.”

“Do you guys hang out a lot?”

“We’re both busy people, but we conversate on a daily basis if that’s what you’re asking.”

“You guys sound like best friends more than anything.”

“Professional best friends.” Edmund said with a small smile.

“Yeah, professional best friends.” Ava said laughing. She glanced out the window to see that they were in an incredibly fancy neighborhood. Edmund pulled into the driveway of one of the houses.

“I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me that your best friend was rich.” Ava said as she admired the house.

“Amelia may be but not all of my friends are rich. You’re not.” He said as he grabbed a folder from beside him. “I will be right back.”

Ava watched as he walked up to the front door and knocked. She smiled and pushed her hair behind her ear. He thought of her as his friend; it was a nice thing to hear. The only friend she had was Shari and the two of them didn’t hang out much outside of work. Shari hadn’t ever seen Ava in the state she was in now, and she hoped that she never would. Shari was a sweet girl and she’d been through enough as is. Ava looked back up at Edmund and saw him talking with a slim woman with her dirty blonde hair neatly tied into a bun. She had a fashion taste similar to Edmund’s except she seemed to actually know what “casual” meant. Though she had to admit, he was quite an attractive man with a deep voice and an amazing personality; the elegance just tied it all together. She’s met attractive men with good personalities, but she’s never met one like Edmund. Not to mention, chivalry was rare among guys her age. Edmund and the woman that she assumed was Amelia glanced over to the car and Amelia nudged Edmund before laughing. Edmund turned away so she couldn’t tell exactly what was going. Amelia opened the folder that Edmund gave her and nodded before they continued to talk for a few more moments. Ava leaned against the window and continued to admire the houses.

Ava wasn’t one of the girls that dreamt about living in a big house. Too many spaces to fill and clean. Plus, she wouldn’t survive a week in a big house by herself; her depression would eat her alive. She did have to admit that they were really nice houses, despite being really expensive and really big. She wouldn’t mind living in one if she had a big family and she didn’t have to do all the cleaning by herself. A husband and a few kids, maybe. Though she may adopt if she and her husband want more than one kid. Her mental state was bad enough and she had a feeling that it would get worse with pregnancy. Hopefully, her future husband could handle a mentally fucked up wife. Edmund got in the car, snapping her back to reality.

“I apologize for making you wait. I hadn’t realized that Amelia would be so chatty today.” Edmund said as he started the car and pulled out of Amelia’s driveway.

“It’s alright. Does she live in that huge house by herself?”

“Oh no, of course not. She lives with her wife, Evelynn and their pets, Lily and Benjamin.” He explained. “Evelynn is currently at the vet with Lily for a checkup so that’s why there was only one car in the driveway.”

“How long have they been married?”

“5 years in August, I believe.”

“That’s sweet.”

“Indeed, the ceremony was quite beautiful.”

“So, what all do we have to do now?”

“I have to get a few things. If you’d like me to drop you off at the house, I can.” Edmund said glancing over at her.

“No, that’s fine. I don’t mind running errands with you.” She said. In truth, she preferred to run boring errands than to be at home, alone with her thoughts. Besides, she enjoyed Edmund’s company and running errands with him gave her time to get to know the man behind the mystery.

“So, Ed, you said you were an author, right?”

“I am.”

“Could I read some of your books?”

“I’m children’s author, Ava.”

“So, just because I’m an adult doesn’t mean I can’t read children’s books. Besides, you’re my friend and I like to support my friends.”

“Even if your friend writes books for children 3 and up?”

“Especially if they write books for kids three and up.” Ava said with a small smile. Edmund smiled softly at her.

“Alright, if you’d like to read my books, you may.”

“Are they in the library or in your study?”

“You assume I have my own books at home?”

“Well, yeah. You write children’s books and you have 4 children.”

“Well, the eldest of my 4 children is also 15.”

“And the youngest is an intellectual 3-year-old who is more than capable of reading.”

“Touché. I keep most of my books in the library where the children can easily access them.”

“Well, I know what I’m doing tomorrow.”

“Very well. There are a few novels of mine that I keep in my study if you’d like to read them.”

“I thought your study was one of the “You Shall Not Pass!” areas.” Ava said doing her best Gandalf impression. Edmund chuckled louder than usual before clearing his throat.

“It is, but I don’t mind if you sit in there and read as long as you don’t put yourself in danger again.” Edmund said offering her a slight smile.

“No promises.” Ava said smiling.

The first store they hit was the same clothes store they’d come to shop for Katie’s tea party.

“Buying a new suit or something?” she asked as he opened the door for her.

“Unfortunately, no, one of my cuff-links went missing, so I need to get another pair in case of a social event.” He explained as he locked the car and they walked inside. “If you see something you like, do tell.”

Ava mostly followed him around the store since she didn’t really care to shop for herself, but there was something that caught her eye. A black long-sleeved crop top with a small rose embroidered on the front. It was the sort of simplistic but cute style that she wished she could pull off.

“Did you see something you’d like?” Edmund asked. Ava looked away from the shirt and shook her head. Edmund glanced over at the shirt and walked over to it. He picked it up and held it towards her.

“Is this the one you were looking at?” he asked. Ava nodded slowly.

“It’s very lovely. Would you like it?” he asked.

“It’s cute but I won’t be able to pull it off, Ed. That kind of shirt is made for people who’re confident enough in their body to show a bit of skin.” Ava explained.

“Well, how do you know you won’t pull it off if you haven’t tried it on?” Edmund asked handing her the shirt. She sighed in defeat and took the shirt from him. She walked into the dressing room and put the shirt on. It was really cute and really comfortable but the more she looked at herself, the more she hated it on her. Ava wouldn’t go as far to say that she had body dysmorphia, but she certainly didn’t like wearing things outside of her comfort zone. She was comfortable with the weight that she was at, but she had cellulite on her legs, hips, ass and stomach and she absolutely hated it. Her ex would talk about how it was unnatural and how the girls he’s been with before “never had that weird thing on their ass”.

“Does it fit well, Ava?” Edmund asked from outside the dressing room. Ava took a deep breath and stepped out of the dressing room. Edmund looked over at her and gave her a small smile.

“You look beautiful, although the sweatpants don’t necessarily go well with it. Excuse me a moment.” Edmund said before leaving her sight. She stood in front of the mirror in front of the door and chuckled softly. She did look ridiculous wearing sweatpants with a nice shirt. She wanted to go change but decided against it since Edmund was most likely going to come back with something for her to wear with the shirt. She genuinely didn’t want him to buy her anything, but she knew there was no stopping him. She knew that if she said she didn’t want it; he would buy it anyway and leave it on her bed for her to find later on. Edmund came back and handed her pants with some jewelry on top of them.

“My apologies. Try these on with the shirt. It may fit better than your sweatpants. Not to worry, I did think of comfort as well as style. I noticed that your ears were pierced so I grabbed some simple studs and there is a choker that Regina recommended for the outfit. If you don’t wear chokers, that’s quite alright, I can maybe find another necklace, or if you’d prefer to, you can go without a necklace.” Edmund said as he pointed to the jewelry. Ava smiled.

“Thanks, Ed. I’ll go try these on.” She said as she stepped back into the changing room. After putting everything on, including the jewelry, she looked in the mirror. She almost didn’t recognize herself. The high-rise jeans hid her stomach and the jewelry went absolutely perfect with the outfit. She smiled and stood in the mirror for a minute before stepping out.

As soon as she stepped out, Edmund sat up straighter and stared for a moment before giving her a smile bigger than usual.

“Perfect.” He said. She looked down timidly.

“Thanks.”

After they bought the outfit, they got back in the car and started towards the house.

“Are you hungry?” Edmund asked practically on cue with Ava’s stomach. Ava glanced at the clock; it was nearly lunchtime. She hadn’t realized how long they were in the store.

“Yeah. We’re grabbing something on the way home, right?” she asked.

“Yes. Is there something you’d like?” Edmund asked.

“Pavilion sounds good.” She said as the restaurant came into view. Edmund nodded as he pulled into the parking lot. Ava told him what she wanted so she didn’t have to go in and he got their food as well as food to bring back for the kids. Soon after they arrived at home and were immediately met with the kids at the door.

“Where’d you guys go?” Katie asked.

“Are you feeling better, Ava?” Ben asked, softly.

“Did you guys bring back food?” Jo asked as she noticed the food in Ava’s hand.

“As I said, we had errands to run and yes, Jo, we brought back lunch.” Edmund said as he came in behind Ava.

“I’m feeling better, Ben.” Ava said petting his head.

“Good, when Daddy said you weren’t feeling good, we got worried.”

“Well, I’m better now thanks to your dad.” Ava said smiling and looking at Edmund.

“How romantic.” Katie awed. Edmund gave her a stern look earning a giggle from the her.

After handing the kids their meals, Edmund invited Ava out to the garden to eat lunch with him. She accepted and the two sat in the hanging chair and ate their food together.

“Hey Ed, I wanted to thank you. You really didn’t have to drag my sorry ass out of bed today, but you did. Not only that, but you bought me clothes that I don’t even need.” Ava said.

“Ava, you don’t need to thank me. I did it because I wanted to not because I had to.”

“Still, there is absolutely no reason for me to have depression, but you dealt with me anyways.”

“There aren’t always reasons for depression. You could just simply have it because that’s the way your brain is.”

“Still. I grew up in a happy home. Even my parents’ divorce was happy. Shocking but there was no yelling, no arguing, and no bad blood between them. For fucks sake, my mom became best friends with my stepmom. The only bad thing that happened was my grandfather’s death and he died 2 years after I was diagnosed. My depression makes no sense.” Ava said looking at her feet.

“It doesn’t have to.” Edmund said. Ava looked up at him as he continued. “I may not have or ever had depression myself, but I know that even the happiest person can have depression. I, myself came from a rough background but I never had depression. My brother did, but I didn’t. Mental illnesses are quite odd; you don’t need to meet a certain criterion in order to develop them. Sometimes they get cured, sometimes they don’t. All I know is that the children and I care for you deeply and as long as we’re acquainted, I will do everything in my power to make you feel better.”

“I really don’t deserve someone like you in my life, Edmund.” Ava said hugging him. He tensed up for a moment before relaxing and returning the hug.

“Yes, you do, you deserve so much Ava, whether you believe it or not.” He said hugging her tightly.

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