The Man in The Mansion

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The Game Is On

Once she knew Edmund was for sure in his study, she made her way to the library. As she approached the bookshelf, she noticed a small note in the empty space where Illusions of Yesterday once was.

Nice try

~Edmund

Under the words, Ava noticed a smirking face that Edmund drew. She chuckled and stuffed the note in her pocket.

The game was on.

She looked in every section in the library, but she couldn’t find the book. She tried looking in all the places she couldn’t reach, since he was much taller than her. Nothing. She looked in all the empty rooms. No book. She decided to try the kitchen. She looked in all the cabinets and pulled up a chair to look on top of the fridge.

“What. The hell. Are you doing?” Danny asked as he walked into the kitchen. Ava nearly slipped out of the chair but caught herself before she tumbled to the ground.

“Nothing. I’m just…. chillin’.” She said opening the cabinets. She probably looked like a creep.

“Riiight, well, I’m just gonna grab my popcorn and go back to my room.” Danny said tossing a packet of popcorn into the microwave. Ava hopped down and pushed the chair back to its original position.

“You don’t happen to know if your dad was hiding anything earlier, do you?” she asked.

“Did dad take something from you?”

“More or less”

“I didn’t see him hiding anything but if he has something of yours, it’s probably in his study. No one’s allowed in there, so that’s where he tends to hide things.” Danny said as he watched his popcorn.

“Thanks, Danny. Sorry if I probably sound like a creep, I’m not doing anything shady, I promise.”

“Oh, I know you’re not. I’m guessing that you’re looking for that book. I saw you give it to him last night, so I kind of assumed you were looking for that.” He said shrugging. The microwave beeped notifying him that his popcorn was finished.

“You saw me give him the book? Does that mean you guys were spying on us?” Ava asked crossing her arms.

“Oh, look at that, my popcorn’s done. Welp, nice chatting with you, Ava. Bye!” Danny yelled dashing upstairs to his room. Ava shook her head.

So, the book was in his study. She swore to herself. She should’ve thought about that, it was obvious that he would hide the book with him. Ava would have to wait until he left his office to get it. She checked the time.

11:25.

He’ll probably be starting on lunch soon. Ava would just have to be patient. In the meantime, she was going to look at the other books in the library. She decided to check out Estelle’s other books. She found a book with a few chapters and sat down on a small love seat nearby.

It didn’t take too long to finish the book, but she found the story adorable and the pictures were just as cute. She understood why Estelle was such a popular children’s author, but she still adored Illusions of Yesterday more than anything. She read a few more and every book had a wonderful story and amazing pictures. Most of Estelle’s books were illustrated by the same person.

Taylor Daniels.

She’d never heard of them, but they sure had an adorable art style. She took a glance at the time.

12:08.

Edmund was probably in the kitchen by now, so she took the chance to sneak into his study. Thankfully, the door was unlocked. She quietly shut the door behind her and took a look around the room.

The room was relatively plain save for a few bookshelves, a desk, and an armchair beside it. On the desk was a laptop, a desk lamp and low and behold, the book. She walked over the desk and grabbed the book. She went to bolt for the door until she noticed something on top of the bookshelf. She put the book down and tried to reach for it.

Curse her tiny little arms.

She rolled the desk chair over and stepped up onto it. It was a very decorative little box that looked awfully familiar. She managed to grab the box before the chair rolled out from underneath her. She yelped as she fell, bracing for impact. She felt something catch her before she hit the ground.

“I really can’t trust you alone for too long, can I?” Edmund asked. She opened an eye to see Edmund holding her along with the box that most likely would’ve hit her if he hadn’t caught it. She flashed her best innocent smile and he shook his head before putting her down.

“Thanks for saving me from my grounded demise.” She said still smiling and hoping he wouldn’t be too pissed. He didn’t look entertained, but he didn’t look furious either.

“I will excuse the fact that you are in my study, regarding the fact that you aren’t aware of the rule against it, but I expected you knew better than to look through someone’s things.” Edmund said picking the book up.

“I was looking for the book, but I saw the box and got curious.” Ava said pointing at the box.

“Did you think it was something dubious?”

“No, I’ve seen it before.” She said taking the box from him and opening it. Just as she thought, a portable chess set.

“You’ve seen it before?”

“Yeah, my grandpa had one like it, but the movers lost it when they moved to the mountains. Where did you get it?” she asked as she admired the set.

“I found it at a thrift store a long time ago.” He told her. She took the set out of the box and opened it. On the underside of the board, sat the little magnetic pieces and burned into the side, were initials.

D.R.

She couldn’t believe her eyes. This kind of shit only happened in movies, not in real life, yet here it was, in her hands. She ran her thumb over the initials. Ava’s mom had just bought him a wood burning kit and Ava could practically hear her grandpa’s excitement as he immediately used it. He burned his initials into anything he could think of, including this chess set. When Ava was young, she would play chess with her grandpa for hours. He was so proud when she beat him for the first time. She loved the game. Emma always hated the game, her little sister used to always find board games boring.

“They’re called bored games for a reason.” She used to say. Poor 6-year-old Emma would have never even expected her 2-year-old to adore playing Sorry even if she has no idea what she’s doing. Ava couldn’t help but smile.

“Ava. Are you alright?” Edmund asked breaking her out of thoughts.

“Huh? Yeah, I’m fine. Just taking a trip down memory lane, that’s all.” She said closing the set. Edmund reached over and wiped her under eye with his thumb.

“You’re crying.” He said looking genuinely concerned. She hadn’t realized.

“Am I? Huh, I didn’t realize. I guess memory lane can really tug at your heart strings sometimes.” She said wiping her tears away.

“Is that your grandfather’s set?” he asked. She nodded as she placed it back in the box.

“Well then, I believe that would rightfully be yours. I’m sure he’ll want it back.”

“Nah, He died 6 years ago. Besides, you’ll probably get more use out of it than I will. You can’t play chess that often if you live alone.” She said handing him the box.

“Well, why don’t we play a game after lunch? I would be nice to have another opponent that’s not my daughter.” He offered as he put the box in a spot on bookshelf where Ava could actually reach it.

“That’d be nice. Now back to the task at hand- where’s the book?” she asked. He wasn’t holding it anymore.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about. Would you like to come help me fix lunch?” he asked as he led her out of the room and shutting the door.

“You ass, I found it fair and square.” She said giving him a playful shove.

“As I said, Ava, I have no clue as to what you’re talking about.” He said. He may have had a blank face, but Ava could see the mischievous smirk through his stoic expression.

“You’re a dick.” She said earning a chuckle from him. “So, what’re we making?”

“Simple sandwiches. Filling but appropriate for a child’s tea party. You can cut the lettuce if you’d like.” He said pointing to the cutting board. Ava nodded and began to cut. Edmund put on a frilly pink apron with “Best Dad Ever” stitched into it.

“That’s a cute apron.”

“Thank you, Katie gave it to me for Christmas. She had my brother do the stitching.”

“It’s cute. Helps with the scary vampire façade you got going on.” she joked.

“Vampire façade?” he asked with an amused smirk.

“Yeah, you know, lives in a mansion, only wears suits, locks himself in a room for hours doing mysterious things, pale”

“I am not that pale”

“Eh, you kind of are. I’m surprised you don’t carry an umbrella when you go outside just in case the sun is out.”

“If anything, you fit the vampire mold better than I do.”

“How?”

“Pale, keeps to herself, not to mention, only a vampire could look tired and beautiful at the same time.” He said with a smirk. Ava stopped in her tracks.

“You little bastard, using flattery to shut me up.”

“Worth a shot.”

“Either way, you look cute in the apron. It really brings out the dad in you.” She said as she continued to cut the lettuce. He stopped for a second before clearing his throat.

“Are you done with the lettuce yet, slowpoke?” he asked not looking at her.

“It’s a good bit of lettuce, so it’s gonna take a minute.”

“No, I think you’re just slow.” He said with a playful grin.

“Oh yeah? I’d like to see you do better.” She said setting the knife down and stepping aside.

“Very well.” He said as he walked over and picked the knife up. Ava sat stunned as he chopped the lettuce faster than you could say “Ava was wrong”. After he was done, he placed the knife gently on the cutting board, winked at Ava and continued working on the sandwiches.

“Show off.” Ava said sticking her tongue out at him, earning a deep chuckle from him.

After lunch, Ava walked into Edmund’s study to grab the chess set. On the shelf above it, she noticed a familiar cover and grabbed the book. She placed the book into her room before walking into the library where Edmund was waiting. She sat down and took it out of the box.

“Now, it has been a while since I’ve played so I doubt I’ll be any good.”

“You’ll do fine, I assure you.” He said as he helped her set up.

“Says the man that probably played chess his whole life.”

“No, I started playing when I was 16 after I bought this set. I was always interested in chess, but we never had the money to buy one, so I was never able to learn.”

“You weren’t able to afford it?”

“It’s a long story that I would rather not get into at the moment.” he said motioning to her. “You can move first.”

“It’s kind of funny.”

“What is?”

“This exact chess set was the first for both of us. I stopped playing after it disappeared since we didn’t have the money for a nice chess set and my mom wasn’t as obsessed with Amazon as she is now, so we never got another one.”

“Did you grandfather ever try to find another one?”

“No, he had his heart set on this one. My grandma told me that it was because of me. She said it was all the little stories I made with the pieces. The board was always a beautiful kingdom and the pieces were the people. My grandpa would listen to my crazy little stories until I was old enough to learn how to play.”

“You weren’t wrong. Though the board is technically the site of a war between two kingdoms.”

“Don’t crush little Ava’s dreams, you cynical shithead.” She said knocking his knight out with smirk.

“It’s not cynicism.” He said as he knocked one of her bishops out. “It’s realism.”

“Fair enough but shut up.” She said with a small laugh. He raised his hands up in defense.

“Tell me more.” He said slightly leaning forward.

“About what?”

“Your grandfather. You speak of him so fondly; I can’t help but want to hear more.”

“You sure? I don’t want to annoy you.”

“You won’t. Besides, you’re staying in my home so I think I should at least know something about your history.”

“I’m not that interesting. This is pretty much the only interesting thing that’s happened to me in a long time.”

“Exactly. A boring woman wouldn’t ever find herself in this sort of situation.”

“You mean getting kidnapped?” she asked with a playful smirk.

“If I were kidnapping you, I certainly wouldn’t be doing things for you that are non-beneficial to me, now would I?”

“Maybe you would, I don’t know the kind of shit you’re into.”

“Ah yes, the thought of taking care of a random woman roaming about my home with my 4 children gives me such a thrill.” he said, laying on the most nonchalant sarcasm Ava had ever witnessed. Ava chuckled softly.

“You know, I think my grandpa would’ve really liked you. He was the kind of old man who said things you wouldn’t expect to come out of a 73-year-old man’s mouth.”

“Like what?”

“Well, I didn’t understand it at the time, but he would gross my mom out by making “I fucked your mom” jokes. He was also sarcastic as all hell which pissed my grandma off. He was the most sarcastic at the worse times. Like for instance, my grandma told me that when she was having my uncle, the doctor asked her if she was ready to push and my grandpa said “No, she’s ready to pull.”.” she said laughing softly. “Needless to say, he slept on the couch that night.”

“Your grandfather sounds like a very interesting man.”

“He was. I was always closer to him than I was to my grandma. Though, he wasn’t allowed to babysit me by himself after the incident with the trampoline.”

“I have to hear this.” He said leaning forward.

“My mom and grandma went shopping together as a sort of “girls’ day out” and my dad was at work, so I was left with my grandpa. They had a trampoline in the backyard for when my older cousins came over and my grandpa put me on the trampoline. He was bouncing the trampoline because it was making me laugh. He ended up bouncing too hard and I flew over the net and landed in my grandma’s hammock.”

“How old were you?”

“3” she said laughing. Edmund laughed and shook his head.

~

Katie heard laughing as she walked by the library. She peeked in to see her father and Ava talking and laughing as they played chess.

Jo and Danny walked out of Danny’s room with an empty popcorn bowl. Katie waved them over.

“They’re doing it again.” She whispered as they walked over.

“Doing what?” Danny asked peeking in.

“Talking and laughing!” she whispered.

“What’s the analysis, Agent K?” Jo asked as she peeked her head in.

“There are 3 possibilities. They’re either telling jokes and becoming besties or- Danny can I borrow your glasses for a second?” Katie asked. He gave them to her, and she put them before snatching them off.

“They’re falling in love!” she said dramatically. “Thanks, Danny”

“Falling in love? It hasn’t even been a week. They can’t fall in love that fast.” Danny said putting his glasses back on.

“What’s the third option?” Jo asked.

“Both. Also, the human brain is weird, Danny. Remember that crush you had on the guy at Gamestop?”

“That’s different. I’m a touch starved teenage homosexual. I have a reason.”

“How could it be both?” Jo asked as she continued to peek in.

“They become really close over these next few weeks and become best friends. When Ava goes home, they will both realize that they ended up falling in love before she moves back in and they get married and live happily ever after.”

“Damn. Ava’s really stumping Dad.” Jo said.

“What??” Katie exclaimed as she peeked her head back in. Jo was right; her dad seemed to be having a bit of trouble with his moves. The board was nearly empty. Only Katie was able to stump her dad at chess.

~

After about half an hour or so, Edmund finally beat Ava.

“That was quite a fun match. You are an incredible opponent; I would love to play again sometime. Alas, I should get back to my work.” Edmund said as he stood up and went to walk out.

“By the way, I wanted to say thanks.”

“For?”

“Letting me stay here. Listening to me drone on about my life when you probably have more interesting things to say.” She said as she rubbed the back of her neck. Edmund walked back over to her.

“Ava. I let you stay because you were in need. Your stories are interesting, and I’d love to hear more about you and your childhood as the days go by. There is no need to thank me.” He said earning a soft smiled from Ava.

“Thanks, Ed”

“You’re welcome, Ava”

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