Ava hadn’t realized she was dozing off until she heard Jo’s angry scream alongside another kid’s screaming. Her and Edmund jolted up and ran over to where Jo was in the middle of a fight with a boy her age. Katie and Ben were on the sidelines; Katie had tears in her eyes and Ben looked scared, so Ava pulled them close to her as Edmund and the boy’s parents pulled the two apart.
“What’s going on?” Edmund asked sternly.
“She’s crazy. She attacked me out of nowhere.” The boy yelled in defense.
“You lying son of a bitch! You pushed my sister down!”
“I did not! You’re just a crazy little dyke!” he shouted. Ava felt her blood boil at what the kid called Jo and what Jo had said. She looked down at Katie for confirmation and she nodded. Ava clenched her teeth to prevent herself from saying anything as she picked Katie up. Danny walked over with Lucas and the other boys. Edmund looked back at Ava and she nodded.
“You need to control your daughter.” The boy’s mother said to Edmund.
“I apologize for her language, but your son pushed her sister so surely you can’t expect her not to be upset.” Edmund said calmly.
“Boys will be boys; it still doesn’t give your little delinquent the right to attack our son. She needs to learn some respect” the boy’s father said. Ava hated that phrase with every ounce of her being.
“So does your son.” Ava mumbled. The man seemed to have heard her because he turned his head towards her.
“What?” he snapped.
“I said, so does your son.” Ava snapped back.
“My boy’s got plenty of respect.”
“Pushing another kid down for no reason is not respect. It’s bullying.”
“Excuse me, are you calling my son a bully?” the mother asked, irritated.
“Yes, because he is. You clearly have no respect if you’re allowing your kid to bully others. If you’re going to raise a kid to be rude to others just because he feels like it, then maybe you shouldn’t be raising a kid at all.” Ava snapped at the two before turning away. “Come on, let’s go home.”
Edmund took Jo’s hand and followed after Ava. Danny took his little brother’s hand and followed them after waving to Lucas and the other boys. They piled into the car and started towards the house.
“Am I in trouble?” Jo asked.
“Why would you be?” Edmund asked as he turned down a road opposite from the house.
“I got into a fight again.”
“Though I disapprove of your language earlier and I would usually ground you for fighting, you were defending your sister. You will never be in trouble for defending your family.” He said as he pulled into the small parking lot. Ben glanced out the window and his eyes lit up.
“Ice Cream!!” he cheered.
“Wait, what?? Why are we at Double Scoop?” Jo asked, confused.
“You all completed your training levels and though I highly disapprove of fighting, I’m proud that you defended your little sister.” Edmund explained.
“What better way to celebrate something than ice cream?” Ava added as she looked back at the kids.
They all got out of the car and walked into the store. After they ordered their ice cream, they sat down. Jo sat alone next to the jukebox. Edmund went to go talk to her, but Ava stopped him.
“I’ll talk to her, go ahead and sit down.” She said. Edmund hesitated before agreeing and sitting down with the others. Ava walked over to her booth and sat next to Jo.
“You alright, sweetheart?” she asked.
“I’m fine.” She mumbled.
“It’s obvious that you’re not. You haven’t even touched your ice cream. Your dad said you weren’t in trouble, so what’s the matter?”
“It’s not that.”
“Then what is it?”
“It’s what that kid’s dad said.”
“Sweetie, you have plenty of respect. He was just mad cause you kicked his son’s ass.” She said nudging her in an attempt to make Jo laugh. It didn’t work.
“Am I a delinquent, Ava?” She asked looking up at Ava with sad eyes.
“No, baby. Of course not. You’re headstrong, but that doesn’t make you a delinquent. Ignore him.”
“But he’s not the first one to call me that.”
“Who else called you that?”
“My parents. Before they kicked me out.” She said poking at her ice cream with her spoon.
“Your parents kicked you out?? You’re just a kid.”
“They didn’t care. They kicked me out after I cut my hair. My parents are rich douche bags that wanted to put me in this modeling program for proper little girls and I refused. Whenever my mom would take me to a meeting, I would sneak off to play with the boys. My hair got in the way when I was playing so I asked my parents if I could cut it. They said no, so I did it myself. Once they found out, they kicked me out of the house without letting me get any of my things. The only thing they said was “If you’re going to act like a delinquent, then you can live like one.” she explained as she looked down at her lap. If Ava ever met Jo’s parents, she was going to beat the ever-loving shit out of them. She lifted Jo’s chin up to face her.
“Jo, baby, listen to me. Just because you like to dress different, cut your hair, or do anything different than what people want you to do, doesn’t make you a delinquent. It just makes you different, and if people don’t like that, you don’t need them. If you’re happy with yourself, that’s all that matters. You have your dad now, and he loves you just the way you are.” Ava told her. Jo smiled and hugged Ava.
“You’re welcome, Jo.”
The two of them got up and walked over to join the others. Edmund nodded at Ava in appreciation and she smiled in return. The group ate their ice cream and drove back to the house. Since they had a few hours to spare before Edmund had to start dinner, Edmund walked upstairs to work on his writing while the kids did their own thing.
“Hey, Ava. Do you wanna play some video games?” Jo asked pointing towards her room. “I have Smash.”
She followed Jo to her room. Jo’s room was relatively what Ava expected. Dark blue wall, Skull patterned bed sheets, game consoles on a shelf below the TV. A beanbag in front of the TV. The only she hadn’t expected was the big teddy bear next to her bed. After Jo finished setting things up, she pulled the bear over in front of the TV and laid on top of it. Ava smiled and took a seat on the beanbag and took the controller when Jo gave it to her.
“Co-op or versus?” Jo asked.
“Versus” Ava said with a smirk. Jo gave her a mischievous smile as she clicked the versus option.
“I have all the characters, so you have a lot of options.” She said as she chose Lucario. Ava saw that coming. She chose her character and the battle started.
“So how long are you staying with us?” Jo asked as they fought.
“Most likely until I have to go back to work. Don’t worry, I’m still gonna come see you guys.”
“Cool, where do you work?”
“The Dream Bean, it’s a café about 5 minutes down the road.”
“You work at a coffee shop??”
“Yep, we sell baked stuff too. My boss’ wife used to be a baker before she retired so her and their daughter make all the baked stuff while we make the coffee.”
“Cool, I’ll have to get Dad to take us there one day.” Jo said as she used her ultimate on Ava, killing her. She looked over at Ava with a smirk.
“Oh, it’s on, Jo.” Ava said leaning forward.
After a few matches, Ava was declared winner.
“Damn, Ava. You’re good with Bayonetta.” Jo said after they finished.
“Lots of practice, my young friend, lots of practice. We can play again later, I’m gonna go help your dad with dinner.” She said messing her hair up and walking out of the room. Edmund was at the counter cutting up some sort of herb. She attempted to sneak up on him.
“Ava, I’m holding a knife. Are you sure that scaring me would be wise?” Edmund said without turning around.
“Dammit, how did you know that I was here?” Ava asked.
“I have 4 kids.” He said glancing over at her.
“Fair enough, you need any help?”
“No, thank you. You’re a guest in my home, I’m not going make you cook.”
“And? You made me help you yesterday.”
“I only did that because when I left you unsupervised, you nearly hurt yourself. Also, you were trespassing.”
“I would’ve been fine; how is being in your study, trespassing?”
“You would’ve broken your arm had you have hit the floor. As for how you were trespassing, you did not have my permission to enter the room.”
“I would not have broken my arm.”
“With the way you were falling, you would have.”
“Alright, smartass. Move over, I’m helping you.” She said bumping him out of the way and taking the knife.
“You are quite stubborn.”
“I like to think of it as being extremely determined.” She said giving him a mischievous grin. He chuckled softly and shook his head. They put all of the ingredients in the pot and set a timer before sitting down to wait for it to finish.
“I’d like to thank you, Ava”
“You stuck up for Jo at the park and cheered her up when she was upset at the ice cream shop. You could’ve sat on the sidelines, but you didn’t. You helped her feel better when you didn’t have to and then you played video games with her once we got back. I thank you for that.” He said softly.
“You don’t need to thank me, Ed. Even if I had no idea who you were, I would’ve stuck up for her. Jo’s a good kid. She may be rowdy, but in no way is she a delinquent. She’s a good kid. Feisty, but still good.” Ava said giving him a soft smile. In truth, Ava adored those kids and she meant it when she told Jo that she would visit them after she goes back home.
“You’re a very kind woman, Ava. I’m glad you decided to stay.”
“I didn’t really have a choice. Seeing as how you did kidnap me.” She teased.
“You’re never going to stop calling it kidnapping, are you?” Edmund asked smirking in amusement as he got up.
“Nope.” She said getting up. “Unless it bothers you, then I’ll stop.”
“No, I find it quite cute.” He said as he checked on the curry.
“You find me accusing you of kidnapping cute?” she asked as she leaned against the counter.
“No, I meant that I find your teasing cute.” he said.
“Flattery will get you nowhere, Ed. Either way, I’m glad you don’t take it seriously. I don’t think you kidnapped me anymore.”
“Anymore? Are you saying you genuinely used to think I kidnapped you?”
“Well, you wouldn’t let me leave after you brought me here, so it was reasonable. If I still thought that way, it’d be dumb since I chose to stay.”
“I’m glad you changed your mind.” He said before smirking slightly. “Either way it’s very hard to take you seriously.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s quite hard to take someone so small seriously.” He said, trying not to laugh.
“I’m above average, dickhead!” Ava said as she slugged him in the arm earning a small laugh from him.
“As am I.” he said. He reduced the heat and sat back down. She mimicked him as she sat down earning another low chuckle from him.
After dinner, Ava cleared off the table as Edmund did the dishes. He’d tried to argue with her about cleaning up, but she’d handed him the dirty dishes and continued to clean up.
“Hey, Ava. I just wanted to thank you for today. You really didn’t have to stand up for me at the park or listen to my whining at Double Scoop, but you did. Not many people stand up for me, so…. thanks for that. I’m glad you decided to stay.” Jo said smiling.
“You’re welcome, kiddo. I am too.” Ava said giving her a smile. Jo hesitated before quickly hugging Ava and bolting upstairs. Ava chuckled softly before she finished cleaning.
“Hey, Ed. Did you grab Illusions of Yesterday out of the basket earlier?”
“I haven’t the slightest clue what you mean.” He said not looking away from the sink. She rolled her eyes and playfully shoved him before heading outside to the garden.
The garden was lit up by the soft light of the pathway lights. She went down the path opposite to the gazebo and found a large hanging chair with a small tea table next to it. There were string lights around the tree it was hanging from. She climbed into the chair and got comfortable. Though she had a crippling fear of the dark, she felt like she could fall asleep in this chair. There were lights surrounding her, she was comfortable and there was a large fence surrounding the garden, so she felt safe. The only issue was the fact that if she were to sleep out here, she would want someone to be with her and there was no one that she had to sleep with. She heard footsteps on the path.
“I thought I would find you out here.” Edmund said as he rounded the corner.
“Am I that predictable?” she asked.
“No, I usually find you in one of two places. The garden or the library. You seem to favor those two places over every other room in the house.” He said. “Also, I implanted a chip inside of your brain that lets me know where you are at all times.”
“If I didn’t know you were joking, I would’ve beat the shit out of you.” Ava said lifting her legs so he could sit. He smirked as he climbed in, sitting across from her.
“You would never hurt me.” He said with a mischievous smirk.
“Really, and how exactly do you know that I’m not gonna punch you in the near future.”
“I just do.”
“You realize that you’re just making me want to hit you more, right?”
“I do, but as I said, you won’t”
“Well, I’ll spare you from getting punched for now.”
“How generous of you.” He said. They both laughed quietly.
“So how exactly do you get these lights to work? I don’t see a cord in sight.” Ava asked looking around.
“They’re solar lights. The glass is made up of solar panels that automatically begin to charge when the sun is out. They turn off and on by themselves so there is no need for a switch or an outlet.” He explained.
“That’s pretty awesome. Useful for lighting up areas further from the house.”
“So, what brings you out here?” Ava asked.
“It’s been awhile since I had the chance to come sit and relax. Plus, I had to make sure you weren’t going to put yourself in danger again.”
“Stand on a rolling chair one time and you never hear the end of it.” Ava said rolling her eyes.
“Standing on a roller chair in general is a hazard but standing on a rolling chair on hardwood flooring is much more hazardous.”
“I know, I know.”
“I don’t mean to lecture you, Ava. I just care for your safety.” He said looking at her. He looked genuinely concerned for Ava’s well-being; it made her feel bad.
“I know, Ed. I’ll try to be more careful from now on.” She said offering him a small smile. He returned the smile and leaned back against the chair.
Edmund looked genuinely comfortable. Ava figured that this must be his go-to relaxation spot. He said it had been a while since he came to relax out here and Ava could understand why. 4 kids and a deadline he has to meet. He most likely doesn’t get much time to himself. It was nice to see him this relaxed. Ava smiled and got into a comfortable position before closing her eyes. Despite the issue at the park, Ava would have to say that today was a really pleasant.