Drip Drop Teardrop Page 19

Caroline asked her constantly if she was alright and that just tripled her guilt because the last thing she wanted was Caroline worrying about her on top of everything else. Then Caroline had brought up funeral plans and Avery had freaked out, shouting incoherent nonsense before slamming out of the apartment. When she returned later that day neither of them said a word and Avery seethed on her own shame.

As the weeks moved into the second month, she felt like she was being haunted. She would be standing in the DVD rental store and she’d catch a whiff of this beautiful spicy, earthy smell that reminded her of Brennus. She’d look around to see if he was there but there no one. And then she’d sniff the air again and the scent was gone. It became an obsession; every journal page filled with descriptions of him. Finally, she started doing some research, looking up whatever she could on the Ankou. There was an astonishing amount of information on the web and in the library, and she locked it all inside her hoping…

Hoping what? That it would somehow make her stop loving him?

She admitted it only that once and then pretended it had never happened.

Caroline had taken to sleeping longer in the mornings. The rain lashing against the windows outside were kind of a lullaby and Avery drew her aunt’s door closed, wishing she could keep her there forever. The apartment was cold, damp. Avery made herself some herbal tea and, feeling maudlin - but what was new, right - she pulled out Aunt Caroline’s photo albums and snuggled onto the sofa with a blanket. She’d chosen the album of all the photos when Caroline was younger. There were ones at college; the kind of photos that made you long for your own college experience. Somehow it was never quite as great as the photos made it seem. Caroline had had so many friends though. There were photos of her with a couple different guys over the years; all cute, sporty types. Avery’s hands trembled over the pictures of her aunt rock climbing. Biking. Rollerblading. Playing baseball. Ice skating at the Rockefeller Center. She was like an advertising campaign for LIFE.

Her chest tightened and Avery struggled to draw breath. She clutched at her t-shirt and gulped at the air, tears streaming down her face.

“Baby,” her Aunt Caroline’s soft voice called from behind her, but she couldn’t turn around. She felt her aunt’s warm body ease next to hers, her safe arms coming around her. Like a panicked dog abandoned at the side of the road, Avery pleaded with her aunt with her eyes. Caroline brushed her hair off her face. “Breathe, baby, breathe.”

She sucked in a deep lungful of air and the inhalation caught on a sob. She allowed herself to be pulled into her aunt’s chest and she soaked her with tears; an entire season’s worth of rainfall that had been weighing down the clouds for quite some time.

It’s Not Murder

it’s an Act of Faith

There was relief in admitting her grief to her Aunt Caroline. It was what Caroline needed from her, so she gave it. Somehow Avery managed to get through the funeral talks and financial discussions, holding herself together by the tips of her tremulous fingers.

It was weird… but she felt closer to her aunt than ever.

That was why, on club night, as Caroline watched Avery get ready from her perch on the sofa, her blankets all around her, the latest Charlaine Harris book in her lap, Avery unconsciously let her obsession take to the fore.

“Aunt Caroline?” She asked hesitantly as she pulled on some bangles.

“Mmmhmm?”

“Did you ever date a bad boy?”

Caroline raised her eyebrows questioningly and smiled. “Should I know something I don’t?”

Avery blushed and shook her head. “No, just hypothetical.”

“Yeah right. How bad are we talkin’?” Her New York accent thickened with the query.

“Well what do you consider a bad boy?”

Caroline gave her a look but conceded the question. “I dunno. A bum. A cheat. A drug addict. An alcoholic. Abusive. Lazy. A commitment-phobe who pretends to be otherwise. A thief. A criminal… should I go on?”

Those were all the obvious, weren’t they? Avery stiffened, turning her back on Caroline as she pulled on her stilettoes. “What about… different?”

“Different? Different how?”

She shrugged, turning back around but not really looking at her. She fiddled with her earring nervously. “Maybe a little older?”

“How much older?” Caroline snapped up, showing a little of her old energy.

Avery grinned. “Not that much older. Early twenties.”

Caroline frowned. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”

“What if he had money? A lot of it.”

“Depends how he came by it.”

“Commercialism.”

Caroline grunted, “Honest or not?”

“Honest.”

“Well it’s not the best but it’s not a crime. Unless you like him for his money, then we have a problem.”

“No, no. No. But what if your friends thought he was kind of creepy because… he might not be the best looking guy in the world. What if he seemed kind of harsh and cold but he wasn’t always like that?”

Her aunt was watching her with narrowed, perceptive eyes. “What is he like?”

“Kind. Warm. Funny. Loving. Imperfect. Arrogant. Superior. But right…”

Caroline smiled slowly, her eyes suspiciously bright and shiny. “Then I’d tell my friends to go to hell.”

Avery felt the breath whoosh out of her body. “You would?”

“Avery… stop asking me what I would do.” Caroline shook her head. “I’m not going to be here, sweetheart, and you need to make your own mind up about things. Important things. And you need to do that without fearing something bad is going happen because it was your decision.”

Her aunt might as well have shot a steel pipe into her backbone. Avery stiffened and instead of crying like she thought she would, she felt heat. The heat of relief.

“I’d tell them to go to hell too,” she whispered.

Her aunt’s answer was a triumphant grin.

***

Now that her mind was made up, Avery couldn’t wait to get to the club. Surely Brennus would turn up this time. He had to be missing her as much as she missed him. And it wasn’t just him she missed. It was his weird, abstract world. It was fragmented. She was fragmented. But somehow it fit. She liked who she was in that world.

Prev Next