ADVENT STORIES #5 | BETWEEN FRIENDS

‘How come none of us knew?’

‘Well, he is private. Very private. He might run the most exclusive luxury tech company but he keeps himself pretty much to himself. He hardly even attends industry things so it’s no surprise.’

‘Besides that’s not something you want the whole world talking about.’

Ava, Annabel and Jamilah are at Ava’s house for a long overdue dinner and catch up with their children playing in the other living room.

‘Now please, sit. Eat. When was the last time you had a decent meal?’ Jamilah places a bowl of chicken casserole to complete the spread. Compliments of her mother.

‘We’ve been surviving on take outs. I don’t have time to interview for a cook right now, and all the food mum brings over I forget to take them out of the freezer. Yes I know, I am a bad mother-’

‘Shut your mouth.’ Annabel sings.

The three have been the best of friends since kindergaten, did most everything together; the three musketeers their parents nicknamed them.

‘Would you please stop saying you are a bad mum because you are not. Ollie is alive and thriving; he is loved, well cared for. You have a support system around you. Use us.’ Jamilah emphasises.

‘Mummy says you should bring Ollie down to the country if you like, you can come with us for Christmas. You know how she adores him.’

‘And then come with us to Aspen for the New Year. It’ll be fun don’t say no.’ Jamilah pleads.

‘No. I have to say no, because I want it to be with Ollie and me this year. Just the two of us. I’ve been so shitty at being his mother, I don’t even know how he is coping with me having to work so much. The holiday season is our busiest time and I have him with my parents most days or at after school activities. I get home with barely enough time to put him to bed. I need to provide him with a stable home and I should be the one but…’

‘Hey, hey, hey. Stop.’ Jamilah puts an arm around Ava, ‘you’ve got us so lean into us please.’

‘We love you and want to be there for you. The invitations still stand but we totally get it.’

‘I have to be better at this with him. It’s been six months and I feel as if I am still falling to pieces.’

‘Stop being so hard on yourself please.’

‘Gah! I’m sorry I’m being a downer I’m sor-’

‘Shut up.’ The other two say in unison.

‘Do you think I should apologise to River?‘

‘You already have and that should be that. I still think its maddening that he is divorced and the mess with his brother. Talk about scandalous.’ Jamilah shakes her head at the thought.

Annabel moves uneasily and the other two notice.

‘What?’ UGH! She has the worst poker face.

‘No!’ Jamilah covers her mouth with both hands.

‘You did not.’

‘I couldn’t say anything attorney, client privilege.’

‘Shut up you can tell us now. Was she your client?’ Ava asks, food now abandoned.

‘He was.’

‘FUCK! How could you keep this from me?’ Ava fills up three glasses of wine, ‘bottoms up start talking.’

‘I cannot say anything only that it was ugly, and it’s something I know deeply hurt him hence that hot and cold sexy thing he has going on.’

‘His brother though. I cannot get past that.’ Ava feels a little sorry for River. She remembers her first meeting with him three years ago in Paris. He headhunted personally, flew in for a meeting her when she was Head of Buying at Colette before it closed down. At the meeting he’d been pleasant, a little cold but they got on none the less, upon taking the job and moving her family back to London she found River to be even more distant; he was never discourteous, just distant, and cold. Now she knows why.

‘Have you spoken to AJ?’ Annabel steers them to safer ground; her best friends they may be, but she is bound by the strict rules of her profession.

‘Not since he served me with custody papers, I’m not taking his calls.’ Ava resumes eating her food. ‘Sig’s been calling me too.’

‘Haven’t you spoken to her?’ Jamilah asks.

‘Not since the divorce.’ Sigourney had been a good friend to her, but Ava did not want to put her in the middle of the fight with her brother. ‘He’s her brother, I don’t know how to handle this.’

‘Understandable, but you know how fond she is of you and Oliver she is bound to be taking this hard.’

‘She can’t take it out on her, it’s her brother she needs to talk to.’ Jamilah dishes more vegetables onto her plate.

‘Oliver is my priority, anyone else is not my problem.’ But Ava knows it is not that simple; things are fractured between are and AJ and by extension his family but she does not want to keep Oliver from them, they are all so fond of him. ‘So, is my ex-husband going to take my son from me?’

‘Not a chance.’ Annabel says, supremely confident. ‘I am going to crush his entire soul before that happens.’

‘Biiiiitch.’ Jamilah whispers and all three woman burst out laughing.

Annabel is a beast of a divorce lawyer and Ollie is her godson, so she is going to make sure AJ pays for the bullshit he put her friend through. For three months, Ava hid from them, wouldn’t take their calls, poured herself into work and Oliver. She went to ground until they physically had to go force down the door and found her curled up in bed. Ava Sinclair looking a shell of herself. AJ had to be stopped.



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