The next day was Friday, and though it would have been good to go in and encourage sales from holiday foot traffic, she opted to call a gal that she had used on and off to fill in when she was ill. Tia had her own key, so Harper could stay home in her jammies, drink some golden milk, and begin to think things through. She did not even open her emails, including the one with the morning Scripture verse; and though she never got many calls, she determined to let any call that rang go to voice mail. She would have turned her phone off completely except that she needed to be in contact if Tia had any questions or an emergency at the store. Around noon, she shot off an email to Blaise that said she was busy and could not meet in the afternoon. No sign off, no emoji—just straight to the point. Click. Send. Done.
She did not have much appetite, but she sliced up some cucumbers and tomatoes on a plate with a little sea salt and plopped down on the couch. She pulled up some brainless show on Netflix and munched her vegies. Harper laid her head back against the plush pillows for just a second and soon dozed off in the middle of some wildebeest migration clip.
The front door banged open! Ava ran into the house without even knocking. Harper kicked herself for having forgotten to latch it. It was so unlike her paranoid self. The shock of Ava’s abrupt and unwelcome appearance glued her in place, and all she could do was stare, mouth open. Harper repositioned herself on the couch when Ava came around to stand in front of her. She did not offer her a seat. In fact, she didn’t say anything. It was like her vocal cords had frozen.
“Harper, did you hear what I just said? I’m sorry if I woke you up.” Ava sat down in one of the ladder back chairs and waited for a response.
Finding her voice finally, Harper said, “How did you get in here? Did I not lock the door? And, no, I have no idea what you said.” Nor care, she muttered under her breath. Harper felt stiff from having fallen asleep with her neck crooked, but the greater stiffness was on the inside. She had an overwhelming desire to take Ava by the scruff of the neck and kick her out of her house. “What in the world are you doing here?” Harper’s voice was rising.
“I just had to tell you.” Ava seemed on the verge of tears, and there was an uncommon softness in her face.
“Tell me what? What’s wrong with you?” Harper’s irritation subsided a bit—but only a bit.
“I had to tell you the truth!”
“The truth about what?”
“The truth is this.” She paused for a moment, looking straight ahead. “The truth is I thought by now I would be married, rich, famous, and happy, but I am none of those things. Instead, I am desperately lonely and have no significance. My life doesn’t matter—to anyone.” Ava’s voice lacked its typical edginess, and though her hands fluttered about like always, there was a gentleness in the motions that was rather beautiful . . . yet unnerving. She waved her hands, fingers opened, as if casting a spell. “I don’t do anything that contributes life to the people I know, and I think God is done with me. God is done done done with me. I am miserable and incapable of being the kind of friend to you that I want to be. I always do the wrong thing. The thing that I determine not to do is the exact thing I do! And I just wanted to say, ‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Harper. I’m so sorry.’”
Harper sat transfixed. She felt like the moment required that she be somewhat encouraging, but she had no idea what to say. So, she said nothing. Ava sat quiet now, head bowed, and Harper glanced nervously around the room. The silence was palpable, uncomfortable.
It was then she noticed the changes. The shelves had been dusted; the floors vacuumed. Clutch’s shedding hair was nowhere to be seen. She peered into the kitchen and saw a clean sink. A white tablecloth had been laid out on the dining room table with a vase of bright yellow chrysanthemums in the center. The curtains had been opened and tied back and windows cleaned, bringing in vibrant light that almost lifted the mood of the whole room. When Graham was alive, he took charge of much of the cleaning. He called it his part in the division of labor, but he also knew that Harper’s creative priorities meant household chores were found really low on her to-do list. His “division of labor” was an act of sacrificial love, giving her time to be the inspired artist and writer that was her pure nature.
When Harper glanced back to the chair, Ava was gone.
Her eyes popped open suddenly. She jumped up from the couch, sending her plate of half eaten vegies flying across the room. All was as she had left it, and the afternoon sun had dipped low, leaving long shadows in the room.
A dream. It must have been a dream.
Harper was one who dreamed crazy dreams. She always remembered them, unlike Graham who could never recall having remembered a single one. She slept lightly and her mind went places weird and wonderful, but this . . . This was more like a nightmare. She walked slowly to the door to check the lock, then proceeded to clean up her mess. Her head ached.