Avery smiled as she sat on the front porch of her parents house, looking out at the vast expanse of farmland in front of her. It had been five years since she had been here in the summer time but only a few months since she had been here in the winter. When she had been in during Christmas.
Now though she was back for good and had even begun looking for her own place, probably a tiny apartment and next week she began her job teaching art therapy to troubled kids. Kids who were like her, though she was only troubled because of the rape she had experienced at the hands of a man who had been a family friend when she had been fifteen.
Coming out of her thoughts though when she heard the screen door of the porch open, Avery smiled wider when she saw Zoe coming out with Zac and Kate's four year old son, Lennon on her hip.
"You ready to take the boy to Zac's garage so that he can drop him off at Kate's since it's her weekend with him?" Zoe asked and Avery blushed because of course she had forgotten that she agreed to take Lennon by Zac's garage. A garage that had once been their father's but had been inherited by Zac when their father had died when Avery had been nineteen.
It was probably supposed to have went to Isaac but Isaac and his wife Nikki had moved off to Florida where they now lived with their three kids and well Taylor knew next to nothing about fixing cars well. Even Mac didn't know as much as Zac did. Zac was the one who had spent the majority of the time there growing up and Avery half thought Zac always being there was probably why Zac and Kate had divorced. Well that and Kate had left Zac for her OBGYN when Lennon had been eight months.
Apparently it had taken Kate eight months after Lennon's birth to realize that she was a lesbian and that she had somehow fallen for her OBGYN. A woman who was now her wife of one year and someone who even Zac seemed close too. Zac had even been Kate's best man at the wedding.
"I think so," Avery lied when she finally spoke, though really it wasn't much of a lie. She did have her keys in her jeans and her pocketbook was already in the truck, having been left there when she had headed to the apartment that Zac shared with a man who called himself Jesus, last night when she went to get Lennon so that he could spend the night with his Nana Didi.
"You're a horrible liar," Zoe replied as she teased Avery. "You totally forgot you had to take him didn't you?"
Nodding her head, Avery stood from the porch swing where she sat, "Maybe," she confessed as she laughed and reached out for Lennon who was apparently still taking his nap and she knew if he slept through the ride to Zac's garage, she'd have to wake him up then and she hated the idea.
"I'm not surprised, you and your one track mind," Zoe teased again once Avery had Lennon in her arms. "You know before you go I feel like I should warn you that Daryl works for Zac now at the garage, you know in case you see him."
"Daryl?" Avery questioned as if she had misheard Zoe but she knew she hadn't. Zoe had said that Avery's ex worked for Zac now.
An ex whom Avery had left behind when she left Georgia at twenty to move off to New York and of course she had left Daryl in the worst way you could probably do it. She had written him a note which she had taped to the door of the trailer he shared with Merle.
Zoe nodded her head at Avery's question, "He's been working there since Thanksgiving. Said he needed a way to pay for the house he bought for himself."
"He bought himself a house?" Avery questioned shocked that Zoe knew so much about him just like she was shocked Zac had hired him. It wasn't like her family had been thrilled at first when she started dating the man at seventeen but then again who would? There was a twenty-one year age gap between them but Avery suspected somehow overtime her family had came to realize why she and Daryl had clicked after meeting at a support group for survivors of abuse.
They were both broken and somehow they had helped each other. Daryl had helped Avery feel safe in her own skin again after the rape and he had been the first guy she had willingly had sex with when she turned eighteen. He was the only other man she had willingly had sex with besides the guy she had dated for a year in New York when she had been twenty-two.
So yeah, Avery guessed her family had realized why he had been the one she fell for but she hadn't realized just how close they had remained after she left. She had figured Daryl would just stay in his semi shell of Merle and sometimes Carol, another woman who had been a part of their support group.
"Bought it on Halloween after Merle got put in jail again," Zoe laughed as she rolled her eyes and of course Avery wasn't shocked to hear that Merle was in jail again. Merle had always been constantly in and out of jail for years, mainly for drug use or the occasional fights with men in bars. Avery had once been scared that Daryl would follow in his footsteps but he had proven her wrong. "It's kind of a nice place actually. A simple two bedroom house."
Avery nodded her head at that, "Thanks for the warning," she said before turning and heading off the porch, going to her truck where she opened the back door and gently put Lennon into his booster seat.
Once he was safely in, she got in the front and started the truck up. Heading to Zac's garage and as she did so she let her mind go to Daryl who she hadn't seen since she left him. Somehow it seemed fate had been on her side every time she visited for holidays because she never ran into him which was probably good. She had always been scared of seeing him after the way she had ended things.
Avery knew it was cowardly, ending it in a note like she had. But if she had done it face to face she probably would have wavered in wanting to leave and she never would have headed off to New York to get a degree. She had loved Daryl enough that she probably would have stayed if he asked her too but of course she had never given him that chance and he probably hated her for it.
At least she reckoned he hated her because well, she hated herself sometimes even if she knew that had been in the past and even if she had told herself she had moved on. Daryl had been her first love though and Avery wasn't sure anyone quite recovered from their first love.
Arriving at Zac's garage, Avery parked her truck and got out, going to the back where she woke Lennon. "Hey buddy wake up," she spoke as she watched him slowly open his eyes as she undid him from his booster seat. "We're at daddy's work. You want to see your daddy?"
"Daddy," Lennon grinned as Avery got him out of the truck and the moment she put him down on the pavement she laughed as he took off running to the doors and she followed behind him, heading inside where Lennon ran straight to Zac's office and Avery followed behind not surprised that her brother was in there.
"I come bearing your son," Avery laughed as Lennon literally ran to Zac and climbed onto his lap. "But I think you can see that by now."
"Yeah I think I kind of figured that out when this little midget began to climb on me," Zac laughed as he wrapped his arms around Lennon. "I take it you missed me Lenny?"
Lennon nodded his head at Zac's words, "Miss you daddy," he confirmed as he leaned up to kiss Zac's cheek. "Do I have to go to mommy's tonight?"
"You know you do buddy," Zac told him as he pulled his son closer. "But you get to come back to me on Monday morning."
Avery smiled slightly as she listened to Zac talking to Lennon and she swore her heart was melting on the spot. Despite his marriage ending to Kate, Zac was a good father to Lennon and somehow during their custody arrangement he had been the one who got Lennon majority of the time, though Avery was half sure Kate and Zac bent the rules more often than not since they both got along so well.
"You want me to get his booster seat out of my truck or do you want too?" Avery asked once Lennon had fell silent after Zac told him he'd be back with Zac on Monday.
Zac looked over at Avery again, "I'll go get it," he said as he stood from the chair he sat in and he put Lennon on the floor, telling him to stay put.
After that Avery watched as Zac left the office and headed outside and while he was gone Avery turned her head as she saw Jesus coming towards the office.
"I didn't know you worked here," Avery smiled at the man. "I just thought that you were Zac's roommate. I didn't know you also worked for him."
"Worked for him before I lived with him," Jesus smiled a bit shyly as he shrugged his shoulders. "I guess I should have learned from working with him what a pain he was but I'm stubborn," he laughed as he looked at Avery. "But it's probably best Zac and Lennon have me. I mean who else is going to cook for them?"
"Ah yeah," Avery nodded a bit knowingly. "How could I ever forget that my brother has horrible cooking skill and he and Lennon would probably both starve if someone else didn't live with them."
Jesus laughed at Avery's words, "Exactly so it works out in the end," he said as if that made all the sense in the world. "You know on Friday nights Zac and I usually go out to Lucky's with a few of the other men that work here. If you maybe wanted to get out of your mom's house and have some fun."
"Are you saying I don't have fun?" Avery asked playing like she was offended. "You don't even know me so that's kind of a rude assumption there Jesus...or maybe I should just Paul Rovia you for that one."
"No, no. Jesus works," Jesus laughed more as he made a face. "But I wasn't saying you don't have fun just that I've never seen it since we just met this week."
Rolling her eyes Avery crossed her arms, "I'll consider the offer. I haven't been to Lucky's in ages, not since I used to go there when I was a teen to sneak around with..." she started but stopped before she could finish Daryl's name.
"So that's where you and Dixon had your dates huh?" Jesus asked with a smirk on his face and Avery blushed at his words. "Sometimes when Daryl gets drunk he mentions you."
Blushing more at that add on, Avery was about to open her mouth to speak but before she could Zac chose then to show back up.
"Okay, I'm finished," Zac said as he paused and took in the site of Jesus standing next to Avery. "I hope you weren't pestering my sister like you pester me every night."
"Oh trust me, I wasn't pestering Avery like I do you," Jesus answered and the way he spoke made Avery look between the men curiously. There was something not so innocent in Jesus' tone but Avery swore maybe she was crazy because surely Jesus would know better than to flirt with her very straight brother. "I was just asking Avery to come to Lucky's tonight."
Zac seemed to consider Jesus' words and then he looked at Avery curiously, "Did you say yes?"
"I actually didn't say either way," Avery spoke as she sighed. "I kind of sort of promised Zoe and Jessica I'd have breakfast with them and then in the afternoon I'm watching Josephine for Maggie," she said as she mentioned Taylor's second wife and the mother of his fifth child.
Maggie Greene was the woman who had married Taylor after Natalie had up and left him and their four kids to head off to Nashville so that she could have that singing career she had always wanted. She may or may not have also taken the yoga instructor she was having an affair with too.
"So don't get too disappointed if I don't show up Jesus," Avery winked playfully before offering Zac a goodbye and moving to leave.
Making it outside though Avery stopped in her tracks as she looked at the motorcycle that was now parked beside her truck and the figure whose back was turned to her, putting the helmet on the handlebars.
"Daryl?" she questioned softly as she walked a bit closer, watching as the person turned and sure enough once they had she saw she was right. "I didn't think I'd ever see you again."
Daryl just looked her over briefly before speaking, "Avery," he finally spoke saying her name as if it was poison or as if it hurt him to say it and Avery was sure it kind of broke her heart. "Probably would have been best if we hadn't saw each other again. Not after you threw me away like I meant nothing to you," he said before finally walking and as he went past her Avery heaved a sigh.
"I didn't throw you away," Avery defended as she turned so she could see him again and she watched him stop in his tracks.
"Really?!" Daryl questioned as he turned to face her. "Because leaving a letter on the door to my trailer sure felt like I was being thrown away," he spoke as he finally glared at her. "In the end though it made me realize you never cared. Realized I was stupid for thinking I meant something to you. Stupid for buying you a ring."
Avery paused slightly at his last words and she swallowed around the tiny lump her throat. "You bought me a ring?" she asked him as she raised an eyebrow.
"It was stupid of me," Daryl muttered as he ran a hand through his hair which was longer now than the last time Avery had seen him. "Pawned it hours after I realized how stupid I was," he shrugged before he turned away from her again and this time all Avery could do was watch him walk away.
After he was out of site she finally found the strength to move and go back to her truck and the minute she was in it and driving down the road, heading back to her families farm was the minute her mind went back to the man she had saw and his words.
Daryl saying he had bought her a ring and it made her sad because she knew if he had asked her to marry him she would have said yes in a heartbeat. Hell she'd still say yes but now she knew he'd never ask her or even want her, not when it was clear he hated her and she didn't blame him for hating her after the way she had left him.
Later that night Avery sighed to herself as she drank her second beer of the night. She was sitting at a bar at Lucky's and besides Zac and Jesus two other men had came. Aaron who also worked for Zac and Eric who was Aaron's boyfriend.
"So you're the famous Avery?" Eric finally questioned once they were alone. Jesus had somehow talked Zac into dancing with him to some horrible country songs and Aaron had went off to the bathroom. "I've heard so much about you that it's weird seeing you in person."
"You've heard about me?" Avery questioned as she remembered Jesus saying Daryl talked about her when he was drunk. "Probably all bad if it came from Daryl," she laughed as she took another drink from her bottle. "I'm pretty sure he isn't my biggest fan and probably hates me."
Eric laughed at that, almost like he thought Avery was crazy. "If that man hates you he sure has me fooled," he replied and he sounded sincere to her. "All he has ever spoken of you is how much he loves you and how he wishes you had never left," he revealed as he shrugged his shoulder. "I'm kind of sad he has stopped now that he has Jessie Anderson in his bed."
"Jessie Anderson?" Avery asked not sure if she had heard of the woman.
"Blonde chick who moved into town a year ago with her asshole of a husband," Eric informed Avery with a roll of his eyes. "Pretty sure her husband abuses her and I guess she runs to Daryl for comfort and to be her savior. Always stays with him for a week or two then ends up going back to her husband. It's been that way for about five months now."
Avery nodded her head slowly doing her best to get over the fact that her heart was once again broken and again it was her fault really. If she hadn't been such a bitch and left Daryl behind but then again she was just trying to better herself, follow through with her dreams and going to New York had helped with that. She had gotten a degree at an art school like she had always wanted.
She just hated that she had been a coward and ended things with Daryl like she had, even if she knew that talking to him face to face meant she would have stayed. That she would have gave up on her dreams. Basically she hated that she had to chose but she knew Daryl wouldn't have left Georgia with her because of Merle. She also knew they wouldn't have survived long distance either so letting him go via a letter had been her only option and she just had to face the fact that he had moved on even if it was with a married woman.
She also had to face the fact that Daryl probably did hate her, no matter what Eric said. What she had seen today hadn't been love. It had been an angry Daryl who had his walls up. Walls that she had once broken down.
All Avery could hope for now was that since she was moving back that somehow fate was kinder to her and let her not run into Daryl, even if they did live in a small town. She also really hoped she didn't run into him when he was with Jessie because she wasn't sure she could handle that either.
"Enough talk on Daryl," Avery finally spoke as she took another drink of her beer. "Tell me the gossip on my brother and Jesus," she said wanting to change the topic. "The two of them seem much closer than roommates," she laughed as she turned to where they were still dancing and she was surprised at how close they were. That Zac was willingly letting Jesus hold him like that.
"That's probably because they are," Aaron added in as he chose then to come back from the bathroom. "They think no one else knows but we all secretly do. First noticed it after New Years Eve where they sort of shared a drunken kiss and then they both tried to play it off the next day."