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When I was 7, my best friend was a girl named Ava, who was my neighbor. Ava was a sweet kid; I didn’t realize it at the time, but her home life was pure hell. We would always hear her father screaming and breaking stuff. I was too young to understand “stuff” included Ava and her mom.
My parents did what they could to relief Ava from the burden a girl this young should never carry, but they were honestly afraid to meddle too much and end up having something bad happening to our family, so it consisted in inviting her to eat afternoon snacks and meals nearly every day, and give her some clothes, since Ava was always poorly-dressed.
Being sheltered from the violence happening right next door, my childhood was pretty normal, even happy. My father worked an office job, my mother worked from home, and my sister Carly would keep an eye on me. She was 12 at the time and would let me and Ava play in the woods behind our houses as long as there was daylight.
It was 1998 in a small town and life was simple. We loved to play with my Barbies (poor Ava didn’t have any), but we also loved to explore the forest and dig the ground. We would usually find bird bones and pennies buried shallowly.
It was an unusually warm November afternoon, right after Ava’s 7th birthday. My family bought her a small cake the day before. Now I can’t help but think it was our fault she had a swollen, purplish face that day.
“Ava, you’re okay? What happened?” I worried to see her like that.
“I just fell from the stwairs,” she said. Her mouth was so severely beaten up she couldn’t even pronounce some phonemes.
But I believed her and accepted the answer, soon turning my attention to something else. I’m so sorry, Ava.
We decided to use the warm day to bird watch, which I was very into in the last few weeks, since my parents gave me some binoculars. For that reason, we entered the forest a little deeper than usual. We found a beautiful nest of Junco, full of chicks.
I was focused on the birds, when Ava had a distant, intrigued look on her face.
“Are you listening? (sigh)… what a beautiful song.” Ava was marveling at something, but I couldn’t hear it. So I kind of ignored it.
After a few minutes, she started walking deeper into the woods, presumably trying to find the source of the beautiful song. I still heard nothing but our footsteps crunching leaves on the ground and distant chirping.
I followed Ava without thinking. We walked for a few minutes, when she stopped by a huge, majestic old tree. The sunlight glowed in a different way there. I couldn’t quite understand, but it was like the air was sprinkled with glitter. And it was peaceful. Ava was looking up to the tree leaves, awestruck. Then she frantically waved her hand like she met someone she knew.
I looked up too and saw a woman. Well, it certainly was a female. But she had a real small frame and her skin was a lilac glow. Her long hair seemed to be made of waterfall, and the fabric of her dress was like the wind, if the wind was slightly golden.
She descended from the tree and reached the ground with the softest landing. Her voice was pure sweetness, and echoed through my head.
“I’m sorry I took this long to answer your prayers, Ava.”
“The song I’ve been hearing at night, was that you?”Ava gingerly asked.
“Yes, my child.” She then looked at me. “You, please leave. It’s not your time.”
I was hypnotized, even a bit afraid, but I complied. The way she talked was nothing but gentle, but her figure held an impressive sense of authority.
I left and, as I looked behind, Ava started to glow like her. Her hair started to seem like waterfall as well, and her worn up clothes slowly turned to gold and air.
* * * * * *
When I got home, I went to my room and rehearsed what I would answer when people noticed Ava was gone. I was only 7 and couldn’t understand a lot of basic concepts, but I had in me both the knowledge that Ava would never return and that people wouldn’t believe what I saw.
That night, her father aggressively knocked on our door and demanded to know where she was. When inquired, I vaguely answered that I played with her by the woods until mid-afternoon, but haven’t seen her since.
My father was the one who called the cops. They said there would be a formal search if Ava was still missing after 72 hours.
During the investigation, they suspected her father had murdered her and buried her body in the woods. Her mother was found severely beaten up at home and he was arrested. Police also found out he had killed his previous wife, so I was more than pacific with my decision of keeping quiet about what really happened. After all, I wasn’t letting an innocent man suffer.
I eventually made new friends and even forgot about Ava for a while. I just remembered this story now at age 27 because I’m back to my family home.
In the last year, I broke up with an abusive partner, lost my job, and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Defeated, I decided to move back and have my parents take care of me. I still don’t know if it’s possible to undergo surgery; maybe I’ll die within a year.
At night, I pray things will get better. And lately I can hear a beautiful, ethereal song no human voice or instrument can ever make. I think Ava is inviting me.