The sky in Darien, Connecticut was a cloudless blue sky above her head as Avery pulled her carry-on luggage and pulled the strap of her purse close to her body. Her heels tapped as she took measured steps along the pathway of her childhood home. Her green eyes took in the strange and the familiar. The new marble walkway glinted when rays of sun hit it. The bronze lion shaped doorknocker that used to scare her as a child stayed frozen in a silent roar.
Avery wasn't sure where to go after she was going to leave Darien weeks from now but she knew that maybe coming home wouldn't be so bad. As Lydia told her, it was always an offer that stood on the table. She had refused initially because well, she was Avery Bailey Clark and wasn't the one to ask for help. She wasn't the one to be anyone's victim and be broken when she was the one to save those who were left broken and branded by the system. Avery was always the one in control and she never let things get so bad that she was stealing guns and aiming them at vile, disgusting, innocent ex-husbands. Yet here Avery was.
"You can always come home."
"I don't want to come home. Mom, I'm fine," Avery replied, trying to steady for racing heart. Her orange walls were warm and comforting in the day. However, at night, it felt like being engulfed in the flames of hell. Pulling her throw blanket closer to her, Avery tried to breathe, count backwards, recite the recipe of a chocolate soufflé…anything. Then Avery remembered how strong and suffocating her rapist's cologne was, the way he grabbed her so hard she was sure it was Joe's face and Joe's hands, and how rough and dirty the concrete was as she fought back, screaming for it to stop. She remembered, flashes playing like the disjointed parts of a horror film she carried around with her in her head and another sob caught in her throat. She felt herself, unravel. "I'm…okay."
There was a pause that hung in the air a second too long and then Lydia said softly, "Alright."
Avery heard her mother sigh on the phone and pictured Lydia's expression – an even mix of exasperation, a bit of frustration and concern. She knew that because she saw the same look on Phyllis' face as well.
"No, that's not it!" Lydia answered, almost yelling. Then she softened her tone but Avery could hear the vengeful edge creeping in. "Some backwater bastard hurt my child. I feel sick that this happened to you and nearly hopped a plane to Genoa City."
"What stopped you?"
"You," Lydia chuckled, yet sounded like she was crying herself, "and believe it, or not – your sister. Phyllis actually begged me to try and back off and admitted that it wasn't easy for her to not tear Joe Clark to pieces even though it wasn't him. We're helping each other, believe it or not. I…have to give you space. It's hard for me, don't want you suffocate you, but coming home is always an option for you."
"Don't ever thank me for anything. I'm your mother."
It took three knocks before the door opened and Avery was greeted by the woman as big of a fixture as the iron gates and the little white gazebo in the vast backyard of her childhood home. It was Marta, this dutiful yet kind woman. She remembered her warmth the most. She had received two million dollars from Lydia so the woman never had to work again, but Marta insisted she be here when Avery arrived and help her settle in. Avery knew from a young age that though Marta was a woman with a kind and gentle disposition. she usually said what was on her mind and it was futile to argue with her. Avery could face the toughest judges, the most dangerous criminals accused of terrible, unfathomable things or innocent people who were still accused of horrible crimes yet arguing against the woman present her whole life was the hardest.
Marta was older now, a grandmother and she'd been married for decades. That felt like a novelty to her and it made her sad. But instead of crying, Avery smiled and said, "Hi, Marta. It's been a while, I suppose."
The older woman chuckled, hand to her heart, "You're still so beautiful," and she gently pressed a hand to Avery's cheek before she was enveloped by one of the most familiar hugs ever and yes, it did feel like home. When they pulled away, both of them were wiping at their eyes. "My goodness, I have missed you, Avery. Welcome home."
"Thank you," she replied with a curt nod, as Marta took her bags like she always did when guests came over to the house. She watched the woman briskly walk across the foyer through doors that led to the living room and no doubt, up the winding staircase that had been the source of Avery's many klutzy moments.
Avery raised her green eyes to take in this foyer – the black and white tiles that still shined, the walls that had expensive paintings on them, framed family photos too, the little bench where she and Phyllis sat to take many childhood photos or even where she sat when there were adult parties her parent threw. These people were adults that didn't care about her – only that her parents were well known in social circles. She remembered the parties in this house being more frequent and maybe she was brought out to prove that she was the good daughter – the one who didn't rebel, the one who didn't talk back and the one who did not run away. Maybe she was brought out to prove to these adults – her parents included – that she was the physical embodiment of there being some semblance of pride in the Summers family. Avery remembered shaking hands because it was the polite thing to do.
Still Avery felt the knot in her heart come loose. Perhaps, it was because of the nostalgia of the past or the liberating uncertainty of the future, she wasn't sure. What Avery did know was that she was glad to be home. Her black pumps tapped a rhythm as she took careful, measured steps to the living room. This was the place Phyllis taught her everything she knew about video games until Avery would get frustrated. It was where she opened Christmas presents under a tree so tall it touched the ceiling while the whole house smelled like warm gingerbread.
The couches and loveseat were dark brown velvet now changed from the leather. Avery laughed to herself as se realized that the old-style television was replaced by a wide flat-screen TV and a Netflix guide sat on the coffee table. She glanced at the mantle, the wedding picture of her parents gone. She ran her fingers against the cool glass of a framed photo of a red headed child glancing down with a soft smile at a chubby cheeked baby who looked at the camera with bright eyes and a smile of her own.
Tears pooled in Avery's eyes and a catch landed in her throat as she stared at the black and gold urn containing whatever remained of her father. He was ashes now and really, it took Avery everything in her to stop her mother from giving him a watery burial. George Summers was always complicated. It was always that way when it came to a man like him: affectionate although his type wasn't overt, brilliant, charming, handsome and wildly funny. Other days, she was angry because he was a thief and liar. Her feelings where George was concerned was a soup of different emotions that ranged on different ends of the spectrum. Still, she missed her father. Terribly.
It took no less than two minutes for Avery to hear a familiar voice to say, "Well, this is the best reason to wake up from my nap."
Avery chuckled and turned around to see Lydia, her mom. She looked different, not in appearance aside from the grey streak displayed between the head of red hair Phyllis no doubt inherited. It was as if the years of tension had melted from her body and she had aged backwards. Lydia always had a small figure but she looked different – liberated , more peaceful in years and really happy. She looked away for a split second and felt bad for being envious. Avery wondered who this woman in the red and white patterned maxi dress was for a split second. Golden bangles made noise in tandem with the movements of her arm.
"If I tell you that they cut me open after hours of labour to give birth to you, will that guilt trip you into hugging me hello faster?" Lydia quipped, with a playful smirk on her lips, glossed a light pink – different from her usual red lip.
Avery laughed too and shook her head, "No…no guilt trip needed. Hi, Mom."
Lydia's long dress swished as she crossed half the length of the living room, and Avery hugged her mother instinctively. She rested her head on her Lydia's shoulder like when she was a little girl and she was scared of the shadows on her walls and the monsters under her bed. The only difference was that the monsters were the flashbacks of her rape and the shadows were the rage and shame associated with it.
When she had finally pulled away, Avery let her mother wipe away a tear that had somehow escaped.
Lydia held her face with her green eyes glistening with tears of her own.
"You're home now," she said softly, gently fingering the last fading cut on her cheek. She locked gazes with her mother and in her eyes, was a sense of truth Avery could hold on to for now. For now, it was enough. "You're safe. Nobody will ever hurt you again."
Avery sniffled and nodded, feeling like a child, and offered a smile. "Okay."
"Welcome home, sweetheart."
Author's Note: So, that's for the Avery Bailey Clark character study. This was inspired by Jessica Collins' portrayal when it was revealed that she was leaving. I hope that I got this character and her thought process right. This will be my last writing piece for a while because school starts for me tomorrow. Feedback would be lovely. Forgive any typos. This hasn't been edited. Sorry. Listen to Rachel Platten's "You're Safe" to get into the mood of this piece. I listened to it while writing it.