by Marelle Hipolito ’21
Ava crouched by the bushes. This is it, this is the time, she thought to herself. She wanted to go slam open the store door, saunter over to the middle aged woman, confront her for her crimes, and punish her for them.
But some part of Ava wanted to keep watching her, studying her. The past few weeks, her target went about the small Virginia town as an ordinary person, living a simple life on the East Coast. It was as if on Thanksgiving night she never set a house full of Ava’s family on fire, as if she had never been a lifelong assassin for a secret European communist government. It was almost as if the woman had never ruined Ava’s life, leaving her with nothing.
Ava shifted between the bushes and the trees in the night. The side street was quiet, only crickets could be heard in the distance. The cracked pavement reflected the moon, full tonight. Usually, the places the woman went to drove Ava nuts with how boring they were. The grocery store, the pharmacy: Ava thought it was useless to watch her target at those places but she knew she didn’t have a choice. It was either watch her all day, or lose her in a second. Ava’s target wasn’t just some civilian, she was an assassin. She knew how to disappear if she wanted to.
Ava wanted to watch this woman as closely as possible. But this was Ava’s favorite place that the woman went to: the town’s first and only bookstore. Every Thursday night, Ava found herself between the thick trunk of an oak tree and the stiff leaves of the bushes, looking across the street to the books through the glass window, more than looking at the woman herself. She couldn’t help but remember her father, who used to take her to an antique bookstore one block away from the Brooklyn Bridge every month.
Ava shrugged off the thought. She rarely cried, especially after the fire. After that night, she had nothing to lose and nothing to care about. This Thursday night, spying on the woman in the bookstore, was no exception. But this Thursday night was one she would remember. No more mourning, no more helplessness—only justice. Ava let out a big sigh. She got up from the grass, brushed off her coat, and began walking toward the bookstore.
Tonight is the time, this is it, Ava kept repeating to herself. She looked up, and froze. The woman was gone. The front door to the bookstore was still swinging open and close, the bell at the top still chiming. Ava scolded herself, Of course you lost her, now she could be anywhere. She looked up and down the pavement, but there was no trace of the woman. Ava started her way back to the woman’s townhouse. She walked down the street only a few steps before she heard the click of a handgun off safety mode behind her.
Ava’s heart began beating so hard that her chest throbbed. Her adrenaline rushed, her head began to pound and shake with anger. She turned around very slowly, with the barrel of the gun still cold on her skull. Ava looked into the eyes of the woman she had been tracking the last two months. Of course she’d find out, she’s been a trained assassin her entire life. Ava narrowed her eyes, and clenched her jaw before she spoke.
“Didn’t see you there, Mother.”
Ava’s mother laughed. “No, Ava, you were just within 50 feet of me the past seven weeks without even knowing.” With the gun still at Ava’s forehead, the woman looked behind her. The bookstore was now closed, with the lights off. The entire street was now empty except for the two of them.
“Oh honey,” Ava’s mother pouted. “The bookstore remind you of someone, dear?” She cocked her head curiously at Ava.
Ava was taken aback. The reality of her mother’s heartlessness slammed into her like a ton of bricks. How can she just… Ava’s thoughts went wild; she didn’t know what to say. She was absolutely disgusted at this woman, standing so shamelessly in front of her. What kind of….?
Ava closed her eyes. Suddenly, all of Ava’s strength broke. Why do I even bother? Her walls were stripped down, revealing another side of Ava. It was the weak, helpless side of her. The Ava that watched her father and uncle die in the house, trapped by the fire. The raw, emotional, fragile Ava. Her adrenaline dropped to nothing, her body slacked. She didn’t want answers anymore. She wanted out. Ava suddenly became exhausted with herself, her meaningless empty life, and her monster of a mother.
“Go ahead, Mom. You eliminated the rest of the family, finish us off tonight.”
Ava positioned her head so that the barrel of the gun was at the center of her forehead. “I’m done watching you, trying to figure out why you did it, or why you didn’t finish me off. Just do it and finish what you started now so, we both won’t have to worry about anything anymore.”
Ava’s mother looked at her curiously. “Really? I thought you’d last longer. I didn’t raise you to give up, Ava.”
“Shut up!” Ava screamed. “Just do it already! I’d rather be dead with Dad than breathing the same air as you. Go on, finish it!” Ava was shaking with tears. She didn’t know what was going to happen next, and she did not want to know. Ava didn’t really care at this point. She just wanted her life back. And since that couldn’t happen, she thought she might as well not live.
Ava’s mother was still holding the barrel of the gun to her daughter’s forehead. She said nothing.
They stared at each other for another minute, mother and daughter, silent and crying, motionless and quivering, until Ava’s mother broke the silence. She sighed.
“Anything for you, dear.”
Ava’s mother blinked when she heard the bang, and the body of her daughter crumpled to the ground. She turned the other way, her heels echoing with every step.
She never looked back.