Bad Ava, Good Ava
I sat in my hunter green Range Rover, hands resting on my steering wheel, forehead resting on my hands, wondering what in the hell I was doing. Not only that I was parked on 15th Street outside the Nightingale Investigations offices, where Luke worked, but any of it, all of it, the whole shebang.
Do it, do it, you know you want to do it. Teeny, tiny Bad Ava, wearing a lacy red teddy, red stockings, spike-heeled, patent-leather red pumps and devil’s ears, sat on my right shoulder and whispered in my ear.
Don’t do it, go home, do yoga, light candles, meditate. Teeny, tiny Good Ava, wearing a white satin teddy edged in soft, fluffy feathers, gold high-heeled sandals with straps that crisscrossed up her calves and sporting a glittery gold halo, sat on my left shoulder and whispered in my ear.
“I’m going nuts,” me, the real Ava, said out loud.
You aren’t nuts. You want to see him. You’ve wanted to see him for four years. Girl, you are shit-hot now. Let him get a load of you! Bad Ava reminded me.
This was true (not the shit-hot part, the other parts).
Go home, call Sissy and tell her you can’t do it. Then call Luke and ask him over for dinner like a normal person. Don’t do this. Don’t! Good Ava said.
Do it, go in there, suck him in, chew him up, spit him out. Men stink! Bad Ava encouraged.
Luke doesn’t stink. We like Luke, Good Ava protested, leaning around my neck to glare at Bad Ava.
Bad Ava gave Good Ava the finger. Good Ava poked her tongue out at Bad Ava.
I ignored them.
Men did stink; this was true. Men were scum. All of them. Luke too.
I had known Luke Stark since he moved in across the street when I was eight years old and he was twelve. He was the most gorgeous boy I had ever seen in my little girl life and, when I saw him at his Dad’s funeral five years ago, I realized he had turned into the most gorgeous man.
Men stunk, on the whole, but Luke had always been ultra nice to me. But then, as a kid, I was fat, four-eyed and had mousy brown hair. And when I saw him at the funeral, I was still fat (more so), four-eyed and had mousy brown hair. So, I figured all that time he probably felt sorry for me.
Now, I was seventy-five pounds lighter, wearing contacts and had my hair streaked blonde (a partial streak just the top and sides, the bottom back I left alone and for some bizarre reason, against the blonde, it had turned a burnished chestnut color that was the same color as both my glamorous sisters’ hair; the hair I had always wanted all my life, even prayed for but never had, until now).
Last time I saw Luke he was wearing all black: black suit, black shirt, black tie. It was a funeral but Luke had always been partial to black, and I was glad because he looked good in it, even when he was a teenager he usually wore tight, black t-shirts, black motorcycle boots and jeans. I noted this like I noted everything about Luke. He had black hair and on first glance, black eyes though, his eyes were really a dark, dark indigo and totally yum. At the funeral, I noticed he had grown a beard: not full and thick, but short and trimmed and it looked great on him.
I nearly melted into a puddle when his eyes moved through the graveside crowd, stopped on me, got soft and one side of his mouth went up in one of his half-grins that made him look so yumalicious you wanted to pounce on him. Instead of shoving the mourners aside and pouncing (which would have been highly inappropriate), I just gave him what I hoped was a jaunty wink and a stupid half-wave. The grin went full-fledged (guess the jaunty wink worked, but then again my stupid, dorky behavior always seemed to amuse Luke) and he turned away.
That was the very day I decided to turn my life around and that was the day I turned my life on its f**king head.
I rued that day.
I never thought I would rue anything but I rued that day for certain.
However, now I needed Luke.
I knew from my Mom talking to his Mom (they were still friends even though Luke’s Mom had moved into a condo in Governor’s Park and my Mom had moved to Phoenix), not to mention from Ally and Indy, my Rock Chick friends, that Luke was some kind of kickass mercenary, bounty hunter, private investigator-type guy who worked for Ally’s brother and Indy’s fiancé, Lee Nightingale.
Luke had always been a badass. Two days after he moved in across the street I caught him in the alley smoking cigarettes. He was twelve and smoking in the alley and at eight I thought that was way cool. When he grew up, he drove muscle cars (loud and fast) and motorcycles (again, loud and fast) and sat in his Dad’s garage with the door rolled up, lifting weights. I watched this out of my bedroom window and it was better than anything on television, believe you me. He always had a different girlfriend and you could tell they were all easy but a nun would turn easy at one look at Luke. And he was also always getting into trouble. I heard his Mom telling my Mom about it a lot. He’d been picked up by the cops more than once while out carousing. He was a tough guy in high school and he roared off the day of his graduation after one of his many rip-roarin’ fights with his Dad and became a tougher guy (I heard his Mom… well, you get the drift).
And right now I needed a tough guy.
“Shit,” I said out loud.
You go get him, girl, Bad Ava said.
Be nice, Good Ava said.
Before I could chicken out, I got out of the Range Rover and went into the building.
* * * * *
I had serious second thoughts about my choice of clothing the minute I opened the door to the offices of Nightingale Investigations. I thought tough guy, mercenary, bounty hunting private eyes would have shithole offices. Couches with the stuffing sticking out; filing cabinets with wire baskets on top overflowing with papers; dirty coffee cups; debris floating around – stuff like that.
Nightingale Investigations’ reception area was all smooth, gleaming wood paneled walls, expensive leather couches (with no stuffing coming out at all), a huge cowboy print in a heavy, carved-wood frame, a bronze statue of a bucking bronco in the corner and a mammoth reception desk with a state-of-the-art computer on it.
The desk was the only thing in the room not neat and tidy. It was a mess and there was a pretty, older, black woman sitting behind it. She had the biggest Afro I had ever seen in my life and she appeared to be both eating a calzone and painting her fingernails a frosty, raspberry sherbet-type color.
I was wearing seriously faded Levi’s I’d found in a vintage clothing store (and they were the best), my black Green Day t-shirt over a white thermal, black flip-flops and my silver. I was a silver freak and that day (as with every day) I was dripping with it, four silver necklaces, five silver bracelets on my right wrist, three on my left, long, silver hoops at my ears and nearly all my fingers had heavy silver rings or bands on them. I’d slopped my hair in a messy knot on top of my head with a ponytail holder and I’d gone makeup free.