It was clear by the way she reacted that she was in utter shock; the loss of five years must have hit her hard when she saw her family. Az let her go and she ran to her mom and dad who despite their differences were hugging one another and crying. They took her into their arms and kissed her forehead. Her mother took Ava's face in her hands and whispered to her laughing and crying all at the same time. Ava turned to her father and hugged him tight for a long time. The man held back the majority of his tears and stroked her hair gently. Next she greeted her sisters and older brother. They all laughed and cried while they held each others hands and passed hugs around continuously.
The police officers stood by and kept the media at bay. Cameras were flashing and they were attempting to shove their microphones in the family's face. Azarias and Nina walked forward after a moment and introduced themselves. Ava's mom hugged the two of them and treated them like old friends. Her father shook their hands firmly and thanked Azarias several times.
Caiden was watching this all from a close distance. He stood with Cora, Brad, Sienna, and their children. He fidgeted nonstop, moving his hands from his pockets to his sides and then crossing them over his chest. Cora placed a hand on his back and smiled. Kara took hold of his sleeve and pulled.
"Uncle Caiden, that girl looks familiar." She said softly. Caiden laughed, tears spilling from his eyes. He was surprised that she remembered at all, she had been so young before, now she was almost ten.
"Ava, sweetie." It was her mother speaking. Ava was in the midst of a group of with some of her school friends, most of which had gotten married and had children. Their lives were able to continue without a hitch.
"Yeah mom," She said with tears in her eyes. She took her mother's extended hand a stepped closer to her.
"Come here." Her mother said gently. She placed her arms around Ava's shoulders and turned her in Caiden's direction. Caiden stepped forward and took a deep breath. Suddenly he felt extremely self conscious, as if the smell of his breath would really matter at this point.
Ava's eyes went wide and she just froze. Her mother urged her forward and motioned for Caiden to speak.
"Ava..." He started, then stopped. Up close he realized that she hadn't changed, she looked like she had when the day she disappeared. "Don't ever do that to me again." He said pulling her into his arms.
She stood there stiffly in complete silence. Then she pushed him off and glared at him. Caiden looked her over confused, why was she angry?
"Do that to you?!" She said in a sharp tone. "I didn't run away. You don't know the half of it Caiden."
"I know, I just..." Caiden stuttered but Ava's attention was turned to Cora now. He hadn't meant to sound so condescending; the words just came out wrong. Brad put a hand on Caiden's shoulder and pulled him back.
"Maybe we shouldn't have come." He said. Caiden looked at his brother and just nodded. Sienna was attempting to calm down the baby, and Kara was standing behind her mother.
"My name's Cora." Caiden's friend said. Ava looked her up and down and felt the urge to cry. She told Azarias herself that she couldn't expect him to wait for her or even search for her for five plus years. But seeing the skimpy blonde with him just now made all her sensibility disappear.
"Nice to meet you." Ava said flatly. Then she turned back to Caiden and his family. Looking at them made her wish she was back in her cage in hell. She could feel her heart breaking. There were two children with Brad and Sienna, beautiful children.
"Ava, it's so good to see you." Sienna said pulling her into her arms. Ava hugged her back and looked at the child she held in her hand. The baby was blubbering and talking nonsense the way babies do. Ava touched the baby's arm and smiled.
"You're children are beautiful. Kara's grown up." She said smiling down at the girl. Brad pulled her into a tight hug and shook her a little bit.
"You're fucking lucky." He muttered.
"I've been told." She said. "It doesn't exactly feel that way.."
"No I guess not." Sienna said. "Do you want to hold her?" She held the baby out to her and smiled.
Ava took the child in her hands and positioned her against her hip. The baby looked at her and giggled and tried to pull her hair.
"No," Ava cooed.
"We named her after you." Brad said hesitantly. "So far she's a handful, kinda like you."
Ava swallowed and plastered a smile on her face, she wanted to cry, but now wasn't the time to do that. She looked at the baby and then to her parents.
"That's so sweet." Ava handed the child back to Sienna and tugged at her shirt. She looked back to her family and sighed. She thought she would be happier at this moment.
"Ms. Holland," Hossler said as he approached. "We need to get you out of here. The press is getting a little out of hand."
"Yes, I am tired anyway." She replied. The officers began moving towards the exists and Ava regrouped with her family and Azarias.
"Ava, wait." Caiden said. He stepped forward and tried to catch up with them. He needed to tell her everything, he needed to tell her he loved her. He wanted to take her into his arms and never let her go. He wanted to let her know that it was all his fault he didn't save her, that he had been too slow.
"Caiden, you need to leave it alone." Azarias said spinning around. He was tense and the anger was clear in his voice.
"Explain what?" He said standing straight. "Explain why you didn't try to save her? Explain why you didn't try harder to find her, why you gave up on her?"
Caiden pushed Az back and the anger began to boil inside him. He stepped forward closer to Azarias and grabbed a hold of his shirt.
"I didn't try?! I looked for a year in those woods where she disappeared. I put fliers up all over the city, several times. I harassed the local and state police for over a year demanding that they didn't let her case go cold." Caiden was almost screaming. "I never gave up on her."
"Then who is she?" Ava asked from behind Azarias. She was tugging at his arm and trying to pull him back. A tan blonde girl was doing the same.
"You couldn't expect him to wait that long." Cora said, which wasn't going to help the situation. It wasn't like that at all, both of them needed to understand that. Cora placed her hand gently on Caiden's arm and urged him back.
"Nina, Ava, you can let go of me." Azarias said, he seemed more calm. But now Ava was infuriated.
"Couldn't wait?" She asked. "Couldn't wait a couple of years.Try fifty years, I waited fifty years to come back home and I never gave up hope."
"You... you were only gone five years..." Caiden muttered. Ava's eyes grew wide.
"Well, it felt like fifty, but regardless, if I could wait for fifty why could you not wait five?" She said quickly, but something in her voice made Caiden wonder.
This time it was Azarias' turn to pull Ava away. It took both federal agents to restrain her and pull her away from Caiden. She looked completely insane when she screamed, a look Caiden hadn't seen before in her.
"You may as well go home son. I think it is probably best if you stay away for awhile." One of the agents said.
Then they were gone. Caiden had missed his chance to make everything right. He spun around and kicked the closest thing to him, a chair. It barely moved an inch and he immediately regretted kicking it. His toe throbbed.
"Let's go." Cora said, she took his hand and tried to pull him toward the main exit. Caiden pulled away from her and stalked off alone.
Okay I am officially thinking two more chapters and maybe an epilogue. <3 Ava is home and things are all back to normal... well okay not really. I wanted to cry, writing this chapter. But as always my lovelies like, favorite, and comment. It means the world to me.