Part 13 – New York
Avis woke the next morning to the sound of a clock radio going off. Music filled her room, the contemporary alternative style that is repeated over and over until you’re sick of it. She groaned under the sheets until she managed to move towards the side table by her bed. The digits glowed at her, seven-fifteen in the morning. How long had she slept? Avis didn’t even remember going to sleep, she was tying to get into that box from her mother, with little success. Sure enough the more Avis moved around, her foot eventually hit the box that was now under the sheets pushed down to the end of her bed. She sighed and set the box on the nearby desk, it would have to wait until later.
The school uniform still hung perfectly on the door of her closet. With much reluctance she took it and found the nearest washroom. A new school, yet again. How many times had her mother moved her around when she was a kid? Five, six? Some of the places they went didn’t even have proper schools and her mother would have hired a tutor or someone to teach her during the day.
Avis had to admit, it hadn’t been all bad, who else at age fifteen could claim they’ve been to Africa, many parts of Europe and even Japan? That didn’t include Canada where she was born and spent the first seven years of her life. Except, the first day was always the hardest to get through, and Avis wasn’t known to make friends easily or well. Looking at herself in the mirror, with the new uniform on, the voice of her mother flowed through her ears.
“Be respectful, be good, don’t give yourself away… and don’t start any fights.” Avis said, the words memorized followed by a smile that faltered almost into tears. “Crying won’t bring her back!” Avis told her reflection, wiping the tears away before they could fall. “You’ve got to face reality, she’s not coming back and it’s all up to you now…”
Yeah, up to a fifteen year old to find a space ship worthy enough to fly through countless solar systems to the one planet where her mother came from. A piece of cake, Avis though with heavy sarcasm. She washed her face, to clear away any more tears and red eyes before heading back to her room to stuff her school bag with her new laptop, phone and wallet, as well as anything else she could need; Pens, a pad of paper, and pencils, before scurrying downstairs.
She flung her bag next to the elevator doors, tuned towards the kitchen and stopped dead in her tracks, like a deer in headlights. Before her, sitting at one of the island chairs was a tall, dark-haired man who looked just as startled as her. He had the same blue eyes as Avis, and her heart skipped a beat when she realized it. Of course she knew it was Malcolm Locklear, the scientists, inventor, billionaire playboy. She had seen his face all over the media, but never in person, never with him in a simple white t-shirt with his corporation logo printed on the back and track pants. It almost looked like he was coming back from a gym workout, though he didn’t look exhausted or sweaty.
“Morning.” Malcolm said, shifting in his chair uncomfortably, returning to the paper in front of him.
“Morning.” Avis echoed, though she didn’t move. She felt paralyzed in that moment, unable to voice the questions she had for him, or the outrage of him not being in her life. There was a part of her that wanted to scream at him, another part to ignore him all together, and yet another part who wanted to know about his latest device that created artificial gravity fields. Every emotion and train of thought fought together, making her silent and still.
“There is food in the fridge…” Malcolm said, turning once more to look at her. “There’s coffee too, don’t know what kids your age do for breakfast.”
Something shifted in Avis and she managed to make her body move again. It might have been the rumbling in he stomach with the basic instinct to eat. She felt her father’s stare on her with every step she made towards the kitchen, how she opened the fridge to look, then turned to cupboards, opening them one by one until she found something she craved. A bowl and spoon ready, she poured the contents of cereal into her bowl, followed by sugar and milk before having to face her father’s stare head on again.
For the next ten minutes the two sat across from each other in silence, each busy with their own task, Malcolm reading the paper, and Avis eating her cereal. Every once in a while Avis would look up and notice her father’s eyes dart away from her face. The awkwardness grew more intense when it was clear her father had finished reading the paper, but didn’t fold it up or leave right away. Avis, herself was nearing the end of her breakfast, and looked to the clock for the time, but realized she didn’t know when school started or when she was expected to leave.
“The driver will be waiting for you out front.” Malcolm said finally, breaking the silence and tension with his deep low voice. “I’ll be working a lot from now on, with contracts and such. You are welcome to visit the gym and pool, but all labs are restricted and out-of-bounds.”
“Eve said that yesterday.” Avis said, and watched her father fluster with the paper.
“Yes, well, I’m not to be disturbed. This work is important and I don’t have time to babysit a kid. I take it you can look after yourself?”
The anger came back to Avis as she felt her face grow red. “I don’t need a sitter!” She said, rather too aggressively.
“Maybe not… but there’s a lot of dangerous tools around this place. You do understand it’s for your safety I’m putting these rules in place?” Malcolm said.
“Safety or security?” Avis questioned back. This took her father off guard as he stared at her in a mixed expression of shock and amusement.
“Both, to be honest with you. The military has asked for my assistance on a classified project. This is big for me, for many reasons and I don’t want a nosy teenager to ruin things, you understand?” Malcolm said, leaning in. Avis felt that for the first time he was looking at her equally instead of some child he had somehow inherited.
“Military? Does this have to do with your Art-Grave device?” Avis asked, her curiosity now aroused.
“Mmm… Eve said you’ve got a solid head on your shoulders.” Malcolm said, leaning back on his chair. “I don’t want distractions, or trouble out of you, okay? The military will sure to start sending people over, guards and security personal too if I know their style. They don’t even know about you yet, and I want to keep it that way for as long as possible.”
“But… maybe I can help?” Avis asked, her face giving off a hopeful look.
“This isn’t some science fair project, kid-“
“-Avis. This is a multi-million dollar project that is going to revolutionize the way we see our galaxy. Now… I see that look on your face, and know what it is. I don’t want you getting messed up with this, or these people. So, to try and keep you at peace, I’ll make you a deal.” Malcolm said.
“Deal? What kind of deal?”
“The deal is, if you can avoid my labs for the next few months… the moment those military people have gone I’ll give you a personal tour of everything in this building.”
Avis paused, and looked skeptically at her estranged father. A few months? Did he really think it would only take him that long? Was there a loophole she was missing? But, the chance to see his labs was too much of an opportunity that she didn’t want to mess it up. “Okay, I’ll stay out of your way for the next few months.”
Her father seemed satisfied with her word, nodding his head and turning towards the stairs up to the loft. “Good. You should probably get going for school.”
“Right, bye.” Avis said, though Malcolm Locklear was already half way up the stairs. She grabbed her school bag and entered the elevator, a smirk on her face. She agreed not to get in his way, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t see what was happening in the labs, not if she could hack into his security camera feed. Avis left the building and headed off to school with an extra bounce in her step.