In the last two weeks, Ava felt as though she was tiptoeing around everything.
Around the dinner party. Around the entire city. Around her brother.
Jake hadn't been causing as many problems as she expected him to. It wasn’t comfortable, though. They ate dinner together, sitting at her table in silence. Ava couldn't bring herself to look him directly in the eye. If she did, she was afraid she’d break.
On this particular afternoon, Jake was leaning on the kitchen counter, eyes narrowed as he looked at a wrapped box.
“Do you know who sent this to us?” he asked her, turning it over in his hands. The paper was red, almost as dark as blood, with a gold ribbon tied across it.
“To me, you mean?” Ava said. “My name’s on the lease, not yours.”
Ava felt his star boring into her. “Does it really matter?”
“Just open it,” Ava said, irritation seeping into her voice.
Without a further comment, Jake tore through the paper and lifted the lid. His eyebrows knitted together in confusion. “I don’t get it.”
“What is it?”
“It’s, well,” Jake began, reaching into the box to pull it out. “It’s a cassette tape.”
When they went to the Christmas tree lighting, Ava carried it with her in her purse.
The ceremony was nothing special. It was the same as it had always been. The entire apartment complex was huddled together on the roof, waiting for the lights to drown out the stars in the sky.
After, Jake decided to go home. Ava decided to take a walk.
She found herself wandering aimlessly, so lost in her thoughts that she would up at the pond. It was somewhere she didn't come often, as she preferred to sit on the shore of the beach and dig her toes into the sand.
She sat on the dock after taking her shoes off, letting her toes skim across the freezing surface of the water. Ice was starting to form around the banks, and she was starting to lose feeling in her feet, but she didn't really mind.
As she began to feel the cold spread through her veins, she put her cassette on and wondered about the soul that could make such a sad playlist.