all the money she had in the world, Ava realized that she didn’t have enough to fly back to New York City. At least not first class, and there was no way in hell she was flying anything but.
“Is it all there, Ava?” asked a burly older corrections officer with broad shoulders and salt-and-pepper, close-cropped hair. He had been working there all seven years that Ava had been incarcerated, but this was the first time she had given him a second look. He was actually quite handsome. He appeared to be five years or so younger than Ava, so he was really the right age. But she figured even if he received a bonus or overtime, he only made fifty grand tops. For Ava to even consider him, he’d have to add at least two more zeros to the end of that figure. Besides, wealthy men would be lining up once they heard that Ava was free and single again. She still saw herself as a traffic-stopping beauty with big doe-brown eyes and long, thick lashes. The country girl called Miss Brickhouse by boys in her hometown when she strolled down the street in Jackson, Tennessee. The girl who had become a woman and lived her life large with few regrets and fewer attachments. Ava had dined with Moroccan royalty, partied with rich Frenchmen, married a count and been pursued by wealthy men all over the world. But her fall from grace was a long, hard fall because of how high she had climbed so fast.
“Yes,” Ava smiled, batting her eyes at the muscular man. “Everything is here.”
After five hours of freedom, Ava found herself in seemingly the most disgusting place on earth—a small-town Greyhound bus station, wearing her outdated, too-tight fashions at that.
She had landed there after countless failed attempts at reaching her daughter to have her wire money for clothes, a first-class planeticket, and some extra cash to get her nails, hair and eyebrows done. Ava couldn’t even think about stepping on a plane looking the way she did. What if she were seated next to an eligible, aging man on her flight to New York City? A man with, let’s say, millions in the bank. A generous man with a failing heart, who knew he had only a limited time left on this earth, but wanted to marry a beautiful, incredibly fabulous, middle-aged woman and leave her his fortune.
After standing around next to pay phones for hours, waiting for Yancey to call her back, Ava finally accepted the fact that she would have to use the bus ticket provided by the state to get back to New York.
Why hadn’t Yancey returned her calls? Ava wondered. The two had called a truce over their mother-daughter battles while Ava was in jail. Yancey had accepted her collect calls during the seven years Ava was away and had even visited her mother at least twice a year. Maybe Yancey didn’t know that Ava was being released early.
With ticket in hand and the bus in sight, Ava made one final attempt to get in touch with Yancey. When she couldn’t, Ava lowered her head and sadly boarded the bus as if its destination was not New York, but back to the prison she was released from.
The ride was a horrible nine-hour affair, filled with the noise of a screaming infant, a quarreling couple and a group of immigrants arguing in a language that Ava didn’t understand.
Ava huddled in a window seat, staring out at the darkened, star-filled sky as the countless miles sped past her. This was the lowest she had ever felt. Lower than when she was convicted and sent to jail. At least there she was considered a diva among her fellow inmates, passing out makeup tips and sharing stories of life among the rich and famous. At that moment on that speeding dark bus, with the portable bathroom only three seats down from her, smelling so bad it made her stomach do somersaults, Ava vowed she would never sink this low again.
When Ava reached the Port Authority on 42nd Street in New York, she quickly hailed a cab and was taken to more familiar, appropriate surroundings—Yancey’s fancy East Side town house.