“Ava?” asked Jayne.
Ava closed her eyes. “Yes, I was just listening to your voice mail. I was in a meeting when you called earlier.”
“A meeting? On Sunday? Are you going to church now?” Her sister laughed.
“No. It was work.”
“Can you come pick me up? I need to get there before eleven. You don’t have to give me a ride home.”
“Who has job interviews on a Sunday?” Ava asked. She’d learned the hard way not to believe a word her sister said. Where did she so badly need to be on a Sunday?
“It’s a restaurant. They want me to come in before the lunch rush. They need a bartender.”
“Is that a smart job to consider?” Jayne’s history was littered with drug and alcohol addiction. Every time she told Ava she was clean and never getting high again, she’d lose a job because she was too stoned or hungover to show for her shifts.
“Jesus Christ. Don’t get all bossy. I need a job, and they’re hiring. You don’t know what it’s like not to have any income. You managed to find a great job.”
Jayne had special skills; nothing was ever her fault, and she could make Ava feel guilty about her own success with one sentence—and imply that Ava only had a good job because of luck. Not because she worked her butt off and made personal sacrifices.
While Ava was running obstacle courses and studying her brain out at the FBI Academy, Jayne was flitting from boyfriend to boyfriend and trying every drug they laid in front of her.
“Where is your interview?” Ava looked at the clock in her vehicle. She’d told the Fairbankses she’d be back by noon. She still had a few hours.
Jayne gave a squeal of joy and gushed with love for Ava.
Ava gritted her teeth.
Fifteen minutes later, she pulled up in front of Jayne’s apartment building and sent a text that she’d arrived.
She waited, tapping her steering wheel as she debated the wisdom of doing her sister a favor. Every encounter with her sister seemed to cause some havoc in her own life. Ava would drop her off at the restaurant and leave. End of event. That couldn’t cause any repercussions, right?
Jayne dashed from the building, and Ava caught her breath. She hadn’t seen Jayne in several months. She was blonde again. And extremely thin.
Ava reached to move her purse from the passenger seat, but Jayne grabbed it. “I’ll hold it. It’s not in my way. Good to see you, sis!” She leaned over the console between the seats and gave Ava a hug and kissed her cheek. She prattled on about the job while Ava took stock of her sister’s appearance. Jayne’s hair was long and curled, parted on the side and dyed a bright blonde that made Ava’s eyes hurt. Her brows were shaped into strong dark wings, and her top was cut way too low. Especially for a job interview. She had to be wearing the best push-up bra in the United States. Her sister was deep in a Jayne Mansfield phase.
Ava wanted to cry.
When Jayne embraced the image of the actress, it meant she had lost touch with herself. She became someone else, an actress who’d died violently in the prime of her life.
The phases terrified Ava on a visceral level. Jayne demonstrated what Ava could be capable of. She hated her sister for displaying how low Ava’s genetics could take her. Only sheer willpower and determination kept Ava on a different path than Jayne.
She focused on the road, holding the steering wheel in a death grip as Jayne continued to talk. She couldn’t look at her sister anymore; she saw herself with platinum hair and boobs that screamed for attention.
I’d never be like that. I’ll never be like that.
Or would she? What if her life suddenly went to shit? What if that bottle of wine became all she could think about? What would she do to find a job?
“Hey, did you get a new car? What happened to the Honda?” Jayne’s question penetrated her fog.
“I still have the Honda. This is a company car.” She tried not to talk about her job with Jayne. It would lead to more questions and trigger Jayne’s habit of giving backhanded compliments.
“That’s right, you said you had a work meeting today. That’s crazy that they make you work on weekends. You’d think that a prestigious job like that would be nine to five.”
“Crime doesn’t take the weekends off.”
“What are you working on today? You don’t look like you’re dressed for the office. You look like you’re going to the county fair.”
Ava bit the inside of her cheek. She was wearing jeans and boots. Her standard weekend wear. She swallowed a comment about Jayne’s skintight jeggings. Teenagers could get away with wearing those, not women her age.
“I’m not in the office today. We’re working on site.”
“Ohh. Did someone get killed? Where are you working?”
Ava strangled her steering wheel. “No one has been killed. There’s a child missing.”
“The little blonde girl on the news? I saw that. That’s so sad. You’re searching somewhere for her today?”
“No, I’m staying at the family’s home, keeping them informed of the investigation.”
“Like sleeping in their house? Living there? That’s got to be weird. I don’t know if I could do something like that. It’s a good thing you got that job and not me.” Jayne went into an in-depth description of an art show she’d attended recently.
Ava sighed. Whenever Jayne heard about Ava’s job, she changed the topic to art to demonstrate that her life was just as important as her sister’s. Jayne always talked about Ava’s position like Jayne had been an inch a way from working for the bureau but simply chose not to. Familiar territory. And Ava let Jayne think that way; it seemed to make her feel better.