Hello and welcome to the companion story to Maddiecat's famous Metamorphosis! I am taking this one and only time to say that this is written with full permission from Maddiecat. All characters belong to her, as do later parts that coincide directly with what happens in Metamorphosis. I'm doing my best to make sure the canon of this works with what has been established in Metamorphosis, but this story should be able to stand alone; you don't need to worry about whether or not you've read Metamorphosis prior to reading this, though I will indicate in later chapters when the two stories begin to overlap.
Now, without further ado, please enjoy Companion. (Also, fun fact: As I am the occasional easter egg in Maddiecat's stories, so too is she in mine. Only she and I know exactly where and what these eggs are, but it's still kind of silly.)
Kindergarten was when it started. The other children would ask Ava why one man would pick her up somedays, but a totally different man would pick her up on other days, and why did she call them both "Daddy?" They didn't quite understand. They scoffed at her and told her she couldn't "do that" when she scribbled out "Mom" on the "Who's In Your Family?" worksheet and put another "Dad" instead, and then put a drawing of the thin red headed man holding hands with the very tan man underneath those captions. She would frown and tell them she didn't have a Mom, just two Dads, and they would tell her she had to have a Mom!
"Why?" snapped Ava after all of the children in the surrounding cluster of desks had told her so.
"Because everyone has a mom," sneered a plump girl with strawberry-blonde pigtails. She had her arms crossed haughtily.
"I don't," retorted Ava, going back to carefully choosing a color for Danny's shirt from her box of 64 Crayola crayons, which were carefully sorted by color. She grit her teeth and stared unblinkingly at her work, unhappy from being ganged up on and confused about why.
"You must have a mom! Everyone does!" This was, of course, infallible logic for five-year-olds. The other children leaned in, fascinated by this exchange. Ava began to shake a bit, gripping her favorite crayon, the pure and simple "Blue," and accidentally snapping it in three. "Are you gonna cry?" jeered the pigtailed girl, raising her eyebrows. "Is it because you don't have a mom?"
Ava curled in on herself as if she could hide behind the solidity of her desk, perhaps even crawl into the little nook under the writing surface. Tears were indeed welling in her eyes, but luckily the teacher called for everyone to line up for lunch just then, so she was saved from the continuous ridiculing. Her group-mates quickly scribbled any remaining details onto their worksheets and scrambled from their desks to turn them in. Ava sadly held the tip-third of her blue crayon between her thumb and forefinger to finish Danny's shirt and then used her pencil to hurriedly give Mason long, straight hair and stood, holding her worksheet against her chest to hide it from her classmates before giving it to her teacher in a way that it was immediately hidden by the next worksheet to be turned in.
When Mason showed up to take her home, Ava shot up from the seated line of waiting students and ran to the archway where the teacher was standing to hand off each child to their parent or, in the very rare case, authorized guardian. She shifted irritably from foot to foot as Mason smiled at her teacher and tried to make quick small talk. When they were finally in the sanctity of the car and Ava, who had been staring intently out the window of the car at the students who had been watching judgingly, deemed it safe, Ava settled down in her seat with a release of air. Mason glanced at her a couple times.
"Is everything alright?" he asked in his deep voice, which instantly soothed his daughter, though she still took a moment to reply.
"I don't think the other kids like me" she said in a small voice, staring down at her jelly sandals.
"Why do you think the other kids don't like you?" he asked, calm and understanding. Kids were bound to tease each other for any reason they could find, especially before they got a chance to know each other. It was only a few days into the year, so it was probably going to happen the most at this time.
"I dunno. This girl in my group says that everyone has a mom, but I don't have one so..." She looked up at him with her big, light brown eyes. Mason swallowed; he'd been anticipating something like this happening.
"Ava, do you remember what we've told you about our family?" He and Danny had been very careful about making sure that Ava understood how she was adopted, that her biological mother loved her very much from her place in Heaven, and that Danny and he were her fathers no matter what and they loved her and were all a family. Ava nodded in response. "Other kids aren't used to meeting families like ours. All they have been taught about families is that there is a mom and a dad, and that's what's 'normal' to them." He smiled and waved at a friend of his from the community center, who was out walking his dog by the park. Ava was concentrating too hard to wave at him too. It gave Mason a moment to carefully evaluate his words. "I know it's hard having the other kids not understand, and they may be mean to you at first, but just give them time to get to know you and you'll be making friends before you know it. I'm sure you'll be just fine." He glanced at his little girl while stopped at a red light.
Ava stared ahead, black eyebrows furrowed, mulling this over. She hadn't expected this from her new classmates. She hadn't known what to expect, really. She knew lots of kids of all different ages, including her own, at the community center at which her parents and she practically spent most of their waking time volunteering, but they were nothing like these strange classmates of hers. These kids wore different clothes, had different hair, and acted differently as well. They were in their own little world where all they did was play video games and watch TV when they weren't playing on playgrounds with their friends, and apparently all their families consisted of a mom and a dad. Ava's community center friends tended to have just one parent, often just a mother, and they spoke different languages sometimes and wore simple, worn clothes. Her new classmates wore brand new clothes with fancy designs on them, even rhinestones on many of the girls' shirts and backpacks, and most of them reminded Ava of the toy aisles of the local Wal-Mart, all color-coded and shiny and bright. Ava had, on her first day, assumed that this was just what they looked like at school, since her dads had dressed her up in new clothes and a new backpack with butterflies on it, but now wasn't so sure. Maybe they were just different.
Ava relaxed her face, satisfied; she could handle different. She'd been to friends' birthday parties before, and their houses were all different like the school environment was, so she just had to settle in and get used to it, and then everything would be okay.
Mason smiled, knowing that Ava was a bright, thoughtful girl and would be just fine.
At dinner, Ava asked her dads if she could invite the kids in her group over for a playdate, thinking that having them get to know her in this more personal way might help them all get along better. Mason and Danny looked at each other and smiled tightly at her, saying they would look into it.
That weekend was spent at the community center pool. Ava was trying to get all the summer fun she could before the impending fall season changed up everything. She decided this would be a perfect way to get to know her new classmate friends, since pools were always fun and the community center would be an easier place to have different kids meet, since their parents could also stay and chaperone. Danny printed out three information cards for Ava's group, including the date, time, address of the community center, and the White's home phone number so the parents could call them during the week. Ava excitedly tucked the cards securely into a side pocket of her new backpack so she wouldn't forget them, not that she would either way. The playdate was the most forthright thing on her mind that weekend.
When Monday finally came, Ava was up and ready to go to school almost an hour before it was actually time to leave. She restlessly rolled around on the couch while Mason adjusted his tie in the hall mirror, yawning slightly. She sprawled over the back of the couch while Mason smoothed his shoulder-length black hair into a neat ponytail. She slipped onto her back on the floor while Mason slipped his wallet and keys into his trouser pockets. He withheld a little smile of amusement at his daughter's antics, not looking away from the mirror even as she "suffered" with impatience.
"Daddyyyy," she groaned as she slinked back onto the couch and pouted at him over the back of it. "I want to go to school!" She plunked her little chin down onto the back of the couch, shifting when the soft, worn fibers of it tickled her.
Mason smiled over his shoulder at her as he buttoned his suit jacket. "School doesn't start for another hour. Your father isn't even up yet to make your lunch." He checked himself in the mirror a final time and clicked open his briefcase to make sure he had everything he needed for the day. He was actually running about twenty minutes late, but he never got to see his daughter in the morning, since she was still fast asleep when he left for the office, so was dawdling heavily to enjoy these minutes.
"Ugh, but I want to ask my group about this weekend!" She crossed her arms on the back of the couch and rested her head on them to see him better, since he was so tall she always had to crane her neck to look up at him, even when he was sitting down.
"It's only Monday, sweetheart; the playdate isn't until Saturday. You have an entire week to find out if your friends can come or not. Besides, none of them are even at school yet. They're probably still asleep." He looked around a bit. "I need to go to work now. I love you, have fun at school." Ava stood up on the couch cushion expectantly and he leaned down to kiss her goodbye. Mason then picked up his briefcase and turned to leave. He paused. "Ava...don't be disappointed if things don't work out as planned." He hid his expression from her, not wanting her to see that he was a bit sad.
Ava cocked her head. "Um, okay." Something in his tone made her not want to argue. Mason nodded and smiled another quick goodbye at her over his shoulder and left for work at last. Ava, now more pacified, slumped down into the corner of the couch and yawned deeply before snuggling up on the cushion and falling back asleep, where Danny would find her in twenty minutes when he went downstairs to make her lunch (and locate her, since she hadn't been in her bedroom).
Until Wednesday, Ava was caught up enough with schoolwork, which was starting to pick up more as the introductory stuff had been dealt with, that she was distracted enough from her planned playdate to keep time moving at a more moderate pace. Ava had talked delightedly to her group-mates about how much fun it would be at the pool whenever they had a free moment, though, and the group ignored her for the most part. On Wednesday, however, Ava's dads had news about the plans.
After dinner was eaten and Mason was clearing away the table, Danny wove his fingers together and rested them on his lap. "Sweetie-pie, you should know that none of the parents have called yet. We just want to make sure you'll be prepared if no one can come."
Ava scrunched up her face and looked intently at the table. She hadn't wanted to think about that, since she'd already had a bit of an inkling from how the kids at her group ignored her as much as they could. "I know..." she grumbled.
"We can still have fun at the pool this weekend. We should also catch the last weekend Bogo's is open, yeah?" Bogo's was their favorite ice cream fountain, but it was only open seasonally. Danny tried to smile reassuringly. Ava was silent before asking if she could be excused. Then, she went to her room and closed the door. Danny and Mason shared a worried look.
The next day, Ava marched purposefully to the small playground at the front of the school, where her group suddenly looked up at her from their conversation next to the slide. They huddled a little farther together to whisper hurriedly, snickering a bit. Ava was too young to properly recognize when she was being the target of gossip, so simply strode over. "Hey," she greeted, trying to be casual but failing. They stopped talking again, looking a bit annoyed, and looked up at her.
"What do you want?" the strawberry-blonde, whose name was Jessica, sneered lightly. "We're talking."
Ava blinked at her. "I," she began haltingly, "was just wondering if you asked your parents about Saturday yet." She had a small hope that they had just not asked yet, and that was why no one had called to confirm.
Jessica stuck her nose in the air. "My mom and dad say I shouldn't go to some faggy party," she jeered haughtily, using a word her parents used quite often, especially when they were watching reality TV. The other two crossed their arms and nodded.
Ava gawked at her, stunned. "What?" She didn't recognize that word.
"Having two dads is a sin! My mom says so," added one of the other two classmates, a girl with dark brown hair named Kayla.
"If we play with you, we'll get a sin too!" shrieked the third, a boy named Jason. The trio, riled up by this, screamed and ran away, pushing Ava to the ground from their shoving past. They yelled something about catching it from her and ran faster, brushing themselves off as if they were covered in spiders. The other children on the playground, most of the children at the school at this point, looked over in great interest at what new and interesting thing was happening. The ones closest to the scene joined in with the trio and ran farther from the little girl, squealing with delight.
Ava slowly sat up, not seeming to notice that black dirt and little bits of gravel stuck to her hair and shirt, and stared at the wall with tears welling up in her eyes, trying and failing to not start crying.