Ava always thought that if anybody could hear the sticky slimy thoughts that ran through the crevices of her brain, that they would run for the hills screaming.
Sure, she spoke like a good person and acted like a good person, but her thoughts were almost never those of a good person. Ava knew how to act and look the part; she’d been pretending her whole life, after all. It was easy to be good when she intimately knew what was bad. The bad being her natural inclination.
Still, she lived in constant fear of someday being found out. She learned early on in life that if she acted like herself or said her real thoughts out loud, that she lost friends and people’s affections. No, that wouldn’t do at all.
After many years of work and excruciating self-restraint, Ava had achieved what many would call a charmed life. She was successful, popular, and well liked by a select group of her peers. She married into wealth, obviously, to a good-looking man with a good name and old money. Not that Ava needed anyone to provide for her. Not at all. She made her own fortune as a chief financial officer in pharmaceuticals.
Ava enjoyed her job. It gave her an arena in which she could play. She was successful because she had the distinct advantage of having zero moral qualms in making decisions. It was easy, really. Plus, it was nice having a double income household. The old adage was true: the more money you make, the more you spend.
Wealth aside, she specifically chose Jeffrey as her husband because he didn’t need mothering, constant reassurances or cleaning after. She didn’t need any insecure jealous messages blowing up her phone when she did whatever she wanted. Where are you? What time are you coming home? She nipped that habit in the bud early on in the relationship. Jeffrey claimed he was being a thoughtful partner when he engaged in such behaviors. He learned to give her the exact amount of space she needed with time.
Ava could tell Jeffrey loved her. She supposed that should be one of the top reasons she married him. She was astute when it came to other people’s feelings. She just had trouble feeling them herself. She liked Jeffrey, he was a good life partner for what she needed. He didn’t annoy her on a daily basis and he played his role. Ava decided that was good enough.
Besides, Jeffrey gave her two perfect children: Sophia, sixteen, and Oliver, ten. They were nice enough kids, well-behaved, beautiful. Perfect for the image that Ava had been cultivating. On a good day their Christmas photos could rival that of the English Royal Family.
Sophia was the spitting image of Ava, with strong cheekbones and long wavy copper hair. She was the athletic darling of her soccer team and a social butterfly. Already Ava could tell Sophia was charming but secretly ruthless, which should serve her well in life. Oliver took more after his father, academically gifted, with light brown curls over intelligent brooding eyes. Ava predicted he would be successful in his own right, even though he lacked the ruthlessness of his sister.
So long story short, Ava’s life was pretty much exactly what she wanted and needed it to be. The darkness in her mind notwithstanding. Ava prided herself in her self-control. She had impulses, sure, but she would never, ever risk the life she had built.
Well, to a degree. She did have to let the dark out once in a while or else she would go crazy. She just had to be very, very careful.
There were casualties, as Ava liked to call them, throughout the years. Friends who incurred too many infractions, work rivals who mistakenly thought they could compete at her level, PTA moms who learned the hard way not to cross Ava Louise Stanton.
For most of them Ava simply orchestrated life-ruining events (an outed affair, fraud allegations, financial ruin, to name a few choice ones), but some did suffer physical consequences. Ava liked those the least: they were messy, risky, and took more meticulous planning. She favored psychological torture the best, it was enjoyable like an expertly played game of chess. Invariably, the payoff in the end, regardless of method, was always worth it.
So yes, Ava knew something was very wrong with her. But hey, at least she was self-aware enough to practice what she thought was an admirable level of self-restraint. After all, she never purposely hurt anybody who didn’t have it coming. She deserved some kind of medal for that.