First of all I would like to say that I very much liked this line: "So the stairs spilled from the front porches, crooked from wear and tear." I also enjoy the setting and pace of the story. On the negative side I found it just a bit hard to follow in the beginning, I think that although everything is beautifully described, the intense level of detail distracts a bit from the story. I also wish there was a little more physical description about Ayva. Over all very well done. I can tell you have a clear vision of what you want this story to be and I enjoy your writing style.
Just wanted to give a big thanks for going out of your way for a full critique! I really do appreciate it.
As for the opening, I'm going to give it a few days and come back to revise some more. I don't feel as if its PERFECT yet. In other words, I agree with what you mentioned above. I've had a few people complain about the extensive detail as well. I feel like I need to blend these elements up better! >>if that makes sense.
Thank you GREATLY again.