Thirteen-year-old Ava doesn't know what it's like to have a friend. When she is attacked in the woods, she runs home and doesn't tell anyone. Along the way back to her house, she meets Ian. He is the first real friend she's had, and he will keep her safe from now on, she knows that.
She always had a vivid imagination, that's what was her mother told her when she was younger.
Growing up with an older brother who didn't understand her because she was a girl, Ava longed to find someone that had the same passions as she did.
She had never found that person, and as she got a little older, Ava began to realize how important having a friend was. She couldn't talk to her brother about the stuff going on in her life, mainly because he would just roll his eyes.
However, one day when she was thirteen, something happened, and having run from it, through the woods back to her house, she met a boy.
He was sitting on a pile of rocks that overlooked a river, and he hadn't heard her come up behind him. When she tripped over a smaller rock, and into him, the boy stood up so fast that Ava was sure she was going to crack her head open.
One minute she was speeding toward the jagged rock, the next thing she knew, someone was holding her.
"Are you okay?" a voice asked.
"Yes," Ava muttered, straightening up. She turned her big green eyes on the stranger, and smiled. "Thank you."
He gazed at her, his own blue eyes shimmering in the sunlight. He was a few inches taller than she was, with dark hair that he kept hidden under a red wool cap.
"You're welcome," he replied, nodding.
"What are you doing out here?" she asked, looking down at his arms. They were still around her waist.
The boy grinned sheepishly and stepped away from her. "I come here to think sometimes," he said. "What are you doing here? You look like you've seen a ghost."
Ava didn't reply. A sudden chill made her run a hand down her arm. She didn't want to think about why she was here. Didn't want to remember that man.
"I was walking home," she told him, hoping to appease his question.
"What's your name?"
He reached a hand out to touch her cheek. "That's a nice name," he said softly. "I'm Ian."
She invited him to her house for dinner. Her mother would be pleased that she had made a new friend. Her brother would be suspicious, even of a boy who looked no older than her.
When they reached the yard after cutting through the woods, Ian stopped before his feet even touched the soil.
"I don't think I can do this," he protested, looking at her.
"Oh, come on, you saved my life." Ava gripped his wrist and pulled him with her up to the backdoor.
Her mother was standing in the way, looking at her daughter with a strange gaze.
"Mom, look! I made a friend today." Ava was gushing, clearly overjoyed, but when she saw her mother's eyes widen, she frowned. "What's wrong?"
A cool hand touched her forehead and her mother sighed. "Ava, do you feel okay?"
"Of course! Why would you ask me that?" She looked back at Ian, shaking her head.
Her mother's voice caught, but the words were slow, like she had rehearsed them.
"Ava, darling, what are you holding?"
"Ian's wrist. Mom, what's wrong with you?"
Her mom's eyes pooled with tears and she shook her head. "You're not, baby. You're not holding anyone. No one's there."