Ava fell asleep without dinner, her thoughts of running away diminished. When she woke up in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat, she had a horrible feeling that twisted her gut and made her nauseous.

“Ian?” she called quietly.

Chirping crickets outside and a ticking clock on the bedside table are the only response she receives.

“Please, I need to talk to you about what happened. Don’t be mad at me.”

Still nothing.

She woke to sunlight streaming into her room, blinding her momentarily. She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to remember what happened the night before.


All Ava could hear was her mother’s heels on the wood floor downstairs and her brother playing guitar in his room.

She closed her eyes and willed herself not to cry.

A tapping on her bedroom door made Ava jump.

“Yeah?” she said.

“Mom said to get up. She got a new doctor to check you out.” It was Jake, and he sounded like he was pulled away from something important.

“I’m not going,” she said, slipping under the covers again.

“Ava.” Jake’s voice was exasperated. “Mom will be really upset if you don’t. This is important.”

“You all think I’m crazy!’ she shouted at the closed door.

“I don’t,” he said.


“Just let me sleep.”

“Please.” There was a thud against the wood as Jake placed his head there. “We’re worried about you.”

“You’re not. God, Jake, if dad were here—”

“Well he’s not,” he hissed. “He won’t ever be here again, Ava. Don’t you get that? Remember how hard mom cried when he left? Do you want to make her cry again?”

“He would defend me!” Ava said, tears slipping down her cheeks as she cried. “He would help me. He would tell me that I’m okay.”

Jake didn’t speak again. She heard his footsteps fade as she sank back against the pillow and sobbed. She missed her dad and wanted him to come home. She missed Ian, even though he had only been around a few hours.

The doorknob rattled.

“Ava, baby, let me in.”

Ava had seen shows where the kids, even younger than her, had treated their parents badly. She vowed she would never be like that, would never tell her mother to shut up, or throw a tantrum when she didn’t get what she wanted.

“Go away,” she whispered.

Her mother’s voice was firm. “Ava Delong, stop this nonsense this instant and let me in. You’re acting like a child and I won’t tolerate it.”

“I am a child,” Ava mumbled.

“You’re a teenager and you’re sick. You’re my little girl and I want you to feel better. Now please open the door and let me take you to the doctor.”

Tired, with no more energy to argue, Ava trudged across the carpet and unlocked the door. It didn’t open immediately, but when it did, she fell against her mother, her body shaking from heavy sobs.

“I’m scared,” she managed to say, squeezing her mother’s small waist.

“It will be okay,” her mother said, smoothing Ava’s dark hair back from her face. “Dr. Hadley is the best. He’ll help you and you’ll feel so much better. Things will be back to normal.”

As her mother led her down the stairs and into the shower, Ava only had one thought, and it made her heart ache.

It isn't normal without Ian.

The End

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