When she woke up, Ava expected to be back in her bed, buried under warm, fluffy blankets. But when she opened her eyes, she was staring at a white wall, the mattress she was lying on was soft but it wasn’t hers, and the whole room smelled like disinfectant.
It smelled like a hospital.
Ava hated hospitals.
As far as thirteen-year-olds went, panicking about being in one of these places was not seen as an overreaction. It was understandable.
“Mom?” she whispered. “Jake?”
Silence greeted her.
Someone, please help me.
“Were you trying to kill yourself?”
His voice flooded into her ear as she stared at the wall. He stepped into her line of sight and frowned, running a hand through his dark hair. He crouched down and cupped her cheek, his blue eyes tense as he searched her face.
“Who gave you that bruise?”
She didn’t reply to either of his questions. Instead, she rolled over and squeezed her eyes shut, willing him away with her mind. He wasn’t real, she knew that now. He had come, each time, to her aid when something bad happened recently.
“You aren’t real,” she muttered. “You weren’t there to protect me from that man.”
“Ava, dear, who are you talking to?”
This voice was new, a female, and kind. The screeching of a metal-legged chair was dragged across the floor, and the sound of a body dropping into the seat echoed in the room.
“No one,” said Ava, sighing into her pillow.
“But I heard you speaking to someone.”
Ava turned her head to start at a woman that looked about the same age as her mother, with long golden hair and warm blue eyes.
Eyes like Ian’s.
“It was no one,” Ava insisted. She scrutinized the woman with narrowed eyes. “Who are you and why are you in here?”
“I’m Dr. Hadley,” the woman replied, smiling. “Tessa, actually.”
“I thought Dr. Hadley was a man,” Ava said, scratching her head.
“Your mother thought so too. She didn’t get to talk to me. She talked to my assistant. She just assumed Hadley was a male.”
“You never answered my other question,” Ava said. “Why are you here?”
“I’m your doctor,” Tessa said, frowning. “I should be able to watch my patient and talk to her. When your brother brought you in here, you were unconscious, so I couldn’t very well talk to you then.”
For the first time since she had woken up, Ava looked at her arm; it was bandaged around her hand and it didn’t hurt. There were faint scars along her wrist but she didn’t want to tell Tessa that those weren’t from the broken mirror.
“I won’t tell,” Dr. Hadley said, looking at her wrist. “Your mom didn’t see them don’t worry. But I want to run something by you. Feel free to say no, most people do.”
Ava waited as she listened to the ticking clock on the wall grow louder.
“We, as in your mother, brother and myself, think your days would be better spent somewhere besides a scary, old hospital. I’ve talked to your mother and she’s agreed, and we’d like to send you to a treatment facility.”