Ava had seen Dr. Hadley twice that day, and the first time they discussed the treatment facility and everything she would have access to. It wouldn’t be much at first, Tessa said, but it would build.

The second time, and it was much later in the day, Ava had spoken for the first time about Ian. She told Dr. Hadley that he had come to her after she was attacked in the cold woods by her house. She explained how she had met him by the river, often a safe place for her. Then she told Tessa about what had happened in the bathroom.

“What happened with the man, Ava?”

“He didn’t touch me if that’s what you’re wondering, not that way.” Ava sighed, cradling her hand. It hurt less today, she noticed. “He hit me. I tried to get away and I fell, then he reached out and grabbed my hip, hard.”

“Did he leave a bruise there too?” Tessa asked, leaning forward. Then she said quietly, “I saw your shoulder. Your mother doesn’t know, does she?”

Ava shook her head. “No one does, well, except you.”

“Can you tell me more about Ian?” Tessa didn’t seem to mind switching subjects abruptly, and it was almost a relief from talking about the woods.

“He seems to only come when things are bad. He’s told me that he’s been with me all along, that he lives in my head.” Ava’s eyes began to fill with tears as she realized what her own words meant. “Am I crazy, Dr. Hadley?”

Tessa looked at her, blue eyes searching. She moved her blonde hair behind her shoulder and sighed. “Not necessarily,” she replied, tapping her lip with her finger. “You may just have a very vivid imagination.”

“My mom always said I do,” Ava said, and despite the terrible thoughts running through her head, she smiled.

Tessa nodded.

Ava thought for a moment, the question she had wanted to ask since yesterday burning on the tip of her tongue. It was unavoidable at this point.

“When can I see the treatment facility?”

The End

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