“You’re doing what? No, you can’t, it’s too soon!”

It wasn’t her mother that was shouting at Tessa in a crowded hallway, but her brother, and judging from his expression, he wasn’t going to let this go. It also looked like he hadn’t slept in days, not that she blamed him.

“Jake, listen to me: Ava needs to go. She wants to do this.”

“Bullshit,” Jake hissed, stepping away from her. “Where’s my mom?”

“She’s with Ava,” Tessa said softly. She ran a hand through her hair and looked around to see everyone staring at them. “You agreed you wanted her to get help.”

“I didn’t know it was going to be right away!” Jake snapped. “I want more time with her.”

Tessa pressed her fingers to her temples, massaging them. She needed more coffee even before she finished the one in her hands. It was too cold to drink now, so she tossed it in the trashcan next to her.

“You can still see her when she goes to Ridgewood.” She turned and proceeded down the hall to the coffee machine. As she expected, Jake followed.

“What did you and her talk about?” he demanded.

Tessa turned her blue eyes on him and frowned. “You know I can’t tell you that, Jake.”

He frowned. “You’re not her shrink, so it’s not private.”

“I don’t think you should be asking me this. If Ava wanted you to know what we discussed, she would tell you herself.”

“I just want her to be okay. When I saw her on the bathroom floor and the blood on her hand, I dunno, I freaked out. I thought she was trying to kill herself.” He sank down next to the machine and brought his knees up to his chest, and stared at the opposite wall.

“But she didn’t,” Tessa said, crouching down. “She told me about your father, but it was vague.”

“He left,” Jake said, staring at her. “Ava was six and I was eight. He and mom had a fight, he went for a drive and never came home.” Jake narrowed his eyes, cracking his knuckles. “Mom cried for a week.”

Tessa frowned. “I’m sorry.”

Jake shrugged. “We’re better off without him. Besides, he wouldn’t want to be around for this.”

Tessa rose and looked at him. “Do you want to see her?”

He nodded.

As she started to walk back toward Ava’s room, he called out to her.

“You know, it wouldn’t surprise me if this all happened because he left. With Ava I mean. They were very close. She always looked to him for advice. He protected her from things and when he left, it broke her.”

Tessa blinked at him as he stood and went toward her. She hadn’t even thought of that. Maybe whatever happened to Ava in the woods hadn’t been the start of Ian in the first place. She did say he had been in her head all along, after all.

The End

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