The ride to Ridgewood seemed to take forever. After Ava had left with Dr. Hadley, without having said goodbye to her mother or brother, she sat gazing out the window of the car. She didn’t say anything until Tessa spoke to her.

“Are you okay with this?”

Ava turned her head. “With what?”

Tessa gestured to the long stretch of highway in front of them and put her other hand back on the wheel. She didn’t look at Ava, only chewed on the inside of her cheek in frustration. This whole situation was getting to her and she wasn’t even the patient.

“Tessa?” the girl muttered. “What’s wrong?”

“Is this what you want?” Tessa asked. “Do you really want Ian to leave you? You seem like you need him.”

“I don’t know,” Ava said, slouching in the seat. “He’s always been with me, or so he says, but I don’t know how true that is.”

“I know how to find out if what he said is real or not.”

Tessa bit her lip. She had never had to say that to someone else before, because she had never had the privilege of meeting someone like Ava. She wondered if what she was thinking of would work.

A large white building loomed ahead, not far from where they were now. The car veered to the right and Tessa parked in the lot in front. She watched Ava gaze out the window, and opened her door, sliding out.

When she got out, too, she turned to Tessa. “Are those for me?” She pointed to the bouquet of flowers that sat on the white bench outside the entrance door. “It says ‘Ridgewood Welcomes You.’”

Tessa nodded. “I called ahead. We do that with all of the people who come here. We want to make them feel comfortable.”

Ava nodded, opened the backdoor to get her stuff, and then shut it. She picked up the flowers and started toward the automatic doors.

For the first time in what seemed like months, Tessa felt protective over someone else. Maybe she could save her instead of watching her wither away like so many others.

The End

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