Twenty-SecondMature

TWENTY-SECOND

Alex blinked at her, his green eyes tense. He didn’t know what to do, what to say, so he just let her sit there and stare out the window. He knew his patients very well, and right now she was counting the cars in the parking lot.

“How many are there?” he asked.

“Excuse me?” she replied, gazing at him.

“The cars,” he said, poking the glass.

“Thirteen,” Ava said, her eyes sliding to the side again. “There are thirteen cars out there. Why did you want to know that?”

Alex smiled slightly and shook his head. “It’s nothing. So, tell me. What happened today with Bridget? She said—”

“She can say what she wants, it doesn’t make it true.”

“If you could let me finish, please.” Alex hated being interrupted. “I was going to say that she told me something pushed her. Was it Ian?”

“How did you know about that?” Ava asked, her voice tight.

“Dr. Hadley told me,” he said. “Oh, don’t pull that face. I’ve seen it too many times. She had to tell me. She wants to help you.”

“I’m not crazy,” Ava shot back.

“I never said you were.” Alex frowned, trying to figure out why she was getting so worked up. “It’s clear there’s something else going on here now. Ian is able to physically hurt people.”

“What does that mean?" Ava asked.

Alex’s frown deepened. “It means he’s not just someone you made up.”

Ava sat curled up in the chair across from his desk, her eyes searching his. She wanted answers, he knew, but he was, for the moment, unable to provide her with anything concrete. Instead, he pulled out her file and looked through it.

“Have my mom and brother been to visit?”

His eyes looked sad when he lifted his head. He didn’t have the heart to tell her that her mother had sent a note, explaining that this was too much stress for her, and she wouldn’t be coming by anytime soon. She never even bothered to phone, the ungrateful woman.

“Not yet,” Alex commented, his eyes returning to the paper in front of him.

“Oh.”

She didn’t sound disappointed at all. But that wasn’t what worried Alex. It was the way she had said it, the way the word rolled off of her tongue. She didn’t care. She didn’t care that her family wasn’t going to come see her. He wondered if she did know that, if she had just accepted it.

“So, can I go now?” Ava asked.

Alex nodded. “You can go.”

She stood up, walked to the door, shut it behind her, and started to cry. She sat right there on the floor and sobbed like a baby. They weren’t coming. They weren’t ever coming. She was never leaving.

“You’re better off without them,” he muttered beside her. He was leaning against the wall, staring down at her. “Chin up, darling, I’ve got a surprise for you.”

Ava looked at him just as a nurse said, “What are you doing here?”

She blinked back her tears as the woman came over. “I just—”

“Not you,” the nurse said, looking at her. “I was talking to him.”

She was pointing at Ian.

The End

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