Twenty-ThirdMature

TWENTY-THIRD

Tessa had been working in her office all afternoon. When her door opened, she stood, thinking it was Alex. But when she saw that it was Ava, who was red-eyed, shaking and pale, she only asked one thing.

“Do you need a bucket?”

Shaking her head, Ava slumped down onto the couch, put her face in her hands, and started to cry again. She mumbled something so incoherently that Tessa had to come closer.

“He’s real,” she whispered, her green eyes big and watery. “Tessa, he’s real. Ian’s real. I’m not crazy.”

Tessa bit her lip. She blinked and sank down beside Ava, putting her arms around her. “Where is he now?”

“He’s talking to one of the nurses,” Ava said softly, sniffling. “She is asking him questions. She hasn’t ever seen him before. If you want to see him, I’ll wait here.”

Tessa nodded and slipped out into the hall.

She found the receptionist desk. There was a boy sitting on it, his hands shoved into his pockets. She approached him slowly.

“Ian?” she said.

He turned his head, rewarding her with calm blue eyes.

“Who are you?” he murmured.

“I’m a friend of Ava’s,” Tessa explained. “She’s in my office, would you like to see—” Before she could finish, he cut her off.

“Ava doesn’t have any other friends but me,” Ian said, his eyes narrowing. “You’re not her friend, Dr. Hadley, so stop pretending to be. She’s not sick, so she can go home.”

“Actually, she can’t.”

Ian chuckled, leaned forward and rested his chin on his hand. “Is that so? Well, isn’t that convenient.”

“Come again?” Tessa was already getting a bad vibe from him.

He slid off his perch, and once his feet hit the floor, he walked toward her. He gazed at her for a few minutes, his eyes becoming darker, and his lip curling in disdain.

“It’s pretty fucking selfish of you to want to keep her here just because she looks like your dead daughter.”

Her own secret was spoken right in front of her. Tessa couldn’t breathe, panic seized her chest. Her voice was caught in her throat, her eyes filled with tears and her knees buckled from beneath her. She didn’t even feel her jaw slam into the floor before everything went black.

The End

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