The voices were soft at first, and then they gradually got louder as she gripped onto consciousness and opened her eyes. White light blinded and adjusted around her all at once. Her head pounded but she spoke with ease.

“Ian knows. He knows about Elise.”

When she started to cry, a pair of arms went around her shoulders and someone whispered, “It’s okay, Tessa.”

It took her a moment to realize that it wasn’t Alex comforting her, but Ava. Tessa turned her head and looked into a set of green eyes, which made her cry harder.

“Where’s Alex?”

“Right here,” said a voice.

Alex appeared in the doorway, holding a cup of coffee in his hands. He went over to Tessa, bent down and kissed her, before handing her the styrofoam cup. She took it and sipped, not caring that the liquid burned her throat.

“How are you feeling? You hit your jaw pretty hard.”

“It hurts but not as much as what Ian said,” Tessa said, frowning. “Alex, how the fuck did he know?”

He looked at her, green eyes wide. “What did you just say? Who knows?”

“Ian,” Ava and Tessa said together.

“Ian?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.

Ava shook her head. “My Ian. He’s real.”

“Your—” He sighed and rubbed his temples. “That’s good, isn’t it?” He looked at Ava, who seemed worried about something. “What is it?”

“It’s just kind of weird,” Ava said, looking at them. “I always wanted him to be real, from the first time I saw him by the river after that man—”

Tessa, noticing the change in Ava’s tone, sat up straighter. She had heard about this already, back at the hospital, but she wanted to hear it again, and to watch Alex’s reaction when he was told.

So Ava recalled the day in the woods, and then she talked about when she met Ian. He was so sweet and nice that she had invited him over for dinner, and that’s when everything fell apart. After she finished her story, she sank to the ground and cried for the second time that day.

Alex crouched beside her, stroking her hair. Then he picked her up and took her over to the couch he was sitting on.

The infirmary door opened suddenly and someone slipped in. His black hair and blue eyes looked real enough, but there was only one way to be sure.

Ava leapt up from her position and wrapped her arms around him, burying her face in his chest. The boy smiled, curled his arms around her in return, and whispered something in her ear. Whatever it was, it made her squeeze him tighter.

The End

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