By age fourteen, Ava knew she wanted to become a professor just like her dad. Most of her afternoons were spent reading in the university library and debating the the impact of advertising has on art in modern culture with grad students twice her age. She matured quickly and found it difficult to connect with her peers, but it didn’t matter because she had her books and more importantly her dad.
That year, Brandon accepted a job offer as department head at UCLA which meant a move across the country. This would break the heart of most teen girls, but Ava knew as long as her dad was there everything would be okay.
The move did little to alter Ava’s life and her focus. She continued to dive head first in the books, and spent her free time running. With the Pacific Ocean less than a mile from their house in Santa Monica, California, Ava would often run for miles along the shore.
Ava was happy. High school and undergrad passed with the ups and downs any teen girl would experience: best friends, boyfriends and the heartbreak of losing those things. But overall, she enjoyed her life alongside her dad who gave her comfort and guidance as she developed into a woman.
Ava enrolled in the UCLA master’s program immediately after getting her Bachelor’s degree. She wanted to stay close to her dad and the tuition discount she received for him being faculty was icing on the cake. One warm spring night, as her first year in grad school came to an end, Brandon was jogging through the UCLA campus. It was later than usual, the sun had set hours ago, but he was finalizing grades for the semester.
Ava, who would usually join her father, was busy preparing for finals herself. Just after nine thirty, Ava sank in her chair, like a led vest had been dropped on her shoulders. Her stomach sank, and she felt the full physical manifestation of dread. Her mouth went dry but her forehead began to sweat. Every breath felt like she had to breathe through a straw. Ava knew something was wrong.
She immediately grabbed her phone and tried to call her dad. No answer. A second, third and fourth time all went to voicemail. Ava knew that her dad would be done running by now and he usually called before he went to bed.
She left the department library with an overwhelming urge to run across campus, not sure why, or where she was going, but she ran as hard as she could. It was when she turned the corner, only a half-mile from where she was studying that she saw the red and blue lights and the body on the ground. She knew. She knew her father was dead. Ava plowed through the small crowd that gathered and pushed passed the lone officer controlling them. Ava fell to the ground by her dad’s side, holding his lifeless hand before the officer escorted her away. The rest of the night was a blur and the next day she was told what happened. The incident was a hit and run. No witnesses. No one turned themselves in. No justice to be served. Ava’s first and only love, her father, was forever gone and she was left with a gaping hole in her heart and no answers as to why.
Ava was lost. She dropped out of school. Her father was a beloved member of the campus family, and the professors understood her desire to get away but tried to encourage her to keep going. She refused. She felt scared and alone.
Her father’s life insurance policy, as well as the house he had left behind, allowed her to not work so most of her days were spent isolated sorrow. As the months turned to years and life went on around her, Ava was stuck wallowing in depression. She had lost both her father and her will. And every night she would replay the sight of her dad laying dead on the concrete over and over again. At first it was a source of sadness and pain. That pain morphed into numbness. That numbness turned to sleepless nights questioning why she was still alive. And those sleepless night became careless roaming of the streets. Then, the blend of perpetual insomnia and depression triggered the voices.