Faye rushed out of her dorm room in a fluster, not even sure if she had everything she needed for class. She resisted the urge to check her brown leather shoulder bag, her fingers resting on its smooth, textured skin as her mind stayed stuck in the memory of last night. Of the avalanche of tingles she got when Avery kissed her, her stomach doing flips as if she had just thrown herself off a cliff, her body tensing as if waiting for the impact.
A door slamming to her left startled her back into the present, Faye, shaking her head as she pushed herself off the door before she succumbed to her desire to crawl back into bed with Avery. She ran her fingers through her mess of curls, her eyes darting around the hallway in case others were looking at her, knowing what she had done. The sound of her footsteps felt louder as she made her way towards the glass front door, her gaze flicking behind her as paranoia coursed just beneath the surface.
As her eyes once again landed forward, her footsteps stopped Her heart felt like it literally plummeted out of her chest, her breath catching as panic mixed with the paranoia, causing a dangerously toxic cocktail in her stomach.
Her movements were still frozen as he turned towards her, his gaze finding hers through the glass, happiness twinkling behind it. He held two cups of coffee like normal, balancing both gracefully in one hand as he reached towards the door and opened it.
"You coming?" He chuckled when Faye still stood still, her mouth suddenly dry and unable to form a sentence. She nodded her head furiously as she forced her feet to move forward, running her hand once again through her hair so it tumbled across most of her face, her gaze fixed permanently to the floor.
He had come back. Exactly like he said he would.
"Are you ok?" Kellan asked and Faye made a noise that she hoped sounded like an agreement, but likely more a pained groan. She walked a little in front of him before slowing her steps, unsure what exactly she was meant to say. A small part of her was so happy that he hadn't abandoned her like she thought but the other, bigger part, was panicking like a wild beast, her thoughts and feelings fractured.
"Are you mad at me?" He asked, his free hand coming out to slide into hers. Faye immediately stopped and calmed a little, the sensation of his hand on hers instantly making her feel a little better. Like Avery's did. The memory of Avery made her jolt her hand from his grasp, regret pooling in the pit of her stomach when she saw the sadness ripple across his face.
"This is about last night isn't it?"
Faye's eyes widened at the question but her mouth still refused to form actual words in response.
"Because I'm sorry I abandoned you at the restaurant. My sister needed me and she was miles away and scared. And I didn't want to overwhelm you by forcing a last-minute introduction to my parents."
"Wait. What?" Faye asked, her mouth finally able to speak despite being unsure what Kellan was talking about. He hadn't left her at the restaurant? He had walked her back to her dorm and had an unfortunate introduction to Avery, hadn't he?
"My sister. That's who called. That's why I had to run off after dinner."
"Huh?" Faye replied, confusion obscuring everything else. Kellan reached for her hand again, the slight hum dulling the whirlwind that was kicking up a storm in her chest. Her mind started to scream at her, demanding her attention whilst her body began to succumb to the panic that coursed through her as if it had replaced the blood in her veins. The world around her faded into a haze of colours and noise as Faye disappeared inside herself, trapped in the middle of the storm that was ravaging her.
"Faye, are you sure you're ok? You seem a bit out of sorts?" He soothed, concern etched across his face pulling her back to reality for a moment. He led her over to the wooden bench that lay to the left of her building, the panels creaking a little when they demanded it took the weight of them both.
"I don't...I feel a bit dizzy," she breathed out, a hand coming up to her forehead as she rested her head lightly against it.
"It's ok. Do you want to go back inside?"
"No!" Faye replied, a bit too abruptly. She looked into his eyes and saw the worry that swam in those gorgeous blues and her heart hurt as her brain came to the realisation she was dreading.
It had all been a hallucination.
Everything after the restaurant, everything she had shared with Avery. None of it had been real. Panic grasped around her neck, its cold, chilling fingertips squeezing tighter with every breath she took.
Kellan's voice sounded muffled as if she were already drowning. She just tried to focus on breathing, nothing else. Her breaths were ragged, her head dizzy as she struggled to gain control.
She felt as he slid off the bench, as if his entire form pooled at the floor by her feet. His hands splayed out at her knees, his face dropping so that his gaze met hers.
"Faye? Can you look at me?" He asked and she shook her head, panic in her eyes as she felt her heart thundering in her chest.
His hand came up to softly touch her cheek, pulling her attention away from the hurricane that was wrecking her. His touch hummed a little against her skin and she fell into the sensation for a moment before it calmed her enough to realise that that too was proof she was crazy. Touch didn't hum, didn't sprinkle across your skin like sunlight or snowflakes.
All of this was in her head.
Faye stood suddenly, swaying a little when her head felt like a bucket full of water. Kellan gracefully stepped to the side out of her path as she staggered forward a little. She had to get away, get herself under control before her illness consumed her entirely.
"Where are you going?" He called after her but she couldn't have answered even if she wanted to, "you're worrying me, Faye."
She wished she could stop and explain but her mind was ricocheting from the fact that she had no idea when reality and fantasy had started to intertwine. Nothing from last night had been real, not the walk back, not Kellan and Avery's collision. None of it.
The only thing she could think to do in that moment was go to the one person that could help her fix this. Fix her. Permanently.
The further she got from Kellan the more her breaths calmed and the more she got her panic attack under control. Her head still felt dizzy and panic still clawed at her limbs and body as she moved but Faye didn't feel like she was being suffocated by it anymore.
The buildings around her blurred into one as her mind focused on just putting one foot in front of the other. Faye had never had an episode so strong before, one where another person had been involved when they hadn't even been there in the first place. It scared her, how close she was to losing her mind.
The sound of traffic set her teeth on edge, her skin prickling at the feeling of her clothes stroking against it. It was as if her entire body was reacting to the world around her, every inch of her on high alert. She rubbed her bare arms to rid herself of the sensation but it did little more than annoy it further. She wished she had remembered her earphones to at least attempt to block the world out but instead all she had was her phone. Her mind briefly ricocheted back to her dorm room, Avery waiting for her. She couldn't even call him, explain to him what was going on. Faye shook her head from the memory, trying to remember that Avery wasn't actually real. So he wasn't sitting there waiting for her. In reality, he was the reason she was broken in the first place.
Standing in front of the big, red-bricked building, Faye felt the panic rise in her chest once again, losing control of her breaths as her hand fell to the beads on her bracelet.
Her fingers darted over them haphazardly, her mind saying the numbers but the calming relief she craved felt epically out of reach. She knew going into that building would change everything and she didn't know if she was ready for that.
Honestly, she didn't know whether she was ready to say goodbye to Avery.
But wasn't that the problem? She now had a real-life boyfriend and yet she still fell back into the arms of Avery. She had to start choosing real-life over fantasy.
Faye forced her feet forward and barrelled through the twin stained oak doors like a bat out of hell. She strode silently past the receptionist who no doubt knew who she was and therefore also knew she didn't have an appointment that day. But social niceties and explanations were out of reach, much like everything else.
She arrived in the stark white room with its matching chairs and shiny magazines, feeling as the panic started to claw at her throat again, making her feel suffocated. Faye had hoped it would have been empty, given the time of day, but unfortunately, she was not that lucky.
Over in the far corner, looking extremely uncomfortable at her presence, was a gentleman in his late 40's. He had cream trousers on, freshly ironed with a forced crease down the middle of each leg. His shirt was a crisp white, the collar peeking out from under a brown jumper. His black hair was combed over to the left, thin and sticky on top of his head.
Faye paced over in the corner as far away from the man as possible, restless energy forcing her to move. She kept her gaze fixated on the floor by her feet, her fingers still dancing across the blue bracelet on her wrist.
Dr Billow's voice pulled her gaze from the floor and Faye felt her heart stop beating for a minute. Her eyes darted to the doorway momentarily as she contemplated just running straight back outside instead of heading into her office. But she knew that was the sickness talking, intent on keeping its claws sunken into her.
She needed to kill the monster that was eating away at her.
And that monster was Avery.