"Goodbye Avery," Faye breathed into the silence, allowing the word to join the symphony of the forest that now greeted her ears since Avery's departure. Faye closed her eyes for a moment, letting the whispers of the leaves as the breeze rustled against them and the feeling of the sunlight warming her bare limbs, wash over her like rain. It seemed to soothe her raw edges and anchored her back in the present.
She forced herself to leave the clearing despite knowing what she was walking into. But Faye also knew that the longer she waited, the worse it was going to get anyway, her mothers anxiety no doubt spiralling with every second that ticked past.
Faye opened the front door quietly although it likely sounded like a firework to her mother, exploding into the quiet, signalling her daughter's long-awaited arrival. And as expected, as soon as the soft click as the front door nestled into its doorframe resounded, Faye was greeted with her mother's face, her lips taut and her gaze full of concern.
"Faye," her mother sighed as she bridged the gap between them, enveloping her in an awkward hug before she had even made it down the hallway.
"Mum, don't you think this is a bit much?" she squeaked out when her mother didn't release her, instead her embrace holding firm as Faye tried her best to step gracefully out of it.
"No. I have been so worried. I half expected you to go back to college and avoid us altogether."
"Mum. I haven't been avoiding you. You told me to fully immerse myself into being a student. Make friends, study...that doesn't leave a lot of time for anything else."
"That was before I heard that you were skipping your sessions with Dr Billows. Faye, we have talked about this. Without your weekly sessions and your meds you could get sick again," her mother said, stepping out a little but keeping a grip on Faye's arms, effectively pinning her in place.
"Get sick? I'm always sick mum," Faye retorted as she brushed her mother's hold off, stepping around her heavily and into the living room. She made her way swiftly to the sofa, throwing her brown bag down to the side, another thing her mother would no doubt complain about when she realised.
"Faye I didn't mean it like that," her mother soothed, "but this disease can steal your life if you let it."
"It already has. It stole my childhood and it continues to rob me every day."
"Robs you of what?"
"Of what I want!" Faye yelled, slamming her hands down onto the sofa beside her, allowing frustration to get the better of her. She watched as horror rippled across her mother's face at her reaction, no doubt confirming her fears that Faye was definitely on the brink of a breakdown.
Actions always did scream louder than words.
"Faye," her mother breathed softly, so much being said in that one word. Fear, concern, disappointment. So many emotions wrapped up and yet all that fell from her mother's mouth was simply her name.
"I'm tired," Faye replied numbly, purposely avoiding her mother's gaze, instead focusing on the worn grey carpet beneath her feet, "can I go upstairs to nap?"
"I'd really prefer-"
"It really wasn't a question."
Faye stood slowly, lingering a moment, unsure whether she wanted to give in to the urge to relent, to stay with her mother and soothe her. But she quickly realised that she just didn't have the mental energy to take on the responsibility of another's emotions. Her mother was scared for her, she understood that, but Faye was scared too.
She felt her mother's gaze upon her as she left the room, walking through the kitchen briefly to discover her father in there, pretending to make tea. Their eyes collided for a moment before his fell to the countertop, effectively killing off all possibility of conversation. Faye shoved down the feeling of yet more disappointment. She had known this would happen and yet for some reason she had hoped that it didn't.
The stairs felt steeper as she climbed them, her legs feeling weighted as she dragged them upwards, intent on making it to the sanctuary of her bedroom before her mother attempted to continue their conversation. She sat heavily on her bed, her eyes darting to the bedside cabinet that housed her extra pot of pills. Avery's words echoed in her mind and she decided that, for the last time, she would do as he asked.
She had nothing to lose.
Her hand shook as she counted the pills out, throwing them to the back of her throat before she could stop herself. Because Faye was acutely aware that she was actively listening to her hallucination. She could pretend all she wanted to everyone else, that she was only doing this to confirm what she knew to be true, that Avery wasn't real. But Faye knew. She knew it was because she wanted to believe Avery.
She wanted him to be real, so much it hurt.
Faye laid upon her soft bed, her untidy duvet becoming a small mountain against her back, as if an attempt at stealing her comfort from her. She angrily gripped at it, pulling against it in frustration but because half of her body was still on top of it, her attempts solved little.
"Can't anything be easy for me! Just once!" Faye yelled to the air, stomping upwards loudly as she balled the purple covers and threw them angrily across the floor. She grabbed the pillow that still lay upon her bed and she screamed. She screamed all of the emotions that threatened to overwhelm her and she threw it all into the motion. Faye screamed until her eyes streamed and her throat burnt. And when there was nothing left inside of her, when the meds started to pulse into her veins and were dragging her under, she lay back down heavily onto the bed and allowed sleep to take whatever was left.
A few hours later the smell of spaghetti bolognese stirred her, as if the tomatoes and garlic had found away into her dreams and physically guided her out. Faye yawned and stretched out upon her bed like a cat, a small groan escaping her as her body relished in the sensation.
She sat up sleepily, the fog of her medication still clinging to her. Her limbs felt slightly numb still, like they were wrapped in bubble wrap, heavy yet oddly light if she tried to control them.
"What time is it?" Faye asked to the air, clumsily finding her phone that lay half charged on the bedside table. She quickly realised her mother must of put it there, remembering that she had abandoned her bag the moment she had sat upon the couch. She also noticed her purple duvet had covered her whilst she slept, no longer discarded angrily on the floor but lovingly swept over the bottom half of her bed.
Faye looked around the room before standing, half expecting Avery and his big surprise to be standing there. But the room was empty and quiet and both those facts seemed to tighten a noose around her heart, each beat a little more painful than the last. She tried to brush off the feeling, her mind already whispering I told you so's into her ear as she forced herself to stand. Staring into space wouldn't magically make Avery appear. She had given him one last chance to show her tangible proof he existed outside of her own mind...but obviously he couldn't.
Because he was and always will be...a hallucination.
Walking down the stairs she tried to put a smile on her face that would at least soothe her mother, even if just a little. But instead, it likely resembled a grimace and Faye chided herself for not practising in her bedroom mirror before heading downstairs. Her footsteps felt incredibly loud against the quiet of the house, as if they were an alarm, warning her mother of her approach.
"Faye? I was just about to wake you. Peter...Peter wasn't I just about to wake her?" Faye's mother called out from the kitchen, her voice travelling from the left. Faye winced at her mother's tone, high pitched and with over-exaggeration. She could imagine her mother jostling her father's shoulder, trying to get him to communicate and receiving silence in reply.
"Great timing," Faye replied as the doorway revealed her, trying her hardest to keep the smile on her face despite the effort. Just as she had imagined, her mother was stood at the end of the dining room table, her father sat in the chair at her side, head in a newspaper pretending this conversation wasn't happening.
"Well, I can always freeze the rest if your not," her mother said softly as she placed a rather full looking bowl in front of Faye. Seconds later the same size bowl appeared in front of her father, his eyes widening a little when he caught a glimpse of it before steeling his face, head back into the newspaper.
"Thank you," Faye offered, her hand automatically grabbing the fork but dancing around the bowl, pushing the pasta around the sides, the metal scratching across the ceramic causing a sound that made her stomach roll.
"You ok? It's your favourite."
"I know. A nap always makes my body feel a little funky," Faye reassured, forcing the fork to spin, collecting some pasta before shoving it into her mouth. The motion didn't have the desired effect, her mother's gaze still heavy and swirling with worry.
"Faye-' her mother began despite Faye's full mouth ensuring she couldn't answer. But thankfully a knock resounded, diverting everyone's attention.
"I wonder who that could be?" Faye's mother asked, her body suddenly stiffening, making no motion to answer the door. Her eyes darted to Faye and her father, still full of concern but for a different reason now.
"I'll get it shall I?" Peter stated, standing up abruptly, his paper falling open upon the table. Faye and her mother's gaze followed his movements, ears straining to hear any clue as to who was at the door.
The soft click of the door as it opened was the first sound Faye focused on, the visitor's voice being obscured by the rain that was suddenly falling outside. Something told Faye to stand up and go towards the door but she fought the odd sensation, shoving yet another mouthful of pasta forcefully into her mouth.
"Come in out of the rain. I'll just fetch her for you," her fathers voice said, words travelling with ease as he made it back closer to the kitchen.
Her father walked in briskly, his eyes instantly finding Faye's, "Faye you have a visitor."
Faye looked at him perplexed, unsure who would be calling on her, not only at this time at night but also at her home, not her doom room. Kellan instantly came to mind as she stood but she was certain she had never told him her home address. She tried her hardest to not knock into the dining table as she moved towards the front door whilst also trying to chew and swallow really quickly. She noticed out of the corner of her eye her mother move towards her. Her father simply yet silently shook his head at her, telling her no.
Faye was so focused on the motion of chewing that her gaze wasn't focused on who was stood by her front door, merely on getting there without tripping nor choking.
She instantly recognised the voice, her heart stuttering in her chest as her skin prickled in anticipation.