"Why are you wet?"
"Rain tends to do that to a person," he chuckled, running a hand through his damp locks, the remnants of rain falling to his shoulders.
"Yeah but...well...you're never normally wet?"
"Faye, darling. Don't be rude, invite your guest inside."
Her mother's voice made Faye grimace, her body flinching as she realised that she had been talking to him in the open, in her parents' presence.
This was not going to end well.
Avery stepped around her whilst Faye remained frozen to the spot, as if her limbs were made of lead. Her fingers instinctively grabbed at her bracelet, counting the beads religiously as she tried to calm herself. All she could do was watch him walk into the dining room, like a car crash, as reality and fantasy prepared to collide.
"Hi, I'm Avery," he stated, his voice deep and melodic. Faye winced, her heart hurting a little knowing only she would hear the beauty of it. The sound of a chair scraping across the floor startled her, clumsily moving towards the open doorway to see who was standing. Her mother had risen, hand outstretched as she took Avery's outstretched one, shaking it in introduction.
"How very nice to meet you, Avery. We never get to meet Faye's friends. Do you two know each other from college?"
"Much longer," Avery smiled in return as Faye's world spiralled into chaos as she tried to grasp what exactly was happening.
"You can see him?" Faye asked, barely a whisper, although the question was more of a statement. Her parents gazes found hers instantly, her mother's strained smile that she wore when she was embarrassed falling to her lips.
"Sorry, Faye is feeling a little out of sorts today," her mother replied, her tone full of anxiety.
"It's ok," Avery said, smile still soft on his face, "have you taken your meds?"
Faye nodded gently, unsure how this was even possible. She knew she had taken her medication. She remembered taking them. And even if she didn't, the fogginess still floated around the corners of her mind, reassuring her that she had definitely swallowed them.
"Good," he replied, turning back to her parents that seemed a little shocked at the conversation, "Faye and I have a little running joke that I'm a hallucination."
Her father's laughter anchored her a little back in the present, dragging her back from the chaos that was currently raging inside of her.
"That's funny. Where have you been hiding this fine young man?"
"My mind," Faye squeaked, looking over at Avery who seemed ridiculously relaxed for this turn of events. Was this what he was trying to show her? But that still didn't make any sense. There had been countless times where her mother had come into her room, with Avery sat next to her and she had not seen him? Also, how could he appear in random places, out of nowhere, before disappearing in exactly the same way? People don't do that. Hallucinations do.
"Did you want to stay for dinner?" her mother offered, Avery's smile growing even wider in response.
"If it's not too much trouble I'd love to."
"No trouble at all. I had just been talking to Faye minutes before you arrived saying I had made so much that I was going to have to freeze some of it," her mother smiled, rising again to fetch a bowl filled to the brim with spaghetti bolognese. Avery sat in the only empty seat at the table whilst Faye could only stare on in disbelief.
Avery was real? No. Despite evidence to the contrary, he couldn't be. Maybe her episodes were so strong that the meds weren't working anymore? Maybe Dr Billows was right and they really did need to adjust her medication?
"Faye?" Avery's voice cut through the panic, his eyes pulling her free from the throes of despair so easily.
"Do you want to sit?"
Faye didn't reply, simply walked towards him, stiffly lowering herself back into her chair, well aware of her parents' watchful gaze upon her. Avery's hand found hers instantly, hidden under the table, the gentle sensation of tingles soothing her fragile, raw edges a little.
"So, Avery, do you attend the same college?"
"No sir, I am learning...the family business," Avery replied with slight hesitation but Faye was unsure whether her father even noticed. His eyes seemed glazed, happiness sprinkling over his entire being it seemed.
"A fine profession," her father replied, despite not knowing what exactly Avery's 'profession' even was.
The rest of the meal passed in a hive of conversation whilst Faye remained mostly silent, trying her best to not escalate in her own personal quiet. Avery's hand did not relent the entire time, his soft, reassuring hold comforting her through the chaos.
"Faye?" Her mother's voice was loud and strained, signalling to Faye that she had perhaps called her name more than once.
"Hmm?" Faye replied, hoping it hadn't been too many.
"Are you planning on returning to college this week?"
Faye felt as though that was a loaded question, knowing her mother had already instructed that she took the rest of this week off.
"I will have to go back tomorrow...briefly," she finished, watching as her mother's smile dropped and brow furrowed.
"Is it really necessary?"
"Yes. I need to explain to my professors and collect the work so I don't fall behind. It will be for a few hours."
"I can go with you...if you like," Avery offered and Faye's smile echoed her mother's, falling from her face.
"Oh no, it's fine," Faye replied, trying her best to keep her tone light.
"I don't mind. Actually will be nice to see Kellan... again."
Avery's tone was heavy yet his eyes almost sparkled at the thought.
"Faye I'd feel better if you had someone like Avery accompanying you," her mother interjected before the argument Faye had prepared on her tongue made it into the air.
"Sure," Faye said, gritting her teeth as she slid her hand out clumsily from underneath Avery's. His gaze fell upon her softly as he reached out again, undeterred by the motion.
"It will be fine," he soothed and for a second the hum that sprinkled across her hand from his touch seemed to reverberate through the rest of her, calming the anger that threatened to overwhelm her.
She fell into the sensation, allowing it to flood through her instead of fighting it like she normally did, trying to resist it. Her mind was spiralling, unsure what exactly all this meant. Her mother and father had sat through an entire dinner...with Avery. Talking to him, seeing him, for the very first time. It made absolutely no sense so Faye gave up trying to grasp it.
"Mum, would it be ok if Avery and I popped upstairs to my room before dessert?" Faye asked, desperately wanting to talk to him alone. Her mother glanced sideways at her father, a slight smile dancing across her lips at the question.
"Absolutely," she replied and Faye rose from her chair, Avery mirroring her movements, "but Faye..."
"Open, I know," she retorted, rolling her eyes as embarrassment flooded her features. Avery followed into step behind her although she never turned to check, her mind ablaze with a million questions.
The moment she reached the safety of her room she waited for Avery to pass through the doorway before she slowly and quietly allowed the door to click into place. She would rather her mother chide her later for disobeying the rules than for her to creep upstairs unnoticed, another set of ears to what will no doubt be a very confusing conversation.
Faye smiled as she turned to see Avery sat on her bed, unable to help herself. His eyes sparkled as they met hers, his hands splayed out next to him ruffling the purple duvet, making it look like purple waves between his fingers. Faye stood awkwardly in the middle of her room, knowing if she went to him she would get lost in him.
"You ok?" Avery asked and she narrowed her gaze at him. When his smile was the only reply to her glare her nose crinkled a little.
"What do you think?" Faye retorted, crossing her arms across her chest.
"I think you are probably very confused right now... because your parents can see me," he breathed, the smile growing wider as he stared at her expectantly.
"Exactly. How Avery? How is any of this happening?"
"How long have you got?"
"Till desert," she smiled, walking slowly towards the bed. Avery outstretched his hands towards her, uncrossing them as he took hers in his, pulling her to him. He nestled her so she was stood between his legs, his face near her chest as he stared up at her.
"I'll make it short then. I was never a hallucination."
"Yet no one has been able to see you apart from me? Until now."
"That's because I didn't let them," he stated and his reply turned her veins to ice. Her mind raced with what exactly his words meant as her heart stuttered in her chest, not with excitement, but dread.
"What?" Faye managed to spit out, trying her hardest to not shout, aware her mother and father were a few feet away downstairs and the walls were thin.
"I couldn't let them," Avery replied, his grip tightening on her as he felt her trying to free herself from him. Tears started to well in her eyes as anger unfroze her veins, pulsing heat through her entirety.
He had kept himself a secret? All this time? When he could have shown everyone she wasn't crazy?
She wrenched her hands free from his, stepping back as her mind whirled with a million new questions. She felt the sobs that tried to escape her chest with every breath but she fought against them, desperate not to drown.
"You've been lying to me," she gritted out, unruly tears rolling down her cheeks despite trying to keep her sadness contained. Avery stood and walked towards her, worry on his face.
"No. I've never lied to you, Faye. Ever. I told you every day I wasn't a hallucination."
"But you never showed me!" Faye yelled, backing up away from him, not wanting to even be in the same world as him at the moment, let alone the same room.
"I couldn't," he breathed, desperation in his eyes as he continued forward, ignoring her silent pleas for space.
"You could. This shows that you could. You just didn't," she replied, walking over to the door and opening it. She was broken right now and she desperately wanted to be as far away from him as she could.
"No. I won't go. Not like this. You have to let me explain Faye," he pleaded, refusing to move forward and out of her bedroom. Faye glared at him through tear-filled eyes before slamming the door shut, forgetting the company that lay downstairs.
"Go on then," she demanded, watching as Avery's eyes darted around, his body moving as he paced a little in front of her.
"I can't explain everything right now Faye but you just have to trust me."
"Trust you? You want me to trust you? I'd say you're about 10 years too late with that request."
"Don't say that."
"Faye, please. Just give me some more time."
"Go, Avery. I'm done with your secrets. I'm done with your lies. I will not let you steal another second of my life," she spat, leaning again over to the door and almost ripping it open.
And just like that, Avery rippled out of existence, as if once again he was simply a hallucination in Faye's mind.
But Faye knew better now.
And if Avery wouldn't tell her what was going on then she would just have to ask the other liar in her life.