Bruce had never looked so worried before and, strangely, confused as well. He was always the cheerful type, who didn’t like to read too much meaning into things—at least in the way Ava does, or even Anna. So, it was strange to see the thin wrinkles on his forehead as his attention was solely on Ava’s every word as she narrated their ordeal right from when they took off for Charlotte.
Strangely, also, he never interrupted, and when she was done he was so quiet and seemed deep in his thoughts.
“Bruce, you haven’t said anything,” Ava said, hoping to get something out of him.
“I knew going without your phones wasn’t a good idea. But you wouldn’t listen.”
Ava rolled her eyes, knowing where this was going.
“You insisted you didn’t want any form of technology interrupting your bonding with Anna. Now, look what’s happened. The doctors can’t even tell why she’s the way she is now.”
“You make it sound as if she’s dead.”
“But from what you told me she is dead.”
“Don’t talk like that. She isn’t dead.”
He sighed as he bowed his head, shaking it.
Ava remained speechless as she watched him get lost in his thoughts again.
Before she knew it, he said, “There’s something off about that Beck guy.”
She stared at him, confused. “And what could that be?”
“I don’t know, but I just don’t feel right about him.”
“That’s the same thing I thought when I first saw him, but he’s a really nice guy. He helped a lot in the search for Anna.”
“You already said that, Ava,” he said, deadpanned. “But I still don’t like him.”
“You haven’t even met him,” she said, chuckling. Bruce was acting both like her and Anna at the same time: inquisitive and insecure.
“I don’t need to meet him to—”
“Hey, Ava,” she heard someone say.
She glanced at the door of the ward and there was Beck standing with his charming smile on his face.
Bruce huffed. “Speak of the devil and he shall appear,” he muttered.
“Bruce!” Ava whispered, scolding him with her eyes.
He simply shrugged, seeming indifferent about what he’d just say.
“Can I come back later?” Beck asked.
“Yes, we’re talking,” Bruce said, spitefully.
“Bruce!” she said this time. “Don’t be like that to him.”
“But we are!” Bruce retorted as he looked her way.
“Don’t mind him,” she said to Beck. “He’s just being unreasonable.”
Beck chuckled. “I understand.” He pointed at the curtain. “But I can go and come back another time.”
“You can stay. It’s fine.”
“Okay then.” He walked towards the bed and sat on it. He took her hand in his, saying, “How are you?”
“You can see she’s fine,” Bruce spat.
Ava glared at her brother. He looked at her as though he said nothing wrong.
“Bruce, could you excuse us?” she commanded.
“No,” he said firmly. His brown eyes were narrowed at her, his demeanor clearly exhibiting firmness.
“Please,” she said though not in a pleading way rather furiously.
He stood up, his eyes never leaving hers. “I’ll be back soon. Would like a smoothie or milkshake?”
“You know what I want.” She stared at him authoritatively.
He narrowed his eyes at her one more time before he slowly exited out of the ward.
“I’m sorry about my brother,” Ava said, gazing at Beck.
“It’s okay,” he replied, smiling. “I’m just glad I got to stay with you.”
Ava turned her face away, hoping he wouldn’t see her face turn pink from blushing.
She felt his eyes linger on her, and when she stole a glance it was just as she thought. She looked away, blushing harder, also wondering how he could make her so speechless.
“It’s so weird how the twenty-first century looks.”
She glanced at him. “What?”
He removed his eyes from the ceiling and stared at her. “Oh, I was just saying it’s nice to be out of Strangeville.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. Even though she had asked what he had said earlier her brain had processed his words after she blurted it out. What left her in bewilderment was that his last two statements didn’t correspond. Or, perhaps she didn’t hear him clearly.
“Will you ever go back?” she asked him. She would really love it if she got to see him more often, and the way that could happen was if he stayed.
He shrugged. “I don’t think so. I probably never would.”
She smiled at him, thankful within herself that her wish had come true.
“Have you seen Anna?”
She shook her head. “The doctor told me she seems fine, just that he doesn’t know why she’s unconscious.”
“I just hope she’ll be fine.”
“Do you know what happened to her? I mean, I was sure I saw her ghost.” She frowned. “Unless I was in a reality TV show and I didn’t know about it so it was just a projection of her.” If that happened, then it would really make sense that Anna just had an accident while the show was on and that she wasn’t dead before but miraculously came back to life though still unconscious.
“I’m sure she’ll be fine. She’s a strong girl.”
“You don’t even know that well.”
“Well, the fact she survived those woods proves that she is one. I believe she’ll pull through.” He gestured towards to room. “There are lots of equipment here that I’m sure would help wake her up.”
She scoffed. “It’s not as easy as it seems, Beck.”
As he raised his hand to face, she heard Bruce say, “I didn’t know what the strange man wanted so I just got a milkshake for him.”
Beck quickly put his hand down and shifted on the bed, making it seem as though he wasn’t about to do something.
Ava groaned within herself. She glared at Bruce, getting more frustrated when she saw the smirk on his face.
“Here you go.” He handed a plastic cup which seemed to contain chocolate milkshake to her.
As she stretched out her hand to collect it from her, she felt the insides of her abdomen twist tightly. She immediately held her stomach, screaming out in pain.
At that moment, it was as if she was alone, blocked out of the world. She barely felt the hands all over her as she was lost in her pain. Bruce’s voice was very faint when he asked why she screamed. She didn’t know she was in tears as she screamed until she tasted the salt on her tongue. She began to turn on the bed, screaming, “Make it stop!” with her hands still clutched at her stomach.
Soon enough, there was minute pain though it was one that caused as much discomfort as that of her stomach. It was as though someone had scratched her arm.
As she tried to process the cause of the scratch, she felt everything suddenly become still. The pain in her abdomen was gone and the twisting stopped as darkness filled her eyes and void her mind.