Nobody knew what was happening to Ava Ire.
Participation in class used to be granted with her; it was so easy for her to partner up with someone, even if she didn't particularly know them. She used to laugh at jokes, keep up with friends, simply have friends. People could tolerate sweet little Ava. Hell, some people would go as far to say they liked her.
Now, after coming back from summer break, everything was a struggle, and no one knew why.
Everything took effort she wasn't willing to give. Everything that used to be so simple, things she could do without even having to acknowledge them, these things were difficult. Getting out of bed, making herself presentable, the commute to and from school, they were all dreadful, but she could do them. She could make herself do them every day. Anything else had to be begged for, and in turn, never done.
Friends were falling away from her. Everyone had suddenly found something else to deal with. It took conscious effort to get people to even look at her anymore, not that they really wanted to. People treated her like the plague. Finding anyone to talk to was a challenge in itself, not to mention keeping up with a conversation. Her social skills plummeted with everyone's avoidance, and the vicious cycle made its way around once again.
With all of this distress in her life, Ava became counselor's gold. She would get called up to the office almost every other day, with a new doctor to talk about her dreams or look at inkblots for half of the day. Everyone knew something had happened toWell, hi there Demon, long time Ava, but nobody, not even the highest ranking psychologists knew what it was.
First some of her friends became worried and told teachers, the teachers told their authority, and it became a sort of small school-wide mission to help her. People drifted away from her because they were scared. They didn't want this to happen to them. It was a burden as a friend to deal with her silent but very present sadness. Everyone had a good reason.
But a friend was all Ava really wanted.
Someone to confide in about her dilemmas. Someone to talk about what happened over summer break. Someone that would hug her and hold her and tell her that things were going to be alright.
And that was something she knew she would never have.
Ava just felt downright grey inside. Amongst her peers, she was left in the dust, far below everyone who had learned how to make friends easily, or join clubs in school. She was left with nothing; no feelings, no relationships, not a single care left in her heart. For dear Ava, as warm as she used to be, was cold and quiet, listening only to the voices in her otherwise empty mind.
Over the summer, Ava Ire had earned herself a demon.
"Ms. Ire? Can you hear me?"
The voice, caring in nature, sounded so far away.
"Ah, Ava? Ava Ire? What a beautiful name..."
The sounds drew closer. There was nothing to focus on, no other noises. Her little demon wasn't here to keep her distracted. She couldn't seem to drown the voice out.
Maybe she could get a little progress with this one.
"Thanks." Ava's voice was sweet and quiet. Sometimes that was the most that anyone could get out of her before the session was over.
Coming back from her daydreams, her surroundings became clear. Surrounding the table she was sitting at were some of her schools guidance counselors, standing and chatting amongst themselves. This was pretty regular for her sessions.
Across the table sat a woman, her hair pulled tightly back into a bun, smiling uncomfortably at her. She was one of the older psychologists she had been to, but her eyes reflected experience. A clipboard was tilted up towards her, where she had a pencil pressed at all times. After scribbling something very quickly onto her paper, she began again.
"So Ava," She was analyzing the paper she had written on before looking back up. "What do we want to start on today?"
She shrugged. She had been to a lot of psychologists that had the mentality of making the patient their own therapist. None seemed to work just right for her.
"We can... try talking about why you aren't speaking to anyone, or why you won't let your friends help you."
She was too blunt, and clearly didn't know much about her patient. Ava knew this wasn't going to work. Instead of experience showing, it was replaced with naiveté.
Ava responded with another shrug, her dark red hair falling over her face. She was drifting away, back into her own little world.
"Will you tell me about what happened during the summer? I want to be your friend."
That was a stupid question, and Ava wasn't the only one who knew it. The school's counselors were looking at each other with confusion, mumbling amongst themselves.
The woman looked offended. "Alright, can you tell me about your friends? About your family?"
Ava could hear the shuffling of papers behind her, a few people asking each other if they gave her the right files. For once in her life, all eyes were off of her. Ava was calmed.
"So they give me some sort of lunatic that thinks she can just walk in here and magically cure me?" Ava locked eye contact with her so-called doctor. "Why don't you go run along back to college and get your damn degree."
Well, hi there Demon, long time no see.
Ava didn't even flinch at her words. She crossed her arms and looked the other way. She heard a slam on the desk, and some hushed discussion around her. She didn't care. Worse had happened to her.
The doctor had left in a flustered rage, and soon followed a few of the guidance counselors. Ava was left alone once with a very talkative spirit.
She learned to not talk back. It would laugh and jeer at her, but she couldn't respond. People thought she was weird enough already. She didn't need them to think she was depressed and lonely enough to talk to herself.
The counselor remaining signaled her to leave, beginning the long walk back to class.
"Nice going, Ava." The reddish figure drifted alongside her, giggling and smiling. "You really got some progress in there!"
The demon continued to laugh, its pale face scrunching at all that it was saying. It must've thought that this was the funniest thing in the world.
Ava didn't look at her demon. She did her best at ignoring it with all of its negative comments about her and her experiences; weak was something she heard often in its words. It seemed to drift from one topic to another fluently, jumping to her appearance and clothing, leaving nothing untouched from the insults it spat out.
The first few times her demon went on these tangents, it really bothered her, and when she was alone, she would beg it to stop. After almost a semester of dealing with it, however, everything the ghost spoke would seem like truth, and was taken as such. After she started being haunted, nothing seemed to matter to Ava anymore. She knew nothing she could say or do to anyone would ever change how people saw her. Staying silent, in her mind, was the best decision she had ever made.
As she got closer to her classroom, the ghost became uninterested with her, and left, merging with the walls.
Ava tried not to care too much when she would knock on the classroom door. She used to think that people worried about her when she was gone for the first half of class, but as time went on, her appearance was greeted by a few tired glances and the closest person trudging to the door to open it. It became the norm for that period.
She slid into her seat carefully and quietly, pushing her bag under her desk. Her hands were calmly folded, a sign of patience while she waited for the teacher or an on-hand tutor to start her on an assignment. Every single class she took had stationed her in the front of the classroom, so if she needed help from a teacher, whether it be on an assignment or for permission to go to the counselor's office, she could get it easily.
The people surrounding Ava wouldn't ignore her entirely. Sometimes the assignment would be passed to her desk, but when she would look up to see who gave it, everyone would be intently working on their own papers, leaving her alone once again.
Ava was patient for five minutes. Five minutes she was left alone, left without work to do. Another student across the classroom was struggling with something, and the teacher had sat next to him and started pointing things out on the paper, speaking in a slow, hushed voice. It seemed like no matter what he said or what he pointed to, this kid was just not getting it.
Just like Ava wasn't getting her grade up by waiting around.
She was studious, which was one of the only good traits that had carried over from last year. She knew the consequences of her actions in the classroom, what assignments were worth in the system, what grades would lift her into better programs and schools, and ultimately make her life better. Making good grades meant making good money, and in turn paying for some way to get rid of the one thing that ruined her life.
After a moment of silence, Ava realized that something was terribly out of place.
She scanned the room, left to right, seeing no sign of her demon anywhere. No fiery wisps trailing under the door; no specks floating amongst the room. There was nothing saying it was nearby, and that worried her.
That meant it very well could be inside her.
Ava raised her hand up it the air, looking in the direction of the teacher. The low mumble of terms and problems was continuous. She would never get his attention like this.
He seemed to pause with the student, but his eyes stayed glued to the paper. She decided that this would be the time to speak up.
"Excuse me." Her voice was quiet and empty, and the teacher didn't hear. She repeated it louder. "Excuse me, Mr.—"
He looked up at her with tired eyes. "Mmm, yes?"
Everyone was looking at her. It had been quiet in the room, and the sudden break of silence caught everyones attention.
"Can I go... C-can I—..."
All eyes were on her. Her words were stumbling. She saw some of the students roll their eyes, and it made her want to cry.
"...Can I go to the bathroom?"
The teacher mumbled, and whether it was a yes or a no, she took it, leaving the room quietly, her hands held tightly against one another.
As the door closed behind her, she heard giggling. Not even a moment later, the culprit showed itself, the orange wisps of hair burning with delight.
Ava walked, and it followed. Not a word was spoken, but it was still hurting her. She had always been alone, or with adults who didn't care when she lost her words or had her demon control her. Now, while she had been putting on the act that she had been getting better, she panicked and everyone had seen, over something as simple as going to the bathroom.
Luckily, no one was in the bathroom when she got in there. She locked herself in a stall, sat on the lid, and did what any normal, stressed-out girl would do in that situation.
She cried. Loud.
It was awful and disgusting, having tears pouring down her face, staining her dark red uniform. She couldn't care less if someone heard her crying. She didn't care if someone said bad things behind her back. Right now, it was just her, her tears, and the empty bathroom.
Everything that had been bottled up for months was coming out now. She had seen all the times people had gone out of their way to avoid her, or when people talked about her behind her back. She knew, and she never spoke up, and now it was all flowing forth in a big wave of sadness and anger.
And her demon continued to laugh, floating high above her head.
When Ava was angry, or sad, or just downright distressed, it found immense pleasure in her suffrage. It would stay above, tucked away in a corner or a dark area in the ceiling and laugh. It would laugh and mock, and she did everything in her power to ignore it.
Ava didn't want to see it, and she didn't want to listen to it. She wanted to cause it misery and she wanted it to suffer, but she couldn't. Most of the time she couldn't even talk back to it.
But right now was different. Nothing could get worse.
Her sobs rose into shouts of profanity, as she stood and started throwing everything she had on her at the spirit, pencils, papers, anything she could get a hold of. It stopped laughing and started smirking as the objects passed through its form.
"Why the hell are you doing this to me!? Why can't you just go off and just kill yourself, you..." Ava paused, her face red and streaked with tears. "You... You bitch!"
It looked impressed, but it smiled with its sharp grin.
"I'd been waiting for you to do the same for a looong time."
Ava had broken. She collapsed to the floor, weeping, gathering up her pens and papers. Why didn't she just kill herself? Why didn't she just end it all within the day?
She knew why. It would mean the demon would have won.
Wiping excess tears away from her cheeks, she left the stall, heading for the door of the bathroom.
"Are you always defeated by something as small as that?" It shouted provocatively. "Is that why everyone thinks you're so weak?"
Ava ignored it, and it didn't follow. It lagged behind in the bathroom, and she was glad. She was done with it, at least for the moment.
Her tears still poured forth when she got to the hall, and it all hit her at once. How much her life had spun out of control since her little demon showed up. How she would never make any more friends, and her grades would plummet and she would never be fixed. How she was doomed, and worthless, and how everything the demon had said was true.
She leaned against the wall and cried. Who cared if anyone saw her? Right now, she didn't care if people talked about her, or if people laughed at her. Right now she was only worried about herself.
There was shuffling down the hall. She paused and wiped her eyes to see what, or who it was.
The boy at the other end stood still, expressing some worry and fear on his face. He was tall and pale, with dark hair on his head and lining his jaw. Ava could tell he was uncomfortable with the situation, not sure whether to approach or leave.
She sank to the tile below her, covering her eyes with her hands, staying quiet.
Please, please leave, I don't need this. She shook her head.
Just turn around and leave, please.
She felt him standing over her, but she tried not to acknowledge him. Just. Go. Away.
"Hey," His voice was low and calm. Ava lifted her head to look at him. He was right above her.
"A-are you okay?"