"Do you n-need help? Are you s-sick?"

Odin Arrow was no stranger. Before her ordeal, they had been in classes together, even exchanged a few words over the course of their lives. She was still wary about him, however, seeing as how much she had changed from the girl he used to know. Hell, Ava was pretty much an entirely different person now.A leaden silence fell over them. Her mind was racing from one thought to the next. Where was she going to go? She didn't want to go back to class, but she knew she couldn't mope around in the hall. She took a deep, shaky breath."I need a counselor." Her voice was quick and barely audible, only comparable to a mouse's squeak.

"O-okay, okay," Odin backed up, looking down the hall. "Do you w-want me to bring them d-down here?"

She shook her head. "No, I... I can go down there." She looked up at him.

No hand to help her up. No smile, no offers, nothing. He only loomed eerily above her. Classic Odin, or more like classic anyone-who-went-to-this-damn-school.

Pushing against the floor, she lifted herself up and smoothed out her dress, keeping her head low and her crying to a minimum as she walked briskly away from him.

This was one of the first times since the summer that she had been upset due to something that wasn't her demon. The way he had acted to her, even though she was obviously in distress, even though she obviously needed someone right then to sit next to her and tell her it was going to be okay, he didn't show anything but a bit of worry in his expression. What if this was what it was going to be like, where nobody will have the heart to stoop down to her level and bring her back up? What if everyone was going to be as neutral as he was now?

Even in her current state, Ava knew that she was overreacting about everything. She couldn't base everyone off of this one action of this one person, right? Not everyone could even try to have as much pure pride as her dear Odin.

They were used to her in the main office. Sometimes she just came in, silently grabbed a slip where you explain who you are and why you need to see a counselor, and she would sit at the table with all the troublemakers in school waiting to see the principal and fill her slip out. It was orderly.

Of course, coming into the office choking back tears, things were usually unorthodox.

They acknowledged her and her emotional state, one grabbed a slip and a pen as the others stared at her, empathy playing across their faces. Ava muttered a small 'thank you' as she sat and scribbled her name at the top. No one else was at the table. She got lucky this time.

The office staff were whispering amongst themselves, however they weren't quiet enough to be out of earshot of the redhead. They were saying things like, 'I feel so bad for her,' 'She's going through a lot right now,' 'Bless her heart.' For a minute, she felt loved.

"Ava?"

She looked up to the front desk. Through her watery vision, she saw one of the women had spoken to her. Ava really liked this one. She had a very soothing voice.

"Do you want to go home? You can be sent home on an excused absence."

Going home to be greeted by her warm bed, and sunlight filtering in from the curtains. That sounded nice, as long as she didn't get any wispy visitors while she recuperated.

Ava nodded, looking back down at the slip. "My stuff is still in the classroom."

"That's fine." She sat down and fiddled with the phone, saying something inaudible over the sounds of the building around her. She heard the click of the phone being set back in its place, as the woman looked back up at Ava.

"Someone will be down here with your things. Just sit back in your chair for now."

Oh no.

One of her classmates was coming to give Ava her things. The entire class knew she was going home, tear-streaked face and all. She knew that they would spread rumors about her, and everyone would think she's a freak.

Ava was a freak. She knew that fact well.

She sank into her seat like a heap of lead, her face falling into her palms. She stayed quiet. She didn't cry.

She just had to ride this out, and then she could go home.

Running her fingers through her hair, she lifted her head up just in time to see a girl from class, blonde and tall, carrying a small, faded red bag, the straps held away from her slender body. It was set on the floor between them with genuine scanned the girls face. She had pity in her eyes, not hatred, not annoyance. It resembled many of the counselors she had been to.

She managed to squeak out a 'thank you' before she lowered her head and reached for her things. When she came back up, bag in hand, the girl had left. Sighing, she left the office quietly, starting on her way home.

• • •

There were perks to going to a preparatory school. One of them was never being more than half a mile from home.

The walk was lonely, but that was nothing truly new. The autumn leaves on the trees were just beginning to lose their bright flares, curling and turning a disappointing brown. The wind was starting to become cruel, pulling Ava and everything around her in all directions.

Winter was here.

Ava enjoyed mild winters, with cold rain and snow, lining her windows in the morning, giving her chills that forced her to curl up tightly under the covers. Those covers were safe. Even if her demon tried to control her, or talk to her, she couldn't embarrass herself in front of anyone else. Thats all that really mattered to her.

She thought about the peace she would be greeted with when she got to her room. Since classes got out in an hour, that would be an hour that Ava had pretty much the entire building to herself. With paper-thin walls lining every room, it was nearly impossible to relax in silence, or do anything without worrying about people hearing it.

The dorms were laid out in the fashion of the letter 'T.' The entrance was at the very bottom, glass doors acting like a window to the long stretch of hallway, that split off into two separate wings. Ava lived in the room at the very end of the left wing, on the bottom floor. That was about the best room anyone could get.

Walking down the halls with utter silence was an extremely eerie experience. The constant chatter and laughter heard from the rooms when everyone was there was replaced with Ava's soft footsteps on the carpet below. It almost made her miss the company of all the girls in the neighboring rooms.

She unlocked her door and stepped into the cold, dark space that was her room. Her bed laid untouched from the morning, covers pulled across the bed with obvious laziness. Next to the bed was a window, the drapes blowing endlessly from a radiator stationed just below it, giving off a low buzz as it worked. She had a mirror on the wall, a bathroom to herself, and anything else to be expected in a dorm. While some didn't exactly see this as ideal, this was what was considered home to Ava.

Her bag was slugged to the side, hitting the wall with force as she climbed into her unmade bed. Her head sank into the pillow, and she fell into a state of relaxation that she hadn't achieved in a very long time. There was no one around to bother her; not even her orange-tailed pest was anywhere to be seen. She was truly content.

Ava had never fallen asleep faster in her life.

It was a deep, dreamless sleep, relaxing beyond anything she had ever experienced. Even after her hour to herself, and everyone started trickling into their rooms, she did not wake until the next day shone its light into her room.

As her eyes opened, Ava knew this day had to be better. She would go to school and she would participate, and smile, and people would think she was better. This would be the day things looked up.

Throwing the sheets away from the bed, her entire body was greeted with sharp needles of pain. She recoiled into her mattress in fear, which she realized was sticky under her.

Blotches of red covered the cool blue sheets, turning her room into something resembling the scene of a homicide. Ava prayed that this was just an extreme midnight nosebleed, or some rogue period.

Oh, but of course it wasn't. This wasn't going to be fair for her. It never was.

She ran to her mirror in agony, seeing how she had her nightgown on, lazily hanging from her shoulders, with only half the buttons secured. She fell asleep in her uniform last night. Ava knew what she would find, and waves of dread crashed over her.

Don't let this happen to me. This day has to be better.

She opened her gown and gazed upon the scars, the open wounds, caked and covered with dried blood. Slices lined her skin from her neck to her thighs. The ones on her torso were still oozing dark red.

Ava bit her lip, managing to avoid crying. If she showed her demon how awful she thought this was, it would do it again. She would show the demon that it won.

She sat on the bed, staring at herself. She didn't slouch or hang her head. She sat up straight, trying to stay strong through this. Maybe it was just some terrible dream the demon came up with? Maybe it was starting to mess with her mind. Maybe this all was just some crazy trick of the light.

"You were so vulnerable in that state." An unforgiving voice cooed next to her.

It was sitting next to her. Ava didn't dare look at it.

"I've never seen you let your guard down that low. What a childish mistake."

Her mind was pulsing along with the sharp pains in her body.

"You shouldn't leave scissors out in the open like that. Someone could get hurt."

She saw it smile in the mirror. The blades, now bloodied, laid still under the figures feet.

Ava couldn't give it a reaction. She stayed still, her legs hanging limp, acting like her flaming ghost wasn't there. It was all she could do to keep from falling to the ground and weeping.

The predatory smile faded. Ava could see it creeping closer, fiery orange choking her vision. A claw came up to stroke her cheek, as it turned it's head to the mirror and locked eyes with the girl's blank gaze.

"Look at you." Its other hand traced the scars, becoming extremely focused. "It makes you look so weak, so... Pathetic..."

A quiet grunt escaped Ava's mouth as she tensed. She couldn't let it get to her. She could see her demon becoming frustrated. The demon furrowed its brow, trying to drag its claws down her host's stomach, even though it knew she couldn't be touched. Anger played across its face.

"No wonder no one really tries to help you! You never face up to your own problems! That boy in the hall knew how weak you were, and didn't even bother to help you, because of how pitiful you always act! You are no better than anyone in this entire school!"

Her eyesight grew blurry, and tears started rolling down her cheeks, landing on her scarred chest and burning. She was so close to beating it, and she still ended up in tears.

She made no sounds, wiping her tears from her eyes. She knew she was pathetic, and now she was reassured by the demon haunting her. By the time her eyes were dry, there was absolutely no sign of the fiery ghost anywhere.

• • •

Ava knew she couldn't go to school. Buttoning up her nightgown was already extremely painful, and she couldn't be walking all day with cuts that could bust open and expose her injury at any time. She had to take care of a few things, then she had to let herself heal.

First, she slid to the phone on her nightstand and called the office to tell them that she wasn't going to come to any of her classes today. She didn't know the person who picked up, which was better for her, because they didn't ask how she was doing or what had happened. They sorted it out and wished her a good day before hanging up. Ava was refreshed with a new sense of responsibility.

After she got up from the phone, she started cleaning up any blood around the room. The sheets, along with a pillowcase were thrown into a pile on the floor, to be taken to the building's laundry room. She hurt too much to bend down and get the scissors, so she kicked them to the middle of the floor to be messed with later. The bedding, however, had to be taken care of quickly, despite any sharp pains she had to deal with.

The laundry was easy. She lifted it into the hamper, rolled it into the elevator, took it to the laundry room, put the bedding in the machine for a long wash, got fresh sheets and left. No one was there to mess her up, or question why the hell she was wearing a bloody nightgown. It was straightforward and simple. She could do it.

Of course, she had to clean herself up next, and that was a little harder.

Ava had been downplaying her pain from the minute she realized what did it to her. She wasn't going to show weakness around her demon ever again. No matter how much pain she had to deal with; no matter how much it felt like the blades were still in her skin.

She turned the water on in her bathtub, keeping it nearly ice-cold as she stripped her gown, now turning a dark brown from drying. She started cleaning herself up with a wet towel, starting at her stomach, where the slices were deeper, moving outward to her shoulders and thighs. The pain of simply wiping up excess blood had her whimpering and choking back tears the entire time.

She checked the temperature of the bath with her hand. Ice cold. Maybe it would numb the pain on her body.

As she stepped in and immersed herself, the cold water seeped into the slices on her body, squeezing a cry of anguish out of the poor girl. Nothing Ava had ever experienced had hurt this bad. She couldn't help but sob, her salty tears mixing with the water. Through her crying, however, she could still hear her demon laughing, cold and hostile.