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Chapter Thirty

"Acute stress disorder?"

"The essential feature of Acute Stress Disorder is the development of characteristic anxiety, dissociative, and other symptoms that occurs within one month after exposure to an extreme traumatic stressor."

"In English?"

"Has Alexis been exposed to anything stressful in the past month?"

I heard my dad's voice and it confused me. I wanted to open my eyes badly, but I was just so tired. I had to have been dreaming. What would my dad be doing here?

"Her father and I had some issues to take care of. There's also been some issues while she's been here. Is that what caused the sleep-walking?"

I heard my mom's voice and it confused me even more. And who was sleep-walking?

"Well, I'm not sure if it was really sleep-walking."

"She was found in the middle of the damn woods twenty minutes before the sun rose! What else could it be?"

"Perhaps it was an unconscious desire to get away."

The voice that kept speaking was thick and foreign. The curiosity was killing me. I moaned as I struggled to open my eyes.

"Ally? Kitty, it's mom and dad. Open your eyes."

"I'll go get my supervisor," the smooth, deep voice said.

My eyelids felt like they weighed three thousand pounds. For a full second after I finally lifted them open, I saw nothing but blur. Ever so slowly, my dad's face swam into view.


He smiled and it was then that I felt his large, warm hand over mine. "I'm here sweetheart."

"You gave us quite a scare."

I turned my head ever so slightly. Mom's forehead was creased, making the worry lines she tried so hard to hide just that much more prominent. Her hand reached up and ran over my hair.

"What happened?" I asked.

My parents shared a look. Dad's hand squeezed mine.

"You don't remember?"

I shook my head. The mattress creaked as mom climbed up to sit beside me.

"Brenna woke up with a bad dream and went to you instead of Shelby. Your bed was empty. Mason found you in the middle of the woods, curled up in a grassy field."

My breath caught. Little sketchy fragments tried to piece themselves back together in my mind.

"There was this boy..." I said slowly. "Adam."

Mom and dad shared another look.

"Where did you meet Adam?" mom asked.

I hesitated. I knew how protective dad was of his girls. I fidgeted slightly, my hand twitching in his.

"Addy told me to go swimming and he was there."

"Sweetheart, Shelby told me there's no boy named Adam that lives in town."

For some reason that made me laugh. "Of course there is. Joe and I first saw him at Wal-mart. Ask him."

"We don't have to. He told us," dad agreed. "But it turns out he saw that person again last night when he walked into downtown for some ice cream." Dad's eyes were warm and full of sympathy. "That wasn't a boy honey; it was a girl in overalls and a baseball cap. Joe said she talked to him about five minutes last night while he waited for the cone."

My heart began to race. I shook my head hard, even though my temples ached. "That's not true. That's--"

"Here she is, sir. Woke about five minutes ago."

I looked up just in time to see an older guy with gray hair walk in. Right behind him was a tall, black man. He was younger; probably Mason's age.

He was also the one with the accent.

"Ms. McLean, how are you doing? I'm Doctor Oppenheim. This is my med student, Marquis."

"Hello," I said quietly.

Doctor Oppenheim pulled up a round stool. Mom moved out of the way and the doctor checked my vitals.

"How do you feel?" he asked.


"What was the last thing you remember?"

I was still reeling from the news about Adam. From the sounds of things, mom and dad were trying to tell me he had never existed. Tears burned at my eyes. "I don't know," I said weakly.

"What did you do yesterday?"

The question came from Marquis. He hadn't moved more than two steps away from the door, but there was a calmness in his eyes I liked.

"I went to work," I said.

"Where do you work?" he asked.

I began to relax as I discussed my work at the rehab center. He was really attentive, not in the fake ways that doctors usually adapted. I found myself winding my way through the day until I ended with me going to bed.

"That's it? Just bed?" Doctor Oppenheim pressed.

Heat rose to my cheeks. I stared down the sheet draped across the lower half of my body.

"I thought this boy came to my window and..." I trailed off.

"And?" Marquis asked. He smiled softly. "It's okay."

I was mortified as a tear fell down my cheek. "I don't remember anything more," I said.

"Have you felt any anxiety lately, Ally?" Dr. Oppenheim asked.

I looked at mom. I looked at dad. I knew in my gut that somewhere in the hallway Joe was pacing and freaking out. I thought about Addy. I thought about Cole. The tears came faster.

I wanted to say no; but damnit it was such a lie.

"Yes," I said. "I'm so stressed that I want to split in half. I just want to fix all the problems, but I don't know how."

"Honey, some things aren't yours to fix," mom said.

Dr. Oppenheim cleared his throat. "Mr. and Mrs. McLean, could I have you step out for just a moment?"

Dad looked like he wanted to argue, but mom reached over and grabbed his arm. He used the pad of his thumb to brush a tear away before he stood up.

"We'll be right outside, Al," dad said. Mom nodded. I watched dad take mom's hand as they headed towards the door.

Had they made up?

I didn't have any time to wonder about the implications of that little motion. Marquis walked over and sat on the edge of my bed. Dr. Oppenheim was busy making notes.

"I want you to talk to me honestly like you just did. You remind me a lot of myself and I think I know how to help you."

I glanced over at the doctor, but he was watching Marquis. It didn't look like he was going to jump in at all. I was in the hands of a med student.

And how the hell was he going to help me?