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Two hours had passed with the couple just sitting in silence. Ava continued her research. Zack had picked up his own laptop to continue his own leads, but knew he wasn't finding anything Avarielle hadn't already seen. He wanted to ask her what was going on, but the determined look in her eyes made him nervous. She was ready to pounce on anyone who dared to interrupt her. He decided to wait until she took a break.
Zack realized with a slight horror that it was getting close to 3:00pm. As far as he noticed, Ava had not gotten up to take a break or eat anything. He thought with an awkward twist of his leg that she must be avoiding going to the bathroom.
He took a deep breath, "Ava, aren't you hungry?"
She jumped a little, as if she had forgotten he was there, "What? What time is it?"
"2:48," he answered warily.
She closed her laptop with reluctance and sighed, forcing a smile in his direction.
"Sorry Zacky, I didn't mean to make you sit around for so long."
He smiled back shyly, "It's no problem. Any leads?"
She avoided eye-contact and mumbled negatively.
Zack could tell she was hiding something.
Things got even weirder that night. After Zack had fallen asleep, Ava got up swiftly and rummaged through her suitcase. She took out a can of salt and began pouring it over the openings in the room, such as windows and doors. She went back to her bed with a sigh of relief, hoping she would wake up before Zack to clean up her mess. But she was glad they were safe. She had worried about her friend getting attacked without this protection before.
Zack woke up around 4:30am with a searing headache. He had been getting a lot lately with all the stress of finding Beck. He got up to take a pill. On the way to the bathroom, he stepped in something gravelly on the ground. He used his cell phone as a flashlight and saw that it was salt. It was all over the floor next to the front door. He noticed more on the windowsill in the bathroom. Did Ava do this? He remembered hearing once that salt could be used to ward off evil. What was she so afraid of? He decided he had to finally ask her what was wrong. If she was that paranoid, maybe she needed help.
The next morning, the salt had been cleaned up, and Ava was already on her laptop researching again. Zack got dressed as usual, then approached her.
"Hey," she said when she noticed him sitting across from her.
"Avarielle. What's going on?" The mistrust was beginning to weigh on him.
She looked at him for a second, then said, "What do you mean?"
"There's something you're not telling me about all this. I found the salt last night. Are you- afraid of something?" He suddenly began to feel awkward asking about this, but her look of guilt told him he had been right. She closed her laptop and looked down at her lap, worried.
"Zack, you're my best friend…I…I think…Well…I don't know how to explain it." Her worst fear was that Zack would assume she is insane and send her away. At this point, she was the only one who had the power to save Beck. She was the only one who understood what her boyfriend was really dealing with.
"Does it have to do with that girl at the signing? Dessa…Or something like that?"
Ava laughed with dry hatred that Zack had never heard escape her before. "Desdemona… Dessie. It has everything to do with that animal."
Zack was speechless at first. Ava was not one to complain about others. She always had something good to say about anyone; even a douche like Ace. To refer to someone as inhuman is completely beyond anything he had ever expected from a saint like Ava.
His silence worried her. Had she said too much? "I mean…she kidnapped him…but there is more to it than that…"
"I don't understand." Dessie was so small and dainty. There is no way she could have done anything to Beck. Even if she had managed to render him unconscious, she couldn't have even dragged his body away without anyone knowing.
Ava sat down beside him and laid a shaking hand against her disappointed face. It was free of any make-up. Her hair was messy; her bangs hung over her eyes like old, worn drapes. But something wonderful about her shone through it all. She neglected herself for the one she loved. But it wasn't just about Beck. Ava would do this for anyone she cared about. She was torn, but not yet broken.
"Zack… I'm so sorry…"
He wrapped his arms around her and held her close against his warm chest. She allowed tears to fall onto his soft T-shirt, which brushed her cheek comfortably.
"You haven't done anything. Don't tell me if you don't want to. I'm going to help you no matter what. You're not alone." She gave a single sob at that last sentence. He responded to it by stroking her hair and squeezing her a little tighter.
She had to tell him. But to do it properly, she would need to explain something terrible that she had caused. Something that caused the death of an innocent girl named Brenna.