A/N: I know, I know, it's been more than forever since I've posted. Sorry this is so short. But in my defense, this wasn't for lack of interest in the story. I went a little poor, luxuries were sacrificed (i.e. my internet access and phone), but it's all good now. And I apologize, I was really hoping to write some lyrics for Ashley to actually sing to Spencer, but I suck. Poems, I can do. Lyrics? Not so much. But, the show goes on. I thank all who have remained interested, your loyalty means the world. It's winding down, folks. Enjoy.
It's a miracle, Spencer thinks, that she hears as well as she does. A million scenarios play out in her head (none of them good) about what could've happened if she hadn't heard the car pull up, the doors slam shut, footsteps in the foyer. It would've been so very, very bad if Spencer hadn't heard her mother coming in time to pull her clothes on, to kick Ashley's under the bed, to push Ashley into the closet (no, the irony was not lost on her). Spencer can just imagine her mother walking in: Spencer and Ashley in just their bras and panties, lips connected, hands everywhere. Paula would look near tears, would likely drag Ashley out by her hair and throw her out the front door. The truth would settle on the house like lead, crushing everyone with the weight of it. No. Spencer couldn't have that.
So it's a good thing Spencer heard them coming, hid the evidence, and managed a convincing fib about needing a shower after the game (the one she didn't actually go to). Spencer is able to sneak Ashley out of her bedroom window while the water runs in the bathroom. Ashley climbed down the ladder that was left propped against gutters that had yet to be cleaned. She thanks God for small favors.
Spencer steps under the spray and lets the hot water wash away the fear and the guilt and the excitement of the day. Spencer knows that no matter how "progressive" her family is (one brother adopted and black, the other hopelessly addicted to drugs and all of them trying to hide it), they are not ready for SpencerandAshley.
Ashley can't sleep. She tosses and turns for awhile before giving up entirely. This is the first time that Ashley has hoped for Spencer and she didn't come. Ashley reaches for the next best thing. Her guitar lies lonely (but never forgotten) in a corner of the room, like a lover spurned. Ashley pulls it into her lap and it fits under her hands like Spencer does; like it's meant to be there. She's just strumming at first, nothing serious, she's lets her fingers fret what they may. Slowly, the notes take shape, they string themselves together and pretty soon Ashley's got a melody. The lyrics come soon after that, most of them from the draft she'd turned in to Mr. Reinhart. Remember, Ashley's not stupid. She has enough sense to recognize her own talent. So when she can't find her notebook, she draws a couple staffs on the back of her biology syllabus and fills them with notes that are too important to be lost.
Ashley is pretty proud of herself when she climbs back into her bed (regrettably alone) and she thinks she doesn't miss Spencer any less. But at least she's accomplished and her eyelids are heavy enough to pull her into sleep, the song still stuck in her head.
Spencer wakes up in an empty bed and the last thing she wants is to go to school. When she joins her family at the breakfast table, she gets lost in the conversation and for once she is grateful that Glen never shuts up. It is easy for her to be alone with her thoughts when everyone is listening to him recount (for the millionth time) the three-point jumpshot he scored at the buzzer. She feigns as much interest as she can muster and nods when appropriate. She's unprepared when Glen makes a point of asking Spencer where she disappeared to at half-time. Spencer feels eight eyes land on her like bombs and she prays that her racing heart isn't forcing blood to her face, nonchalance is her only hope.
"I told you I wasn't feeling well," she tries to sound annoyed. "That's why I went home early, to shower and lie down."
"You didn't tell me that," but she sees the doubt coloring his face.
"Yes, I did. You just weren't listening, as usual."
Glen mutters a "whatever" and goes back to talking with his mouthful. It sounds like something Glen would do (the not-listening), is something he has done, and they accept it without further interrogation. The eyes leave Spencer and take with them the panic and the guilt and the (sometimes) nausea that come when Ashley comes up like this. The panic and nausea and guilt are not about Ashley per se, it's more about Spencer. Panic because she knows how close she is to just telling everyone about Ashley then guilt because she never does. The nausea is probably because she is just sick of all the lying.
Ashley is silent on the way to school. Kyla's going on about something and Aiden's pretending he cares. He keeps looking back at Ashley in the rear view mirror. Ashley can see him out of the corner of her eye. It's taking all of her energy to keep her mouth shut. She knows how much Kyla loves him and she tries so hard to respect that, but he makes it really difficult when he's always at her house without a shirt making doe-eyes at her. Despite the fact that he has a penis and is therefore ineligible to receive any romantic attention from Ashley, those looks and those smiles are impossible to ignore. It would be so easy... but where's the fun in that?
Spencer is having trouble paying attention in class. They're discussing the flaws and merits of characters in this month's literature selection, but Spencer doesn't care about Holden Caulfield or his one-legged prostitute. All she can focus on is the fact that she can see through Ashley's shirt and not turning around to look (again). The last time Spencer looks she sees Adam-Alex or whoever in front of Ashley turned around and talking to her. Apparently, he's noticed the transparency of Ashley's top too. Spencer raises her hand and gets a hall pass; she needs air.
Ashley follows Spencer to an empty restroom where she's standing at a sink. She watches Spencer's reflection until she looks up. "What was that?"
"You ran out of class pretty fast--"
"What was with that guy, Ashley?"
"You know what guy, your friend. The one who sits in front of you? He was totally looking at your chest, which you can see through your shirt, by the way."
Ashley crossed her arms and peered at Spencer with raised eyebrows and a half-smile. "Spencer, are you... jealous?"
Ashley watches Spencer's eyes drop as she takes a step back. "No, I'm not jealous. No."
Ashley waits and says nothing, smile intact she moves her hand to her hips. "No?"
"Fine," Ashley says, hands up in concession. She counts to herself, 3...2...1...
"He shouldn't be looking at you like that! I mean, isn't he your sister's boyfriend?"
"Yeah, so why do you care?"
"Why don't you?"
"Because I don't like him."
"He likes you!"
"Oh my God, you are jealous."
"Of course I'm jealous, you're my―" the sentence died on Spencer's lips and her face turns red, she says nothing after that.
Ashley closes the distance between them until she's within arm's length of Spencer. She keeps her hands in her pockets for fear she might reach out. "I'm your what?"
Spencer's eyes are on her feet and Ashley thinks it may be a little absurd for her to be embarrassed, after all, she is only saying what the both already know (but it's cute anyway). "Just... mine."
Ashley takes Spencer's hands in her own, strokes Spencer's skin with her thumb. "I am yours, so quit worrying about Aiden. Besides the fact that he's Kyla's boyfriend and a guy, I'm only interested in you. Okay? I love you."
At this, Ashley half-expects Spencer to tear her hands away or tell her to be quiet. She doesn't expect Spencer to pull her into a hug in the middle of a dirty bathroom. "Me, too."
"Listen," Ashley starts, arms around Spencer's waist. "The Dive's having an open-mic night and I was thinking about playing. Would you come?"
"Come watch you play?"
Ashley sees the hesitation in Spencer's eyes and back-peddles. She drops her hands again and steps back. "Hey, don't worry about it."
"No, no, I want to, really, I just―you know what? Never mind. I'll come."
"Good," Ashley says, "because I won't bother if you're not going to be there."
Spencer smiles before turning back towards the mirror and tosses her hair quickly. "We should get back to class."