Disclaimer: Don't own anything.

Title: "Ghosts and Vodka"

Genres: Angst

Rated: T - maybe "M", though - for themes and language.

Tunes: Brand New "Me vs. Maradona vs. Elvis""The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot""Play Crack the Sky" "Good To Know That If I Ever Need Attention All I Have To Do Is Die"

People: Just me.

Author's Note: Angsty as all get-out. I tried to keep these between 100 and 200 words, but I exceeded that for the last one.

I decided to let it slide.


Number one.

Dark. But that's all it had been since the End. Two weeks of Dark. It was still hard. Harder than anything, but maybe that had to do with the unreality of it.

A year ago, a month ago, even a day ago and it never would have seemed like it could get like this.

Two weeks.

Two weeks without her.

Two weeks in the dark.

Two weeks with half a heart.

So, so, so dark.

Nose red, eyes bloodshot and empty, fingers clutching Kleenex and photographs. All in the Dark.

Light had walked out the door.

Light had been pushed out the door.

Exile. A great, terrible, punishment.

Eyes closed. In the Dark. Empty hands, empty everything.

Was it really worth it?

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Number two.

At night you dream of her. You dream of blonde hair, and soft skin, and rhythmic breathing, and the bluest eyes you've ever known.

You dream of mistakes. You dream of hurt. You dream of how it Ended and what you could have done and why you deserved everything you got.

In dreams, she's there. She smiles. She breathes. She laughs and moves and watches and hears and is.

She is alone.

In nightmares, she's there. You are with her. You hurt her. Careless words, careless actions. Her tears. Your words. Her sobs. Your words. She cries and begs:

You have to go now.

You've hurt her too much.

In nightmares, you leave.

And then the dreams start again.

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Number three.

They said she was right. She did the right thing.

They provide meaningless comfort. Kind words and sympathetic gestures more for their benefit than hers.

They tell her to dry her tears and hold her head high.

She was right, after all.

They said she deserved better. She needed someone who could take care of her. They said she had dodged a bullet.

They said:

Wash your hands of that mess.

Move on.

Move away.

Move.

She can't.

Her body could. It could go anywhere. To the ocean, to the moon, to a Brand New place for a Brand New beginning of a Brand New life that had nothing to do with Ashley Davies.

Her body could go anywhere.

Off a bridge, into the oven, into the ocean, the deep end of black oblivion with no sound and no vision.

Her body could go anywhere.

But her heart was stuck.

Nailed to the floor of the place that had been Home. Bleeding and thumping tiredly.

They said she was right.

If it could bring Ashley back, she never, ever wanted to be right again.

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Number four.

The bar again.

Vodka.

It's all she's drank since it Ended.

Men try to buy her drinks, sometimes. She sends them away with a headshake and downcast eyes.

Girls try to talk to her, sometimes.

They leave when they get tired of her silence.

It's so loud and so crowded and she hates it.

It's she comes here.

It's what she deserves.

Another girl wants to buy her a drink.

She looks down at her shot glass. So clear it looks empty.

Just like her.

The girl asks again.

She looks up.

Eye contact.

Yes.

She doesn't want to let it happen.

That's why it does.

It's what she deserves.

Ashley sips her vodka.

It's Ladies Night and all the girls drink for free.

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Number five.

Spencer had tried to make Ashley choose.

That was really what it came down to, every time.

Which life did Ashley want?

It was hard. For both Spencer and Ashley, but Spencer in particular.

Knowing that, maybe, Spencer was Ashley's second choice.

The maybe was what got Spencer, though.

That had been the worst.

So, Spencer had tried to make Ashley choose:

What life did Ashley want?

Nothing could have hurt worse than the silence. Even if Ashley had chosen directly against Spencer, it wouldn't have hurt half as bad as the silence.

It still burned in Spencer's ears at night. Fizzled when Spencer was alone. Painful, phantom hiss.

Spencer is utterly afraid of silence but Spencer can't seem to get away from it.

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Number six.

No expression.

The girl is nervous, she asks what Ashley is thinking.

Ashley doesn't have thoughts.

The girl laughs. It must be a joke.

Ashley is a robot. She can only do certain things. She has not been programmed to laugh.

The girl looks about to leave. Ashley kisses her. This she can do.

It's hollow.

It makes her ache.

She wants to stop, but it never goes that way.

Ashley can't laugh, and she can't smile. No expression.

She can cry, sometimes. She can drink. She can sit alone. She can stay silent. She can close her eyes and wish for things

(they never come true)

But mostly she can drink, and she can simmer, and she can fuck.

The girl is undressed with machinelike efficiency.

Ashley is a robot.

The girl, laid back on the bed, trembling and asking for more, God, please, more. And Ashley obliges her.

She keeps her face set: a silver stone, with no curves, cracks, or frailties.

The girl orgasms.

Ashley is a robot.

The girl reaches for her.

Ashley pushes her away, dresses quietly, walks out the door.

No expression.

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Number seven.

You know what they say about Phantom Limbs.

They itch.

At night, Spencer feels a hand in hers.

When she opens her eyes there is no one.

Arms around her midsection, warm breath against her ear, long fingers tracing her lips, and the soft scratch of nails on her thighs.

Still alone.

Phantom Limbs, yes.

But what about Phantom Lovers?

Ashley's ghost throughout the house. On her skin. In her lungs.

The ghosts of yesterdays, and sorrow, and mistakes, and promises, and all the stupid, naïve romantic notions they'd had.

Spencer closes her eyes. Tries to breathe. Thinks about haunting.

Stretches Phantom Limbs.

She wonders where Ashley is.

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Number eight.

You've been told that living is as easy as breathing.

You've been told lots of lies.

Lies like:

Forever.

Lies like:

Love is all you need.

Lies that felt so good at night sting so bad in the morning.

The worst kind of hangover.

Your arms are filled with puncture holes, and red, scabbing slashes. Glazed eyes. You couldn't even say what's been in your veins tonight. Mouth of vomit, and cum, and vodka, and smoke.

Empty.

Empty.

Hollow.

Skin thin, and broken: the softest armor.

Razors, needles, pipes, bottles.

Blinds shut, hands fisted, jaw clenched, chest burning.

As easy as breathing.

Your lungs are filled with regrets and yesterday and tears.

As easy as breathing.

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Number nine.

Paula called last night.

She said that you needed to get out.

To do something.

They are all worried.

You didn't say so, but you think that maybe they should be worried.

You asked if she'd seen Ashley.

She hesitated.

She said that she might have, a few days ago at the gas station.

You ask how she was doing.

She said This Isn't Healthy, Spencer.

She asked how you were doing.

You said:

Fine.

But it's a lie, and you both know.

She tries for another hour before she gives up and makes you promise to visit this weekend.

You said you would.

But it's a lie, and you both know.

You want to unplug your phone. You want to curl into the corner. You want to cry and maybe that will take some of the pressure off your chest.

So you do.

But it doesn't.

They're worried, and they should be.

It's so hard living with half a heart.

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Number ten.

In all those songs about love and loss they talk about how hard it is to get through the long, lonely nights.

Ashley doesn't quite understand that.

The nights are the easy part.

The nights are filled with distraction.

Shadows a cloak, wrapping around her, enfolding her. Liquid steel to fill all her cracks.

Drinks, and girls, and meaningless, and drugs, and addicts and other lost, hopeless, terrible people.

It's the days that are hard.

At night, she can pretend that all those strangers are there to keep her company. Because there's a certain comfort in the loose alienation of the dives and hollow places she visits.

But during the day, she's exposed.

Harsh light showing her for what she really is.

Broken, alone. Addicted. Deprived.

She's hurt too much. Been hurt too much. And all of those things she can hide at night with a bloody nose, and makeup, and a drink are amplified by the unforgiving sun.

The nights are easy.

It's every moment of the day that she wants to die.

It's during the day when she's reminded of what she lost. What she gave away. What she took from herself.

Ashley grabs her pen and closes her blinds and sits down in the corner.

She writes:

Dear friends,

She writes:

That she's done.

Ashley sets the pad to the side and picks up the needle and begins to tie off her arm.

She thinks that, whenever they find her letter - it will be during the day.


End Notes: Review, please.

-Orange