1. At the bottom of everything.
"What do I remember about our first kiss?" The dark-haired girl, eyes misplaced in a vivid memory, said the words as if they were meaningless. Not as if they didn't have a meaning behind them-she was acutely and undeniably aware of the emotions clouded behind the statement-but as if they were just that-just words. Her eyes were far away, absentmidedly resting out the window, and avoiding the gaze of the man sitting across from her. Avoiding it the way she had for years now. She felt, all too soon, that she had to concede to the fact that he did, after all, know her too well to fall for her instinctive ploy. To fall for her traveling eyes and the emotions concealed behind them. Turning her confident stare to him, she met his gaze with steady eyes and thoughts she could feel streaming inside them.
Their first kiss. It was distinctively odd for her to remember it, because it was all her's. Devestatingly, lovingly, wholly, tenderly, painfully, all her's. Other memories she could recall-birthdays, Christmas, concerts, dances-belonged to other people as well as Ashley. They, of course, were never the main focus of her mainly focused mind, and so they faded. But they were always there and, somewhere inside, Ashely recognized that they had witnessed the events she held so close to her heart. So close they were burning a hole straight through.
But this one...this one was all her's. Because only two people had been privvy to the sweet, nervous taste of a first kiss. No one watching, like they almost always were when it came to Spencer and Ashley, the girls always placed under the limelight. No, this was just them, just them starting to build what would eventually carry Ashley into this room, into this now. What Ashley and Spencer had created under the aforementioned constant limelight and what Ashley had found, in a suddenly horrible way, was all she had left.
"It wasn't a very good kiss." Ashley let the words spill into the silence, and recrossed her legs. Realizing, a split second too late, that this natural body language would easily tell the good doctor she was lying. She shifted and kept eye contact when she was hiding something from anyone, and he knew this. He knew many other things as well, things Ashley had admitted in this dark room ages ago, accompanied by dripping tears and a clenched stomach. Forced into reality by sheer force of will and not much else. Things only one other person had ever recieved, with the same sobs and the same terror. Only then, there had been soft kisses and warm hugs and arms that promised to never leave without her having to say the words.
Now, Ashley knew without doubts, the owner of those arms had been lying.
"Well, it wasn't the best." Another lie, though this time only Ashley was sure of it. The doctor tilted his head, searched curiously- because all he ever was was curious -but couldn't decipher the feelings sheilded behind Ashley's dark eyes. And there was no way Ashley was letting him in, not anywhere near the way she had laid her dark before him years ago. There were no tears and no fear left to be shed, nothing for her to offer in order to gain what she desperately needed. What she had earned years ago and what had been slid out from under her without even a breath of a warning. She couldn't break and let him in anymore.
"We had been friends for a few weeks." Her eyes were out the window again and her voice mused into the past. She said the words, but had no intent of allowing him any further. As harsh as that memory felt and, in plain contrast, as soft as the memory itself was, she had come to a firm desicion in the seconds after he asked. She had remembered the achingly tangible moments, along with the ever present pain in her chest, and she had kept them to herself. Pushed back wayward tears, ones she let course in the silence of her empty house, but ones she had delegated to there and there only.
"And we kissed." The pain sliced again, with infallible accuracy, straight into her heart- right where she felt it the freshest. Deep into what she knew had been torn so many times in the past weeks, yet still cut anew. Still made her eyes strive to blink and her chest clench with the same ferocity of those admissions years ago. Another dark to blemish her already stained white soul.
"Well Ashley, I think that's all the time we have today." His voice wasn't disappointed, or relieved, nor did it contain any emotion whatsoever. It was pleasant and devoid of anything Ashley could use against him to guilt him into fixing her problems for her. To force him to rip her apart the way Spencer had and then put her back together in the hours afterward. Still, she knew even if she did find that weak spot, that chink in his armour- because everyone had one- he wouldn't be able to glue her the way Spencer had. He wouldn't have the strength or the care and he sure as hell wouldn't have the love Ashley needed right now. Because no one had that love. No one ever would again.
Although, if Ashley strove as deep into her heart as her mind would allow, she relaized she did have that love, she was just refusing awareness of it.
But then again, when it came down to it and everything was wavering on the line, all that mattered was awareness.
"Thank you." Ashley stood and leaned across the doctor's chesnut desk as she did every week, offering her hand as some sort of peace offering after refusing any and all of his questions for an hour. He shook it quickly as he did every week and turned down to his notes, still scribbling furiously the way he did every session. Ashley had become positive of the fact that he was writing a book about her, or at least about her various issues, because he never put down his little white pen for anything. He would glance up, eyes wide and lost, seeing her but not seeing her, listening but really just writing. She would spin tales of crazy and make up lonely little shorts, but the truth was, she had been estatically happy. She had been loved and she had loved with the same desperate need, the same reckless abandon.
Now though, she needed him to stop scribbling. She needed someone to stop putting pen to paper, and mouth to ear, stop eyeing her with sympathetic gaze and just fix her. She needed that with desperate need, with reckless abandon. She felt dirty and dark and cut, things she was aware she wasn't, but the knowledge didn't halt the stumbling tears that grazed her face every night, or the continuous hurt that seemed to be everywhere all at once. Making her feel as if she would never have a day of peace, never breathe again without knowing that everything she loved wasn't there to share it with her. Without a tight throat and an utter helplessness.
And what cut her the most was the fact that Spencer would hate her for this. Spencer would cry and pound and force her way into Ashley's dark like she needed to be there and then yell at her for letting that dark fester. For stowing it away where no one- not even Spencer -could touch it. Spencer would hate her for it.
But Ashley didn't know what else to do.
She turned away from the desk, from the scribbling fingers and the white pen, and headed toward the heavy, imposing door. She took a deep breath and tried to remember when the harsh daylight felt warm and when intimate touches were welcomed. Tried to remember normal, whatever that was.
She failed miserably.
She fell back into what she now was, as thin and weak as that person was. Pushing open the door into a room full of shattered souls, she found herself close to repulsed by them.
Because she saw something identical in her.
But she didn't know what else to do.