4. Days and days.
Ashley's legs were imprinted with the pattern of the Oriental carpet she had been sitting on for the past few hours. Twisted circles and curving lines had pressed their way onto her skin. She only noticed because they stung when she got up, and because her knees echoed the sentiment. When had she gotten old?
She took another sip from the whiskey bottle in her hand and then balanced it on her Bosendorfer piano. The brandy liquid was dripping onto the finish but she barely noticed. Instead, she found her way, reaching, a little unsteady, onto the wooden bench behind it and settled into her seat. Her fingers hovered over the keys for a moment, but she dropped them suddenly into her lap. Reaching up, she grasped the neck of the brown bottle and downed another mouthful of alcohol. Replacing the bottle again with a heavy clunk, she turned her eyes to the piano.
Her fingers hit the keys and her eyes watched the notes on crinkled white paper, but nothing sounded like music. Nothing calmed her or made her forget- she couldn't feel any of it. The noise rang in her ears, but not in her chest; the notes collided without grace or composure. She used to talk through music, but it spun away from her now, draining through her hands like shards of sand. Her fingers bounced over pristine black and white keys. She gave up after a couple minutes, trying to salvage the memory of a piano and the way she used to control it.
She sighed, eyes blurred and heavy in the dim room, and her hand stretched out for another sip, another down of whiskey. Her mind stretched for another memory to dull the night.
Ashley pushed her way through the crowd of fans in front of the spinning glass doors, her sunglasses shielding her face, her purse swinging dangerously from her arm. Three men in black surrounded her. He heel caught in a crack for a millisecond, but she regained her balance and kept going anyway. The hotel lobby loomed in front of her, only one push through gold-rimmed doors and she would be-- free. The sounds of screaming and the waving hands faded to a dim roar as she paused just inside the calm lobby, the door swinging slowly behind her. In a smooth motion, she slid the glasses on top of her head and turned back to the crowd, now safely out of their reach. She grinned, nose crinkling just the slightest, and offered a wave. Beside her, her bodyguards moved in closer.
The guys and girls on the other side of the barrier jumped in the air, arms waving, eyes focused, looking for that one second of eye contact that would make their stomach swim. Searching for Ashley Davies, and her infectious grin, her precious attention. Ashley slid her gaze slowly across all of them, still smiling. Then, she turned back and started toward the desk. Aiden appeared at her side out of nowhere, hands casually in his pockets. He looked relaxed and in control, like he always did. Ashley usually made a great comparison to his calm, in her wild flurry of movement and action and talk.
Right now though, she was just pissed.
"I don't see the point of this meeting, Aiden. I've never met the girl in my life, and I sure as hell am not fighting with her." Ashley spat, shouldering her bag. She usually wasn't this bitchy, but her new single was flopping, her mom was in a hospital in Cabo where she needed to be right now, and this...
"That's not the issue, Ash." Aiden, never one to put up with her shit, drawled back. "Everyone thinks you hate each other. And this is going to fix that."
"Fix what? A fake fight?" Ashley was grumbling, but she understood why they had to do it. Growing up with her father as well as Raife Davies- who were one and the same, yet could not be more different -had taught her, the hard way, the difference between a real personality and a fake one. Didn't mean it didn't suck. Aiden ignored her pointless jabs and leaned against the cream marble counter of the check-in desk.
"Conference room?" He asked the woman behind the counter, as Ashley glanced around the lobby. She'd been in this one before and she vaguely remembered the sprawling stairs and high balcony. The concierge pointed and Aiden took Ashley's elbow, gently leading her in the right direction. He spoke again. "Look, she needs this for her career right now, and I'm not even going to bring up your mom's bad publicity or that "You&Me" fiasco."
"Its a good song." Ashley defended it automatically. It was good, just too Bob Dylan for anyone below twenty to understand. Aiden smirked, because he knew it was good- he'd been playing it on repeat on his iPod since he'd gotten it.
Then again, he was over twenty.
"Besides, after this, we're getting on the first plane out to see your mom." He said, opening a heavy wooden door for her. Ashley grinned, her nose really crinkling and her eyes flashing.
"Yeah." She passed him and went into the room, still smiling. It was empty, save a tray of sandwiches and water. Crinkling her eyebrows, her smile faded. She placed her fingers on the dark leather of a conference chair.
"Where's Carlin?" Her tone hinted her annoyance. She spun the cair a little violently and sat down in it, sticking her feet up on polished wood. She crossed one leg over the other.
"She should be here any minute now." Aiden placated her and took his seat a little more elgantly, placing his elbows on the wood and trying to ignore the back of her chair beside his head. She rocked back a couple times and gazed out at the bright afternoon. Her eyes flicked over the Hollywood skyline where it rose and fell, spreading as far as it could, and then suddenly dropping off where the water began. She couldn't see the waves, but she could hear them- feel them. Fuck this, she wanted to go to the beach.
Aiden reached over and wiped away a smear of dirt on her foot. Her skinny jeans barely reached her ankles, but offset her heels in that wannabe rocker way she pulled off carelessly. She stared at her nails and tried to decide if the streak on the big toe was a scratch or just the glint of the table.
The door clicked open behind her and she slid her feet off the table without even thinking about it. Spinning her chair to the right, her arms braced on the side, she watched an entourage walk in. Ashley'd had the decency to leave her bodyguards outside, but apparently Spencer felt the opposite. Four bodyguards, two personal assistants, what looked to be a lawyer, and a well-known P.R. flanked the blonde girl's side.
Ashley had seen her a million times before. She'd grown up with pictures of the slender girl pasted next to pictures of her in magazines across the world. The celebrity baby boom had spawned both of them, and Ashley supposed they'd met once or twice as tots. But Raife was a rocker and Christine was a model; and Paula was a socialite and Arthur was a director- they ran in the same big circles, but their little circles were significantly seperated. So they'd been seperated. And maybe that was a good thing, because apparently Spencer was a drunk bitch, and Ashley was known as the down-to-earth rocker. They clashed like every good sterotype should.
"Hi." The P.R. gave Ashley a friendly smile as Spencer sat down across from the dark-haired girl. Ashley decided she looked softer in person.
"Hey." Ashley smiled back and pretended to ignore the girl who was currently ignoring her. A not-so-subtle nudge from the P.R.- Ally? -forced Spencer to lift her eyes. She was 22, still young enough to look like a brat, but she had that hint of intelligence in her gaze that make Ashley apprehensive. Ashley wasn't naive and from what she knew about Spencer, she should have been on her guard.
"Hi, I'm Spencer." The girl smiled, offering her hand, because they'd technically never met before. And yet they were arch-rivals. Media...
"Ashley." The dark-haired girl said, and took the offered hand. They shook lightly and then sat back in their respective seats.
"So..." Aiden started, pulling out his laptop. "Should we get started?"
Ashley glanced over at Spencer and they locked eyes for a split second. It made her heart skip a beat and then flutter nervously down to the pit of her stomach. She glanced away first, as smooth as she could muster.
It was going to get interesting.