Ok, so here's chapter 1 of my story "The Architecture of Falling." You guys said you'd be up to reading some of my other completed stuff, so...here it is. It's a lot more serious/angsty than "Uncivil Union" but hopefully you'll be into regardless. Let me know what you think. Oh, and also...

Chapters won't normally be this long, but I wanted to start you off with something substantial. Ok, enough rambling...enjoy!

Chapter 1

Her eyes met mine, just as they had years ago and I was done

Her eyes met mine, just as they had years ago and I was done. Finished. Catapulted into another version of myself almost immediately. So much had changed. So much had remained the same. She was still…

"Spencer!" Kyla screamed, throwing her arms around the blonde excitedly. But Spencer's eyes remained on mine as she returned the hug.

We re-learned each other in hurried seconds and communicated enough between the space to know we were both in trouble.

"Kyla, oh my God! Look at you!" she said, pulling away to study her more closely, "I can't believe how different...you're beautiful."

"I had to grow up at some point, right? Come on, get in here."

Kyla grabbed Spencer's arm, pulling her inside the house, releasing her only when they had made their way to the middle of the foyer. I leaned against the front door, merely observing.

"Ashley!"

"What?" I practically whispered, suddenly very annoyed by my sister's presence.

"Are you going to say hi to Spencer or are you just going to stand there?"

"Oh, sorry. Spence…hey."

I was forced to make eye contact again. Results the same as before. I was history. I was falling.

"Hey, Ash."

The words were simple but the tone was not. Neither was the girl. The world had found her weakness and stripped her of her parents two years ago. They died in a car wreck, leaving behind two biological children—Spencer and her brother Glen— and one adopted son, Clay. And all of a sudden, the girl who was best friends with my sister, constantly in our house, filling it with laughter and memories was nowhere to be found. Off at some boarding school a million miles away. Her brothers were sent to school out-of-state as well. Life went on. Or so I assumed.

But this Spencer…this Spencer was not the same girl from two years ago. This Spencer had nothing to laugh about.

Kyla seemed oblivious as usual, and dragged Spencer upstairs and to her room. I could hear the door close behind them as I stood in the foyer. This next two weeks would be a lot longer than I had originally anticipated.

--

I stayed in my room as long as possible, grateful for the fact that my oversized bedroom came complete with a full bathroom. I couldn't face her. Not again. Not yet. And not like this. She and I shared a secret. And I knew that the struggle I endured while being in the same space as the blonde plagued her as well.

I was a significant year older than my sister and a year and a half older than Spencer. They were both a grade under me and had been friends since kindergarten. I played my role as the falsely annoyed big sister, sighing at their pointless games and yelling across the hall at all hours of the night when their voices would carry all the way from Kyla's room to my own. But I didn't mind. Spencer's presence brought a sense of normalcy to an otherwise dysfunctional family.

My mother. My partying, rock star father. The booze, the women, the fighting. It didn't exist when Spencer was in our house. My mother had to keep appearances, after all.

"Ashley?"

It was Kyla's voice, suddenly on the other side of my door.

"Yeah?"

"Can I come in, please?"

"It's open."

She swung the door open, face lit up with a blinding smile. Spencer trailed, her face unreadable.

"We wanted to see what you're doing."

"I'm listening to music…as usual."

"Stupid. Why?"

"Um…because I like it."

"But you could hang out with me and Spence. Why be by yourself?"

"Because I like it."

"Let's leave her alone, ok? I know what it's like to want some privacy," Spencer said, blue eyes focusing in on my brown ones.

"But she's always in here!" Kyla exclaimed, plopping herself down on the edge of my bed, "being all anti-social and listening to her stupid IPOD and playing her guitar."

"What's wrong with that?" Spencer and I asked at the same time.

"Nothing, I guess…whatever."

We were all silent for a moment, my eyes on my IPOD, Kyla's on me, and Spencer's everywhere else. They journeyed around the entire distance of the room as if there were something to be learned here.

"Anything else?" I asked finally, releasing a sigh.

"Mom said she's not going to be home tonight. I was thinking we could order a pizza…watch some movies or something. I mean, I wanted to go out, but Spencer's tired so…"

"Even if I wasn't, I'm not the biggest fan of going out. All the lights and the music and the people. I can't deal," Spencer said.

"I totally understand. I used to love it, but I find the older I get, the less appealing it all becomes. If I want a drink spilled on me and a crowded bathroom I can go be a pre-school teacher or something," I agreed.

"Oh, please," Kyla said, shoving me playfully, "the older you get? You're twenty years-old, Ashley. And let's face it, the reason you stopped going out was because Aiden dumped you."

"Aiden didn't dump me. Aiden transferred to the University of Arizona, ok? It was a decision…a mutual decision to discontinue our relationship."

"Discontinue? That sounds a little technical, Ash," Spencer said with a smile that I can only assume created world peace and placed rainbows in the sky.

"Maybe, but it's the truth."

"So you're single?"

I looked at her before answering, unsure of her motives, "Indeed."

"All the more reason to go out," Kyla said, jumping up from the bed, "we'll let you know when the pizza's here, Ash. Try not to have too much fun all by yourself."

Spencer dutifully followed behind her, but not before throwing a knowing glance in my direction from the doorway.

The right words had to be said or this visit would be unbearable. Eventually we'd have to talk about the kiss.

--

One restless hour, two slices of Angelo's pizza, and more awkward glances than I can account for later, I am sitting next to Spencer on the couch—Kyla's idea—as we sit and watch "The Notebook."

Kyla's idea.

I guess I wasn't watching the movie. I guess instead my peripheral vision was interacting with Spencer's as we sat thigh to thigh and secret to secret on that shrinking couch that used to be a lot more horizontally adequate before her arrival. She was sandwiched between Kyla and I, but all bodily contact was with me and the longer it continued the less I was convinced it was merely out of coincidence.

"I freaking love this movie," Kyla says, eyes threatening to spill tears but staying glued to the screen, "I love Ryan Gosling."

"I love Rachel McAdams," Spencer says quietly, and I imagine that her hand casually grazes mine. At least…

I think I imagine.

"Yeah, she's great too," Kyla agrees.

Spencer is staring at me again. I can tell because those eyes could penetrate the thickest surface, render it fragile and unsubstantial. And I'd allow it…

But I can't.

"I think I'm going to call it a night, you two. I'm exhausted," I say, standing suddenly.

"Whoa, but we're getting to the best part. Can't you wait?" Kyla asks.

"I don't think so. I mean, I'm barely awake as is, so…"

Spencer grabs my hand, a last attempt to make me stay and just for a second I squeeze back. I'm only so strong, and she knows it.

"How much longer before it's over, Ky?"

"Like thirty more minutes, I swear. Sit."

I release my hundredth sigh of the evening and collapse beside Spencer once again. But this time I think of that night. That night two years ago, the night before her perception changed forever. That night in the kitchen when Kyla was sound asleep upstairs…

"Did I scare you?" she asks as she steps into the kitchen.

Her hair is disheveled, her hands sleepily grab at the hem of her tank top, twisting it around her fingers.

"No, I was just making my usual three o'clock sandwich. You want one?"

"It's three in the morning, Ash."

"Hence the name of the sandwich. You want one or not?"

She smiles and takes a seat on the barstool across from me at the counter as I prepare another three o'clock sandwich.

"I couldn't sleep. I had terrible dreams."

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah, really weird. There was this one dream or like…part of a dream where I was in this house with all these doors but none of them led anywhere and I was by myself. And like, I couldn't figure out what to do next, you know? Do I try to escape? Do I resign myself to the fact that I'm stuck and alone? What do I do?"

"What did you do?"

"I don't know. I woke myself up before I found out."

"See? How do people do that?"

"What? Wake themselves up from dreams?"

"Yeah! I can't do that. If I'm having a fucked up dream, there's nothing I can do to stop it. I just have to ride it out."

"Maybe that's not such a bad thing. Maybe that's what you're supposed to do and then you're not left wondering like I am right now."

"Maybe, but still…"

"Yeah, I know. Sometimes it's better not to know."

"Exactly," I said, putting the finishing touches on my culinary masterpiece before sliding the plate her way, "here."

"I'm so excited," she says, taking a significant bite of the sandwich. Her eyes close and I know that I've secured yet another believer in the power of my three o'clock.

"You're in love, admit it," I say with a nod, and when her eyes open the emotion behind them almost frightens me.

"I am, actually."

"I knew it."

But I'm hesitant now, knowing that somewhere over the horizon is the beginning of a serious conversation.

"Ashley…I have to talk to you."

"What's up?"

"Lately I've been having these…I don't know. I don't know what I'm trying to say."

"You don't know what you're trying to say?"

"Ok, I know what I'm trying to say. I just don't know how to say it. I don't want to make things weird or awkward or whatever."

"Listen, I've known you almost all your life, Spence. If I didn't judge you for wearing turtlenecks two years longer than everyone else in the nineties then I'm probably not going to judge you for whatever it is you need to tell me now, ok? Trust me."

She laughs lightly, clutching her sandwich like an immovable feast. I'm not ashamed to admit that in that moment all I could see was how perfectly beautiful she looked. Her face was framed by golden locks, her eyes a complex zodiac of blue. It does, however, shame me that I allow her to gain her courage and assault my mouth in a flurry of soft, nervous kisses. One after the other. A simple, repetitive pattern. What am I supposed to do? How dedicated am I supposed to be to the cause of maintaining this girl's innocence?

"Spencer," I manage to whisper, as if this won't just spur her forth.

I try again.

"Ashley…Ash?"

Her hands are on my shoulders, shaking me out of my memory.

"Movie's over."

"Where's Kyla?" I ask, noticing my sister's absence and how vulnerable its existence leaves me.

"She's in the bathroom."

"Oh."

"Yeah…"

"Spencer, we should talk."

"I know."

"Like, sooner than later."

"I know," she says again with an affirming nod, "we should."

"When?"

"I can come to your room…after Kyla falls asleep."

"Do you think that's a good idea?"

She smiles at this, realizing the tension between us isn't one-sided after all, "Ash, it's been two years. A lot has changed."

"Meaning…"

"All I want to do is talk, ok? I've missed you. You were always the older sister I never had, you know?"

Awkward.

She notices and fixes it almost immediately, "Or the totally gorgeous big sister of my best friend."

I blush, and if I hadn't felt the heat in my cheeks, I would've known it anyway from Spencer's smile.

"Alright, people," Kyla says, finally making her return, "I'm depressed, I'm horny, and I'm tired. Lethal combo, ok? I'm going to sleep. Spence? Are you coming?"

"Yeah, I'm right behind you," she replied, looking at me before trailing my sister up the stairs.

--

I couldn't sleep, waiting for that knock. Waiting for Spencer. But anxious as well. I didn't trust myself in the same room as the blond with the piercing eyes and the easy smile. And how? How could she still be so warm and giving after having lost so much? How could she still resemble a version of herself that was so untouched by harsh reality?

After an hour, I think maybe she won't come. But just as the thought enters my mind, there's the knock.

I nearly run to the door, opening it quietly.

"Hey," she says, stepping inside what had previously been my sanctuary and immediately absorbing its security, "were you sleep?"

"No, I couldn't sleep."

She nods and walks over to sit on my bed.

I absolutely panic.

"Come sit with me," she says, and as I walk towards her I feel it all over again.

I don't stand a chance.

"So…how was um…how was Thanksgiving?"

I'm tripping over flat words as I nervously attempt to remain casual. And she knows it. I can tell that she knows it.

"Thanksgiving is always hard. But Glen and Clay and I tried to…you know, we tried really hard to make everything seem normal. Life before mom and dad…"

"Yeah."

"Yeah."

"Where are they going for Christmas?"

"Glen's going on a trip or something. I think he wants to be alone, and Clay's going to his girlfriend's for a few days. So…"

"And you'll be here."

"I'll be here."

"Spencer, I…"

"Ashley, look…it was just a kiss, ok? We don't have to act like strangers because it happened. I mean, it was two years ago."

"I know."

"But do you? Do you really because you can't even look at me."

I wanted to prove her wrong, but I couldn't bring myself to meet her gaze.

"I know."

"Why, though? We've known each other forever."

"But that's the point, Spence. That's the fucking point."

"What's the point?"

I shifted next to her on the bed. Out of all the potential scenarios that I had created prior to this moment, none of them had indicated I would be the one who would have to mention the unmentionable. Not a single one.

"You're my little sister's best friend. And you and I…we…"

"We kissed."

"You kissed me."

"I know it was two years ago, Ash, but I remember you returning that kiss."

"Maybe."

"No. Definitely."

I blush. I can't help it.

"Fine, I kissed you back. But it was a mistake."

"Was it? Because I don't think so."

"Spencer, you're practically family. Kissing you was just wrong on so many levels."

I can feel that her eyes finally leave my face.

"Ok."

"And it can't happen again."

"Fine, whatever you say."

"A lot has changed, you know."

"Oh, what? You don't kiss girls anymore, Ashley?"

I take a chance and look at her. Her eyes are challenging me and a subtle smirk plays upon her lips.

"That's not what I mean."

"Then what do you mean?"

"Don't make me say it."

"My parents…"

"Yeah, and then you were gone and two years went by. You and I are very different people now, Spence. I'm older and…I know better now. I know that what happened between us was wrong."

"So you said."

"You can't tell me that you don't see how wrong it was."

"I don't know. It felt pretty good to me."

Frustrated now, I raise my voice an octave, "It's not about how it felt. Lots of things feel good. Doesn't make them right."

She nods as if she's considering this, but I know better. Because although years have passed and everything about our relationship is now very different, I still know Spencer Carlin.

"Yeah, maybe so. But I do know one thing."

She stands up and faces me before lowering her mouth to my right ear, causing my body to throw up ten million miniature caution flags.

"You want me to kiss you again."

I expected her to move, but she stayed put. Her lips traveled over the delicate skin around my ear before she released a soft sigh of pleasure.

I couldn't speak. Because everything that entered my head was either unintelligible or a lie. These morals, these hesitations…where did they come from? Who was I trying to convince exactly? Spencer was reading me like an open book anyway.

And so I finally moved forward, tired of backpedaling and attempting to erase what was obviously so permanent. I held her face between my hands, reveling in how good it felt to meet her eyes.

"I do."

"You do what?" Spencer asked, sounding uncharacteristically like a nervous version of herself. The version from two years ago.

"I want you to kiss me again."

"Since when?"

"Since right now."

"Not this time," she replied as she licked her lips and curled her them into a nearly wicked smile, "You kiss me."

I wasted no time, knowing I could lose the courage at any second. I met her lips with mine, standing up to press my body against hers. I needed the contact so desperately that it overruled everything else. Every single rational thought.

"Spencer?"

Kyla's voice. Down the hall. Coming closer.

At first I thought I had imagined it, but the blond suddenly pulled away from me, "I'm in here!"

Spencer gave me a look as if to assure me that we would continue whatever it was we had started later. But it did nothing to halt the want that was now creeping into every inch of my body.

Kyla pushed my door open, her hair a mess and her eyes mostly closed, "I've been looking for you. I woke up and you weren't there."

"Sorry, I couldn't sleep. I didn't want to wake you up so I thought I'd come and um…talk to Ashley."

"If anyone can put you to sleep it's her," Kyla replied with a signature smile.

"Thanks, Ky."

"Anytime, Ash. So…are you coming to bed or are you still wide awake?"

I prayed—literally prayed—that Spencer would stay. She glanced at me first, as if she had to ask permission to lie.

"I think I'll talk to Ashley a little while longer, actually. I'm just not tired yet."

"Yeah, don't worry about it. I'll make sure to put her to bed," I told Kyla, walking over to rustle her hair further.

"Ok, well…goodnight, Ash."

"Goodnight, Ky."

And there we were. Alone again. Spencer stood unsure across the room, eyes cast towards the carpet. I was afraid she had changed her mind.

"Spence…"

"Yeah?"

"You know, nothing has to happen, ok? If you really just want to talk we can do that. No pressure."

"That would be fine with you?" she asked, smirking and closing the space between us with a suddenly more confident body.

"Whatever you want."

"What do you want?"

"I want…"

"Honestly."

"What?"

"Answer honestly."

"I want to do whatever makes you comfortable."

"Oh really?"

"Really," I reply, swallowing hard and shifting nervously.

She's right in front of me now and the proximity without release is a form of torture I'm not exactly used to. I'm not used to being so at the mercy of anyone. I'm Ashley Davies. I make the rules.

Spencer's now close enough for me to feel the soft sensation of her breath on my lips.

Who's making the rules now?

"I don't believe you."

"What are you talking about?" I ask. It's becoming increasingly more difficult to follow the conversation.

"I think you want more than that."

"Ok."

She laughs, "You want me to tell you what I think you want?"

No, because it will send me over the edge of the kind of metaphorical cliff that I can't handle in the moment.

"Fine."

She's whispering in my ear again, "I think you want to see how wet I am…how wet you make me."

Breathe.

Now.

Speak.

Later.

"I think you want to slide your fingers inside me…fuck me hard while I whisper your name so that only you can hear it. Is that want you want?"

I would answer, but I literally cannot form words. She's standing so close.

"Ash, look at me."

I lift me head hesitantly.

"Tell me that's what you want."

Remember who you are, Ashley Davies. Remember who you are.

"No, that's not what I want."

She looks at me. Obviously not the answer she was expecting.

"Um…ok…I thought…"

I silenced her with my mouth, kissing her deep and hard and wet while I unbutton her shirt as quickly as my hands will allow. Her skin is soft and firm in all the right places, but there's no time to offer the attention it deserves. I'm on a pre-ordained mission to make Spencer Carlin come and everything else is trivial in its light. Her jeans are soon around her ankles, but my mouth never leaves hers until I trail a line of kisses down her torso until I'm on my knees in front of her.

I look up, completely still until she notices and stares back at me.

"Spence…"

"Yes?" she replies, her breathing obviously a chore.

"Do you want me to tell you what you want?"