Disclaimer: I own nothing but the words and the occasional OC.
This is a five-parter on Ashley's PoV of Blanket of Stars. I'll try to post every couple of days.
The first chapter is the alternate to "The Face of an Angel".
There are two types of death. One: Your heart dies. Two: Your body dies. With both, your eyes die first.
Many men and women alike, all over the world, have the perception that one's life ends with their last breath, when, in fact, the correct definition of the word "life" is: "The interval of time between one's birth and the present".
Before I moved to this small town, I didn't not believe in people being left behind after they die, but rather, seeing was believing.
After I moved to this small town, I did believe in people being left behind after they die, and rather, seeing was not always believing.
Now I've realised that most people I see day in and day out are merely corpses with a heartbeat.
I would know, after all, I've seen one everyday for as long as I can remember. She doesn't ever smile when I see her in the mirror unless I smile first and, even then, her smile is forever as false as mine. Her eyes are duller than I'd ever wish for mine to be and the words which leave her lips are so hollow that goosebumps almost form on my arms.
And each time I realise that girl staring back at me is myself, an ice-cold shiver runs from the crown of my head to the heels of my feet.
"Do you want some coffee?" is unexpectedly asked of me, interrupting my thoughts and causes me to choke on cereal I didn't realise I'd begun eating.
A sheepish apology is uttered from Spencer before I can even speak.
"God," I mutter. That's wasn't the first time she's done that, but at least this time I got an apology instead of uncontrollable laughter that always makes me smile, despite myself. She's lethal.
"I made your bed for you," I hear her say, probably as a peace offering. A chair moves away from the table.
I knew she would. "You didn't."
"Go and check. I'll sit here and wait for your apology," comes her almost mischievous reply.
I try not to smile. I love light banter like this. "If I got out of this seat, you would just float upstairs and quickly make it. You're sneaky like that," I tell her, hoping she'll smile.
"I don't float. How many times have I told you that?"
Her voice tells me she did.
"Yeah, yeah," I dismiss playfully before the sound of the pages of a newspaper being turned meets my ears. I know what page she's looking for. Looking into the bowl, I bring up a spoonful of cereal. "I would actually like some coffee."
"You know where it is," Spencer mumbles.
My head shakes as I stand up from the table to make a pot of coffee, carrying my now empty breakfast bowl. I'm consciously aware of how the corners of my mouth have turned upward without my consent.
"When are you going to ask me, Ashley?"
I don't turn around. I can't. She'll see how hard my face has suddenly fallen with the weight of her loaded question. "Ask you what?" I ask in deliberate avoidance.
"You know what."
My voice is quiet when I reply, "I don't want to know, I told you that."
"Why don't you want to know? I don't understand."
"Because," I almost whisper.
"Because, why?" she asks.
I hear her chair scrape against the floor. She must be on her way over here. "Because when I do, this becomes real." I look down to the coffee and close my eyes. My head shakes in wonder that a single question can alter my entire mood like it has clearly done. I can't be here now. "I don't want this anymore. I'm going to get dressed."
And I leave. I walk away from the eyes I can feel burning into me as I exit the kitchen and disappear upstairs.
The bedroom door closes behind me and I slump against it with closed eyes.
How is somebody expected to ask another a question whose answer will reveal how they died? How are they expected to hear that and not die, too? How am I supposed to hear that from Spencer's warm voice and not drop down on the floor next to her?
Spencer has made sure I'm aware she's still here. She's been sighing for hours. She's also been looking at me for hours. I've felt it. I've felt her eyes almost glued to the side of my face and it isn't an unpleasant or uncomfortable sensation, I just wish she wouldn't do that right now. She's too observant for her own good and the things she will see if she keeps looking are only going to confuse her. After all, they're confusing me.
"Stay in tonight," she says. I'm not sure whether it was a question, or a demand.
Either way, it's too much. I suddenly remember the plans I made yesterday and fight not to sigh. I'd forgotten I'd agreed to go out with a boy. For a second, I can't remember his name. "I have a date tonight, you know that."
"I don't care. We need to talk, Ashley."
I'm tired of talking. I'm tired of guessing where she is. I'm tired of guessing what shade of blue her eyes are. I'm tired of guessing if her smile is as pretty as her laugh.
"Talk? All we ever do is talk. I don't know if you're aware of that."
"It hadn't escaped my notice."
Her voice was tense. She's frustrated, I know, but I am more. "Then stop talking and do something."
"Do something like what?"
"I don't know! God, just…something. Something to remind me you're here."
"Ash-" she begins, sounding more defeated than I ever want her to sound. It frustrates me even further.
"Just forget it," I cut in before I stand up and turn to leave the room.
I feel something hit the back of my head a second before I hear, "I'm here! If you need me to hit you with something every day, then tell me. You don't talk to me. I don't read minds, Ashley. You have to talk to me."
I rub the back of my head. "That hurt, Spencer."
This is hurting me more.
"Good. Stay in tonight," she requests.
The tone of her voice makes me want to agree instantly; anything to remove that sadness from her voice, but I don't. I can't. "I can't," is forced out.
"Please," she pleads.
With the sudden ache of the muscle in my chest, my eyes close. "I can't, Spencer. Please don't ask me again."
The front door is quickly opened and slammed shut, and my panic suddenly forms and increases tenfold. She can't leave like this. She can't go out there to the cold, dark night and cry because of me. I can't let that happen again.
I'm wrenching open the front door before I even registered the fact my feet were moving. My eyes naively scan the street. I yell her name before I have the chance to think of who else could possibly hear me, and I yell it again, not giving myself the chance to care who else could possibly hear.
Unless it's Spencer, how could I possibly care?
Lately, being in the house I'm supposed to call home has been like being on a psychiatric ward, anyway. Everything and nothing makes sense. It's been that way since I heard Spencer say three terrifying words in my bedroom and I actually yelled for my father.
I hadn't done that since I was a little girl.
The door closes harshly and I walk back to the living room on autopilot, perching on the edge of the couch. I rapidly tap my knees in frustration, wanting nothing more than to throw the nearest vase filled with ugly flowers across the room. I don't. Only because my parents notice a broken vase more than a look of anguish.
I stand up and grab my coat. I have to get out of here.
My coat does nothing to keep the cold night air from my already quivering body and I wrap my arms around myself, unnecessarily rubbing my arms even though it's mainly my midsection that's cold. It's my insides that are dithering from a cold that always seems to seep in for an impending conversation you're dreading.
I wonder where she is. I wonder if she's crying.
I hope she's safe. I hope she's smiling.
In the six blocks I've walked, five of them have faulty street lights. All of them are flickering so much that I question if I'm on the set of a slasher movie and I'm the next one to be gutted like a fish.
And then I wonder if I'm one of the ones who have already been gutted and are pushing their hands against the wound in a futile attempt to stop the blood-flow.
I've wondered where her family is. Countless times, I've wondered why she doesn't mention them or isn't with them. The reason I haven't asked her why is because the answer is potentially more heartbreaking than I could ever comprehend, more heartbreaking than I'd ever ask her to relive, and more heartbreaking than I could ever stand to hear in her angelic voice.
I exhale deeply, noticing the cloud it creates in front of my face.
As the sound of my heels resonate in this dark, quiet street, I feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up on end as if someone is watching me. Not hearing any following footsteps behind me, I turn to look to the other side of the street.
Someone is sitting on the edge of the sidewalk. They're actually sitting on the freezing cold floor in mid-November.
I feel the frown creasing my forehead and I try to place the girl I can see. I wonder if she lives close-by because I feel like I've seen her a hundred times over and I don't even know her name. I can't tell if she looks upset, or if she just looks stunned. Maybe it's both.
Before I can stop myself, I'm walking over to her. Sitting down by her, I turn my head to ask, "Do I know you?"
Her eyes widen like I've just pulled out a samurai sword and held it to her throat.
Strangely, it makes me smile faintly. If I could stop thinking about Spencer, maybe it would have been bigger and more genuine. She probably thinks I'm crazy or using a bad pick-up line. "Yeah, you. I'm sorry, I just feel like you're…," I trail off. Something isn't making sense.
She stumbles to stand up and I follow, wanting to apologise for freaking her out.
And then I see.
I see blonde hair.
I see the bluest eyes I've ever seen and a face so devastatingly beautiful that it can only belong to one person.
"Oh my god," I rush out. She's….
Her head nods in agreement.
"Say something," I demand. I have to know.
She looks almost shy as she slides her hands into the pockets of her jeans. "Hey," leaves her lips.
With one soft-spoken word, my entire being falls apart and comes back together again. "Oh my god." Over a heart that's never beat this fast and slow before, I barely hear the repeated words leave my lips.
"You said that already," she says with a smile.
Spencer is smiling at me.
Spencer is smiling at me.
I don't have to wonder anymore: her smile is just as pretty as her voice.
Her smile is so pretty that I wonder if I've suddenly lost my voice. My eyes scan over her face and the fact I can see her, with the added fact she's the most gorgeous girl I've ever seen, makes me want to lie down. Almost as if laying on the cold floor will shock me back into reality and slow down how fast my mind has begun to race.
My head shakes in awe. Can eyes really be that blue? "You're, uh…."
"Yeah," she answers, still staring back into my dumfounded eyes.
"I-I mean you're…oh my god," I stutter out like a simpleton.
She smiles again. "Not quite."
"Why can I see you now?"
"I don't know," she responds sincerely.
And then she does something that makes my heart leap up to my throat.
She looks away from me.
"No, don't. Look at me," I insist, desperately.
God…I can see her.
Eyes that match the ocean meet mine. "Don't cry," she says quietly with a soft crease on her forehead, almost as if she can't stand me being upset.
Hearing the sound of her voice and looking at her through tear-filled eyes — which are making hers seem even bluer — has raised goosebumps all over my body. "Oh, my god," I whisper. This is so surreal.
I wonder how her eyes can look so alive after her being dead for over a year.
"Do you want to go back?"
"I don't know. What if we move and I can't see you again?"
"We'll walk slow. As soon as anything changes, we'll stop. Okay?"
I think of declining Spencer's offer when I realise her arms are uncovered. It's freezing out here tonight. I should get her back inside the warm house. I nod in response, not trusting my voice. My feet are glued to the earth when she takes a step toward me.
"Come on." She leans her head in the opposite direction to where I was originally walking. "Let's go home."
Spencer doesn't laugh when I nearly walk into a streetlight on the way home. I can barely look away from her.