Up until the last review I received earlier, I genuinely thought I'd posted this story in full, so I apologise for the extreme delay in posting.
This is the alt chapter to Speeding Cars and is the last chapter of this story.
Thank you muchly to everyone who read and reviewed.
"Don't," I warn her, only partially joking. I've been looking forward to this all day, she can't take it away from me now.
"Don't what?" Spencer asks, a teasing glint in her eyes.
I know she isn't going to listen to me. She's going to do it, regardless. Before I can reach a hand out to stop her, she grabs a handful of fries off my plate and stuffs them inside her mouth sooner than I can half-heartedly screech at her not to.
She takes her time chewing them and she washes them down with more than half of my Coke.
My mouth drops open as she walks away and an indistinguishable sound leaves my lips.
And she laughs, throwing her head back as if I've just said the funniest thing in the entire world.
Catching her off-guard, I run over to her and wrap my arms around her giggling body while still moving forward, sending us both into my spacious pool. As soon as we break the surface and our feet eventually hit the bottom tiles of the swimming pool, I feel her instinctively push away from me use her arms and legs to propel her body upward, back to the surface. I hear the muffled-yet-clear underwater sounds of our bodies moving through the water.
Spencer re-surfaces a second before I do and her breaths are deep as her chest heaves from the surprise and sudden lack of oxygen.
She has that look on her face; the one that tells me she's trying very hard not to smile.
Her hands wipe her face, pushing back her wet hair. "That, Ashley Davies, was uncalled for."
"You stole my dinner!" I reply indignantly.
"And you starve me! I'm this—" Spencer flicks me with water, "close to malnutrition."
"Bite your tongue."
She purses her lips before she swims away from me, moving to the shallow end. I'm next to her in record speed and once we're back at the table, we forgo drying our bodies with the towels still resting on the sun loungers, instead, she turns to me with that smile on her face and draws me into her arms.
Not needing to ask what she's doing, my arms find purchase around her neck and I pull her body against mine. Her heart is beating steadily inside her chest and I smile before we each loosen our tight hold on each other and begin dancing slowly.
She holds steadfast eye-contact and it's only then that I notice it.
Her eyes aren't the right shade.
My eyes flutter open and instead of the heat of the sun on my back, I feel the firmness of the floor in my bedroom. Instead of having to hold up a hand to the bright glare of the sun, my eyes meet a room that, aside from part of it being illuminated by the silver glow of a low full moon, is shrouded in darkness, .
Feeling warmer than I usually feel when sleeping near to a window in January, I turn my head and my breath nearly hitches with what I see.
Spencer is laying next to me with her eyes closed. She looks like she's sleeping.
Excluding the one time on camera, I've never seen her even attempting to sleep before.
I shift, turning over to my side to press the right side of my face against the cold part of the pillow to have a better view of her. She looks like…she just looks like Spencer. She looks like the only person to ever stop my heart. She looks like the only person who will ever stop my heart.
Her eyes open far too quickly and not being able to help myself, I smile first. She looks like she was caught doing something she wasn't supposed to be doing. It's cute.
"I've missed this," I say quietly. "Sleeping and waking up next to you."
"I'm always here, you know that."
"I could seriously just move over right now and fall asleep on you," I confess. Her body looks more than comfortable in the moonlight. Her eyes are shimmering.
"No, I mean really," I insist.
"I know," she reiterates.
Thinking of the dream I just awakened from, I settle down even further into my pillow. "I just dreamed about you."
Spencer smiles at that. "Yeah? What was I doing?"
I know my voice is content when I reply, "You were dancing with me."
"I'll dance with you someday, Ash."
"You swear?" I need her to.
And I believe her instantly. My head nods just barely, pre-occupied with how captivating she looked while she was thinking with her eyes closed. "Will you go to sleep for me?" I ask quietly. Spencer's mouth opens — likely to protest — when I continue, "Will you just pretend?" I almost whisper, holding unwavering eye-contact. She knows how much I need this.
So she does. Facing me, she settles down into her pillow and closes her eyes. She knows to breathe slow and steady so her slumber is more convincing to my ears.
After waiting a few seconds to make sure she's not going to re-open her eyes, I watch her intently, my eyes first going to her blonde hair that sometimes I want to run my fingers through more than anything; to her eyebrows that I want to smooth over with my thumbs each time she frowns; her forehead that I want to kiss when she's unintentionally looking more adorable than ever; her nose that I find cuter than what's probably healthy; her chin which is causing my fingers and thumb to twitch with how much they want to trace the smooth surface; her neck that I want to scrape my teeth over, soothing it not even a second later with a sweep of my tongue; and finally, her lips. I hold them there, wishing; wishing I could lean over and press mine to hers like it's all I ever need to do.
I wish there was daylight. I wish it was shining right through the window to land on Spencer and reflect off her hair. I wish she'd open her blue eyes so the sun could prominent them to an even more breathtaking hue.
For just a second, my eyes close to picture it.
And I know instantly, I'm in love.
Spencer's hand is resting on top of the table and I have to keep my hands shoved underneath my thighs to resist from resting mine on top of hers, lacing our fingers together. It's working so far.
My mother quickly ruins it with her request to pass the milk which is right next to her hand.
"Ashley, can I ask you something?" she asks.
"I'm not doing drugs, Mom."
She looks at me impassively. "You're going out with a potential client's son tomorrow night."
I fight not to scoff. "That wasn't a question. And no, I'm not."
Her surprised eyes finally settle on my face. "Why not? You didn't tell me about any plans."
"Because," I reply, busying myself chewing on a piece of toast. If my hands are full, I won't be so tempted to hold Spencer's.
"Because?" my mother prompts, looking impatient.
"I'm seeing someone," I answer, like it was the easiest sentence I've ever had to say. Thinking of who I'm seeing nearly makes me blush, but I don't. When your mother basically hires you out, it tends to hold off any good feelings.
I'm dismissive when I reply, "Nobody you know."
"I need you to go out tomorrow night, Ashley. It's important."
Her insistence hurts me. "Not my problem. I'm not going."
She leaves. She spoke to me when she needed something and when I declined, that's it. That's our usual conversation for a fortnight. My father didn't even say goodbye. Feeling their indifference for yet another time causes an annoying, yet insistent dull ache in my chest. I make a noise of frustration before pushing myself away from the table, announcing I'm going to shower.
When I look into the mirror, staring as intently as I can, I notice how much brighter my eyes are, but I also notice how dead they still are at times like these. In the shower when the water is running and I can barely see through the steam, I cry.
"Want me to make you some lunch?" Spencer asks, interrupting the constant taps to my knee.
I'm uninterested. "No."
"It's two p.m., you don't think you should eat something?"
Her voice is gentle when she says, "Forget what your mother said this morning. You said no. Isn't that the end of it?"
"She's trying to whore me out," I say in a much calmer voice than I feel. "'Oh, yeah, hey, I have a daughter who wouldn't put up much of a fight if your son wanted to have a good time, just as long as you sign this contract here that will make me a little bit richer'. It sucks, Spence." I frown in annoyance. "She really pissed me off."
"I'm sure she didn't mean it like that," she tries.
"If she didn't then her communication skills need some serious work because I didn't hear an explanation."
"Maybe she just doesn't know how to talk to you," she suggests.
I know she's just trying to make me feel better. "Stop defending her. I know you hate her."
"I don't hate her, Ashley."
A small smile graces my face. "You do, and that's okay. Sometimes I do, too."
"I admit that I…strongly dislike her sometimes, but I don't hate her. I don't hate anybody."
I turn to face Spencer again and I wear a serious expression on my face. "Seriously? There's not one person you hate?"
"There's no-one. It's kind of a waste of your time, you know. Everyone will see that someday."
I search her eyes for any sign of untruthfulness, but there isn't one. There's not one person on this earth she hates and she genuinely means it. I don't know if I could say a statement like that and genuinely mean it.
I'm not sure whether I should hate the person driving the truck that day, or if I should be eternally grateful. Most times of the day, I'm both.
With my dark mood gone —at least for now— I almost shyly meet her eyes. For a second, I wonder if she can see what I've been trying so carefully to hide from her. For now, she can't. It's best saved for another time. Instead, I just focus on her.
And I can see it; she's going to smile like that again. A smile that breaks my heart and mends it all over again, all in the span of seconds.
I'm joking about putting poison in my mother's next pot of coffee when Spencer enters the room.
"We need to talk, Ashley."
"I was just kidding, Spence. You know there's no way rat poison alone could take out my Mom."
"Earlier." She steadies her breath like she's nervous. "You said something earlier."
I can't help smiling at her. She's adorable when she's trying to be subtle. "I said a lot of things earlier. Are you fishing for compliments again?"
"No, I meant earlier. This morning with your mom," she clarifies.
My front teeth press down into the flesh of my bottom lip. I'm exhilarated yet nervous to finally establish what we are to each other and how we feel. "Ahh."
"So, um," she begins.
She stays by the table "I just don't know if it was the right thing to say. I mean, it wasn't totally wrong. I just…," she trails off, sighing.
I'm more than confused. I don't know what she's saying at all. I must have heard her wrong with the adrenaline that's pumping through my body. "You actually think I should go out with that guy?"
"Not him, no." She stops for a second and I release a quiet breath I wasn't aware I'd been holding. She continues, "But, another guy…or another girl." She shrugs gently. "You're not really easy to figure out with that."
My body is almost shattered with the ease in which she seemed to say that. "You want me to go out on dates with other people?" I ask for clarification, as if she's speaking a language I'm unfamiliar with.
In a way, she is.
"Part of me does."
"I can't believe you just said that," I almost sneer. It's a mask for how my heart is beginning to throb. She doesn't mean this. She can't.
"I'm just trying to be honest, Ashley," she replies softly.
What a joke. "Oh, you are? Well, that's awesome. Thank you."
Spencer moves closer. "Don't get sarcastic and defensive. You know I'm not trying to hurt you. I just…can't help but think sometimes that there's somebody better for you. I really can't offer you anything."
My hands clench by my sides. "I'm so sick of hearing that. I've told you before that you can."
"Is it me?" I cut in before she can say anything more. "Am I not doing enough? Am I not telling you through every single action that you're what I want?" I ask desperately.
I can change this. I promise I can prove how much I need her. I promise I can prove how dead I was before I met her.
"No, you are. You always do enough. But are you telling me that you're willing to wait however long it's going to take for us to be able to touch?"
What a stupid question. "Yes. God, you know I'll wait for that."
"What if it takes thirty years, then what?"
"Then, nothing. I wait."
"You don't know what you're saying, Ashley. Never mind being intimate, I can't even hold your hand."
Her pessimistic attitude is both frustrating and hurting me more than I can bear. My tongue is almost bleeding with three words I want to say to her, but I don't want to say them like this. I can't say them like this. I choose a different set. "I can wait! Why won't you believe me?!" I yell, stepping closer to her.
She looks conflicted. "I do! I do believe you."
It doesn't make sense. Why is she doing this if it's hurting her? "Then why? Why do you keep doing this? Don't you think I should get a say in all of this when you willingly shoot me down? I want you. I've always wanted you."
"Because you need to ask yourself, would it be a real relationship? Say somebody else comes along who makes you happy and makes your heart stop, then what? You push them away because of me? Someone who nobody else can see, someone who can't even touch you, someone who doesn't even have a heartbeat?"
She's said those things to me before, and though it still hurts me, I believe with everything I have that nobody will ever come close in making me feel how the girl in front of me does with such an elegant ease that it can sometimes scare me.
She continues on, "Someone who they probably had to scrape off the road."
With one sentence, she nearly kills me. "Shut the fuck up, Spencer."
"I wasn't wearing a seatbelt. I didn't like the restriction."
My eyes squeeze shut instinctively, blocking this conversation out. I can't hear this anymore. It's going to kill me. "Stop it."
"My window was down. I had my arm hanging out of it because I liked feeling the breeze. The truck slammed into my side of the car. It would have come off."
The sound which leaves my lips is so foreign that I wonder if I even made it. I almost check my surroundings, wondering if that statement really did propel my body through the air to crash through the window.
But it's not my body that's bleeding.
I have to leave. I have to stop hearing words that, if ever heard from her again, would positively kill me. And so I do. I turn, heading straight for the front door.
"Ashley, stop. Don't leave."
I walk faster, opening the door with force and slam it shut with even more. God, why did she have to say those things?
I hurry away from the house and keep my head down so nobody sees me like this. My eyesight is blurry with hot tears.
"Someone who they probably had to scrape off the road."
My fists clench so hard it hurts.
"I wasn't wearing a seatbelt. I didn't like the restriction."
Knowing what happened next tortures me.
"My window was down. I had my arm hanging out of it because I liked feeling the breeze. The truck slammed into my side of the car. It would have come off."
I don't know how the visual doesn't kill me.
Sooner than it actually does, I feel a painful blow to my back just before I feel the asphalt biting into the heels of my palms.
And then I hear a sound so loud and sickening that my stomach churns and a darkness seeps in from the corners of my eyes. Before it completely overtakes, it's gone.
Oh, god. Please, no.
My brain is screaming "move!" to my body, but I can only slowly turn my head in the direction of the road, terrified of what I'm going to see.
The bruised muscle in my chest is beating so fast that, just for a second, I can see tiny, silver specs of light that float in front of my eyes. I blink and they're gone.
I blink and Spencer is lying motionless in the road. Her eyes are open, staring back at me like they were the night she almost left me.
I can't breathe. "Oh, god." My body is next to hers in record speed and I kneel next to her, wondering if I should touch her, or if it will just make it worse like the last time. My hands are shaking. "Baby, are you okay?"
After a second, she sighs gently. "I'm fine, Ashley,"
How can she be? "But…you just got -"
"There's not a scratch on me," she insists.
It doesn't ease any of the agony I still feel. I can still her the car slamming into her and I wonder if it'll ever go away. "Spence, I think I'm going to be sick," comes my choked confession.
With a body that feels broken, as if I was the one hit by the car, I stumble to my feet and away from her, only to collapse to my knees, not being able to hold the contents of my stomach in any longer.
And as she holds my hair back, her soft-spoken reassurance doesn't help.
After hours of thinking, and a dinner I could barely eat, Spencer and I enter a bedroom I fight not to call "ours" and she sits down on the bed. I follow her lead, moving to sit at the head of the bed, while she's at the foot.
"I've been thinking, and you need to let me talk, don't interrupt me because this won't take long."
"Okay," she agrees softly.
I sit Indian-style and try to remember how I said this over and over in my head before I went downstairs for dinner. "Who are you to tell me how to live my life? I don't mean that how it sounds. I'm not trying to be harsh. But if someone told me to do something I really didn't want to do, and something I knew was wrong, then I know you would tell me to do what I felt was right and that I was old enough to make my own decisions. I know you would, Spencer."
And I do. I don't doubt that for a second.
She nods, and so I continue, choosing my opening statement carefully. "I want you. It's that simple. I'm making it that simple. You're what I want and if I have to tell you every single day, then I will. But, please don't tell me how I should live my life. Don't you think that everybody deserves to live the way that makes them the happiest, regardless of what other people say? And you do that for me, you know? I really wasn't lying when I said you're all I can see. You're everywhere, you're even in my dreams." I think of the dream I had last night and fight not to sigh. "I know that it isn't going to just end here. I know that sometimes we're both going to hate this more than we can bear, but I would rather have this than nothing."
Spencer nods softly once more.
Knowing I have to get this off my chest, I do just that. "I was trying to imagine it today, what it would be like if you weren't here, and you don't know what an ugly picture that would be. You don't know what I was like in LA. I hated everyone. They were so fake and I hated school with them so much, which is why I worked my ass off and got done a year early. I'm just…I'm better when you're with me, and I need you to stay. You need to stop being so harsh by saying things to try to change my view on this. I'm stubborn, so it won't work."
All it's going to do is kill me.
Spencer smiles faintly and after a second, it slowly falls away. "I still mean everything I said, Ashley," she answers gently.
"I do, too."
She looks down and then back up. "You need to know that I don't like it when I feel as though you're putting your life on hold for me. It doesn't make me happy, Ash. It makes me feel like I'm such a terrible person."
I don't think she understands that when she says things like that, I fall just that little bit harder.
"You're not terrible, you're perfect. And what about what I want, what about what makes me happy? I know on some level I make you happy, too. You don't smile at anyone else like you do for me. I watch you smile at people when they're not looking, and it's different." I know it's not wishful thinking.
"You do make me happy, Ashley. Don't ever doubt that. It's just that I have a lot of time to think and, of course, I think about you and us, and I can't stop thinking of all the different ways this could go. I don't want it to seem like I'm playing games with you, because I swear I'm not. You know I would never do that to you."
Yeah, I do know. My eyes close upon hearing her heartfelt words and seeing her sincere face. God, I love her.
"I know that, Spencer."
"What's wrong?" she asks me softly.
"I'm so tired," I admit. I'm too tired not to surrender when she asks me to.
"Then go to sleep," she suggests, beginning to move off the bed.
"No, not tired like that," I dismiss.
Spencer moves back to her previous position. "What do you mean?"
"You got hit by a car today. You got hit by a car and there literally isn't a scratch on you."
"I didn't see it, but I heard it." The memory haunts me all over again and I fight not to let the tears fill my eyes. "I can still hear it. It won't go away," I whisper as my eyes close briefly. "I haven't even said thank you."
God, what is wrong with me? She saved my life.
"There's no need," Spencer assures me. "I'd do anything for you." She pushes her hand toward mine but remains careful. She keeps her voice quiet, yet strong. "You're everything to me, did you know that? You don't have to say thank you."
With softly-spoken words, it feels like she has her hands around my heart and is squeezing with all her strength. I nod, aware that the attempt I made not to cry was futile. I have to say it. I have to say it and every bit of tension I can feel in my body will leave. It has to.
"Spencer…," I trail off, my vocal chords refusing to co-operate. I'm so scared to say it. I've never said it to anyone.
I feel it. Looking at her right now, God…I feel it. I feel it more than I've ever felt anything.
Spencer's open expression is surely my cue to go on and as I take note of the look of pure adoration in her eyes and store it away in my memory, I draw in a shuddering breath, now certain I can say it, and certain I have the strength to say it.
"I love you," leaves my lips with conviction.
I've never meant anything more.
And as I see her face light up like never before, I can't help more tears from forming because I said it. I said it and I feel it more than ever.
I don't need to ask if she loves me, too.