Liz managed to escape my apartment before I woke up Thursday morning. She left a note that she had to pack and that she would be going to her mom's after she got her things together. I felt like things were left in the air… that we didn't get to talk about it. She was too drunk when she dropped the news on me, and with Donny there and the way things escalated afterwards, there was just no opportunity to talk.
In a sense, I gathered she was avoiding me. I offered to stop by before my shift with Corinne, but she said she was running errands and what not. I even offered to take her and her mom to the airport Friday morning, but she refused. She said LAX had a free shuttle and she didn't want to burden me. So, my interactions with my girlfriend had been strictly via text message. We talked for a few minutes, but it was very frivolous, superficial talk. I felt like I was walking on eggshells for the most part, especially because any time I tried to bring up her grandmother she would become irritable, unresponsive, or would just change the subject.
She texted me when she boarded the plane yesterday and texted me almost ten hours later when she landed in London before she took her connecting flight. In the meantime, I felt heartbroken and helpless. Sad about her emotional anguish, and frustrated that there was nothing I could do, although I eagerly wanted to do anything to make her feel better. If only she'd let me in.
I know what you're thinking, folks – why don't you just read her mind? Of course I can read her mind, but that doesn't mean my powers tell me what it is that she wants or what it is that she needs from me. I am the closest thing to her own thoughts, but emotionally, she has successfully shut me out. She has successfully shut everyone out.
"So…" Madison crossed her arms, leaning against the broken doorframe of my bathroom, "you're actually gonna go through with this?"
"Yup," I glanced at her for a second before I drew in my eyeliner. "Those are the wishes of my grieving girlfriend."
"Is Donny picking you up?"
"No, we're gonna meet at the House of Blues and have dinner before the concert."
Madison smirked, "Funny with all this 'blast from the past' bullshit."
"What do you mean?"
"Aiden called me yesterday." She briefly smiled before quickly interrupting my assumptions. "But, don't worry, Spence. I didn't answer."
"Weird." I brushed it off, but smiled to myself. Maybe Aiden's finally ready to turn over a new leaf.
"I don't know what the hell he could possibly want, though." She scoffed. "Maybe he wanted to personally invite me to his and Sasha's wedding."
"I think they're over," I blurted.
"What makes you say that?"
I shrugged. "I just have a feeling."
"Bullshit." She raised a brow. "Since when are you on Team Aiden?"
"Since never!" I combed my fingers through my hair before I pushed my way past her.
"Oh my gosh!" Madison exclaimed which got me to turn in my tracks. "You worked with him, didn't you?" Wait… I thought I was the mind-reader here. "You worked with Aiden on Wednesday when you covered Corinne's shift!"
"So, did he like… get you to play this angle for him?"
I scoffed, "What angle? I wasn't even going to tell you that I worked with him."
"You weren't going to tell me?" Her mouth was agape.
"Are you fucking kidding me right now, Mad?" Now I was getting a bit annoyed. "Are you upset that I talked to him… or that I didn't tell you that I talked to him?"
"Both!" She slapped my arm. "What did he say to you?"
"I mean, he broke up with me! So what could he possibly have to say to me?"
"What could he possibly have to say to you?"
"You think Donny is on this? You think they set this up?"
"That's ridiculous! He wouldn't—"
She glanced away in thought. "Maybe he's trying to get to me through you."
"Madison!" I grabbed her shoulders, shaking her until she met my eyes with her own. "Nothing is going on, okay? He's not with Sasha anymore." I let go of her before I threw on my brown jacket over the black cami I was wearing.
"And Donny?" She squeaked.
"Donny was an accident. Liz just happened to be at the right bar at the wrong time when she bonded with him." I fixed the collar of my jacket under my blue pashmina. "I don't think he's in on anything, alright? So, enough with the crazy."
"So…" she sat down on the couch and looked up at me. "You think I should talk to him?"
"I can't answer that for you." I shook my head as I grabbed my purse and keys. "I'm gonna head out now. You gonna be okay here by yourself?"
"Jton's coming over." She leaned back into the couch, her back facing me.
"Okay, good." I opened the door. "I'll see ya."
"Spence?" Madison yelped, the back of her head still facing me.
"How's he doing?" She mumbled.
I paused to sigh. "You want the truth?"
She faintly nodded.
"He's miserable." I replied. She remained unresponsive, though by her thoughts, I sensed a wave of relief wash over her. I wanted to stay for her, but I couldn't miss dinner with Donny. "Let's talk more when I get back?"
"Yeah, okay." She still had this uncertain look in her eyes. "Have fun with Donny."
Right. 20 bucks says he stands me up.
I walked up Sunset Strip from where I had parked my car a few blocks away. By now, the sun had set and a line was beginning to form around the entrance into the actual concert hall. I smiled, remembering my concert date with Liz on one of our first dates. It kinda made me nostalgic. The flirting and courting period is so exciting and flattering… and the first few months of disgustingly cute displays of affection and not nearly getting enough of one another are always what make the honeymoon stage awesome. But, then the real work starts after that… when you're trying to sustain your relationship and keep the spark alive. And in our case, I think the second Liz broke down was the moment shit got real. Part of me really misses the beginning and how things used to be. I guess you gotta take the good with the bad. Welcome to the Real World – relationships.
I walked towards the porch where Donny and I had agreed to have dinner first and get reacquainted. Sure, in any normal circumstance, going straight to the concert would've made the night less awkward – we wouldn't have to talk. But because I have extraordinary powers that won't seem to be going away anytime soon, it wouldn't stop the fact that he'd be thinking whatever it was he would be thinking in an awkward situation with an ex-BFF. We figured dinner would make things a tad less uncomfortable. Not saying that things would go back to normal… please, I'm not a miracle worker.
"Hi!" The bubbly hostess greeted me. "How many?"
"Uh," I noticed my dark faux-hawk-haired friend wave me down from a table behind. "Oh, my party's already here." I gestured.
"Okay," she nodded, "Enjoy your dinner!"
Walking towards him, I couldn't help but feel like I was taking some sort of walk of shame. His eyes were glued on me and I pretended to be that cool girl who's never been to the House of Blues before and just had to gawk at all the cool memorabilia on the wall. Anything to avoid eye contact.
"Hey," he stood up.
Okay, what do I do? Do I hug him? Did we used to hug whenever we saw each other? You know, it's been so long, I can't even remember… how sad is that?
"Hey!" I said in a pitch higher than Mariah Carey's 8th octave. He quirked an eyebrow as I quickly sat down in all my shame. Fuck it.
He followed suit, brushing down his dark grey collared shirt before sipping his Jameson.
"Been here long?" I hung my purse on the corner of my chair.
The ice clinked in his glass as he set it down. "No, not too long. Traffic wasn't too bad."
"Yeah." I sighed, periodically glancing at him… and everything else around. "So…"
"So…" Donny gave a tight lipped smile as he crossed his arms over the table. "You look good!"
"Not so bad yourself," I retorted.
"Yeah…" He smacked his lips together. "So, this isn't going to be the least bit awkward."
"Then, why is it?" I scrunched my eyebrows.
He pinched the bridge of his nose. "I don't know," Donny retorted, finally giving up on the front he was putting up. I opened my mouth to break the silence, but he raised his head to look at me. "I… I hope you can forgive me for—"
"Hi, welcome to the House of Blues!" Our waitress interrupted. "Can I start you off with something to drink?"
"Uh… I'll have—"
"A Cranberry Vodka," Donny smirked.
"Okay?" She looked to me for confirmation before she turned back to my dark-haired friend. "And another Jameson on the rocks for you?"
"Yes, with a twist." I winked. He's not the only one who can play that game.
"O-kay!" She clasped her hands together as Donny and I shared knowing smiles. "I'll be back with your drinks."
The waitress left as he shook his head, chuckling, "We still finish—"
"Each other's sentences," we said simultaneously. I snickered.
"Yeah," Donny mumbled.
"Well," I began to fuss with the neatly folded dinner napkin on the able, "You're still my best friend, Donny."
"Mine too," he said with a crooked smile, his glances falling to the empty glass on the table.
"To be honest," I peeled my eyes off the napkin to meet his stare, "I've missed you. I miss talking to you and telling you everything that's been going on! I feel like there's so much I have to tell you!" It was relieving to also put my guard down and just… be open again.
"Yeah?" He sat up. "Like what? What's the latest scoopage?"
I, too, sat up in my seat, nearly unable to keep all my thoughts from spilling out. I was so glad he was being genuinely receptive. "Well, you've met Liz."
"Yes," he nodded, "the new girlfriend." He paused. "Or… I guess… not so new."
"Well, from what I've seen, she seems quite the gal." He smiled. "She has a good heart and she really cares about you." He paused. "And you… you seem happy again. Something tells me she's had a lot to do with that."
I pulled a few loose strands behind my ear and nodded, "Yeah, she's… she's perfect, actually." A small smile crept onto my face.
"Have you talked to her since she left?"
"Uh… yeah! She checked in a few times, but she couldn't really talk long." I shrugged. "Understandably, she has a lot going on."
He nodded. "Give her my best. I know how hard it can be to lose a family member." For a second, Donny reminisced about his close-knit relationship with his grandfather.
His thoughts changed as a guilty look wore on his face, "Did I mention how sorry I am that I missed out on your birthday party?"
"You did," I affirmed.
"I didn't know how to—"
"It's okay, Donny. It's no big deal." I didn't wanna get in the mix of what happened in the past and totally ruin things. It's almost as if things were… starting to go back to normal for once. I didn't wanna jeopardize that.
We had a brief, but necessary, lull in the conversation as our waitress brought our drinks. Donny put in a quick order for sliders as I promptly glanced through the menu and ordered a club sandwich. When she walked away, the both of us couldn't help but subtly check out the girl. The layers of her shiny, brown hair feathered out in all the right places and she had kind eyes…
Ha! Who am I kidding? She had a cute butt! She must do yoga.
"Want me to get her number for you?" Donny smirked.
"Psh… she's straight as an arrow. No, thank you!"
"Right. That is a much better reason than the fact that you are in a monogamous relationship." He laughed.
"Oh, shut up!" I chuckled before I sipped my drink.
"So, what else has been going on?"
"Aiden and Madison are over."
"Yeah, I gathered." Donny cleared his throat. "We still hang out… me, Aid, Eddie. I knew something was up when he brought Sasha around."
"So, Aiden and Sasha are together then?" I decided to get a second opinion to see if Aiden was lying the other day.
"Naw," he shook his head, "they just hooked up, but there was definitely nothing more than that. She's back in Michigan."
I nodded as he sipped his Jameson.
"Has… Madison moved on to someone else?"
"As far as I can tell, she's just… having fun. I wouldn't call it serious…" I cleared my throat, "yet."
"What?" Donny asked incredulously. "Is it Glen?"
"Nope," I shook my head proudly.
"Wow. Who would have thought there'd be a guy out there Madison would be more intrigued with than Aiden?" Yeah… right. If this so-called "guy" had a vagina and soft, feminine features and… well… wasn't really a guy at all.
"Yeah, how 'bout that?" My eyes went wide for a second as I subtly rolled them. "How about you? What have you been up to? How's Sarah?"
"Sarah's doing well. She got a job at Forever 21. She's really enjoying it."
"Oh! Good for her!" I was surprised to hear that Princess Sarah finally decided to get a job instead of mooch off her boyfriend.
"Yeah, it gets her out of the house and keeps her from nagging me to death." He said so frankly.
"Because that doesn't make you sound like an old married couple." I chortled, "God forbid she spends her days eating bon-bons and watching soap operas."
"Oh god." He paused, rolling his eyes. "Everything's pretty much the same with me. I still work at the Dubliner. It's kinda cool working for Eddie. He and Aiden are really into guns and stuff. They took me to the shooting range a few times. It's a huge stress reliever aside from going to the gym. Pretty fun. We should go sometime!"
"Uh, I'll go… to spectate maybe. Shooting stuff's not really my thing."
"Fair enough." Donny smirked. "How are things at the café?"
"Um…" I began to fiddle with my hands a bit, "they're the same. I work my shifts with Corinne now. Sometimes with Mark. But I never really see Aiden."
"Jenna still giving you a hard time?"
"Oh you know… she'll never like me, but she has gotten off my back a bit. Charles is hardly around, but when he is, he's barricaded in his office."
"Right." Donny gave me another tight-lipped smile. "So…" Uh oh. "Am I ever gonna know?" He took a gulp of his Jameson.
"You're the mind-reader. You tell me." He shrugged. He wanted to know about the tape.
"There's nothing to know about it." I watched the condensation from my glass drip down my fingertips, resembling the sweat that would be dripping down the side of my head if it wasn't for the cool breeze coming through the doorway. "There was nothing on the tape. So, I think it's time you let that one go." I couldn't help but sound so direct. I really didn't wanna go there.
Regardless, I sensed the mood change so drastically. And suddenly, things seemed to revert back to square one.
"Let it go?" He laughed, his eyes jutting wide at the thought. "Spencer, I got fired for something I didn't do. I need to wipe my slate clean. Did you know that Aiden had to pull some strings for Eddie to hire me? I can't get another job with 'theft' on my employment record. Do you understand that?"
"I get it." I retorted, somewhat annoyed.
"Good! Do you still have the tape?"
I flinched for a split second. "No."
"You forget that I know when you're lying." He said so evenly as he glared at me. "And given my situation, it shouldn't be a problem for you to give me the tape."
I stared at my drink, not knowing how to respond.
"C'mon, Spence!" Now it was his turn to sound annoyed. "I don't have time for these games! If you ever gave two shits about me, you'd help me out!"
"Me caring about you has nothing to do with that tape," I nearly snarled. "I already told you there's nothing on it!"
"Well, if there's nothing on it, you'd give me the tape." Donny reasoned.
I resigned, pleading with my eyes for him to just understand. "I-I can't do that." If only he could just understand!
"You know," He grabbed his wallet and put some cash on the table before standing up, "I was stupid to think that after awhile, you'd come to your senses and realize that something as lame as a surveillance tape shouldn't rip our friendship apart. I got fired for no reason from the job I loved, working with all my good friends! And you don't have the decency to allow me the closure of finally understanding what I was putting my neck on the line for?" He paused. "Sarah was right. I should've listened to her."
I furrowed my eyebrows at him. There wasn't much I could say at that point. So, I just watched him walk away… and out of my life.
I ate half my sandwich contemplating how different my life would be if I didn't see what I saw the night of the accident. If I wasn't a mind-reader. If I could just live a normal life instead of one strewed with broken relationships.
Wouldn't it be nice?
I relish in the thought… but, then I think: What would've happened to Ashley if I didn't do what I did and she was found out?
I subtly raised my glass to no one. Here's to taking one for the team.
Walking into the concert hall, I tried my best not to look completely alone and somewhat miserable on a night meant for two. After all, I was about to see William Fitzsimmons and Ingrid Michaelson, which constitutes a night of total awesomeness. I was determined to have a great time.
I headed to the bar to the right side of the pit, which was already flooding with fans, young and old. I flagged the bartender down.
"Absolut cran, please?"
He nodded, wiping his hands before starting on my drink.
"Is that… Spencer?"
I cringed, knowing my night was going to be memorable… but not in a good way.
"Spencer?" She gently tapped my shoulder. I shuddered at her touch as if her hands were like ice. I turned my head. "I thought it was you! Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you."
"Melinda, hey!" Not only was I spending the evening alone, I had to grin like an idiot at the person I spent harsh days and sleepless nights trying to get over. I'm over it. I'm over her. But that doesn't mean I want to be BFF's with her. You forgive, but you never really forget those who broke your heart.
"What are you doing here?" She hugged me, not in the fondest sense. She made no body contact as she pat me softly on the back with her free hand, similar to how you'd burp a newborn. I was already bored watching her chug her third drink, as she contemplated what she should order next.
I pointed to the stage indifferently. "Concert." I didn't feel like mindless chit chat with the ex.
"Obviously." She giggled and nudged me on the shoulder. I clenched my jaw, but had to remind myself that she was not in a completely sober state. I smiled tightly.
"Who you here to see?" I was truly curious to know, since I never knew her to like the same type of music as me.
"Ingrid Michaelson. You?"
"Fitzsimmons. Since when are you an Ingrid Michaelson fan?"
"I like some of her songs, but Vanessa's a big fan." I hate to admit that Vanessa's got great taste in music... but she's still a bitch. Don't get me wrong.
"Oh." I started to get uneasy because A) the bar has gotten exponentially crowded, forcing us to talk in such close proximity that I could smell the alcoholic stench coming from her pores, B) I knew an angry Vanessa was making a bee line right to us and C) I dreaded the intrusive question that was tunneling through Melinda's brain stem and was lingering at the tip of her tongue.
"You here by yourself?"
"Melinda." Vanessa called over as she continued to push her way through the crowds. She gave me a hard glare when I caught her glances.
"At a concert to which I was given tickets for on my birthday? Of course not!" I bluffed, and perhaps I bit off more than I could chew. Melinda was definitely one to prod.
"Oh my gosh, that's right! Happy belated birthday! I totally forgot." She slapped her forehead. Great acting, I must say. But she's not fooling me. She knew, and she's acting like this to pretend she doesn't care about me… even just a little bit.
"It's okay." I shrugged. Whatever.
"So, who's your lucky date?"
"My girlfriend." I didn't hesitate. At least I could say Liz was here with me in spirit, though I would give anything for her to bail me out right now.
"Your girlfriend?" It came out like an incredulous statement. Melinda nodded, her eyes fluctuating in width for a millisecond before she shook it off. I liked that she finally knew I wasn't sitting by the phone waiting for her to call as I went through tissue box after tissue box to dry my tears.
She started to become skeptical, having the audacity to think I am as immature as she is. Melinda convinced herself I was lying to her to mess with her head and play games.
"Well, where is she? I'd very much like to meet her." She squinted as if this whole interaction was a strategic chess game to her.
I looked to the drink the bartender neatly placed on a cocktail napkin in front of me. "She's—"
"Back from the restroom!" I suddenly felt a comforting arm reach around my waist and squeeze me gently. "Sorry, the line to the little girls' room was ridiculously long." I stared up at those big brown eyes and heart-stopping grin. I couldn't help but smile back because, honestly, it felt like it'd been too long. From the corner of my eye, I could see Melinda's jaw drop just slightly before I turned to her. I didn't know where this was going so I was just going to follow her lead. "Hi, I'm Ashley."
"Melinda. Nice to meet you." She hesitantly shook Ashley's hand. I sipped my drink briefly and enjoyed the perfect ratio of vodka to cran.
"Oh, let me." Ashley threw some cash on the counter with no regard to how much she'd put down.
"No problem, sweetie!" Oh, I see where this is going. I leaned into her embrace. "So, how do you know my amazing girlfriend?" Ashley picked the blonde mess apart. Yet, all I could think about was the soft, sweet scent wafting from the skin on her generously exposed neck.
"Aww, you make me blush." I grinned with the most adoring look on my face as I looked into Ashley's eyes. They're so mesmerizing and I'd just noticed a tinge of hazel in them. I took delight in the fact that our acting was free permission for me to gaze as long as I'd wished. It made Melinda squirm, but I could almost care less. "Melinda's actually… my ex."
"Really?" Ashley said in more of a matter-of-fact statement than a question before turning to the blonde. "Well, I'll definitely enjoy reaping the benefits of your losses." We smirked simultaneously as Melinda's face turned red. Ashley's hand ran down my back and finally rested around my hip, leaving what felt like a perpetual trail of tingles.
"Melinda." Vanessa reached in and grabbed her hand, pulling her effortlessly out of our little impromptu performance. "Come on. Show's about to start."
"What just happened?" Loved that we were a total buzz kill for her.
"Thank you," I said in all sincerity as we let out of our couple-y embrace. Suddenly, it felt so foreign to be this far from her. "How much do I owe you for the drink?"
"Nah, don't worry about it. It's okay." She turned to lean her elbows on the bar. "So, that's Melinda, huh? She deserved what was coming to her." She spoke loudly into my ear as the opening band started playing and everyone started cheering.
"She was always the pretentious type, always looking to one-up the people she felt threatened by." I raised a brow as I turned to the brunette. "You must take pleasure in saving me from inappropriate and would-be embarrassing moments, huh?"
"I happened to be in the area." Ashley smirked before sipping her Jack and Coke. "I had to admit, it was pretty fun watching you squirm from across the room."
"Gee, thanks." I responded in sarcasm as I watched the bright lightning from the stage cast its various colors across the crowd, entrancing everyone present. I felt entranced myself… but it had nothing to do with the lighting. There was something in the way she looked at me, and I would give anything to know what it was. "So, are you going to tell me or do I have to ask?"
"Tell you what?" Ashley shrugged.
I rolled my eyes at that growing smirk on her lips. "You missed class all week. Where've you been all this time?"
"Missed me, huh?" She was fully smiling now. "Gee, Carlin, did you do anything else besides think about me while I was gone?"
"Careful, Davies. You're treading on thin ice."
"You're not even denying it." Ashley chuckled.
"Anyways!" I barked. "Where'd you go?"
"Nowhere in particular." She took a sip of her drink.
"Recovering from a hangover?" I smirked.
Ashley laughed, "It was… pretty brutal. I'm not gonna lie."
"First hangovers usually are." I said so matter-of-factly before sipping my drink. "I'd buy you a drink to thank you for the A I got on that paper you helped me write, but I don't know how many drinks you've already had."
"Well, I'm…" she placed her drink down on the bar as she turned to face me, "sober as a nun." I raised a brow, not understanding what she was getting at. "Spencer, I'm… myself again."
"What?" My eyes danced around her body. She didn't look any different. "So, it just… wore off?"
"I guess," she shrugged.
"Are you sure?"
"Well, I haven't slept for days and I pretty much finished a few bottles from the bartender's top shelf." Ashley said so nonchalantly in my ear.
"Huh. No kidding." I paused still contemplating all of this. "So, how do you feel about not being human anymore?"
"I don't know what to think, really." She grabbed her drink again as we both leaned over the bar top. "Kudos on the paper though. You really kicked ass!"
"I couldn't have done it without you. You know that, right?" I glanced up at her.
"Of course you could." She ducked her head humbly, hiding a bashful smirk. "So, you're here alone?"
I took a quick sip of my drink. "Are you?"
"I asked first." Ashley brushed her curls across her shoulder.
I rolled my eyes as she smiled so coyly at me. "Well, Liz was supposed to join me tonight, but she had to skip town for her grandmother's funeral."
"I'm sorry to hear that." Her eyebrows furrowed. "My condolences."
"Thank you." I smiled sympathetically.
"I saw your friend Donny on the way out as I was heading in."
"Yeah, he came with me in her place."
She continued to stare at me, prodding for more information, I suppose. "And he left when he found out this wasn't a Justin Bieber concert?"
We both laughed for a bit before I cleared my throat. "No, he's still upset with me over something." I shook my head. "Enough about me. Why are you here by yourself?"
"I enjoy listening to the talented William Fitzsimmons. And Jton doesn't fancy the same type of music as me."
My eyes grew wide. "William Fitzsimmons is my favorite!"
"Yeah, I used to hear him playing on the pipe organ and guitar when I was passing through Pittsburgh. His family's very kind." She smiled. "Care to join me? I like watching from the balcony. It's a little less crowded."
As we walked up the steps, the loud banter from concert goers walking up and down the steps wasn't loud enough to distract me from the light pressure I was feeling on my lower back… where Ashley's hand gently pressed as I walked slightly ahead of her. It was dizzying to say the least.
We stood over the edge of the balcony and I found myself swaying to Ingrid Michaelson's The Way I Am in the small space I was standing in. I periodically glanced over at Ashley, watching her sway and bob her head to the music. Her eyes gazed into mine and we found ourselves grinning at each other… her reasons unknown to me, but I smiled, feeling ecstatic that my night had turned around significantly.
Although the balcony was supposedly less crowded, it was a sold out concert. People began piling up behind us as the headlining act was setting up. Consequently, Ashley and I were pushed into each other's personal space. I kept my eyes ahead at the stage, diverting my attention and praying I don't do anything awkward.
The crowd cheered loudly as William Fitzsimmons made his way to a single stool on the stage. He lifted his acoustic guitar into his lap before greeting the packed hall. I could feel the glances of the crowd behind us, glued to the artist on stage… and I could smell the intoxicating scent of the brunette so close to me. We were all entranced with his music as he started to artistically strum at the acoustic strings.
Unfurl your gown.
A distant fuller skin.
I knew you once.
I swallowed hard, feeling his music move me. I took a sip of my drink, just living and loving this moment.
My God the sun.
The windows bear your bones.
Reveal your crime.
Let the sunrise come again.
For a second, I heard Ashley gasp very quietly. I looked at her, noticing her flushed face.
Your sailor eyes.
The water in the well.
A thirst to fill.
Her chest was heaving. I then realized my fingers were laced around her wrist. When did that happen?
Let down your arms.
"Oh, sorry," I mouthed, knowing she wouldn't be able to hear me amidst the music. But, I was reluctant to let go for some reason.
The purging of this dark.
She slid her hand into mine, intertwining our fingers.
The fall to free.
Ashley grasped my hand, allowing our palms to touch.
Let the sunrise come again.
I placed my drink on the balcony and grasped her wrist with my other hand, feeling her pulse against my palms. I was concerned about her feeling faint gain. "Ash," I whispered.
Her only response was a long and staggered sigh. The rest of the audience began to cheer at the conclusion of the song.
I tried to snap her out of a trance she was putting herself in. "Ash," I said out loud.
"I thought I could do this, but I can't." She mumbled, suddenly pulling her hand back. Ashley squeezed her way through the crowd.
What did she mean? Do what?
Seconds later, I found myself doing what I do all too often: I followed her out. Ashley was already speed-walking towards the lot when I stepped out and saw her in the distance. I began jogging in her direction. She turned sharply into the stairwell. When I got to the staircase, I looked over the railing. "Ashley!" I called out, but noticed her shadow disappear a few flights down. It was apparent she wasn't going to stop for anything.
I carefully ran down and when I exited the stairwell, I saw her Prius pull out from a parking space a few feet down. I walked in her path, knowing that the only way for her to leave was to run me down.
"Get out of the way, Spencer." She spoke out of her open window.
"Get out of the way!" Ashley said more sternly.
She glared at me before violently shifting the gear and shutting the engine off. Ashley stepped out of the car and I quickly made my way towards her.
"Why are you here?" She shut the door behind her to mute the beeping noise from the keys in the ignition. "Why did you follow me?" The brunette sounded annoyed.
"What? It's not enough for Donny to run out on me that you had to run out, too?" I huffed. If only she knew the reason Donny and I had a falling out. I wasn't about to let two people walk out on me on the same night. "We need to talk."
"There's nothing to talk about." Ashley responded abruptly.
"Why are you running away right now?"
"I have to go… meet someone." She crossed her arms in affirmation. Who was she trying to kid?
"Really?" I raised a brow. "In the middle of a William Fitzsimmons concert?"
The brunette didn't respond.
"Ash, I'm not buying it. This is me you're talking to. Be honest with me… please?"
She shook her head, exhaling her frustration. "I… just can't be around you right now. I thought I could… but I can't."
I looked into her eyes and let silence do the heavy lifting for a second while I contemplated the meaning behind it. "Why not?"
"I think you know why." She responded in a quiet tone.
"Right." I nodded. "Because I make you sick." I turned to leave. Save myself the embarrassment.
Before I could get very far, I felt her hand grab mine. Ashley pulled me back a little closer, and all I could comprehend was the fact that she hadn't let go of my hand, nor was it apparent that she wanted to. We both looked down at our hands before she grasped just a little tighter. I felt her pulse surging through her fingertips.
"Not because you make me sick," she glanced into my eyes, "but because it makes me sick not being with you."
I was taken aback. "Ash—"
"Spencer," she ran her hand through my hair and neatly brushed the locks over my shoulder. I felt her hand graze my cheek. "I'm in love with you."
I swallowed hard, confused at the impact of such words. When the hell did all of this happen? Was I there for any of this? I mean… I know there might have been some feelings dwelling, but love? She's in love with me?
Before I could react in any way, shape or form, Ashley took a short step forward and gently wrapped her lips around mine. The air around me suddenly went deaf and I was even further dumbfounded at the events that have unfolded before me. I felt all tingly in my extremities and concluded that that must've been my brain cells running for the hills.
This unsettling yet warm feeling sat heavily on my chest as Ashley backed away enough so that our lips were only centimeters apart.
"I-I can't…" I uttered, my eyes still shut.
"I know," she whispered.
At that point, I knew she was daring me to walk away. She stood motionlessly, aside from her chest rising and falling uncontrollably. I could feel her hot breath dancing across my lips.
I then felt some unexplainable force from within compel my nerves as I leaned forward to rejoin our lips. She finally let go of my hand only to wrap her arms around my waist as our kiss quickly deepened. Her hands ran up my sides until they found themselves cupping my cheeks.
I was drowning in her, and that's all I could want right now.
Ashley finally pulled back, exhaling what I only knew could be gratefulness. I opened my eyes, noticing her eyes fixated on her thumb slowly brushing over my lip. "That was… definitely better than the first time," she said in a low tone.
I smiled. "At least you know I'll remember it this time."
The corner of her lips curled as we embraced each other. I swallowed hard, still feeling like I was beside myself. I didn't want to let go of this moment, but my mind was only telling me that I had to because it wasn't going to last forever. I felt Ashley sigh heavily. "Spencer?"
Her embrace tightened. "I'm gonna go now." She kissed my shoulder. "Please… whatever you do… don't tell Liz. I don't… I don't want you two to end, especially on my account."
I stepped back. My eyes blinked as I realized what she was saying. "Is that what you want?"
Ashley bit her lip for a second with a contemplative look on her face. "It doesn't matter what I want."
"Of course it matters!"
She shook her head very decisively. "Just don't… don't make it harder than it has to be." Ashley let my hand go and turned to get into her car.
I didn't want her to leave. But at the same time, what was I supposed to say?