A/N: I don't remember what my original idea for this story was, but I started writing and this was what it turned into. I basically worked on this whenever I felt like writing but had writers's block on All the Time, so hopefully this turned out okay.
I remember the day I first met Ashley Davies.
I was fourteen, and new to Los Angeles, as well as to King High. We moved because of my mom's job; apparently there were better opportunities there as opposed to Ohio, where we used to live.
We moved a little later in the year, around October, so cliques and friendships had already been formed, and while Glen had always been able to fit in wherever he wanted, Clay and I weren't so lucky, so I was essentially one of the school's outcasts…for about two hours.
"Who are you supposed to be, the poster child for Barney and Friends?"
Not exactly what comes to mind when you think "the first thing my future best friend ever said to me", but that's what it was.
"What?" I asked, turning in the direction the voice had come from and preparing for…I don't know. At my old school, freshmen were picked on a lot, so I didn't really expect this school to be any different.
Ashley had brown hair and eyes, and skimpy clothes that were sure to draw the attention of every boy in the school, freshmen through seniors. I was automatically wondering why she was talking to me, of all people, but then again, she'd basically just insulted me…I think. I highly doubted she was into Barney.
"You. Your clothes. Either you're auditioning for a part on Disney Channel, you have no idea how to dress for high school, or your mom picked out your outfit this morning."
I furrowed my eyebrows, trying hard not to glare at her or seem too hurt. "Let me guess: you've got a belly button ring and a tattoo on your lower back, then?"
We were inseparable from that moment on.
For most of freshman year, Ashley had another friend named Madison, whose life goal was basically a combination of losing her virginity to the star of the football team and making the cheerleading squad. I'm pretty sure Ashley told me one day that she'd found out from Sherry that Madison had done it with my brother, which was pretty gross and not at all something to be proud of, but I digress.
"Have you ever…you know?" I remember asking as we sat on my bed and talked about how disgusting Madison's taste in boys was, and it wasn't like I was expecting a no, especially considering Ashley's relationship status with Aiden Dennison, but when she looked a little guilty and wouldn't meet my eyes, something felt unsettled within me, and I didn't say anything for a while.
"It wasn't all that good, though," she said, a little defensively, like she had some kind of reason to defend herself to me even though he was her boyfriend and they were practically the poster couple of our grade (much to Madison's chagrin). "It hurt really bad and he didn't even act like he cared about me or anything. It was over really quickly."
I hugged her after that, because that was a perfect description of how I didn't want my first time to be.
"Have you?" she asked, but I think she already knew the answer even before I shook my head. "Why not? Oh, that's right…you're family's into the whole waiting until marriage thing, right? But Glen…"
"That's not it," I told her, shrugging nonchalantly. "I just haven't found the right person, I guess."
"Well…I hope your first's better than mine was," she replied, reaching over and squeezing my hand, and then added, because for some reason things had gotten tense all of a sudden, "And I know it'll be better than Madison's."
Madison and I never got along for some reason, maybe because she was a backstabbing bitch or something and I was the quiet, shy, smart girl who happened to somehow end up being best friends with the rebellious girl who had a rock star for a father, so Ashley was eventually forced to choose between us around the end of November, after it became apparent that we were never going to like each other. She never made it seem like choosing me was a hard choice, and I think that was because it probably just wasn't. Madison was completely jealous of Ashley and Aiden; always had been. And I was the person Ashley could come to for anything, who didn't judge or think any worse of her, even when she told me she tried drugs once or smoked or did things to Aiden when they were alone that she had promised herself were too gross to ever do with a guy.
I never thought about guys too much; they were just sort of there, and Ashley picked up on that right away. I'd met her in October, and it wasn't even December yet before she asked me, "Spence, shouldn't you at least be looking for a boyfriend by now?"
I shrugged beside her, mostly busy digging through my locker and not paying too much attention because boys weren't very important and neither was talking about them unless it was Aiden or some other guy Ashley thought was cute.
"Well, things are really awkward with Aiden sometimes when it's just the two of us, so I think it'd be cool to go on a double-date. And Madison always acts like a bitch when she sees him and me together, so I want to find you a date. We can double."
"Okay," I said, because there really were no other options, and Ashley smiled brightly at me.
"Great! He has this friend Patrick that he thinks you'll really like, and he's our age, too. You're free Friday night, right?"
I faked a sigh as I closed my locker, turning to face her with a disappointed look on my face. "Actually, I'll be busy hanging out with my other friends, then."
Ashley rolled her eyes and nudged me playfully. "Shut up, you totally have other friends."
She paused for a moment, thinking, but gave up after a few seconds, grabbing my hand and dragging me off to class. "Whatever. I'm the only friend you need, anyway."
That night, Patrick tried to kiss me, and when I smiled politely and turned away, breaking contact with his eyes, I ended up looking right into Ashley's. There was something in them I hadn't seen before, but she blinked and looked away quickly, and then it was gone.
She never set me up on any dates after that.
I got my first LA boyfriend in March of that same school year. His name was Josh, and he was a junior, and on the basketball team. I was excited because this finally meant something wasn't wrong with me and my hormones were kicking in at last, and finally Ashley was the one who had to sit on my bed and listen to me talk about all the stuff that Josh and I had done and she had to smile at all my happy memories and hug me during the sad parts.
Unlike when she was the one sharing, though, there were no stories about bad first times. Josh just didn't feel like the right person.
I remember the day she and I were sitting with Josh and Aiden near the end of April, and Ashley seemed a little out of it during lunch in the cafeteria, but Aiden and Josh were busy talking about basketball and didn't really notice. Her eyes were glued to something across the cafeteria, and when I followed her gaze, there was another girl looking back at her. A girl whose name I later found out was Amanda Richards, the girl that had more tattoos than Ashley did and more piercings than letters in her full name, who was most certainly not someone anyone would hang out with if they knew what was good for them.
"Hey, guys," Ashley said suddenly, seeming to jump right out of her trance and stand up at our table. "I left something in the library during Study Hall so I'm gonna have to go get it before next period. I'll see you then, Spence." I furrowed my eyebrows, but nodded at her anyway, watching her kiss Aiden on the cheek and then make her way out of the cafeteria, leaving her tray behind for one of us to throw away.
Ashley forgot her books all the time, but I always noticed and picked them up for her before we left. There hadn't been anything on our table in the library that day.
When I looked across the lunchroom a few minutes later, Amanda was gone, too.
It occurred to me around the end of that school year that Aiden spent a whole lot of spare time with Madison when Ashley wasn't around, and upon further investigation, it wasn't long before I caught them making out in the girl's locker room after basketball practice one day. Being Ashley's best friend, I felt it was my duty to relay this information to her, so I did, at her house the next day.
"They were…kissing, huh?" she repeated back to me, biting her lip and averting her gaze, and all I could was nod and move in for a hug, which made Ashley's breath hitch a little for some reason, but I assumed it was because she was shocked and trying not to cry. "Um…Spencer?" she asked once I'd pulled away, still looking anywhere but at me.
"Can I tell you something?"
"You can tell me anything," I reminded her, because she had been able to since the day we met and why would this be any different?
"Yeah, but…this is big. Really big."
"Like, bigger than the time you and Aiden-?"
"Okay," I replied, trying to sound calm even though I was kind of inwardly freaking out. What could Ashley have kept from me all this time?
"Aiden and I aren't dating anymore."
"You're breaking up with him," I stated, relieved. This wasn't even that big of a deal, because obviously if he was kissing another girl then she should-
"No. We already broke up. I…haven't been dating him for a while."
I tilted my head to the side. "Oh…"
"And there's a reason why."
"He's a nice guy and all…I mean, he's even been pretending to date me to cover for me, and I guess Madison must think he's cheating on me with her, but…" She swallowed hard, and this was already a big enough secret, so I was already offended that she hadn't told me any of this before. But apparently there was more?
"Covering for you?" I echoed, picking up on that a few seconds later, and she nodded nervously, biting her lip again.
"Spence, I'm…I don't like Aiden anymore because…ever since…well, about around the time you started seeing Josh, I…I-I've been seeing someone, too. But not Aiden."
"Who?" I questioned, smiling a little because now the worst possibility at that point was that she picked out some guy I wasn't going to like, and that wasn't so bad because I knew she didn't really like Josh and so I kind of owed her anyway in that respect.
"It's, um…" She sighed, then just blurted out, "You know that girl Amanda, right? The one I'm always staring at at lunch?"
"Yeah," I said, waiting patiently for the "it's her brother" or the "and you know the guy she dated last January?", but it didn't come. "Oh. Oh."
"Spence, please don't let this change us. You're my best friend. I always want us to stay that way, okay?"
"Yeah," I repeated dumbly, clearing my throat and letting her pull me in for another hug, but that one was much more awkward because, you know, she was…into girls and I'm a girl and it was just kind of weird to hug her knowing all of this. And I think she could feel it because things were different for a few weeks after that.
I remember the first time someone called me a dyke.
It was at the beginning of sophomore year, and Ashley had spent the end of freshman year and all of summer basically coming out to everyone and spending time with Amanda and I (separately, always), but by the time school had started again, everybody knew that Ashley was gay, that I was her best friend, and that we'd both recently broken up with Josh and Amanda in a strange coincidence that I regretted for a really long time.
"Geez, Spence, you should really stop biting your nails," Ashley was saying as we stood next to her locker, and naturally, staring down at my nails involved her holding my hand to her face, when someone just screamed it out in the middle of hallway.
Ashley dropped my hand immediately and looked around, trying to find the source of the intended insult, but everyone was laughing and it was impossible to tell, so she just grabbed my hand again and hurried to get me out of there as quickly as possible.
I, meanwhile, just felt completely numb. I'd never considered the fact that Ashley being gay would increase the chances of me getting teased, but apparently that was the way things worked, because we couldn't go anywhere together after that without being made fun of just for being friends.
My mom got wind of Ashley's sexuality less than a week after school started, and all hell broke loose after that. She told me to stop hanging around Ashley and not to associate with her anymore. I didn't listen.
"Spencer, I'm really sorry. If I had known you'd be taking all this crap about being gay just because I am, I would've just kept it a secret."
"It's fine," I lied, rolling over on Ashley's bed so that I was facing her and she was facing me. "Have you ever done it with a girl?" I blurt out, because we're both girls and we're lying on a bed together and I guess my subconscious just kind of thought of it.
Ashley blushed, to my surprise, because Ashley blushing was always really rare, and it could have only said one thing about her answer.
"With Amanda?" I guessed, and she nodded sheepishly. "When?"
"A long time ago," was all she said, but it left me wondering for quite a while afterwards. "What about you? Still got the V-card?"
"Still," I confirmed. "Josh was…I don't know. A mistake, I guess. It seemed like every girl liked him and out of all those girls, he chose me, so…I felt special."
"You are special," Ashley said, smiling at me, and I grinned back at her, unable to help it. She sat up all of a sudden, giving me a look that told me she was ready to gossip, so I sat up too, mimicking her. "So any crushes? Now that you've finally actually liked somebody and I know you're capable of love…"
"Shut up," I retorted, pushing her lightly while she laughed at me. "Of course I can love. I love you."
I was still smiling, but Ashley's whole demeanor changed for about a millisecond before she went right back to normal, rolling her eyes and replying, "And I love you too. So tell me who you like."
I shrugged calmly. "Nobody yet."
"No new freshmen cuties?"
I wrinkled my nose, laughing a little. "I don't think I want to date younger guys. What about you?"
"Guys? Ugh," she said, and I laughed again because I was used to her being like that by then. The whole gay thing still bugged my mom, but I got over it pretty quickly and accepted that Ashley was still the same girl that said I looked like a Disney Channel character on my first day at King High. "There is this one girl, though," she admitted, her eyes twinkling just a little when she looked at me. "She's got blonde hair and blue eyes and a homophobic surgeon for a mom and the grossest brother on the planet, and I absolutely cannot stand her."
I stuck my tongue out at her, and she mimicked it instantly, then tackled me to the bed and tickled me while I squirmed beneath her and tried not to laugh.
"C'mon, I won't stop until you tell me who it is. You have to like somebody," she insisted, grinning down at me evilly, and I could only twist and turn beneath her for so long before I had to say something to get her to stop.
"You, okay?" I half-gasped, half-shouted out, and she paused immediately, looking down at me with wide eyes. I'm pretty sure I looked just as shocked at the time, because it surprised me how easy it was to say and how true it actually sounded.
"What?" she asked gently, and there was something in her voice that I'd never heard before, but I didn't take any time to dwell on it. I had to get out of that situation, and fast.
"Yeah, I'm secretly gay for you," I said, all dramatically, with hand gestures and everything. "I've just been too afraid to admit it until now."
She stared down at me for at least ten long seconds before finally pushing off with both hands and sitting up on her knees again, her expression unreadable for a moment before she finally gave me a small smile and laughed the whole thing off. "Ha. Yeah, good one."
She didn't come to school the next day, and I never figured out why.
I remember the first time I kissed a girl.
Hardly, because I was drunk out of my mind, but I remember it.
It was around February of Ash and I's sophomore year, and my parents were going out to a dinner party, and Glen and Clay had a house party of their own to go to, so I invited Ashley over to just hang out alone for the night.
"So…what do you want to do?" I asked after about five minutes of just hanging out around the kitchen, and at right about the time I finished my sentence, Ashley's eyes landed on the bottle of vodka my parents had left on the kitchen counter. They trusted me, apparently. They shouldn't have. "Ash…no way. We'll get in so much trouble."
"What are you, five?" she replied, moving across the kitchen to pick up the bottle and examine the contents.
"What if we do something stupid?"
"I'll make sure you don't do anything stupid; you'll make sure I don't do anything stupid," she said in explanation, already opening the kitchen cabinets in search of two shot glasses. She found them easier than I would have, then tugged me over to the living room couch with the glasses and the bottle. She got the bottle open with a corkscrew she found in one of the kitchen drawers, and just like that, there was a shot of vodka sitting in front of me on the coffee table, while Ashley downed her own shot beside me. "C'mon, Spence, it'll be fun. Besides, it's just the two of us. What could happen?"
Many many drinks later, I was dizzy beyond belief and Ashley was to the point where she would giggle uncontrollably every minute or so and it would take her at least ten seconds to stop, and I think that at some point she reached for the bottle and slipped or something and ended up crushing me to the couch before I could stop her from falling, and somehow our faces ended up close together and we were both drunk so it just happened. She kissed me first, but her lips were just so soft that I had to kiss back.
The next morning, when I woke up in my bed with Ashley next to me and a killer hangover, and I remembered enough to know what had happened, I freaked out for all of about five minutes before I realized that kissing a drunken Ashley had felt more right than kissing any guy ever had. It occurred to me then for the first time that I might be gay, too.
For a whole week after that, I started noticing that Ashley would always glance at me when she thought I wasn't looking, sometimes even stared at me if she really thought she could get away with it, sat closer to me than normal friends usually did, and even found excuses to touch me when it really wasn't necessary. So, after noticing all these behaviors, I deduced that she must have remembered the kiss and wasn't sure what to say, so that was why she was being so weird all the time.
So, naturally, I figured it was time to talk.
"Ash, there's something I have to tell you."
"You don't like Pictionary?"
I sighed, plucking the board game from her hands and tossing it onto her bed. "This is serious. I don't want to play anything right now." Head out of the gutter, Carlin. "I want…I want to talk about last week, the night we got drunk."
"Oh." She sighed. "Look, I'm sorry you got in trouble with your mom, we should've hid the empty bottle better but-"
"No, that's not it. I'm confused…"
"About what?" she asked, seeming to sense something was seriously wrong with me, so she grabbed my hand and led me to the bed, tucking a strand of my hair behind my ear and waiting patiently for my response.
I swallowed heavily, not sure how to approach this subject without just coming out and saying it. "Look…that night, when we kissed I-"
"We kissed?" she questioned immediately, her hand slipping off of my shoulder and into her lap, and I don't have time to think about anything other than the fact that she didn't remember.
"We kissed," she repeated again, looking to me for confirmation. "We got drunk and we kissed, and I don't remember it."
"Well, I mean…yeah…" I finished lamely, knowing she heard me and there was no turning back now. "Er…we were on the couch, and you fell on me, and then you…you kissed me. But…I kissed back, so…I don't know whose fault it really was."
"What was it like?" she questioned quietly, turning away from me and watching her legs dangle over the edge of the bed, and I blurted out the first word that came to mind.
She started crying almost as soon as the word was out of my mouth, which caught me completely off-guard, until I realized that if she didn't remember the kiss, that week wasn't different from any other week for her and I was only just then catching on to things she'd been doing for quite a while. And maybe it was a little conceited of me, but I started comparing things to our situation, like what if Brad Pitt kissed me and I couldn't remember it and thinking that maybe that that's how Ashley felt at that moment. Just thinking stupid thoughts that made me do stupid things, like tilting Ashley's chin up and making her face me and then telling her that everything was okay and leaning in so she could feel and remember how soft it was, too.
I think that one was my first real kiss with a girl.
I remember when I told Ashley I loved her for the first time, and meant it in a way that would make my mother cringe and try to send me off to the same kind of correctional facility she already wanted Ashley sent to.
After our second kiss in her bedroom, we went back to being regular friends. I could still see her doing all of the same touchy-feely stuff and staring at me all the time, but I found that I kind of liked it a little bit. Or a lot. A lot more than a straight girl would've liked it, anyway.
"I've never really been that into guys, you know?" I reminisced one day on Ashley's bed, where everything important had seemed to happen ever since I showed up in LA.
Ashley watched me with interest from across the bed, pausing in her nail-filing activities to listen to my ramblings.
"I never felt like any of them would ever be right for me. I never really met one that I genuinely wanted to be with, you know?" She didn't say anything, so I continued anyway. "And I can remember stuff all of a sudden, like how when I was eleven I thought about what it would be like to kiss this one girl, and I've always thought it was important to look pretty around other girls, but not boys, and-"
Ashley's hand covered my mouth before I could say anything else, and I raised my eyebrows in surprise when I saw how her eyes were staring into mine. "Spencer, you can't do this. Your mom would kill you, and I'd…it's just better if you keep your mouth shut."
"You'd what?" I asked, moving her hand away from my mouth, and having any part of her touching my lips suddenly got me thinking of how soft hers were again and about how I'd like to feel them just one more time…
"I just…" She paused, then swallowed hard. "You can't get my hopes up like this. It'll…I can't take any more, you know?"
I didn't realize until then how stupid kissing her a second time was. It would probably have been better to just let her not know what she missed out on, instead of showing her and then preventing her from having it again. But I wasn't planning on doing that any more. Preventing her, that is.
"Why would getting your hopes up be a bad thing?" I questioned, even though I was pretty sure I already knew the answer.
She lowered her eyes to her bed, and was quiet for a while. "…Because you'll break my heart even more than you already have."
"Let me fix it," I said in a hopeful tone that only a fifteen-year-old who was pretty much positive she was in love could manage, crawling across the bed to her until I was resting on my hands and knees in front of her. "I'll put it back together."
"Yes I can," I said gently, taking her face in my hands and making her look at me. When I was sure she wouldn't look away, I dropped my hands and found hers, scooting just a little bit closer until our lips were touching.
"What are you doing?" she murmured a moment later, after I'd pulled away, and when I opened my eyes to look at her, hers were still closed.
She opened her eyes then, forcing a sad smile. "Spencer, it's not your job to make me feel better."
I saw at that point that she wasn't going to believe anything I said unless I took drastic measures, so I reached downwards and pulled my shirt off in one smooth motion, watching her eyes widen in surprise when I stood up and worked my pants down to my ankles too, then got back onto the bed in just my bra and underwear. "I love you, Ash. I want this. And I want to have sex with you, because there's nobody else I'd rather lose my virginity to."
Needless to say, she believed me after that.
I remember when I came out to my mom.
I try to forget it as often as I can, though.
We were sitting in the kitchen, eating dinner, and Ashley had just been over all day, "hanging out" (making out) in my room with me. I was sixteen, and we'd been dating for almost three months. Sophomore year was almost over, and I was looking forward to a summer full of Ashley and bikinis and Ashley tanning in bikinis.
"I'm sorry, but I don't understand why you're still friends with her, honey. She really is a bad influence," Mom was saying as she passed me the bowl of potatoes, missing the meaningful glances Clay and Glen and Dad shot at me directly afterward. I told them way before I told her, seeing as how I knew Dad and Clay would be way more accepting and Glen'd always thought Ashley was hot.
I decided enough was enough and both Ash and I were tired of keeping it a secret.
"We're not friends, actually."
Okay, maybe it hadn't been the best way to approach it, but it had to do.
"Spencer, I may be your mom, but I'm not as stupid as you think I am," Mom pointed out with a laugh. "You two are inseparable these days."
I kept telling myself to do it as calmly and nonchalantly as possible, so that was how it came out. "Yeah. We're girlfriends."
There was no miscommunication, no "of course you are honey"s or "what do you mean by that?"s; just the clatter of a fork and a silent dinner table. My Dad cleared his throat, breaking the silence first. "Right. Well, I'll go arrange for a family therapist."
It might've had a chance of making things less awkward if he hadn't actually stood up to go get the telephone.
I cried when I told Ashley about the whole thing, because Mom hadn't looked at me the same way since and the expression on her face that night at the dinner table was too awful to describe accurately so a sob was pretty much the best job I could do. She hugged me and whispered soothing things into my ear until I calmed down, like how we were going to spend the summer drinking pina coladas even though we were too young and I could watch her tan on the beach and she could lather me up with sunscreen so I didn't burn because we both knew there was zero chance of me tanning the way she does, and it helped.
I spent most of that summer over at Ashley's house, and since her mom was hardly ever home anyway, that meant major alone time with my girlfriend with access to the products of lots of shopping trips, and a perfectly soft king-size bed that I happened to have lost my virginity in. I was allowed to spend the night as long as I called Dad first and asked, and so we laid down on the couch together pretty often and watched Disney Channel and Ashley pointed out all of the similarities between the clothing I still wear and the clothing the actors on the shows wear, and just when I'd start to pout she'd always make me feel better with some variation of the comment "Well, I like your clothes better off of you, anyway."
Despite the whole issue with my mom and therapy, for a while, our lives were perfect.
I remember when Ashley's dad died.
We were well into our junior year when it happened, and she was so devastated that she wouldn't take any of my phone calls and when I tried to come in through the front doors of her house, her mom wouldn't let me in or the maid sent me away.
I knew just from knowing Ashley for so long that she didn't get to see her dad very often, but when they did get together, it was like they saw each other every day. She introduced me to him once as "the most important person in my life", and it still made me blush thinking back on that day, because it was near the end of freshman year and I knew by then that I was an idiot for not noticing how she felt about me even before she came out to everyone.
With her dad's death came a half-sister she hated from the start but I actually kind of got along with. Ashley started talking to me again when she needed someone to vent about Kyla to, then stopped when she realized I actually didn't have a problem with Kyla, and I finally just got fed up with the come here go away trip she was putting me through, and cornered her in her room one day and kissed her until she finally kissed me back.
"She was there the whole time," she murmured to me one day while we were just relaxing on her bed together, and it's that kind of venting that I didn't mind listening to. Insulting Kyla all the time, I couldn't handle. "The whole time I was growing up and he was visiting me and spending time with me, she was there. And he knew about her."
"He loved you, Ash," I reminded her, wishing I knew exactly what to say to make her feel better, but that seemed to be enough, because she curled up in a ball and relaxed into my arms, then fell asleep a few minutes later.
Kyla peeked into the bedroom sometime later and caught me playing with Ashley's hair, then stepped inside and walked over to the bed, looking at us together for a moment even though I was looking right back at her, clearly awake.
"So…are you two…best friends?" she asked quietly, almost hopefully, like she didn't want to have to handle the drama the other option presented, because there was no mistaking that Ash and I were either one or the other.
"Technically, no," I whispered in response, shaking my head, and Kyla nodded just once, crossing her arms and watching Ashley sleep for another moment. "Or yes, I guess. I'm both."
"Oh." She paused. "She looks happy. It'd be nice to see her like this around me when she's awake."
If I hadn't already decided by then that I liked Kyla, that would've cemented it.
Since her dad was rich and he sure as hell wasn't going to give much to Ashley's mom, almost everything went to Ashley and Kyla, split right down the middle. By the time their inheritance came through, Kyla and Ashley were getting along like they'd been sisters their whole lives, and my own mom was practically treating Ashley like a second daughter. About six months of therapy and eight months of watching your daughter date another girl could really change a mother's mind, apparently.
Ashley and Kyla moved away from their mom and bought their own loft, and Ashley gave me a copy of the key the first second she got a chance. Aiden finally stopped screwing around with Madison and started dating Kyla, so we all became a foursome for a while, and even though Aiden and Ashley flirted a little, I trusted Ashley and hoped that even though they'd dated for a little while two years ago and Ashley and Aiden had always remained close friends, she loved me enough to not even think twice about going back to him. Besides, he was with Kyla, and they were happy. Right?
I remember my Junior Prom.
It went great until the last dance, when Aiden confronted Ashley out of nowhere and started telling her that he'd never loved Kyla or Madison and that he was in love with her and had been for a while, and it was all I could do not to burst into tears on the spot, so I stormed away with no destination in mind, only to feel a hand catch my wrist and spin me around, and then soft lips were on mine and equally soft fingers were wiping away my tears without breaking the kiss.
"Spencer…" she murmured against my lips, pulling me closer by my hips and sighing into my mouth. "I will never leave you, okay? I love you, so, so much."
I wasn't even thinking about Aiden anymore by then, but he was definitely the last thing on my mind a moment later, because bright lights were suddenly flashing all around me and loud bangs were mixing in with the screams of other students, and while I couldn't think quickly enough to move, Ashley pulled me down almost instantly as everyone else ducked around us, and then…it was over.
I heard rubber burn and the screech of a car trying to get away, and slowly, everyone came back to life, and Ashley and I both pulled away from each other enough to check for blood. We were both fine, and the relief I felt was overwhelming, so all we could do was hold each other close again and cry.
My brother Clay was shot and killed that night.
Ash kept her promise and comforted me the way I comforted her after her dad died, literally kissing my tears away on several occasions, and muffling my sobs with her shoulder on many others. Aiden tried calling her so often that she would get at least two phone calls per comforting session, but as far as I know, she never picked up.
When senior year started up, Kyla tried to get Aiden and Ashley to start talking again, even though she was a little pissed off at Aiden herself for obvious reasons. It didn't work, and a new foursome was formed: Chelsea, Kyla, Ashley and I, a foursome of friendship.
Well, with the exception of me and Ashley, because by that time, it was common knowledge that we were most certainly not just friends.
I remember Carmen.
I met her through Chelsea about halfway through senior year. She was an artist, a senior, and a "ten on the gay scale", according to Ashley.
With the exception of Ashley, I'd never had a gay friend before, another lesbian that I could just hang out with and have no romantic attachments to. I thought Carmen and I had an understanding. I thought that I could hang out with her whenever my other friends were busy, and we could just have fun together, and meanwhile, I could be completely devoted to Ashley while Carmen found another girlfriend of her own, and then maybe after that we could both sit around and talk about how amazing our girlfriends were and just bask in each other's gayness or something.
I was wrong.
The first time I was truly alone with her, we were painting in Chelsea's studio together, and it was just a little innocent flirting on her part. Stupidly, I mentioned it to Ashley, who immediately wanted to go kick her ass, but I insisted it was nothing and I could handle it on my own. Ashley squeezed my hand and told me she trusted me.
The second time, we went out for ice cream. I got a vanilla cone, and spent the remainder of the time laughing nervously whenever I caught her staring almost every time I went to lick it. Then I got some on my chin and she leaned in way too close and wiped it off with her thumb.
Actually, I take that back. I didn't spend the whole time laughing nervously. When I wasn't doing that, I was dropping major hints, like "Ash gave me this teddy bear the other day and it was so sweet of her" or "I can't believe I'm so lucky to have someone like Ashley in my life", and even "I can't wait until you find someone to be as great to you as Ashley is to me" on one occasion.
She didn't take the hints.
The third time we were alone, it was purely by chance, because I had decided by then that I didn't like spending time alone with her. I'd gone to pick something up for Chelsea from her studio because she was pregnant at the time and we'd all taken to doing favors for her whenever we could, and Carmen happened to be there, painting again.
I tried to keep the conversation short, but she cornered me, wanting to know why we'd been spending less time together, both alone and with other people around. When I didn't answer, she mistook my silence, which really meant "because you're creepy and I want you to back off", as "because I have feelings for you and it's been confusing me because I'msupposed to be in love with Ashley", or something along those lines.
She kissed me. I stormed out.
When I got back to Chelsea, the whole story came out in a rush. She told Kyla, who told Ashley, who challenged Carmen to a fight in the middle of the hallway at school the next day. I had to drag her away before she got herself killed, but it was the thought that counted.
I started telling her I loved her every day after that.
I remember graduation.
Ashley somehow managed to rock her cap and gown, but I'm pretty sure I looked like a complete loser, and I almost tripped on my way to get my diploma, which is pretty much every senior's worst nightmare.
Kyla did trip. She cried for ten minutes straight afterwards, and Ashley consoled her while my parents yanked me into a group hug, squeezing me so tightly that I could hardly breathe.
"I'm so proud of you, honey," Dad told me, ruffling my hair, which my mom immediately hurried to fix, a camera already gripped tightly in one hand.
Once Kyla's face was dry and her makeup was fixed, Chelsea, Kyla, Ashley and I all gathered round for group photos. Then Chelsea took a few with Glen, just because they were dating then and it was cute; Ashley and Kyla took a few together to send to Kyla's mom, since she was the only mom that would actually care (none of us ever really liked Christine); and then Mom took a few of just Ashley and I, grinning and making funny faces and kissing and hugging.
To celebrate, us girls went and ate dinner at some fancy Japanese place where they cooked the food in front of you, and then Ashley convinced Kyla to stay the night with Chelsea, then dragged me back to her loft, where we spent the whole night doing a little celebrating of our own.
I went to UCLA and moved in with Ashley and Kyla, who were more than happy to have me live with them, although Kyla did mention something about needing sleep and not wanting our "shenanigans" keeping her up all night. Ashley told her she needed to get laid, and Kyla pointed out that Ashley was getting laid enough for the both of them, "if last night was any indication".
I was so embarrassed that I avoided Kyla for a week.
I'd decided to go down the filmmaking road, realizing that I really liked using Ashley's camcorder for the most random things, like one time when I snuck up on Ashley singing in the shower and got over twenty seconds of footage before she caught me. The whole nudity factor might've been what made it appealing, but I was sure in ten years it would be considered a treasured home video, like the ones parents make of their toddlers and then watch over and over once they've gone off to college.
At least I knew what Mom and Dad spent most of their time doing then.
Glen visited us every now and then, too, since he really didn't have much else to keep him busy. Chelsea got accepted to an art school in Europe, and while he'd wanted to go with her at first, he ended up being mature enough to realize that it was just something Chelsea wanted to experience on her own. He said he'd be here when she got back, though.
I wondered for a while how I'd missed my brother fall in love.
I remember my first college party.
I don't know what possessed me to go. Probably a combination of Glen bragging about the parties he'd snuck into, Ashley telling me I needed to get out more, and Kyla talking about how much of an old people couple Ashley and I were becoming.
Yeah, being called boring was probably the last straw.
I didn't get drunk. I didn't even drink. But it was still a disaster.
Some guy kept popping up randomly, trying to talk to me, and I guess it was his idea of flirting or trying to get in my pants or something, but if there was one thing I'd learned from Ashley by now (especially after the Carmen incident), it was how to say no to people I didn't want to have anything to do with.
"Fuck off," I spat out, brushing him off for like the sixth time that night, but he remained persistent, nearly sloshing his drink all over me while he followed me through the crowd.
At that point, I was scared. I'd heard all kinds of horror stories about things getting out of control at college parties and people getting hurt or raped. "C'mon, what's wrong? You don't like me?"
"No," I said pointedly, shouting it over the music blaring throughout the house, and he grabbed my wrist before I get any farther, spinning me around.
"Why not?" he growled into my ear once I was practically pressed into him. His breath smelled like alcohol; further proof that he was completely wasted. I didn't answer, opting to try and pull away instead, but his grip tightened to the point where it started to hurt.
"Hey, man, lay off," someone else piped up, shoving him away and coming to my rescue. Another guy, the one that had saved me, led me to the nearest bathroom, where it was quiet and he could talk to me. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah," I said quietly, wiping at tears I didn't even realize were there, and then sniffing awkwardly while he set down his beer.
"Don't worry; that's just James. He'd never actually do anything to anyone, but he can be a real creeper when he gets drunk." He held out his hand, smiling at me. "I'm Hayden."
I took it, glad to have found someone nice in the middle of all this chaos, until I realized his hand was lingering a little longer than necessary on mine and he was eyeing me not-so-subtly.
"So…would you like to dance?" he finally asked, and I laughed awkwardly, pulling my hand away quickly and crossing my arms.
"That's okay, I think I'll just head home."
He sighed when I reached for the bathroom door, pressing his hand to it to keep it shut, and suddenly I was ready to give anything to be back in the crowd with James.
"Let me out," I commanded, trying to sound brave and like I had some kind of plan if he refused, but he'd already seen me scared before. He knew I had no experience with parties like this.
"It's just one dance. I'm a nice guy," he insisted calmly, and at that point I would've done anything to be back with Ashley, being the most boring person on Earth as long as that was what kept me happy and safe. So I blurted out the one thing that I figured would be able to get me out of that bathroom.
He nearly choked on his own spit, and his hand slipped off of the door, so I opened it quickly and ducked out of the bathroom, vowing to never go to another party again.
By the time seven days had passed since the party, everyone I'd ever talked to from my college knew I was gay, and only one of them continued to talk to me after finding out. Her name was Jessica, and she told me she was gay too, and then suggested we hang out sometime.
I turned my only chance at a friend from college down, afraid she'd turn out to be another Carmen.
I remember Ashley and I's first big fight.
It had to happen eventually, considering we'd been dating since 10th grade and had gotten through coming out as gay and as a couple, multiple family deaths, and Aiden, relatively unscathed as far as our relationship.
So what was the fight about?
Naturally, we'd been having it for a while, and Ashley, being Ashley, eventually brought up the topic of spicing things up a little. I wasn't so enthusiastic.
"Ash…I just…it's weird. I want to have sex with you, not…it."
"It is me. In a way. Sort of."
I raised an eyebrow at her, crossing my arms. "No, it's not."
"It'll feel good, I promise."
"I'm not worried about that. It just makes things less personal." I stepped forward, lifting a hand to her cheek, and brushed my thumb across it gently, then rested our foreheads together. "I love it when you're inside of me, when I can feel the warmth and the smoothness of your skin…" Her eyes were half-lidded by then, and I quickly changed tactics before she could get too far into the mood, because if we were to have had sex then she might've insisted on using that…that thing. "Besides, I'm gay," I reminded her gently, letting my hand fall to her hip instead. "I don't want…it's too close to sex with a guy. I don't want that. I'm surprised you do."
"Hey," she said sharply all of a sudden, taking a step away from me, and I realized that my last commented wasn't the right thing to say. "It's not like that, so don't make it sound like it is. You know how much you mean to me."
"I didn't mean-"
"It was just a suggestion, anyway. You could've just said no."
"…I thought I did."
"No, you said it'd be weird. You never said no."
"Well…" I huffed, crossing my arms and glaring at her. "No, then."
As dumb as it was, I think Ashley was genuinely hurt that I shot the idea down so quickly, and I was hurt that she apparently thought our sex life was boring. We still lived together after that, but made Kyla run messages back and forth between us for a whole week, not speaking to each other directly even once the entire time.
I cracked first, and ended up tiptoeing into our shared bedroom one night wearing nothing but that stupid strap-on, blushing furiously when Ashley saw me with it on and burst into laughter. It died once she realized I was serious.
The actual sex was okay. It was a little less personal for me, like I expected, even though I was the one wearing it instead of Ashley, but she still made sure to keep us pressed together as much as possible to make up for the lack of contact down south, and she still moaned out my name at all the right times.
In the end, we decided the way we'd been doing it for the past three years was the best way for the both of us all along.
Kyla was just glad to see us talking again.
I remember when Ashley proposed to me.
We were both twenty-two, and I was in my last year of college. Kyla was living with Aiden, who she'd randomly run into sometime during my sophomore year and had been dating on and off again ever since. Apparently, she forgave him for being in love with her sister while he was dating her the last time. Both Ashley and I were still a little bitter at the time they started dating again, but by two years later, we were a little more supportive, because even though they fought a lot, Kyla and Aiden did make a cute couple, and did really seem to be in love this time around.
That left the loft to just Ashley and I, and one Friday, she randomly asked me if we could have a special night to ourselves. She even offered to make dinner, which surprised me because I knew she hated to cook. But I agreed.
Coincidentally, I spent most of Saturday with my family, who suddenly felt the need to invite me over for the entire day to "reconnect", as though I already didn't live just a few minutes away from them anyway. My mom seemed antsy and excited the entire time, and I didn't have any idea why at the time, but I know I thought it was suspicious, especially with the way Glen and Arthur were constantly shooting her looks like they really wanted her to stop.
"Have a nice night, sweetie," was the last thing my mom said to me before I stepped out of the front door, and I thought that was weird too, just because it didn't sound like something she'd say under normal circumstances. And how had she known about my sort-of-date with Ashley, anyway?
I pondered it on my way home, entering the loft to see Ashley practically pacing near the kitchen, like she was waiting for me to come home. "Hey!" she exclaimed instantly, a little too brightly, and I furrowed my eyebrows.
"Are you okay, Ash?"
"Yeah! Yeah. I'm totally fine. Eat? I mean…are you hungry?" She gestured towards the table, where she'd cooked my favorite meal, complete with chocolate milk, my favorite drink.
"Wow. I am now," I said enthusiastically, grinning at her. "I can't believe you did this."
"Yeah, well…" she shrugged, watching me pull off my coat, then hurried over to me all of a sudden, taking it from me. "I'll take care of this. You go sit down."
"Mmkay," I replied a little distractedly, watching her place the coat on the coat hanger by the door, then heading over to my seat at the table. I couldn't decide whether to be freaked out or excited, because Ashley was acting super weird, which meant something had to be up. Maybe another one of her singles had been released onto the radio? She was pretty famous by then, though, so that wasn't really a possibility. She wouldn't cook a whole dinner over it.
After a few minutes of eating silently and watching Ashley stare down at her food while she ate, I finally gained the courage to just ask her. "Ash, what's all this for?"
She dropped her fork onto her plate in surprise, and it clanged so loudly that we both winced. I could hear her gulp from across the table.
"Um…" She took a deep breath, then exhaled slowly. "I've…it's…I'm getting around to telling you."
"Is something wrong?"
"No! I mean…no. Definitely not. Nothing's wrong. Everything's…" She looked up, then, giving me a small smile. "Everything's perfect."
"Well, it doesn't seem like it. You're a nervous wreck."
"…Spencer?" she asked tentatively, glancing up at me briefly before her eyes locked onto her food again. "You love me, right?"
At that, I was pretty much as worried as I could get. "Of course I love you. After all these years, I'm surprised you even have to ask."
"Yeah, me too," she mumbled under her breath, and I raised an eyebrow.
"Nothing," she replied hastily, digging into her food again, and I stared at her for a moment, before slowly following her lead.
"But that still doesn't tell me what's going on," I pointed out. "You can't have done all this just because you felt like it."
She smirked at that. "Why not? Does there really have to be a special occasion all the time?"
"No, but knowing you, there probably is."
Her smile faltered a little, and she took another deep breath, then nodded. "You're right. There is." She ran a hand through her hair while I watched her curiously, reaching her other hand down to dig something out of her pocket. The table obstructed my view of whatever it was. "I've…well, I was going to say I've never done this before, but that's pretty obvious, considering I've been with you ever since we were fifteen…" She chewed on her lip for a moment, staring down at whatever was in her lap, and I waited with baited breath, sensing that whatever this was, it was going to be big.
My eyes followed her as she slipped out of her seat and took a step towards me, then dropped to one knee next to my chair. My mouth fell open in surprise as she lifted a small black box towards me, opening it with both hands in what felt like slow motion.
Before she could even get the words out, I hopped to my feet, already wiping at the tears forming in my eyes. "Oh my God, yes! Yesyesyes!"
"Yes?" Ashley repeated, a smile already spreading across her lips, and I nodded my head vigorously, grinning from ear to ear.
She got to her feet hastily, fumbling with the ring for a moment until I pulled her in for a long kiss, which she broke early, laughing. "Hold on, Spence, I have to put it on first." We both grinned, watching her do it, then I wiggled my fingers experimentally, testing how it felt to wear. "Like it?"
"You could've bought me a ring pop and I'd still be crying," I told her honestly, letting her pull me in for a tight hug, and we were both silent for a moment, just letting it sink in. "…You were proposing, right?" I finally asked.
She laughed. "Well, you'd know for sure if you had let me finish…or even start, for that matter, but yes. I was proposing."
"Can you say it?" I asked, a little guiltily, considering I kind of cut the proposal short in the first place. "I just want to hear you say it."
She leaned forward, pressing her lips to my ear, and whispered, "Will you marry me, Spencer Carlin?"
I squeezed her tighter, deciding that in a perfect world, I would never have to let go. "Yes."
I remember our wedding.
We decided to wait until after I finished college to have it, which meant that Chelsea was able to fly back from Europe in time to be there. And even though Aiden still wasn't on the best of terms with Ashley and me, we let him come too. Even Ashley's mom showed up, surprisingly. We had to have it in a different state, of course, but everyone that was invited migrated with us, so it didn't really matter.
Even though we both wore dresses, Ashley let me be the one to walk down the aisle, insisting it didn't matter too much to her and that it would probably mean a lot to my mom to get to see me do it.
Paula cried through the whole thing, but I could tell she was having the time of her life anyway. Chelsea and Kyla were both maids of honor, and Glen wanted an important job, too, so we let him be an usher just because. His job actually ended up being really difficult, because the hardest part of the entire wedding was trying to figure out who belonged on what side. Almost everyone had met Ashley and I at the same time, or had known us both for almost ten years anyway.
But eventually we got it figured out; people cried, I cried, Ashley insisted she wasn't crying, we said our vows and our "I do"s, kissed until we couldn't breathe and then blushed at the "aww"s , and then proceeded to cut the cake.
We both threw a separate bouquet when the time came. Chelsea caught one, and Glen jumped in out of nowhere and caught the other. Coincidence? I didn't think so.
After that, it was time for dances. We agreed beforehand that we'd dance to "Kiss Me" first, because we both liked the song and we'd probably be all over each other anyway so it would fit.
I danced with my dad for one song, then grinned when I caught Ashley's eyes from across the dance floor. My mom had just grabbed her out of nowhere and squeezed her so tightly she probably couldn't breathe, but Ashley looked just as happy as I did anyway, and even waved when I looked at her. I chuckled into my dad's tux.
It was perfect, and so was our honeymoon.
Once we were finally back in LA, looking for a real house to buy because a loft just wouldn't do anymore, Ashley pointed out, "You know, we could probably get any house we wanted. Technically, we're both rich now."
In the eight-month period between Ashley proposing to me and us actually getting married, I hadn't once thought about that.
"Are you awake, Spence?"
"Hmm?" I turn my head and see Ashley lying on her side next to me in our bed, staring at me intently.
"It's like three in the morning. Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine," I tell her. "Just couldn't sleep." My eyes drift down to her stomach. "What about you? What are you doing up?"
Ashley winces, putting a hand on her stomach. "Baby's kicking."
"I'm sorry," I whisper, covering her hand with mine, and she forces a laugh.
"Yeah, well that's what I get for letting Glen donate sperm. A baby that's completely out to get me."
I wrinkle my nose. "Are you sure that doesn't have something to do with the fact that it's half-you, too?"
She rolls her eyes, sighing as she sits up and adjusts her pillow. "You have a point." I sit up, too, letting her rest her head on my shoulder. "What were you thinking about?" she asks.
"I don't know. Anything, really. The past."
"Just…how we got here. Dancing to "Kiss Me" at our wedding, the first time we kissed…" I snicker softly. "That time we argued over the strap-on."
"Oh, God," Ashley mutters, laughing with me. "What else?"
"Um…the summer I spent with you after I came out to my mom…the day I told you I loved you…my brother's and your father's deaths…"
"Yup. Just random stuff. I'm surprised you even remember all of what I'm talking about."
She sits up, raising an eyebrow at me. "I'm not eighty, you know. I've still got a ways to go before then."
"I know," I reply, sighing and leaning over to kiss her forehead. "It's just all the little things. I just wasn't sure you'd remember them."
We're both silent for a moment, and Ashley reaches over to squeeze my hand, kissing my cheek softly before letting out a small chuckle that has me turning towards her curiously. "What?"
She shakes her head for a moment, like she's debating something, then asks, "Remember the first time we met? The first thing I ever said to you was that you looked like the poster child for Barney and Friends."
A smile spreads across my lips before I can control it. "Yeah. I remember."