A deep breath.
Her hand gripped the pen tightly between her forefinger and thumb; so tight that the skin on her knuckles had faded from their normal color to, now, lacking any color at all. With a flick of the wrist and a clenched jaw, holding her deep breath, she forced the tip of the pen down to the vapid sheet of paper, just above the dotted line. Her name began to form there slowly, picking up pace as it progressed until she lifted the pen, revealing her signature on the finalized document.
Never had her signature felt so foreign to her; and she had produced it many times over. No, this particular signature stared up at her, locking her eyes in to the endless dotted line, a line that seemed to, all at once, lift from the page and lodge itself in a knot deep within her throat. A knot which, she was sure would be the death of her.
A throaty cough brought her from her thoughts as she lifted her head to chance a look at the suit across from her, a gray suit with an even grayer tie. When had everything gotten so formal in her life? Slowly, her eyes shifted upwards to meet the waiting eyes of the man who had made himself known.
"Okay then… I guess we're done here," the man proudly stated while standing and extending his hand robotically in her direction across the vast table.
Her gaze shifted from his eyes to his outstretched hand. Surely he wasn't expecting a handshake. She could barely force herself to move, let alone, move to accept something so invasive and cold. Her mouth opened slowly but no words could fathom forming. Instead, she shifted her confused gaze back up to his waiting eyes, shaking her head so slightly that it went unnoticed.
"The papers," he demanded hesitantly while pointing to them, breaking her from her trance. "I'll have to send them in to finalize them," he then stated frankly as he nodded his head.
That word ripped through her like a locomotive, barreling its way through a brick wall. Suddenly the wood grain walls, void of any windows, felt as though they were closing in on her. She could feel herself moving to stand, but the only thing that was real in that very moment was that word. Instead of obliging the man and handing the papers back to him, she swallowed the breath she had unknowingly held and turned away from the table and began to move towards the door. She was sure that she was floating because she couldn't feel the ground beneath her. It was as if she were experiencing one of those out of body moments; where it's like watching your life happen, but not living it.
Once she had freed herself of that suffocating room, she allowed herself to exhale. Her eyes closed as she willed herself to hold her composure. Quickly, she forced her way towards the old water fountain on the opposite wall of the doorway she had just exited.
She needed relief in any shape or form.
Leaning down, she jammed her tingling thumb onto the cold, round button, ushering water through the spout. Her lips met the icy liquid and she immediately felt herself relax. She leaned up just a tad for the water to cleanse her face of the anxiety she was feeling.
How had this happened? Where was she to go from here?
The click-clack of heels behind her brought her from her thoughts. Slowly, her thumb lifted and her face felt the absence of the only comfort she had felt in a while. She turned on her heels as she stood up straight, her hand trying desperately to dry her face. It was all in vain though, as water droplets cascaded down onto the collar of her pen-striped suit jacket. Bits of brown curls were now wet and stuck to her skin, framing her face. Surprisingly enough, the water had managed to give her a sense of refreshing comfort.
She watched tentatively as two other occupants exited the all too familiar room; the gray suited, finalizing man and a blonde woman in a pencil skirt. The man shifted a manila folder, probably containing the papers with the infamous dotted line and foreign signature, from his right hand to his equally cold left, before bringing his right up to join in a handshake with the woman.
"This shouldn't take too long," he assured her before continuing; "I'll give you a call in a couple of days."
"Thank you," the woman offered before breaking the handshake and turning her gaze toward the wet-collared woman, frozen to the spot in front of the water fountain.
Suddenly, deep brown eyes met familiar blue ones. Ashley inhaled deeply with a sense of new-found courage. She allowed herself to approach the couple in front of the choking room, before bringing her hands up to smooth out the front of her jacket. As she did this, the man smiled a slight smile before sputtering off down the long hallway.
"So," the blonde woman began as her eyes shifted from the retreating man back to the brown eyes from the moment before. "I guess this is it."
"Spencer, don't do this," Ashley demanded, surprising even herself. Her body stilled to calm, a welcoming upgrade from the shaking bundle of nerves it had previously been. She knew how desperate she had sounded; and it was desperate. She was going out on a limb, one she knew would break.
"Ash…" Spencer began with a sympathetic tone, her cool blue eyes softening and warming. "It's already done. It's over."
With a defeated sigh, Ashley managed to nod before closing her eyes. "I know. I'm sorry," she replied with deep seeded regret. "I should go," she said quietly before turning on her heels, stopping only when she heard Spencer speak once again.
"Why didn't you have a lawyer? You could have at least been aware of what you were signing." Spencer could not believe how Ashley had handled this situation. She sighed as she thought how typical this was for Ashley. Didn't anything matter to her?
"I know exactly what I signed," Ashley replied and turned back around as her brown eyes, once again, locked into blues. That may have come out in a more bitter tone than she would have liked; but she couldn't take it back now. She couldn't take any of it back. That was the part she was having difficulty swallowing. It was final; and not because of the man finalizing it, but because she had signed above that dotted line with that one signature that would never sit well in the pit of her stomach.
"You gave me everything!" Spencer exclaimed rather quietly with a disbelieving smile that was anything but a symbol of happiness. She was anything but.
"Well…" Ashley began with a barely noticeable, sarcastic chuckle before finishing seriously. "It's not everything to me." Their locked gaze became intense as those words left her mouth and the heavily laced, double meaning of them met both of their ears.
How true of words they were. The stuff she had so easily signed away meant nothing in the grand scheme of things. It was what else, or rather who else, she had not so easily signed away with all of the subsequent stuff. Their divorce was finalizing at that particular moment, and nothing she could do would change that. No, she signed away the one thing that meant everything and no amount of material possession could console her of that fact.
"Look Ash," Spencer began with a soft voice. "It's your stuff too. Really, I don't need it all. Keep what you want." She felt so awful for getting everything in the settlement; and no matter what had transpired between them, she still cared for the brunette and wanted her to be alright.
"You." Ashley's eyes were boring straight into Spencer's at that moment. She couldn't tell what was behind those cool blue eyes; anger, exhaustion, indifference? It was only when she noticed Spencer break the gaze that she backtracked. "It's ok… I'll be fine. I'll just… um," she paused as she swallowed the knot in her throat that warned her that tears were soon to follow. She could not let herself fall apart here, in this place, and most certainly not in front of present company.
"… stop by on Saturday to get my things." Her tongue curled itself against the roof of her mouth as she inhaled deeply through her nose.
Nodding, Spencer looked down at her feet as she felt her own eyes burn slightly. She didn't expect this to be so hard; it really was taking her by surprise. "Okay… um… Do you need any help? I could call Glen and see if he and…"
"Spencer, stop," She interrupted, once again feeling calmer. There was no way that she would become some sort of pitiful charity case. "I'll be okay." She truly meant it at that moment. She would be okay somehow. She just had to.
"Ash, they still think of you as family. They will always care about you."
"Do you?" She had to ask because there were moments where the answer was unclear. This particular moment was one of them. She needed to hear it to be able to breath, to get up in the morning …to hopefully move on? "Do you care?"
"Of course I do!" Spencer exclaimed in a breathy voice. She was stunned. How Ashley could believe that she would never care about her was beyond her. Ashley had always been the most important person to her and she would always hold a special place in her heart for her. "How could you even ask that?"
"Well, considering we're here," Ashley replied with a sarcastic smile, motioning her hands, palms up, acknowledging the setting.
"Ash, you will always be important to me. Nothing will change that. We were just wrong for each other."
She had said it so convincingly; it was unfortunate that Ashley hadn't believed it one bit. She half wondered if Spencer was trying to convince herself as well.
Spencer didn't believe it however. She knew Ashley had been the one. There were just too many things that had occurred during the course of their seven year marriage that it just wasn't the case anymore. As it stood, in this particular moment in their lives, they were wrong for each other; and no amount of anything could change that.
"Then why did it feel so right?" Her question left her lips before she had any chance to stop it. They had been down this road before; never getting anywhere, only going round and round. Ashley watched as Spencer rolled her lips inside her mouth, seemingly thinking of an appropriate answer. It didn't matter what she had to say. Ashley knew that what they once had could never have been wrong.
"I don't know." It came out as a half whisper; and Spencer immediately brought her eyes up to Ashley's as an uncomfortable silence fell over them.
Ashley thought for a moment before asking her next question. She wanted so desperately to ask, but she found herself hesitant to know the answer. This silence had become so enveloping that she had to end it, and soon.
"Are you happy?" She asked with such a soft voice, her eyes pleading with Spencer to say she wasn't.
She had never wanted for her to be unhappy, not in the slightest; but she couldn't stomach the thought of Spencer being happy without her. However, if Spencer was happy, then who was Ashley to get in the way of that? She was not her wife anymore.
"I think so," Spencer replied after what seemed like a million years. She knew that this revelation would hurt Ashley deeply, but she could never lie to those deep brown eyes.
Ashley had to break their gaze somehow. She couldn't break down in front of Spencer; and she knew that if she had kept her eyes trained on the blue ones before her, she would inevitably break down. No longer would those blue eyes be at her beck and call to stare intently inside. Swallowing the newly formed lump in her throat, she averted her gaze to the old water fountain. The cool water that once relieved her would no longer do the trick.
There was a new line drawn, a line so much worse than the dotted one still haunting her. This new line wasn't dotted and carted off in an envelope, never to be seen again. No, this thick solid line was drawn across the floor, separating her from the blonde in front of her indefinitely. This new line would forever be present, reminding Ashley of where she stood. She would never be able to escape this line no matter how hard she tried. Suddenly, she wanted the dotted line back. She wanted the chance to ignore its prompting of a signature. That, she would gladly take over this new line any day of the week.
"All I want is for you to be happy Spence," Ashley declared while holding back tears in eyes that were focused on the rusty spout of the old fountain. She brought her gaze back around to focus on their feet, mere inches apart; inches that felt like miles. She whispered softly for only herself to hear, "It just sucks that I'm not."
Spencer had heard, unbeknownst to Ashley. This caused the blonde to lift her shaky hand up to grace Ashley's cheek softly. If she had ever regretted filing for divorce, it was nowhere near as strong a regret that she felt in that instant, seeing the defeated look in Ashley's brown eyes. Eyes that closed the moment Spencer's hand caressed her cheek.
"You will be," Spencer offered, caringly and hopeful. She was hopeful of a lot of things, but Ashley's happiness was the forefront of her hopes. She had wanted so much to be the cause of it. For seven years she gave her all on that front, only to have life with all its curve balls deplete her efforts. Tears were developing in her eyes and she knew she couldn't let Ashley see. That would only cause even more tears and neither of them needed that.
Abruptly, she broke contact with Ashley as her hand fell to her side.
"I should go," she forcefully got out as she turned to leave, wiping her eyes once she faced the opposite direction of the brunette. She didn't begin walking; only standing as she wiped her eyes. She had cried so many tears over this situation that she was sure there would be no more left. Sighing, she wiped what would be the last of her tears. It just had to be. She was going to be happy and that was that.
Forcing back her own tears, Ashley swallowed hard and inhaled deeply before putting up a brave front and asking the hardest question she had ever muttered. "So, when is the wedding?"
There were two things in life that Ashley knew for certain at that very moment as she sat in the corner of the bustling coffee house just down the street from her former home. The first being that Spencer had just divorced her, shoving the ever present knife painfully further through her chest; and the second being that this was not what she had wanted at all. She was having such a hard time wrapping her mind around this heartbreaking knowledge, that she hadn't noticed the slender waitress standing in front of her.
"Tall caramel macchiato?" The waitress stammered out nervously as she stood with a shaky arm extending towards Ashley, grasping a coffee cup. It was her first day on the job and already, she had spilled what seemed like all of the orders she had delivered to patrons. She was about 18 or 19 with a wide-eyed naivety about her.
Breaking from her thoughts, Ashley's eyes snapped upward and met the shy gaze of a younger girl who seemed quite nervous.
"Huh?" She hadn't heard the girl speak, nor did she even care at all what she had said. It was only then that she noticed the girl holding her cup of coffee. "Oh, I'm sorry… caramel macchiato," she said with furrowed brows as she nodded her head and confirmed her order.
The girl could only nod, as forming a complete sentence in front of the Ashley Davies would be completely impossible. She had lived in LA for close to six months and had yet to meet anyone remotely as famous, until now. The fact that Ashley had spoken to her caused her arm to shake even more so than it already had been. If there hadn't been a lid on the cup, coffee surely would have spilled all over Ashley, no doubt burning her. The girl silently thanked the coffee gods for this.
"Thanks," Ashley said as she smiled a small, closed mouth smile and graciously accepted the cup from the poor girl. "Are you okay?" She asked the girl as she sipped on her drink for the first time, noticing the girl was frozen to the spot.
"You're…" the girl could only get out one word as she stared down at Ashley with complete shock present on her face.
Sighing, Ashley realized what the problem was. "Listen," she began as she sat her drink down on the small glass top table in front of her. "You don't have to be so nervous around me. I'm nobody special, but you…" She pointed at the girl with a serious expression. "You give people just what they need on a day when their lives seem to be crumbling around them and their only ounce of relief can come from a small cup of coffee. You're much more special than I am." She finished with half a smile, sipping her drink again. Anyone with two eyes could see that Ashley was defeated and in need of some cheering up.
Her charm had seemed to work as the girl visibly relaxed and replied, "I just never thought I'd meet somebody like you. You have no idea what your music has done for me." With a steadier hand held out to Ashley, she then said with a toothy smile, "My name is Marci."
Smiling a full smile in return, Ashley obliged this hand shake and replied with sincerity, "It's very nice to meet you Marci. I'm Ashley."
"Oh the pleasure is all mine. I'm so glad that didn't spill on you," she said with relief as she pointed to Ashley's coffee. "I am such a klutz."
"No worries…" Ashley began before squinting her eyes just a tad as an idea formed in her head. "Can I ask you something?"
"Oh sure! Ask away," the girl responded enthusiastically before grimacing, slightly embarrassed.
Ashley's tongue snuck its way through her lips as she looked up at the girl, "What did you think of the last album?" She really needed a diversion from her thoughts and surely this girl could be that.
"Uhh… I thought it was amazing. I loved your use of acoustic guitar. The very last song remains one of my favorites. Your voice is so heartbreaking and the emotion is so beautifully expressed. The verse where you sing about calling her one last time..." The girl sighed with a faraway look on her face. "It brought me to tears."
"Haha wow. I didn't expect an answer like that," Ashley replied as she laughed a little. She was completely flattered of course, but never once did she think someone actually listened that closely to her music. It was very humbling.
"Why do you ask me? Surely you've read all of the rave reviews by now." Marci was ecstatic that she was asked, but awfully confused.
"It's just that..." Ashley was immediately interrupted by the voice from a small television that hung on the wall behind her.
"Today in the world of music news..."
"It seems that love-struck singer/songwriter Ashley Davies is in love no more."
This caused Ashley's head to abruptly turn around to focus in on the annoyingly assumptive news anchor. How the hell did he know this information? They had been very discreet about their divorce and she had only just left the courthouse hours earlier. This stirred a bubbling anger within the pit of Ashley's stomach. She wanted to burn this man and all of the paparazzi at the stake.
"Sources close to couple have announced that Spencer and Ashley Davies have called it quits, citing irreconcilable differences. Spencer and Ashley had met in college, both attending UCLA. Spencer, for film production and Ashley for music."
"Sources close, my ass," Ashley huffed as she frantically grabbed her coffee. She was furious and she knew there was no one close to them that would have even thought about selling this story to the news. It must have been that gray-suited, cold-handed, finalizing lawyer that had done it.
Standing, she went to throw a ten-dollar bill on the table when she noticed the girl still standing before her.
"I'm so sorry to hear that Ashley," Marci replied, truly sympathetic, bringing her attention back from the TV. "You and Spencer were like, theperfect couple."
Sighing, Ashley replied sarcastically and angrily, "Sorry to disappoint you."
Downing her coffee and squeezing the empty cup, she slapped the bill in the young girls hands and made a hasty exit out of the side door. She had to get out of this TV blaring coffee house, and fast.
Once she was outside, she turned right to continue hurriedly down the busy sidewalk. There were people going in every different direction; lights were blinking and cars were honking. The city was alive. It was only too unfortunate that Ashley felt anything but alive. Her heart was bleeding and not just in the necessary way. It was bleeding from the hole that was never more present than it was right at that very moment.
She stopped at the edge of a street corner as the lights changed for the lanes perpendicular to the sidewalk she was on. She would have to wait now, as luck would have it. The hotel she was staying in was on the other side. Yes, she was staying in a hotel. It had been months since she had left their home. Three long, excruciating months of sleeping in a bed that wasn't theirs. Of waking up alone, to drink coffee that her wife wouldn't be enjoying with her, to gaze out a window which overlooked a part of town that they didn't live in.
When Spencer had asked for a divorce, Ashley had never once thought about getting her own apartment or anything of the sort. It seemed so wrong and way too final. She had just wanted to be back home and with her wife. There was no point in finding her own place because she was sure that it wouldn't come to a point of actually needing one.
Who knew that it would actually come to this? Being completely over?
These thoughts only served to infuriate Ashley even more. She was so consumed by them that she hadn't notice the light turn back and the people around her beginning to cross the street. It wasn't until someone had uncomfortably run into her from behind.
Sighing, she turned around angrily as her eyes met with wide brown ones. It was their joyous mutual friend Carmen. She was nice, yeah, but at that moment Ashley was in no mood to make small talk.
"Oh gosh Ashley," Carmen began, before she placed her hand on Ashley's shoulder. "I'm so sorry. I'm such a klutz sometimes and I never seem to watch where I'm going."
"It's okay. It wasn't your fault," Ashley replied somberly as her anger subsided. "I was lost in my thoughts." She momentarily wondered how many more klutzes she would run into today.
"So what's going on these days?" Carmen asked with a friendly hug. "It's been forever since the four of us got together."
"Yeah, well it will be even longer now," Ashley said bitterly with a smile as she looked towards the pavement.
Confused, Carmen scrunched her face before asking, "What does that mean? Surely you guys aren't too cool for me and my lady now. I mean I know you're a big time star and all, but..."
Clearly she was trying to make jokes, but Ashley wanted none of it. She was more focused on the fact that Carmen was oblivious to her latest relationship development. Surely everyone had heard by now. It was in fact on the evening news for crying out loud!
"So you haven't heard?" Ashley asked with a sarcastic chuckle. "I thought it was common knowledge by now."
"Heard what? We haven't spoken in like six months." Carmen stated with a smile.
"She left me," Ashley cut right to the chase with a big fake smile masking her inner pain as she looked up at Carmen. "Just up and divorced me."
"Spencer?" Carmen asked with shock, disbelievingly. They had been together forever. She was sure that they would outlast time itself. "No way!" This time she was completely sympathetic. "I'm so sorry Ash. If there is anything that I can do, please, just say the words. It must be hard for you."
"Yeah well," Ashley sighed regretfully. "I didn't exactly give her reasons not to. I just let her walk away." This caused the lump in her throat to return as she looked back down to the sidewalk.
"You can't blame yourself Ashley. It does take two, you know. I know that's such a cheesy saying, but it's true. When did this all happen?" Carmen asked, still shocked that it had happened so fast. Six months ago, they had seemed so happy and perfect together.
Laughing sarcastically, she replied with tears in her eyes, "Today actually. At 9:06 AM, I signed it all away, and you know what else?"
Carmen slowly shook her head, not knowing whether or not to actually answer her question. She assumed it was rhetorical and that Ashley would answer it herself momentarily.
"My address is now at the Hilton just down the way," with this she pointed in the direction that she had previously been walking. "Room 562."
"This sucks so much Ash," Carmen said sadly as she pulled Ashley into her arms. Clearly Ashley hadn't wanted it and was heartbroken beyond belief.
"Yeah well..." She trailed off, not knowing really what to say. It still seemed that no amount of words could make her believe it all. Her life was happening in slow motion now and she just wanted so much to spontaneously combust.
"You know that I care about you a lot, but I have to ask..." Carmen began cautiously.
Ashley knew what was coming. There was no stopping the inevitable question that was about to pour itself from Carmen's lips. They were mutual friends after all and she couldn't fault her for asking.
"How is Spencer doing?" Carmen finished off carefully.
Sighing, Ashley just pushed her lips together before looking directly into Carmen's eyes before answering bitterly. "I have no idea. You should ask her fiancée?"