I am currently sitting at home, sore and hungover after a week of insanity. So.. I figured I'd give you guys another chapter. Enjoy :)
I was completely frozen.
There She was, leaning on her arms on the counter, face-to-face with me for the first time in the four longest years of my life, when not even 10 seconds ago I was busy convincing myself that she was gone forever and I needed to let her go. Her eyes are locked on me and her fingers are beginning to drum impatiently, waiting for me to start spilling, but…where the fuck do I even start? I had so much to say to her – so much to confess, so much to apologize for, so many questions to ask…and all I could manage to do was stand there, staring at her like she had three heads or something. Great. This is going well.
I briefly glance down at her hands that are still on the counter, which she has now balled into fists. I look just long enough to notice that she is visibly shaking, and whether it's because she's contemplating punching me in the face or because she's as terrified as I am, I can't tell.
"Ashley," the harshness of her voice makes me noticeably jump, and my brain begins scrambling frantically for something to say to her. My mouth must have opened and closed half a dozen times before anything actually came out.
"You…but, how did you…"
"No," she said firmly, shutting me up instantly."You don't get to ask me anything yet, Ashley," The tone of her voice alone is enough to send cold chills throughout my entire body. I'm pretty sure I'm hyperventilating at this point, and my bottom lip is suddenly refusing to stop quivering.
God, help me. Strike me down with a bolt of lightning. Make her disappear. Make me disappear. Drop a fucking grand piano on my head like they do in those old cartoons. I don't care; just get me out of here. I can't even force myself to look at her now. Instead, I'm looking at everything but – the walls, the ceiling, the suddenly-interesting patterns on the counter in front of me. I honestly don't know what I'm trying to accomplish, I'm fucking caught and there's no way out of this.
"Ashley," she says my name for what must be the hundredth time already, although much less harsh this time, and it takes all of my effort to respond and to focus my eyes on hers. Hers are noticeably softer; the light blue color that has been practically burned into my brain since the very first time I saw them is suddenly back, replacing the anger that was there just a few seconds ago. I'm taking this as a good sign for me – looks like I might actually survive. Our eyes remain locked on each other's for a few quiet moments before she breaks the contact, hanging her head and heaving a sigh before returning her gaze to me. She whispers in a deep, monotone voice, "Just give me one good reason."
Damn. Even though I saw that one coming from a mile away, I still cringe.
I know she deserves the truth, but at the same time, I know I can't give it to her - at least not yet. It's virtually impossible to predict how she'll react to it all. It's just too risky – not to mention that this is all happening so fast that I still don't think it's sunk in yet that she's standing right in front of me.
There's just no fucking way that I'm ready for this. Any of it.
"I can't tell you," the lamest excuse in the book flies out of my mouth before I even know what I'm saying. Her eyebrows furrow slightly and she purses her lips.
"Right," she says, nodding her head and stepping back from the counter before turning her back to me. She runs a frustrated hand through her hair before quietly adding, "I'm not sure why I expected to hear anything different from you, Ashley."
"You don't understand."
…Did she just laugh?
"Don't give me that shit, Ash!" she suddenly yells, whipping back around to face me again and catching me completely off guard. I take a small step back from her in shock. "You're the one who doesn't understand! Not everything is about you! Not every decision you make only affects you! Not even fucking close!"
My jaw would have dropped if I didn't think I would break down in tears if I moved a single muscle. I want so badly to retaliate and ask her exactly what the fuck she means by that, but my better judgment decides to shine through and I keep it to myself. It's for the best right now anyway. I can't trust what I'll say to her.
A few more seconds of silence go by before she takes in an audible, deep breath, and attempts to talk to me as calmly as she can muster.
"Tell me what I don't understand."
"I can't," I brace myself for another bitch-fit, but it doesn't come. Instead, she sets her jaw and sighs loudly in defeat.
"You know what; fine, have it your way. But we're not done here Ashley. You're going to tell me what your deal is sooner or later," I look at her with wide eyes and start to object, but she abruptly cuts me off before I get a chance, "I didn't spend four fucking years wondering what I did to deserve all of this and then finally find you for you to give me some bullshit excuse. I'm here for the truth, Ashley, and I'm not leaving until I get it. I'm not giving up," she looks me dead in the eyes as she tells me this, and I sigh quietly as I stare back – my eyes conveying to her the words that I've never been able to say. I'm sorry. I love you. I'm in love with you, I always have been. I didn't know what else to do.
She's looking at me again, waiting for me to say something, but I know that nothing I can possibly say would help anything. The situation is already too intense for either of us to handle and telling her the real reason why I disappeared just…would not end well.
"Um…excuse me?" a tiny old woman pokes her head from behind her. Oh, yeah, I'm still working. Shit. "I really do hate to interrupt, but I-"
"It's fine, I'm sorry," she tells the woman, "I was just leaving anyway."
She searches her pockets for a moment, pulling out an old receipt and placing it on the table. She then reaches toward me and pulls a pen from my apron pocket before scribbling something down on the back of the receipt, crumpling it, and throwing the ball of paper directly at me. It hits me square on the cheek before falling to the floor.
…Okay, I guess I deserved that. I probably deserved something a little more deadly than paper, honestly.
"I'm staying there," she nods toward the receipt on the floor, "If you actually feel like talking later, that's where I'll be."
And I watch her wordlessly as she turns away from me, shoves her hands into her hoodie pockets, pulls the hood up over her head and walks straight out the door.