Let me just preface this by saying that I know my other story needs wrapped up. I'm sorting through my issues with it to finish it ASAP. But… I've had this little number in mind for quite a while and as it stands my motivation and inspiration are more geared up to deliver this at the moment. Please enjoy and maybe you can forgive me for my delayed update on The Clincher.
"Ash?" She questioned softly with concern lacing her voice, exiting the front door of the house and squinting her eyes through the darkness of the night in search of her fuming sister who had stormed out in a fury of anger, her boots heavily knocking against the hardwood floors loudly the whole way out.
Their argument had been an awful one this time, not one of the worst, but bad enough to warrant the need for space from the man they called their father.
A salt of the earth coal miner born from a time when a man's only sense of self-worth came from the job he had and the work he did. All his adult life he'd spent acquiring his calloused hands with their thick pads and rugged fingernails with permanent layers of grime caked beneath them. His slumped shoulders and arched back were merely a result of the pain he'd shouldered daily, shoveling cart loads of coal from the mountains of North Carolina. It was a job he'd grown to resent, such a stark contrast to the joy and happiness he'd felt when he'd received news of the mass recruitment of coal workers in 1983, his father helping him land the job that he just knew would be his ride to success. It became, however, something else entirely when a stick of dynamite blew prematurely, killing his father and trapping several others for days. It had been one of the hardest times in his life to that point, having looked up to his father in the loving way any son does when they have a great one. It had been enough heartache to last two lifetimes. Little did he know then, it would only be the start. The years after had been anything but sympathetic, seeing fit to take his beloved wife from him during a rough labor and leaving him alone to raise twins, two girls who almost immediately became the apples of his eyes. It was only in the last six years that he'd really begun butting heads with the younger of the two.
Though they had always had this strained relationship for whatever reason, it was his old fashioned ideals and opinions that were the main reason for the rift that had formed between him and Ashley as of late. He'd wanted nothing more than for them both to graduate school and get a good job, settle down with a husband and make themselves a home. Though they both rebelled against this in their own ways, it was Ashley who had struck a nerve within him the most. She had dropped out of school, barely completing her GED and decided to entertain her first year of adulthood with parties and numerous women.
Kyla sighed as she thought of how much they were losing by continuously fighting during each and every meeting. It was such a shame that they had lost their mother, but it was even more unfortunate that their father was still here and yet he and Ashley couldn't find it in them to get along. Who knew when the day would come that they wouldn't have the chance anymore?
"Ash? Are you out here still?" She called as she pulled her jacket tightly together in the front, walking around the porch to the side of the house.
It was then that she spotted the lone shadowy figure of her sister leaning against the siding, the only evidence being the cloud of smoke and faint glow of the lit cigarette. Hoping from the porch, she made her way towards her as she smiled softly, remembering the first time they were both caught smoking here. It had been well past midnight and, being fifteen year olds with a rebellious streak, they'd snuck out their window to light up a pack they'd received from an older friend earlier that day.
"You girl's better pray that I don't find cigarette butts out there… or your asses will be grounded for the rest of the year," Kyla mocked in their father's voice as she came to a stop in front of the leaning figure of her sister. Ashley immediately smirked in amusement and stubbed the cigarette out on the ground, leaning back once again. "God, I remember how mad he was," Kyla added before smiling at the memory.
"Yeah," Ashley's husky voice finally made itself known with a chuckle before blowing out a puff of breath. It was late November and the wind this time of year in the hills of North Carolina brought with it a certain chill. "I never thought, out of the two of us, that you'd be the first to quit. You always seemed to get me to follow you into trouble," she finished with a raised eyebrow and a gravelly chuckle.
"Yeah," Kyla smiled fondly at her sister's admission, reminiscing about the times when she would have a brilliant idea and coax little Ashley into joining her with it, and being the younger one by a whole four and a half minutes Ashley gladly obliged. "You know he doesn't hate you Ash. He just… doesn't understand you. That's all." Her voice confessed softly as she leaned against the old farm house beside her sister.
Though it was a farm house, Kyla could never remember ever growing or farming anything; she surmised it had been a dream of their mother's to raise a family here, a dream that her father could never bring himself to let go of.
"That's funny because you and I are both gay… we go to the same parties… You may have graduated without me, but we've been in trouble together countless times… If he doesn't hate me, then why is it always my face that shit gets thrown in?" Ashley released angrily before fingering her half smoked pack, ripping open the top and fishing out another. Her lanky fingers grasped her lighter in one hand while shielding the flame with the other as the stick was lit ablaze.
"He's just stressed out right now," Kyla replied as she kicked a rock with the toe of her shoe, knowing that their father had always had a hard time with Ashley because of how she came into this world. It was during her birth that complications arose, but she herself would never ever blame her dear sister for an act of God. It was also something that Ashley was completely unaware of; Kyla had only accidently found out. "I finally told him last week."
"I take it he didn't like the idea?" Ashley questioned with a sarcastic chuckle before inhaling another drag, the tip of the cigarette lighting up momentarily as the smoke filled her lungs. Such an unhealthy habit, but she promised herself that she would stop one day.
"No, actually…" she paused, knowing that this would hurt her sister a bit even though she'd never let on. "He's quite proud of me."
"You always were his favorite…" she replied genuinely, not meaning to sound bitter and continuing before Kyla could protest. "It's okay Ky, you deserve to have him proud of you. I'm proud of you. You're doing something I would never have the balls to do."
Smirking, Kyla wasted no time in suggesting, "You know, they have a buddy system…"
Ashley's eyebrows rose in disinterest before replying with sarcasm, "As much as I would love to join you, someone has to stick around here so Dad has a punching bag." Her eyes rolled in irritation, knowing that the disabled man would be completely lost if they both left to fight a war.
"No you don't," Kyla said solemnly before rubbing Ashley's arm comfortingly. She could almost feel how much her impending departure was affecting her usually stoic and hard-ass of a sister. "You don't have to stay here Ash. He'll manage on his own."
"Nah, I know… Besides, I have a few gigs lined up," she dismissed, quickly excusing her real reasons before inhaling her last bit of nicotine and flicking the bud across the lawn. "I'm hoping it works out you know?"
"I'm sure it will," Kyla offered as she grabbed for Ashley's pack, knowing her sister would only light up another one in a minute or so. She was getting a head start so that she could join her sister for one last smoke before she left in the morning for basic training. "You have no idea how talented you are, Ash."
Ashley smiled a small faint smile as she handed over the lighter, watching in amusement as her sister had trouble lighting up the first one she'd touched since they were sixteen, trying multiple times to flick the lighter without success. "Here, let me." And with that, she ignited the tip of Kyla's goodbye cigarette.
For a moment they stood side by side leaning against the only house they'd ever lived in with its jagged almond-colored siding and rotted porch swing, relishing in the last moments of their time together for a long while. It had always been an easy relationship between them, never really having those sibling fights or rivalries. Instead, they'd stuck up for one another, never letting the other feel alone or sad for too long.
Throughout school Kyla had been the popular one, the captain of the soccer team, while her twin was the black sheep, the social outcast with tattoos and piercings. However, they neither one regarded each other as anything other than a best friend. It was this special bond that always had Kyla interjecting when a disagreement or fight would erupt between the two hard headed people in her family, always standing up for Ashley whatever the case might have been. She knew her father's blame was needed; their mother and the love of his life had been taken from him, and she surmised that it had and would still hurt an awful lot. But his blame was just misplaced and she would always fight like hell to keep her sister from bearing the brunt of it, even if she failed from time to time.
"Are you scared?" Ashley's soft voice cut through the silence as she fished the last of her smokes from her pack, lighting it immediately, the smoke joining that of her sister's.
"I feel like I should be, but I'm not," she answered with honesty as she took a burning drag once more, her lungs not as used to the sensation as they once were. "I guess I'm just excited for this adventure, you know? I mean, our whole lives we've just been stuck in this little town and I guess I'm just ready for a change."
Ashley nodded before shyly admitting almost under her breath as her eyes glanced downward, "I would be scared."
"Ash, you're a lot braver than you give yourself credit for," she argued as she stubbed out her half-smoked cigarette, unable to actually finish it completely. "I mean, look, you're putting yourself and your songs out there. I know how personal they are and how much they mean to you. That takes guts if you ask me."
"Huh, I don't have a choice," she huffed as her smoke blew out in a cloud in front of her, reflecting the light from the moon. "It's the only thing I've ever been even halfway decent at."
"That's a lie," Kyla rebutted before adding with a smirk. "I've always found you to be quite good at being my sister." Her smile nearly reached her ears.
"Please Kyla," Ashley argued as she lifted her cigarette to her lips, scoffing at the idea. "Our whole lives you've always been there protecting me. I've never done anything in return."
Shaking her head profusely as if she were debating that of the utmost importance, Kyla offered with a firm voice, "That's not true and you know it. When that gross Bobby McKey wanted to force his way with me onto the dance floor during our junior high winter dance, who kneed him in the balls?"
Ashley only rolled her eyes before reluctantly answering through a knowing smile, "Me."
"And when Dad found his missing stack of Playboys in our room after weeks of searching for them, who took the blame?"
"Me," she replied again and quickly adding before Kyla could continue, her finger pointed for emphasis, "BUT only because he assumed it was me. I just didn't argue. Nothing noble about keeping your mouth shut."
"Whatever," she said as her mind came up with all sorts of instances in which Ashley had very much been there for her. "Who was it that woke up in the middle of the night and rode her bike all of the way to Johnson's curve to help me get Dad's truck out of the mud after I snuck out and stole the keys?"
"I should have just gone with you to begin with," Ashley shook her head at the memory as she stubbed her last butt out against the bottom of her boot. "He would have killed you had we not been able to get it out. Good thing he was passed out drunk…"
"You even helped me wash the mud off so that he would never know," she added to further her point as Ashley's head was still shaking, laughter beginning to accompany it.
"And all for Sherrie Baker…"
"Whatever Ash, you know you would have nailed her if you could have," Kyla stated with conviction, her finger pointed right into Ashley's shoulder. "You only didn't go that night because you were jealous."
"I so was not jealous," she argued with raised eyebrows. "Besides, the real reason I didn't go was because…"
"You were mad I got her first…"
"NO… I didn't go because… because I was with Jessica Baker in our tree house…" Ashley trailed off with a knowing smirk moments before Kyla's fist collided with her shoulder, a scoff leaving her sister's lips. "Wasn't she the hotter one?" She asked with a sarcastic finger to her chin in contemplation as she remained unfazed by the hit, her lips curling upward in pride. "Hmm… I believe so… and a college girl."
"SHUT UP!" Kyla finally managed to squeal out. "You did not!"
"Call her up and ask her…" Ashley shrugged with quiet confidence, knowing her sister would never have the balls to do so. "I wouldn't lie to you. I just never told you 'cause I didn't want you to feel bad."
"Whatever," she replied with a shake of her head. "My point is that you've always been there for me in your own way, whether you think so or not."
"It's because you're all I have Ky," she said softly without question, sincerity shining distinctly in her chocolate orbs. "Yeah, there's Dad… but we both know how he feels about me." Her gaze then met her feet as she wondered what she could have done that caused him to despise her so much lately.
"He's just dealing in his own way Ash," she offered as she looked out over the dark expanse of their property, illuminated solely by the moonlight. "He feels like he's losing me and he's scared of you leaving too. He's only trying to push you away to make it easier."
"I don't think that's it, but thanks for trying," she said bluntly and Kyla smiled.
"You still gonna drive me tomorrow?"
"Do I have a choice?" Ashley asked with a raised eyebrow. "Can't I just lock you in the closet until you're too old to join?"
Kyla's laughter broke out uncontained as she made note of the less than subtle reference to the time when she had locked Ashley in the closet when they were fourteen to keep her from sneaking out for her first date with a girl, threatening much the same. Though it's quite amusing to think back on now, it was a very scary time for her to feel like Ashley was slipping away.
"Oh Ash," she chided with a smile, her head shaking in amusement. "You act like I'm never coming back. In three months is my graduation and I'll be back for a short while before deployment. We'll have a blast then. You can tell me about all of the girls you've… courted… and I'll tell you about all of the asses I've kicked. It'll be great!"
"Just do one thing for me Ky," Ashley requested without elaboration.
"If you have a sexy drill sergeant," she continued as Kyla rolled her eyes, knowing where this was headed. "Don't play it safe."
"I'll try not to," she sarcastically answered with a chuckle as they once again fell into a comfortable silence. "You know what's funny?" she asked after several minutes of staring across the lawn, Ashley's gaze meeting the side of her face in anticipation. "It seems like only yesterday we were fourteen and sneaking up to the tree house to drink Dad's beers and now here we are, nineteen and I'm joining the army and you're playing your music… It just all goes by so fast doesn't it, Ash?"
"I'm gonna miss you," Kyla heard her sister whisper through a reluctant sniffle. "I don't know what I'm gonna do here without you around to bail me out of trouble." They both laughed heartily at her statement before finding themselves in a tight, loving embrace.
"Oh, Ashy," Kyla replied through her own tears, stroking her sisters hair and using a nickname she hadn't said aloud in at least three years or so. "You'll be okay. You're stronger than you know."
"What if I'm not?" Ashley's unsure voice uttered as they pulled out of their embrace, each of them wiping their eyes in a failed attempt at keeping their composure.
"Then I'll come back and go all commando on your ass and whip you into shape," she answered with a welcome joke that had both sisters laughing with much needed lightheartedness.
"That'll be the day," Ashley rolled her eyes in question of her sister's ability to in fact beat her at anything physical.
The following morning saw Ashley driving her sister over two hours to the airport where she checked in with her recruitment officer, followed by the two of them walking to the waiting area outside of the terminal. It wasn't too long after that boarding began and the sisters bid an emotional farewell and Ashley stuck around to see the plane take off with her sister and best friend aboard and heading in the opposite direction of where she was at that moment. It almost became too much to bear as the weight of her sudden loneliness crashed down upon her and she found herself on her knees with tears streaming down her cheeks.
Never in her life had she thought it would be this hard to watch her sister leave. Suddenly, their entire childhood flashed before her eyes, all of the times they'd been in trouble, all of the fun they'd had together, and all of the times they cried on each other's shoulders played at the speed of light through her mind and it left her feeling completely and utterly miserable. All her life, Kyla had been there for her, making her laugh and feel loved. She was the only one who ever did so; certainly their father wasn't about to. Kyla had been her rock, the one person she could turn to and know that everything would be okay; the one person who kept her from trouble. Now, however, she would be left alone to her own devices.