A/N I lost a bet and to pay off my debt, I was asked to write a one shot with angst. Thanks for reading :)
I'm a coward.
Every morning I wake up and try to do what I can to escape that fact about myself. And every night, right before I go to sleep, I recognize that there's no changing who I am.
It's a sobering realization to accept, but accepting that flaw is a lot easier than trying to go back and fix what's happened. You can't fix the past anyway, so why bother?
Some people run head first into challenging situations. Not me. I'm more about avoiding difficult things at all costs even if that's the completely wrong thing to do.
It's a lot easier that way and keeps me from getting hurt.
Actually, if I'm being honest, that life philosophy is more about keeping me from hurting the people that I love.
God, how can I ever expect to change if I can't stop lying to myself? I'm not talking about the people that I love.
I'm talking about a person that I love.
I'm also talking about a person that I haven't seen in five years.
Five years of regretting every single time that I hurt her, and five years of wishing and hoping she found someone way better than me to love back.
That is, if her feelings for me ran as deep as mine do for her. There are days when I'm not sure if I want that to be true, and there are other days that I hope she didn't so she wasn't that upset when I left.
I know the truth—no matter how much it hurts
We never go the chance to exchange those words between us, and I never even got the chance to kiss her like I had wanted to do for the longest time.
Despite our "platonic" relationship, or maybe because of it, everything was always so intense between us. Our words were cloaked in hidden meanings and longing glances. I used to think of any excuse I could to touch her or spend time with her. She was like an addiction that I couldn't get enough of.
I still can't.
Spencer floods my thoughts constantly and sometimes I wonder if I'm going crazy because I can't stop thinking of her.
I can't stop thinking of what we could have been.
I can't stop thinking about how much I must have hurt her.
You'd think with how much I'm still affected by what happened, I'd try to find Spencer and get closure of some kind. A brave person might do that, but as I've already established, courage is not something I possess.
Instead, I live with the guilt of my actions and hope that one day it won't be this thing that hangs over so much of my life.
It has gotten a little bit better the last couple of years. It might not sound like it has, but I assure you I think I've turned a corner of some sort. I've gone from hating myself every second of the day to trying to see myself as someone other than that awful person that fucked up royally when she was sixteen.
It hasn't been easy.
Nothing ever is mind you.
But it wasn't just Spencer that I lost when I ran away. I lost my father, too. And I'm the reason he died.
I've spent countless hours in therapy to ease the guilt about his death but nothing can really take that feeling away. Knowing that you had the opportunity to take a different path in life but chose the road the farthest from what you really wanted is really hard to live with. It's not anything I'd wish on my worst enemy, but I've learned to deal with it.
For the most part.
I think a lot about my time with Spencer and what I could have done differently. I wonder what our lives would be like and if we would still be together. I'd like to think the answer is yes, but I'm sure I would have found a way to screw things up with us even if I hadn't run away that night.
I should have known it wouldn't end well when it had taken Spencer finally threatening to walk out of my life for me to face what I felt about her. It was probably obvious to anyone who saw us together what we were to each other, but I tried so hard to deny how deeply my feelings for her ran. I felt like I wasn't ready to take that next step.
I didn't need one of my many therapists back then to tell my way I had a hard time admitting what I felt. I had a dad who I hardly saw and a mother who treated me like a nuisance. It's a pretty easy conclusion to reach that there was something wrong with me. Nothing I touched turned out right.
And this was no different.
I was so desperate for love that even when I accidentally got pregnant in my freshman year, I made the decision to keep the baby. All I wanted was someone to love me for me, without conditions and the baby was my chance to get exactly that. I lost my chance to be happy when I miscarried.
Or so I thought.
The next year is when Spencer literally crashed into me the first time we ever met. I know that sounds like some kind of clichéd movie plot, but I can assure you it was not love at first sight.
I was so pissed off. That was my default mood at the time, so I lashed out at Spencer without even knowing who she was. She tried to apologize and I responded with even more rudeness. It was only after I saw her again later that day struggling to find her way around school that I could really appreciate how gorgeous she was.
She was new to King High and, for reasons I did not know, I found myself trying to figure out a way to talk to her again, this time with less shouting on my part. I'm sure my hormones were part of the reason why I wanted to find out as much about Spencer as I could. But I was also intrigued by how nice she seemed even when I was a raging bitch to her. I wasn't used to people being nice to me, especially at school.
We went through a lot together over that year. And I fell in love for the first time in my life.
The only time, actually.
I remember waiting for Spencer to show up to my place knowing that I was finally ready to take the next step with her. Ultimatum aside, I was tired of being an asshole and playing games. She didn't deserve that, and I was ready to take a leap of faith that things could actually work out.
Or so I thought.
It was while I was nervously pacing around my room, counting down the minutes until she arrived that I was hit by a big dose of self doubt. Spencer was such a good person and I couldn't for the life of me figure out why she wanted me. She was perfection personified and I was damaged goods.
That's what my mom called me that night. She was calling to check up on things and we had an argument about something stupid because we always did. I was mouthing off and she lost her cool. Those words tumbled out of her mouth without a second thought. They were said with spite and without caring how it affected me.
And it affected me very deeply.
All the confidence I had after I went to Spencer's to invite her to my place was gone. I was convinced I was fooling myself into believing I deserved anything good, so I did the only thing I could think to do.
I didn't leave Spencer a note; I didn't call her to tell her not to come over; I didn't send her a message of any kind; I didn't answer any of the phone calls she made to me that night. I got into my car and drove without thinking of where I was going. I convinced myself that fleeing was the best thing for Spencer, but it really was the best thing for me. That way I wouldn't have to face the consequences of what I'd decided to do. In the long run I was convinced that Spencer would be happier without a screw up like me in her life, I was just too chicken to tell her that to her face.
I knew I'd never be able to say those words to her in person. There's no way I could have seen the hurt I caused her because that would force me to actually deal with the decisions that I make.
I can't really remember much about that night, it seems like a distant dream now. I somehow ended up at one of my dad's shows and begged him to let me stay with him for a little bit. I told him it was only temporary and I knew it wasn't likely that my mom would come after me. She'd probably be happy to find me gone when she returned from her trip.
My dad knew something was wrong. He might not have been the best or most attentive father in the world, but it was clear that there was trouble with his daughter and he wanted to know what that trouble was. It took him three days to get me to talk. I finally broke down and told him everything about what had happened and what hadn't happened between Spencer and me. She was still trying to reach me and on top of everything else, I felt horrible for the worry that I was causing her.
There seemed to be no way out of the horrible situation I created. Instead of giving me sympathy, my dad pretty much kicked my ass. He told me to stop being selfish and get back to LA to Spencer. He said I would be lucky if she gave me a second chance, but I owed her an explanation and a huge apology. He talked to me about the many regrets he had in life and that if I didn't go back, I'd spend my whole life wondering what could have been. He was right, of course, but I didn't want to listen. It was a rare occurrence for my dad to actually parent me and yet that still wasn't enough to get me to see the error of my ways.
Even though I knew he was right I was too ashamed of my actions to do anything about it. Frankly, I was a pathetic mess. It took my dad lying about where we were going for me to get in his car. When I found out what he was doing I was so angry with him for lying to me. We had a huge argument but ultimately I relented and stopped fighting with him about our destination. I was secretly happy that he was finally taking such an interest in my life and I really wanted to try and right things with Spencer.
The last memory I have about that night was me about to tell my dad that I was sorry for acting like a spoiled brat. But I never got that chance.
The next thing I remember is waking up in a hospital room in an incredible amount of pain with no idea how I got there. It took a while for anybody to tell me what was going on. I kept asking about my dad but I couldn't get any kind of update about his condition. In my gut I knew it was bad news but I stayed in denial for as long as I could. Too much had happened for me to process anything. Eventually my mom arrived at the hospital and that's when I was told the news that my dad was dead.
I went into shock when I heard the news and I can't really recall what happened in the hours and those first few days after I learned what had happened. I refused to talk to anyone and went almost catatonic. I couldn't get outside of my head and the overwhelming guilt I felt in playing a role in his death was too much for me to bear. He never would have died if it wasn't for me, and I didn't know why he was the one who was gone while I was mostly OK. Not even my mom telling me to stop being a drama queen could get a rise out of me. I felt defeated.
Because I was a minor I couldn't refuse my mom coming to see me at the hospital, but I could refuse to see anyone else. Countless people, including Spencer, tried to visit but I wouldn't let anyone in. Being the daughter of a now dead celebrity meant that there was extra protection given to me so the paparazzi wouldn't try to get into my room. I heard Spencer's voice in the hallway pleading with the nurse and security to let her in. It shattered my already broken heart but I was in no condition to see her.
I was a wreck in so many different ways and I couldn't face her after what I'd done. My life was in a tailspin. I was drowning in grief, shame and guilt. As much as I wanted to see Spencer for selfish reasons so she could comfort me, I wasn't about to let her in when she'd be looking at a very different person than the one that had run away from her days before.
Those few weeks after the accident were the hardest to get through. I had all this time on my hands to think about how my actions had lead to my dad being killed and how they'd hurt the person I loved so much. And then because my life didn't have enough drama in it, I found out that my dad had fathered another daughter. She was a year younger than me and I absolutely hated her.
All my self loathing was taken out on Kyla and any feelings of anger I had towards my dad. There was no way I could express anything constructive when I still felt responsible for his death. Looking back, I can't even imagine how hard it must have been for Kyla to come into such an awful situation. She tried her best to try and bond with me but I was having none of that.
For reasons that likely only benefited her, my mother decided that I couldn't recover from the accident in LA. There was too much press attention according to her, but I know she didn't have my best interest at heart. She whisked me away to Europe for "better care" but that was absolute bullshit. And because I was now supposed to form a relationship with Kyla she came too.
We were mandated to enter therapy together and as time went on, I slowly came to realize that Kyla was my one shot at family that I wasn't going to get otherwise. She hated my mom just as much as I did and being forced to spend so much time in close quarters, led to a relationship forming. Don't get me wrong, I was still a bitch to her a lot of the time, and I was insanely jealous of how close she was to her mom, but I was slowly letting her in.
Weeks turned into months, months turned into years and it wasn't until I was nineteen that I returned to the States, albeit on the east coast. Kyla and I had spent a lot of time travelling around Europe together, that when she announced she wanted to go back home, I couldn't imagine not going with her.
She picked a school in New York to go to and even though we both only had our GEDs, there was enough money from my dad's estate to go to any college we wanted to. I had no interest in going to school. I had started writing songs and if that was going to be a career option for me, New York City seemed like a great place to be.
Spencer never really left my thoughts even though I tried really hard to move past that point in my life. That proved near impossible. I wondered a lot about where she ended up and what had happened to her since we last spoke. I was convinced that she was better off without me because how could she not be? Kyla tried a few times to get me to reach out to Spencer, but she was never successful.
I never doubted that Spencer moved on from whatever we were to each other, and it was time for me to do that as well. Who spends five years pining over someone they ran away from? I tried my hand at dating a couple of times but nothing ever came of it.
Kyla's pursuit of higher education ended two years into her program. She told me she wasn't cut out for college life. I know her mom wasn't happy with the decision, but who was I to judge her?
She ended up working at a bookstore in Brooklyn while she figured out what she wanted to do with her life. It's not like either of us needed money anyway. I spent my time hanging out with her at work while I continued to work on my song writing career.
"Good morning, loser."
I shot my sister a look as I put down my stuff behind the counter. "Next time get your own damn coffee," I grumbled but still handed her the cup in my hand.
"Please, like you have anything better to do today anyway," Kyla replied with a really annoying smile on her face.
I ignored her remark and made my way over to what was now my regular place in the bookstore. The owner didn't mind that I hung out there most days. It helped that I often assisted customers even though I wasn't getting paid to.
Kyla came and sat at the table across from me. I kept my eyes away from hers because I could tell she was about to say or do something I didn't like. "So, have you decided to get a life yet?"
She has been on this kick lately of telling me that I need to start putting myself out there more and stop living as a hermit. She thinks I'm too hard on myself and that it's time I stop letting what happened dictate my life now. It's not like Kyla is the only person I talk to. I have a small group of friends I've gotten to know mostly through my music. But I don't let anyone get too close to me.
It's better for me and it's better for them.
"Have you decided to stop being a bitch yet?" I fired back with my eyes still on notebook.
Kyla responded by walking over and kissing the top of my head, much to my chagrin. "I only speak the truth, Ash. One of these days we're going to get you to stop being so emo." She moved quickly out of the way before I could give her a well deserved punch. "I'm heading to the stock room for a bit. Keep an eye on things for me, will ya?"
"If you're not back in 10 minutes I'm going to assume you're taking a nap and then I will kick your ass!" I shouted as Kyla disappeared behind the stockroom door. She yelled something back at me that I'm sure was another insult. I rolled my eyes but I could feel myself smiling. "Love you too!"
As soon as those words left my mouth I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I wasn't sure why. It was then that I sensed I wasn't alone in the store and my first thought was that something really bad was about to happen to me. With a lot of trepidation I stood up. Fearing the worst. There were a lot of things that I thought I would see when I turned around, but there was no way I was prepared for who was actually there.
Five years after I ran away from Spencer Carlin in LA, there she was, standing in the store my sister worked at, in New York City. I don't know who was more in shock, but I'm almost certain my heart stopped beating for a few seconds. It was like all the air was sucked out of the room and I could have sworn I was having an out of body experience.
I was so beside myself that I didn't realize at first that Spencer wasn't alone. With her was her mother, her father and her one brother. They were also staring at me, but all of my attention was focused on the blonde woman who hadn't made a move or said a word.
I can't tell you for sure how much time passed as the silence in the shop engulfed every sense of mine. It could have been seconds, minutes, hours for all I knew.
And then Spencer's eyes flickered.
Her shocked expression changed.
Gone was the stunned look and it was soon replaced with one of rage.
Anger like I've never experienced before resonated off Spencer and hit me like the force of a hundred bullets. Those eyes that used to show me kindness and warmth now radiated fury and coldness. I don't know what I expected really, but that didn't make it any less painful to see in reality.
I'd imagined the moment of seeing Spencer again more times that I would ever admit to anyone. I'd played out different scenarios and ways that things could go. And even though in most of my day dreams, our reunion didn't go well, I always held onto a sliver of hope that maybe I was wrong to think things would go badly.
I wasn't wrong at all.
I was so fucking right.
Before I could process what was happening, Spencer took off. She fled the store without so much as a word to me.
I didn't think; I just reacted.
I ran after Spencer without considering what would happen if I caught her or what I would say to her. None of that mattered. All that was going through my head was the girl I had never gotten over had somehow appeared in my life and I wasn't going to let her go again.
When I got outside, I spotted the back of Spencer's head immediately. I didn't call after her or shout for her stop. In fact, at that moment I wasn't sure that any words were capable of coming out of my mouth. Everything seemed to be happening at both a breakneck speed and in slow motion.
I chased after Spencer and, since the streets were always somewhat crowded, it didn't take me long to catch up to her. I was operating on auto pilot when I reached for her arm. But Spencer must have sensed my presence because she wheeled around before I had a chance to grab her.
"Don't you dare touch me!" Spencer exclaimed, her eyes no longer cold. They seemed to be on fire and I was their only target. "Don't you dare!"
Her voice sounded foreign to me. I'd never heard her speak with such anger before. When Spencer used to talk to me my stomach would constantly be a flutter at how raspy it was. But in that moment it was plummeting to the floor because it was like every one of my nightmares was coming true.
Spencer hated me and I couldn't blame her for that.
I tried to respond. I really did, but anything I might have wanted to say was slowly dying in my throat.
"What are you even doing, Ashley?" Spencer spat at me as I continued to gawk awkwardly at her. In typical New York style nobody was paying attention to us, but it felt like everyone in the world was watching this awful situation unfold. "Answer me!"
"I d-d-don't know." I finally managed to squeak out after a few uncomfortable seconds. At least I was being honest. "I'm sor-"
"Don't! Don't you say you're sorry to me!" she shouted, her words cutting through me like tiny daggers. "Just leave me alone. You're pretty good at that."
Once again I was left speechless, my lack of courage evident for all to see.
Here I was, with an opportunity that I'd fantasized about for years handed to me and I was messing everything up completely.
"What are you even doing here?" Spencer barked at me, her arms folded across her chest. "How are you even here?"
I kept staring at Spencer hoping against hope that I'd be able to respond in some way. But then I got distracted by soaking in the sight of her. My memory of Spencer that had sustained me all this time did not at all do justice to how utterly breathtaking she was. I had fallen in love with a sixteen year old girl, but standing in front of me right then was beautiful woman.
She was gorgeous, that much hadn't changed.
How could I have walked away from her?
How could I have been so stupid?
How was anything ever going to be OK again?
"You think you have a right to come chasing after me?" Spencer's question brought me out of my head, but it did wasn't enough to remove the chokehold from my throat. "Say something, Ashley, but I guess keeping silent is your thing, isn't it?"
Her words were so bitter.
The Spencer that I knew wasn't like this.
And I had changed that about her.
I wanted to run. I didn't have the stomach to confront my mistakes but my legs wouldn't move. I knew that running wasn't the answer, but it really was my modus operandi.
"How dare you!" Spencer had moved a tiny bit closer to me and it paralyzed me even further. "How dare you, after all this time!"
I wanted to tell her that I hadn't wanted this either, but that would be a lie. I wanted to tell her that I was the one minding my own business when she showed up out of nowhere and threw my life into disarray. I wanted to tell her that all I'd thought about since that fateful night was apologizing for my actions. I wanted to tell her that I had never gotten over.
I wanted to tell her so many things and yet I still couldn't think of a single thing to say.
Spencer let out a laugh that was hollow and joyless. "This is so typical of you that I don't know why I'm even surprised. You have no idea what I've been through, what you put me through."
I suspected that Spencer had also been envisioning this moment in her head a lot too and something tells me her scenario was playing out exactly as she'd dreamed it would.
I knew I couldn't stay mute forever. "Spencer-"
"Don't." Her eyes were burning into me but I couldn't look away. "I have nothing to say to you."
"Well I have something to say to you." I replied surprising both of us. The determination in my tone was enough to stun Spencer into silence, so I continued. "I owe you an explanation-"
"You owe me nothing." Spencer fired back, her voice had returned. "You don't get that, do you? I don't want an explanation from you, Ashley. In fact I want nothing from you except for you to leave me alone."
There were so many responses that formed in my head. I wanted ask her why she was making it seem like I had tracked her down and was forcing this issue. I wanted to ask her why she didn't think there had to be some reason why we were randomly meeting again. I wanted to ask her if she ever thought of me in a way that wasn't filled with anger. I wanted to ask her if her heart was beating so fast it felt like it was going haywire, like mine was doing right then.
My breathing started to get shallow and I was worried that I was having a panic attack. They were something I began experiencing after the car accident, but I forced my brain to take over. The last thing I needed was for me to lose control in front of Spencer.
"Is that what you really want?" I asked knowing the answer I was going to get. As soon as the words left my mouth I regretted saying them.
"Like you care what I want." Spencer replied bitterly. "But yes, that's what I want." She took a step closer to me and my whole body started to buzz. "Forget you saw me today and forget we ever met."
Her words pierced my skin and I worked furiously to stop myself from crying. After all this time, this was it. There were no "what ifs" any more, only what I knew to be fact.
Spencer couldn't stand the sight of me and there was no going back or trying to get closure.
Whatever we were to each other, that was over.
I think I nodded my head, I can't be sure. Spencer took off again and this time I didn't try to stop her. I somehow managed to make my way back to the bookstore. Nothing felt real. I was in a complete daze.
When I walked inside, I saw that Spencer's mom and dad were still there. I had no clue where Glen was and I didn't ask. My eyes locked with Paula's. I was used to seeing disapproval and judgment from her, but in that moment, she was showing me sadness mixed with what seemed like sympathy. She didn't saying anything to me though. She just walked out the door and took off I assume to find Spencer.
I could feel the grief of losing the little bit of hope I'd clung to all these years bubbling up through my body. But I couldn't break down until I was alone.
Arthur Carlin walked over and put a comforting hand on my shoulder. "Give her time," he told me before he left as well.
I appreciated his words.
But there was no point.
What ever had sparked between Spencer and me five years ago was completely extinguished. It was now time for me to move on and accept that we were just not meant to happen.
No matter how hard that was going to be.