“What the hell is going on?”
I opened my eyes and screamed. There was a respectable lady looking at me and staring- no- glaring. I was honestly shocked. There was nothing that could have prepared me for waking up to see a stranger staring at me. Ashton was gone. I was alone.
“Mum, wow, calm down, she’s only here because she is my friend.”
I realised now who it must be.
“Your father would never approve of this. You are lucky he is still unpacking the car. I want her out of the house now.” Ashton’s mother ordered. I sat up, still in my clothes from the other day.
“Look, she’s not leaving. If she leaves, I leave. She got kicked out of her home. You remember what it was like for me after Elriche died…. Think about that…. But three times as worse. Don’t make her leave. I’m begging you.” Ashton said, not backing down. He came and stood in front of me.
“It’s alright, Ashton, thank you for letting me stay the night. I’ll go stay at Carrie’s instead.” I told them.
His mother looked happier.
“No. Carrie won’t care that you are grieving; she doesn’t know what it’s like. I do. C’mon mum. Her twin just died.”
His mother stared at him now.
“I’ll go. Don’t fight it Ashton. I don’t care. I don’t care about anything right now.” I said. I pulled my hair into a tight high ponytail and stood up. His mother showed me to the door and I made sure I had my penguin bag. I pulled out my phone and found Carrie’s number. My fingers hovered over the call number and turned back to Ashton’s mother. Ashton was standing behind her; a very sad expression pained his face.
“You aren’t leaving too Ashton. She has to go. You know that. Now shut up and go do your homework.” Ashton rolled his eyes but didn’t budge.
“I’m calling Luke; I’m going to stay with him.” Ashton said. His mother looked at me and gestured for me to leave their property. I nodded meekly.
“Kicked out of two houses in a mere 48 hours…. If only Ali could see me now.” I mumbled. I called Carrie’s number.
The door slammed behind me. I heard footsteps.
“Ari, stop, I’m coming with you. I called this friend of mine- would you believe it or not- he’s going to pick me up, he’ll take you too, I know he will because he’s the best person ever.” I turned to him and felt tears in my eyes. They were hot and started to burn. I felt them trickle down my face.
I heard Carrie’s voice on the other side of the line. I looked into Ashton’s eyes and knew that he cared. I wiped my eyes.
Hello? Ari is that you? Why are you crying?
Carrie was asking me. I closed my eyes and took the phone away from my ear. I pressed end silently. Carrie’s squawking voice was still going. Her sentence was cut off and I dropped the phone into my open bag. Ashton smiled. I smiled weakly back.
“We have to walk to the shops, but Luke will pick us up. I’ll stay with you, Ari. Trust me.”
I thought back to the first story that I wrote and what was going to happen because the main character trusted someone. She almost died twice. And if I continued with the story she would have almost died three more times. She was going to be the person who made bad choices.
But I wasn’t the main character of a story. This was my life and I had not much else to do, nowhere else to go and no one else to trust. Ashton offered me his hand.
I looked around desperately. Nobody was coming. Ali wasn’t coming back and none of this was going to change.
I took his hand.
As I took his hand he pulled me in and hugged me tightly. To my surprise, I hugged him too. I gave myself time to process what was happening. Ashton said that it was about time we started walking. We were going to stop at Carrie’s house which was pretty close to Ashton’s house and then we would make our way to the Deirdre Hall Mall. That was where Luke was going to pick us up. I realised that I didn’t really know much about this Luke character and I didn’t want to be staying with someone I had no clue about. I knew from the way that Ashton said his name and talked about him that he was one of his best friends.
“Ashton….” I asked, halfway to Carrie’s house. He looked at me and then down to our hands. They were still intertwined.
“Yes, Ari…” He said. I fidgeted with my other hand on my bag.
“Can you tell me about this Luke guy…? I mean, I don’t want to be staying with someone that I have no idea about.”
“He’s a nice guy. Not my best friend but he is one of them. One of many of my friends, but he was the one who let me stay when my sister died. I hated my parents for not getting her treatment so I ran off. They didn’t know where I was but I went to Luke. He is the best person to care for you now.”
“You make it sound like I’m freaking going to a mental institute.” I joked. I put my free hand in my jean pocket.
“Ari, be warned, Luke is a mental case. Honestly.” He sounded so serious but then he laughed. I carefully laughed with him, measuring my laughs so it didn’t sound like an imitation of a real laugh.
I turned to Ashton.
“He’s not a criminal is he? Because I can’t have that, I will stay here.”
“No way Ari, I wouldn’t get you to come with me if that was the case, trust me,”
I inhaled sharply. He was asking me to trust him again. I had already trusted him once and it was getting me a place to sleep and maybe someplace where I can forget about Ali for a while. I knew I still had nothing. I nodded.
We were outside Carrie’s house now and I saw one of the windows move. I saw Carrie’s face peeking through one of the curtains and waving at me. I waved back and dropped Ashton’s hand. “Do you want to come in as well?” I asked.
Ashton nodded and brought the hand I dropped to his face.
“Is something wrong with my hand, Ari?” He asked me. I shook my head, confused. “I wanted to know why you dropped it like it was on fire.”
“Oh, I just…..we aren’t exactly together, and Carrie would spread it around the entire school that I was dating you and I don’t want that to happen especially when Ali told Iris how much she liked you and I don’t want Iris to think that I’m taking advantage of Ali’s death. Plus there was a bunch of young kids on the bus I was on the day that Ali passed…..on…… and…… I just can’t explain it all to you ok? If you were a girl, you would understand.”
Carrie’s head poked out the open window and her blonde hair blew straight into her face in the slight breeze.
“C’mon up you two lovebirds.” She winked. I shook my head whilst Ashton shook with laughter.
“Why are you laughing? I was being serious.” I asked as we went inside and walked straight into the open lift.
“You expect me to believe that stupid story you just told me? Unless you want to be together, that is…”
I didn’t answer and he started singing under his breath as we started going up. I listened carefully and sighed.
“What?” He asked me. I shook my head and smiled slowly.
“You should sing more often. Like, seriously. I want to hear you sing.”
The door opened and Carrie called out for us to join her in her own lounge room. Ashton stopped me for a moment, a hand on my bare arm.
“You think I’m good, you should hear Luke….” He sounded partially jealous. I ignored that and pushed past him to Carrie. She stood up, traces of popcorn on her face and hugged me. She sat down again and waved her fingers at Ashton. He waved awkwardly back. She looked knowingly at me.
“How are you holding up, babe?” She asked me seriously. I nodded and then my shoulders fell forward slumped. She pouted and looked at Ashton. “Have you been harassing her? She doesn’t need that; I will seriously bash you up if you are harassing my best friend.” Ashton looked shocked and I laughed. He just wasn’t used to Carrie’s behaviour.
“Carrie, no, my mum kicked me out of my own house.” I said. I sat down onto her comfy bean bags. She looked just as shocked as Ashton was when she accused him of harassing me. “But I stayed over at Ashton’s. Nothing happened; don’t get all ‘protection’ on me. His mum came home and told me to leave and so he said that he would leave too. He called his friend Luke and we are going to stay at his house just after we leave here.”
Carrie had nothing to say. I expected that she had nothing to say.
Ashton put his hands in his pockets.
“Ari, I swear if I had any idea that your mum had kicked you out of your house then I would have forced you to come here and stay with me. It’s like you’re on the run now. Are you still coming to school?” She asked me. She looked really sympathetic and I gave her another hug.
“Thanks Carrie, but we really have to get going. I was going to come to your house but now I promised Ashton, and I don’t break my promises. And of course I’m going to school. Someone’s got to be strong in my family even if it wasn’t Ali.”
She smiled. Ashton cleared his throat and tapped his watch. I looked up at him and nodded.
“See you when I see you then?” She said. She became teary, as if I was leaving the country and then never coming back. I half smiled and then gave a small laugh.
“Yeah,” I said quietly. “I guess I’ll see you when I see you. But don’t get all sad- I’ll be there tomorrow.” She was the one who smiled now and I hugged her one last time.
“Bye-bye Ashton, love you Ari.” Carrie said. She walked us to the lift and kept on waving as we got in the lift and the doors closed and carried us down to the bottom of her house.
We started walking towards the Deidre Hall Mall but I had started feeling dizzy. I knew t once what it was. If Ali was here, she would have known what to do. She would have forced me to sit down while she forced me to eat something. Actually she wouldn’t have forced me to eat something because I knew what was wrong with me so whenever this happened I ate something anyway. But I didn’t have any food today.
I tried to stop Ashton from walking ahead.
“Uh, Ashton, can we stop please. I have to eat something or I will collapse. Like the time before. Hey- I never asked what happened then. I collapsed and then someone was holding me and then… I don’t know. You were there. Tell me.” I stopped and sat down on the brick wall which ran up and down the road. It was just a bit taller than my knees so it was easy to sit on. I froze. I saw my vision flicker and there was Ashton in the very centre of the vision that was still there.
“What’s going on?”
“You know how I collapsed in my room? It’s this….disease I have…. If I don’t eat then I get headaches and then my vision goes blank. That’s how it used to be. Then I started blacking out completely. There was nothing and no medicine that can stop it. It’s just to make sure that I eat regularly and then I’m fine.”
“But… I can feel the ‘but’ coming, Ari, don’t try to trick me.” He crouched down and sat next to me.
“But…. Since Ali died…. I haven’t been eating regularly and properly and all that.”
“Can you make it to the shopping centre? Can you make it to Deirdre Hall Mall?” He asked me seriously. I laughed.
“We aren’t in America! Why do they call it a mall? What the hell is up with that?” I laughed some more and Ashton looked at me more seriously.
“Does it make you crazy as well?” He asked me. I shook my head and then laughed some more. He panicked and picked me up. I screamed and he told me to shut up. It was then that I got really scared.
“What the hell, Ashton? Put me DOWN.” I yelled. He shook his head.
I closed my eyes and heard him start humming a familiar song. I knew that I had heard it before but I didn’t know where. Then he started singing. I could feel the strain of my weight on his arms but I couldn’t help letting the blackness take me in and I fell deeply into a slumber.
Ashton continued singing and that was all I could hear. I finally knew what the song was.
Then suddenly I couldn’t hear anything at all.