Caroline was at the door again. It had been two days since Ashton and I had last talked.

“Hey Vrailine, could I talk to Ashton for a moment?” She asked me. I nodded and said sure.

“ASHTON, CASSANDRA IS HERE TO TALK TO YOU.” I yelled. There was no answer. Caroline looked at me in disgust. “What?” I asked her rudely. She looked at the floor and shook her head.

“I remembered your name. The least you could have done is remembered that my name is Caroline not Cassandra.” She whispered. I shrugged.

“Does it really matter?” I hissed. Ashton came thumping past me. He smiled when he saw Caroline.

“Hey, beautiful, you want to, uh, grab us some sodas and meet us out back?” Ashton addressed me with ease. I swear if we weren’t here, he could have been an actor. There was no tension in his eyes and it seemed like we hadn’t fought after all. “And you, my dear, let me escort you to the back patio.” He smiled warmly at Caroline and she blushed deeply. I fumed as I stalked off to the kitchen.

I took three cans of coke out of the fridge and popped one open. I took a sip and then stared at the other two. I marked the one meaning to be Ashton’s with a love heart in sharpie and then weighed the left over can loftily in my hand. There were no noises from inside, so that meant that Ashton and Caroline were outside with the sliding door closed.

It was tempting to shake Caroline’s but after what Ashton said to me, I didn’t. I sat the cans down and stood silently for a moment. I heard the sliding door slide open with a creak. Then I cringed as I heard the ringing sounds of laughter from Caroline.

I picked up her can and angrily shook it until I could hear the fizzing. I then picked up all three cans and went quickly to the sliding door. Caroline was still laughing and Ashton was smiling in glee at someone laughing at his lame jokes.

I knew he was doing this to make me jealous. I put the cans down on the table and watched in silent satisfaction as Caroline and Ashton took them and said thanks. I gave them both humble smiles and sat down onto a cushioned seat at the hazelnut wood table.

“I’m really into gardening; it’s something most of my friends don’t know about me.” Caroline was saying. She looked down at her can and fiddled with the tab. I stared up at the setting sun and saw Ashton glance at me. I heard Caroline attempt to pull the tab.

I started counting down. 5....4…. Caroline got the tab up…. 3…..2…. She cracked her knuckles and resumed pulling the tab….1…..

I braced myself for impact….

I closed my eyes….

I opened them…

Nothing happened. I frowned and then watched her take a tentative sip. She laughed when she saw both of us watching her and I quickly looked away.

“What?” Caroline laughed. Ashton shook his head but continued to watch her. He picked up his own can and started to pull the tab. Caroline put her can down and my eyes widened as I saw the well-drawn sharpie love heart on the top of the can. I blinked and turned around with even wider eyes as Ashton pulled the lid back and in what seemed like slow motion, got a face full of coke.

It sprayed into his face and into his open mouth. Ashton was dumbstruck and he spluttered and used his free hand to wipe the coke from his angrily. I stifled a laugh and saw Caroline doing the same.

There was an awkward silence and although the can was meant for Caroline, I was glad that Ashton got it instead.

And then both Caroline and I burst out laughing. Ashton was silent and looked angry but then his face broke out into a large grin and he shook his head.

“Ok, very funny, I’m going inside to change. You better not kill each other; I know what you girls are like.” Ashton joked. He glanced at me uneasily at the last sentence but I gave him a smile and a shake of the head that only he saw. He knew it was ok.

He stood up, opened the door and closed it behind him.

It was quiet again as Caroline and I tried to find something to say to each other.

“That was SO funny; did you do that on purpose?” She asked me. I froze.

“Uh, actually, don’t hate me, but that one was supposed to be for you…” I clenched my teeth together and waited for her to go off at me but she just smiled smugly.

“I know. I was just making conversation.” She suddenly seemed less like a threat and more like someone I could end up being friends with.

“You knew?” I asked, “But how?”

“The heart on the can, silly, you put it down in front of Ashton and made sure to put the one with a faint fizzing sound down closer to me. I picked up the one with the heart instead, just to be safe.”

I gaped at her.

“I’m sorry, I just, you came in and it looked like you were interested in Ashton and I didn’t like that.” I confessed. She gasped. She shook her curly blonde head hard.

“Honey…” She drawled in her American accent, she moved closer and put a hand on my back. “Well, I never- A real Kansas girl would never do anything like that! I can see how much he loves you, honey, and I wasn’t and am NOT going to ruin something so beautiful.

“Plus, I have my sights set on bigger things- Samuel Sunford, son of the founder of Sunford high! And, Vrailine, I can see that there is more going on in your life than you and Ashton let on. But if you don’t want to tell then that’s fine, I’ll go along with it for you both.” She smiled at me and I gave her a random hug. She hugged me back and I sighed.

“Caroline, I’m sorry I can’t tell you, maybe another day I’ll tell you everything! But now I just hope we can forgive and forget and be friends?” I asked hopefully. She nodded fervently and she stood up with a sigh.

“I should get going.” She said. “But here’s my number in case you need anything, call me maybe?” She handed me a strip of paper and I nodded and followed her out to the front door. Ashton re-joined us there. He was wearing a white t-shirt now in place of his black one he was wearing and his hair was wet. Caroline and I looked at each other and broke out in smiles.

“Sheepish grins all round, what the hell did I miss?” Ashton asked us with a yawn.

“Nothing,” Caroline and I said together. Ashton stared at both of us but he got nothing. He shrugged and yawned again.

“Well, if you’re leaving then bye.” He waved and then thought better of it and held up a fist. Caroline laughed and held her fist up to it. She hugged me and we caught Ashton smiling.

Caroline left, and as soon as she did I was expecting the atmosphere to drop completely. Instead, Ashton turned to me with a smile and put his arms around my waist. I put mine around his shoulders, not completely sure of where this was going.

“I’m so proud of you, Ari.” He whispered.

“It’s Vrailine now; you don’t know who could be listening.” I whispered back. He smiled and I saw something in his blue eyes.

“All I can think of is how much I want to kiss you, but I don’t know if you want me to.” He murmured into my ear. I shivered and looked up at him.

“I don’t remember telling you I don’t want you to.” I muttered, slightly inaudible. He sighed and I closed my eyes.

As soon as our lips met, it was like molten metal rushing through the different layers of the earth inside me until it smashed into the core, in this case, my heart. One pair of our hands intertwined and his other hand lay softly, tangled in my hair. My other hand was matted in his hair at the nape of his neck.

I used to think that it was cheesy when people said they could feel their hearts beating in time with each other, but they were right. I could feel it.

In just a moment, it was all over. He let go of me and I let go of him and we were breathless.

“Ashton?” Even though I already had his attention, I still called his name.

“Yes Ari?” He whispered.

“I love you.” I informed him. He smiled and I watched him shake his head. I frowned. “Whats wrong?”

“Nothing, I just never thought I’d see the day where you would say that to me.” Ashton smiled. I scratched my head and pushed him farther away from me.

“Well, we have the first day of school tomorrow and I want to get some rest. Good night, sleep tight and…. Love you.” He grinned wryly and nodded his head. I pushed past him and went to my room.

As I got there and closed the door, I took out my new phone and punched in Carrie’s number. I hovered over enter and then pressed it hard. I held the phone up to my ear and closed my eyes as I sighed.

“Hello? Who is this?” Carrie answered quickly.

“Hey, it’s me.”

“ARI, HOW ARE YOU, DID YOU GET THERE OKAY, IS ASHTON ALRIGHT?” She yelled. I held the phone away from my ear.

“Calm down, Carrie, we are both fine and we have school tomorrow so I can’t talk long. Is Luke still beating himself up for bea-?

“Yes and he should be he’s sitting here listening to every word and I don’t care if he is, he deserves to feel bad about it.” Said Carrie, she was a determined soul, and you could even hear that through the phone.

“Can I speak to him?” I asked timidly. There was silence at the other end of the line. “Luke?”

“Yeah,” He sounded like he was about to cry.

“Hey.” I said.

“Hey.” He whispered.

I leant with my back against the wall and silently slid down it until I was on the carpeted floor.

“How are you going?” I asked after another silence.

“Fine, I’m sad I didn’t get to say goodbye and say sorry about everything…”

“No, no it’s….um….fine…. I guess.”

“I heard about your mother. I’m really sorry.”

“Right, of course, thanks, do you want to speak to Ashton?” I asked him. I could practically hear him shaking his head on the other side. “Ok….. I have to go, tell Carrie I love her and I miss you both.”

“You miss me after what I did?” He asked, appalled.

“Of course I do. You helped me too. Don’t forget that. Bye, Luke.” I whispered.

“Bye Ari.” He whispered back and then I hung up and slipped the phone back into my pocket.

I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. My bed was looking very comfy and so I stood and got into it and pulled the covers over my head. I fell into a deep slumber thinking not of Luke, Ashton, Ali or Carrie, but for once- nothing.

The End

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