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Ashley was in the car accident that killed her boyfriend, Nick. Now a year later, she is left lonely and scarred, yearning for him with only a note as reminder. Slowly, she began to grow more detached, pushing away family and friends. She hides behind a hood to keep herself apart from society and to remain hidden from those who know her. Will Ashley be able to put away the guilt and move on, giving her heart a second chance at love? Or will she be forever lost in the painful memories of the past? View table of contents...


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Submitted:May 12, 2013    Reads: 12    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   

The words lingered in my mind long after I woke. Their sound surrounded me me and contracted against my lungs - my own self-torture. My eyes stayed shut, keeping me in darkness, allowing images from that night to embed themselves into my eyelids.
Guilt. Why couldn't it have been me? Why didn't I protect him instead?
He's still in there. He's still in there. He's still. . .
I turned my head towards the sound. A figure was in the doorway, blurred by the bright light peeking in through the window. Even so, I knew the frown and contempt that would be found on her face were I able to see it.
"Breakfast is ready. Ten minutes." She didn't bother with warmth or even with waiting for a reply.
"Yes, mother," I muttered to the empty doorway.
My family had gotten used to my detachment and had eventually given up on me. Now, they hardly ever even tried with conversation. They knew I was beyond caring.
I glanced at the alarm clock on my night stand, green numbers glowing blearily back at me. Of course, everything seemed exceptionally dull to me these days.
I noticed the crinkled, folded note next to the clock. It appeared weathered and worn from the months and hours I'd spent unfolding it over and over.
I reached towards the paper and clumsily gripped it between two fingers, pulling it towards me.
I propped up against my pillows and slowly unfolded the note, same as I did twenty times yesterday and the day before that and all the rest of those long, miserable days before that. The words were already blurry from unshed tears.
I focused and wiped at my eyes so I could read.
Meet me @ the harbor tomorrow night. I have something amazing planned for our anniversary. I love you so much. Live for me always.
~ Nick
"Oh Nick, Nick. I'm so sorry!" I fingered the words helplessly as tears landed on the page.
"Ashley, seriously. You'll be late if you. . ." My mom stuck her head in my doorway and looked at me. Frowning sadly, she tilted her head and nodded in understanding. "I know, sweety."
Her movements were slow and deliberate as she entered. Readying herself for my harsh words, I knew. I'd been pretty insensitive the past year. And honestly, I was too tired to be bothered by the invasion now.
I stared at the note, refusing to make eye contact. When the mattress moved and sank down, I knew she sat beside me.
My mom reassuringly ran her fingers up and down my spine. She hadn't done it since I was young so I was in shock.
"I'm not a child anymore," I mumbled, but secretly I felt relieved to have her there with me for once.
We sat in silence for all of a minute before she decided to ruin it with conversation.
"I was gonna tell you when you got home..." her voice broke off, unable to finish.
"Tell me what?"
I glanced up to look at her discreetly before staring down again. Her mouth was set in a thin line and she seemed wary.
"Just tell me. I can handle it." I sighed.
"Well. . .," she cleared her throat, "sweetheart, it's . . . it's been a year. I think it's time you got your life back together. Your friends miss you. They miss you . . . and we do too." She paused every now and then to gauge my reaction.
I carefully kept my expression blank. "What do you mean?"
"I . . . We, your father and I that is, think it might, uh, be best if you started spending some time with your friends again. You know, like Kayla and Lauryn."
"I guess we can catch a movie," I lied weakly, " At Kayla's. Like we used to." I gave a half-hearted nod and looked away.
Kayla had moved to wherever about five months ago without so much as a whisper good bye. And Lauryn. . . Lauryn was celebrating her victory as head cheerleader at the popular table. I would no longer fit into her world. I mean, it hurt to be abandoned, but I guess I abandoned them first.
Since I had no one else to turn to - no one to spend my days with - I decided at that moment it was time to make a trip to the library. A few hours there each day would allow an escape from my mother's torrent of questions. Perhaps a few weeks around books would be enough to get my mind off things.
"And Ashley," mom kept her sad eyes locked on the window. This was her away of avoiding my gaze. "I think. . . it's time you got a job."
I spluttered and stared at her in astonishment. "Please tell me you're joking. You are joking, right?"
"I'm not." Her gaze was sharp and clear of all humor.
"I guess," I sighed wearily and eyed her for any crack of a smile, "I guess I can just apply at a nearby fast food, or a deli. Can't be so bad. It'll be temporary until I can find somewhere. . ." I choked up and looked away.
Until I can find a place that won't remind me of Nick. I thought this, but refused to admit it to my mother.
"No, Ashley." She sounded adamant. "I called Sophia. You know, from that little boutique you were working at before. She said. . . What?"
I was shaking my head quickly. "No. I am not going back there! I can't believe you'd even suggest . . ."
"You used to love it there." Her eyes were downcast. "I don't understand. It's the. . . best thing for you."
"No, mom. The best thing for me. . ." I took a deep shuddering breath. "The best thing for me would be holing myself up in my room. Maybe boarding the windows. But. . . I'll work at Danny's Deli if I have to. I am not - I refuse - to go back to Sophia's."
My mother's hands tightly clutched the blanket next to her. She grew quiet and seemed to tremble. There was a sound of moving cloth from beside me and I felt my skin prickle. She was looking at me now.
"Ashley," she whispered and touched the back of my hand with a brush of her fingers, "the accident was a year ago. You have to get over Ni..."
I stood and glared at her, keeping the tears locked inside me, refusing to let her see the pain I felt at those words.
"You are wrong." I shook my head angrily, hair falling into my face. I didn't bother pushing it back into place. "I'll never . . . never get over him. You're wrong." My hands clenched into fists.
She reached out as if to touch me, but I didn't let her. I spun away and stomped into the hall, not caring that I was still in holey sweats and a tank top. The door, I was sure, could be heard throughout the house as it was slammed shut.
I trembled there. Stay, I urged the tears, I promise I'll let you free tonight. Just wait.
The tiled floor felt cool under my feet and I focused on that until I was sure I had my grief under control.
Cautiously, I made my way to the sink and gripped the cold white porcelain in shaky hands. It took a moment of convincing before I finally let my gaze rest on the mirror.
A pale, sickly girl stared back. Her eyes were bright from unshed tears and her hair was piled on top of her head in an unkempt manner. But it was the scars that glared at me. The little white marks marred her neck. A couple were scattered here and there on her face, but those weren't as noticable.
I reached up and ran my fingers across the raised scars.
"What color scarf will it be today?" I asked my reflection with a smile.
She smiled back, unhumored. Her eyes were as sad and distant as I felt. Her smile quickly disappeared under my scrutiny.
I thought of how my mother looked when I left her sitting on my bed.
"She is wrong," I said softly, biting my lip to suppress my tears. I could never go back to that boutique. I would never go back to the place I had met Nick.
The girl nodded back agreeably, biting her lip in the same manner. Even so, a small tear managed to find it's way down her cheek.


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