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In A Handbasket

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"Things with you and John..." Ashley nonchalantly asks into the air between us, giving her attention to everything inside The Bean except for the girl sitting across from her. The girl who just happens to be me. "Things are, uh, going well?"

"John...?"

"The guy you're dating?"

"Oh right, John. The love of my life. How could I forget?" I teasingly draw out, dressing myself in a fake suit of pride ."Things are unbelievable. Absolutely thrilling, really."

She smirks, in a strange way, and sips her coffee thoughtfully, "You are one strange girl, Spence."

"Better than being boring."

Once again I dress myself in the genuine, hoping she doesn't see the sadness inside me. Hoping she doesn't see that I see the same sadness reflected in that smirk of hers. Hoping she doesn't see how uncomfortable it makes me feel. How unbelievably uncomfortable I feel right now. Because I know what she's doing, it's what she's been doing, and I'm growing more and more tired of it.

She's judging me.

She's judging me and my decisions. She's judging far more than any best friend should.

Just because she has a boyfriend, doesn't give her the right to look down on mine. Just because she dates my brother, doesn't give her the right to dictate how I feel about who I date. But somehow, she does. Maybe she doesn't even know she's doing it. Maybe I'm only pretending she is so I can feel better about myself. So I can believe she cares, because I know she's right. I know she's right to judge. And maybe that's why she's my best friend. Maybe that's why she has absolutely every right to do the things she does.

Maybe it's why I love her.

"So I'm gonna take a wild stab in the dark here and guess you're not a big fan of Jack?"  I can't help myself, I need to  ask. Need to know. I need to know her judgement, because it means everything to me.

"You mean John?"

My eyes roll instinctively, speeding this along.

"John, Jack, potatoes potahtoes."

She laughs, and I can't help but chuckle with her, because this time we're both not dressing in anything but our bare selves. We're honest, and now I want to see all of that honesty in everything she's not saying.

"But really, Ash, you know your opinion means everything to me, so... I start, so sincerely, "...what do you think?"

"I think that..." She shrugs, passively, as if she really doesn't care either way. But I see through it, I see right through it, and I know she certainly does care. And she certainly doesn't like him. "...I think he's a nice guy."

"Ash..."

I give her a look that says everything I mean, and she knows she has to listen.

"Ok." One coffee cup set down on one coffee table. "I think he's a nice guy, I think he's a really sweet guy," finally she looks at me. "But I think you can do better. I know you can. And I think..." she looks nervous, it's that weird nervous look I've seen a million times on her, a million times, and I still can't figure out what it means, I still can't figure out what she hides beneath it. "I think you're wasting your time on someone who doesn't put enough time into you. I think you deserve someone who can't be without you, because if they can they're morons. Because they don't know what they're missing out on. And this Jack character..." She shakes her head, finding her way out of being lost in thought, "He doesn't know what he's missing out on."

"John." I say it so softly.

"Huh?"

She looks geniunely confused, and I can't help but let a shy giggle dribble out of my mouth. Feeling an overwhelming amount of joy flowing through me like a river from her words. Feeling a blazing blush that wants to break through my surface, the one I'm doing anything to extinguish before it reveals itself as I reply, somewhat humbled,  "You said Jack and this particular moron's name is John."

"Oh, well..." She smiles a new smile I've never seen before, and it absolutely fills me up, " Jack, John – different name, same moron."

She glimpses down to her hands, bashfully, and I swear I see a blush forming on her cheeks. And when her eyes come back to mine, the room stops. The needle rips itself from the record. No one else exists inside The Bean, except for the two of us. The two of us and her blatant and humble honesty. The honesty that is sinking further and further beneath our pink skin.

Her honesty that is sinking further and further inside my already sunken heart.

"I think you're..." Her voice, low and gravely, brings me back to her nervous face, her nervous body, taking over her usual strong and brave form, making her look more vulnerable than I've ever seen her "...you're wasting your time on someone who never holds your hand."

The air fills up with tension, so much tension, and the only way to release it, the only way I know how, is to laugh. I don't want to, I wish I could stop myself, but I laugh.

"Ashley, you don't strike me as the PDA type."

I do what I do best, I joke. I joke because something about this already feels too heavy, and I don't know if I can handle it. I don't know if I can hear it. Because I know I actually desperately need to hear it, because I desperately want to know if I actually can handle it.

"I'm not."

"Okay..." I moronically, nervously, chuckle, trying to keep this all inside the safety of a funny place, "...explain that one to me."

My cover up hides the rapid beating heart inside my chest. The one that feels like it's about to burst through my chest. Cause she's not keeping anything under shits and giggles. She's throwing herself out there, she's throwing herself so far out there, I almost want to grab her and pull her back down. And, suddenly, she looks unsure. Suddenly, she doesn't need me to pull her anywhere, cause I've already pushed her away. Cause I've already made her back down all on her own.

"Nevermind."

And it's heartbreaking.

"No, no, tell me, please, I wanna know."

My tone is reassuring, and somewhat desperate, because I know what an idiot I've been. Because I've never wanted to know something more than I do now. Because she intrigues me more than anyone I've ever known. Because every word out of her mouth is the most fascinating thing I've ever heard. And I know, if she doesn't tell me what I've foolishly scared her out of saying, I'd be missing out. I'd be missing out so much that I'd become just another moron.

I'd be no better than the "boyfriend" I carry around, who's name I don't care enough about to even remember.

She looks at me, contemplating, for one more beat, before she smiles. "I will tell you, Spence..." a breath of pure relief leaves my lips, before I suck it right back in, as she concludes, "...someday."

"Someday?" It practically squeaks from my body.

"Someday." She firmly assures, and my face falls solemnly; So antsy to know what she was going to say and beyond mserable believing I've missed out on it, when I've already missed out on so much. But I let it go. I let it go because I have no other choice. Because I'd never pressure her. Because I'd never make her do something she didn't want to do.

Because, someday, I know she will tell me. And I know I can wait. I know I can wait forever.

So I start waiting.

"Someday, huh..."Waiting with a wise ass grin, and a throwback. "You are one strange girl, Ash."

A knowing smile forms over her beautiful lips, ready to play along.

"Better than being boring."

"Hey, stop stealing my lines! You may not be boring, but you are so unoriginal!"

"Uh, I seem to recall you started the unroginality by stealing my line first!"

"Oh whatever."

And as she obnoxiously, but absolutely adorably, pokes her tongue out at me, the air lifts. The air lifts so much, that I can't stop the smile spreading over my lips. Spreading and shining right towards her, because I realize I can't be without her. Because I realize I'm not a moron. And maybe I have missed out on somethings. Maybe I've missed out on things I shouldn't have. But it doesn't upset me. It doesn't bother me.

Because when she looks at me in the way she's looking at me right now, I know, I know more than anything.

I'm not missing a damn thing.

 

***************

 

Rain pitter patters on my windows, blanketing the warm silence in its consistency, its regularity, its perfection.

And it is perfection. It's beyond perfection.

"I'm sorry I left last night."

Ashley's fingers pick at my white down comforter, pick at the sea of space between us. Laying face to face, on either end of my queen sized bed. So far from one another, but, really, never feeling closer.

"It's ok." I quietly assure her.

"No, it's not." She takes a deep breath, still watching her fingers working away at nothing, "It's just that when you...when you said all that stuff..." She sighs, like she feels defeated, like her words are just too much to bare, but she doesn't know how to get rid of them. I want to reach out and help her, but I know I can't. I know she needs to do this on her own.

"When you finally said all those things, things I've been wanting you to say, finally being honest about everything going on with you...it was like, I couldn't take it or something." Her hands are now cradling the air between us, eyes a million miles away, as if they're running through every moment we've ever shared together. "It's like that phrase 'be careful what you wish for' you know? I got it, I got so much of what I've wished for and it was too much. It was everything, and I didn't know how to hold onto it, I didn't know how to wrap around it...because how can a person wrap themself around everything? So I ran and every step away from you kind of killed me, cause all I wanted..." She stops, so abruptly, taking in such a deep breath before she continues in the softest voice ever, "...when all I've ever wanted was to wrap myself around you, because you are everything."

Wow.

I gulp, literally gulp, as something lodges in my chest. In my throat. In my heart. Something so big, so important, so life changing. Because I'm pretty sure she just changed my life. Changed it on an already life changing night. And what do you say to that. What do you say in return to something that's divided your life?

Well if you're me, you stuttur hopelessly for a few minutes, before you breathe out. Before you breathe out only name you've ever wanted to.

"Ash..."

"It's ok."

She quietly, but firmly, assures me. And all I can do is smile. All I can do is shuffle closer on the bed without realizing it; because her pull is magnetic, and I could never fight it.

Because I'd never even want to.

"Yeah..." I quickly glance down at her lips, eyes with a mind of their own, "...it is."

We're now wrapped up in everything together; this moment, these words, the rain outside, falling down on the windows, painting everything clearer. Everything makes sense right now, everything that I know will not make sense in the morning, everything that will surely blow up in our faces, is not the same everything we're sharing now.

This everything is relief. This everything is breathing in and out. This everything is our ends of the bed, and the small space between us.

This everything is the hand she just stole from me, cradling it as if it were a new born between her delicate fingers.

"I absolutely love hands." She twirls mine between hers, examining it, almost like she's engraving each line inside her memory. "Did you know that?"

Something ignites in my own mind; a memory sparking brighter and brighter.

"I think you're wasting your time on someone never holds your hand."

And suddenly I've never listened more closely. I've never wanted to hear the words that are about to leave her gorgeous lips more. Because I have waited, and someday is finally here.

"No, I didn't." It's sweet and patient, never rushing her. Never rushing anyting on a life changing night that's given us all the time in the world.

"Yup." Her eyes shuffle between my hands and my eyes, not showing any sings of recalling the "someday" memory, "I'm not big, I don't know, I'm not big on anything really PDA. No surprise there, I know." I chuckle lightly, because It really isn't any surprise, "But, and this is pretty embarrassing, so I trust you won't call up page six first thing in the morning, right? I mean, I know you wouldn't cause I trust you big time little girl."

She smiles adorably, tapping my nose, and I can't stop from smiling, giddy with excitement like the biggest geek in the room.

"When I was little, really little, I judged my boyfriends on the ones I'd hold hands with. Anthony Rizzo in fifth grade for example, oh my God, biggest hands ever. Like, clamy and always sweaty and just ew. Like, I could never date him, because I'd never hold hands with him. I'd never grab his hand at Pizza Hut because who wants to eat with a furnace in their hand. And then there was Lee Hardy in seventh grade...my God, he had the longest, thinnest fingers and, oh they were just so gross. And so creepy."

She visibly shudders and I bite my lip to hold back the laughter.

"Creepy fingers, Ash?" Voice questioning, eyes skeptical "Seriously, fingers can be creepy?"

"Uh, yeah?" She looks off into the distance, like she always does when she can't believe I'm not picking up on what she's putting down. "Haven't you seen Lord of the Rings, my precious?"

"Oh God. Stop. You know I have and you know how much that creeps me out."

She chuckles wildly to herself, knowing how much it in fact does creep me out, and knowing how well she's done. Through her little giggling fit, she's managed to roll closer to me on the bed. And I feel it.

Oh how I feel it.

The room becomes so silent again, and I remember the memory and the story and I still don't see the bridge. So, I bring it back up, so hopefully she can keep building it for me to eventually see.

"So, whose did you hold?"

My hand still grasped between hers, she smiles into my eyes, while her eyes smile into my mouth. Her eyes don't even move when I catch them staring straight between my lips.

"Hmmm?"

I can't help but laugh.

"Hands. You've told me whose you didn't want to hold, so tell me about the ones you have held. I want to know what Ashley Davies qualifies as the perfect hand to hold."

It's strange, my tone was completely humorous, my voice was soaked in playfullness. But suddenly, nothing is playful about the mood. Nothing is playful about the way brown bores into blue, and suddenly our linked hands break the stare. Our linked hands are held between our bodies, between our faces.

"Well that's the thing, I've been searching for it for a long time, I've been looking for that one hand that I'd want to hold no matter what. For that one hand that would make me forget about PDA, about people watching, about showing affection in public. Because I've always known that that hand is out there. Always. I've always known that there's a person out there whose hand I'd never hesitate in grabbing, because I couldn't not hold them. Because I'd have to be connected to them always."

Her lips turn up into a heartwarming smile, and it burns straight through my chest. It burns through everything I am, straight into my heart.

"Because that person is someone I can't be without."

I can hear the memory replaying in my mind, I can hear her words replaying over and over. Setting my insides on fire.

"So have you...have you found it?" I whisper in a voice so husky, I didn't even know I had one of its kind inside me.

She holds our hands impossibly tighter together, placing them right against her chest.

"Yeah," her voice sounds slightly choked with complete emotion, relief written all over her face. "I think I have."