Ali and Ashlyn were able to spend two and a half weeks together before real life forced the singer back to Los Angeles. Her and Tripp soaked in one more Frankfurt game, cheering proudly at the top of her lungs despite the fans that snapped more photos of her in the stands than the players on the field. That night, once they were settled into a back table at Heimat, a Michelin star restaurant, Ashlyn clinked her whiskey glass against the stemmed wine glass perched between Ali’s fingers. “Hell of a game, beautiful.”
“Thank you. But I think you signed more autographs than I did today.” Ali teased before taking a sip.
Ash let out a soft sigh. “I think Tripp is making it harder to stay incognito...” She admitted as she leaned back in her chair, undid the top button of her dress shirt and loosened her tie. “You sure we can’t ignore all of our responsibilities and just go run off somewhere? New Zealand maybe? Who would look there for us? No one...that’s who.”
Ali giggled as she stared adoringly across the table. “Tempting.” Her manicured fingertip traced the rim of her wine glass, soaking in the company she’d soon be losing.
“Worth a shot...But you’ll be back in November for camp right?” Ash confirmed eagerly so she could make sure Whitney kept her calendar free.
“Yep.” Ali replied with her signature nose-crinkling smile. “Arizona.” She reached across the table and laced their fingers together. “I should be able to get back a couple days early though.”
“I’ll be there with my stars and stripes on.” Ash promised, squeezing Ali’s hand. “I’m going to miss you.”
“I’m going to miss you too.”
A few short days later, Ashlyn was back in downtown LA. Despite being the middle of October, Ashlyn strode down the sidewalk in shorts and flip flops. She kept her sunglasses securely in place as she stepped inside Urth Cafe and scanned for her brunch partner. Luckily Urth Cafe was a mainstay for people of her status so she could move through without causing too much of a ruckus. It just took another second before the tattoo sleeve waved in the air and she headed back towards the table for two.
“Hi Superstar!” Kyle teased as he stood and wrapped her up in a hug.
“Hi Queen.” Ash grinned and returned the hug before slipping into her seat and setting her sunglasses on the table. Before she got a chance to speak again, a waitress with short blonde hair appeared and set a cup of coffee down in front of her.
“Hey Amanda. Thanks.” She picked up the Americano and sipped it happily. “How’s Jo?”
“She’s good. I see her a little less ever since you sent that longboard over to the house.” The petite waitress chastised before smacking Ashlyn on the shoulder and heading off to one of her other tables.
Kyle watched the interaction with interest until Amanda disappeared. “Friend?”
“Oh.” Ash shrugged. “Yeah. She’s just always great whenever I come here and she told me her girlfriend is a skater. I just hooked them up with a board.”
Kyle just shook his head once again at the singer’s down to earth nature. “Y’know...before you got here, I watched Lindsay Lohan not even speak to the waiter...all her requests were given by her manager...It’s a far cry from giving out skateboards.” He noted and sipped his own coffee.
“It’s a weird town. I just try to not get caught up in it.”
Just then, Amanda reappeared. “Ash, I’ll get your Mexican omelet going.” She stated with a smile before turning to Kyle. “What can I get you, hon?”
“I’ll have the Italian omelet.” Kyle stated with a smile as he handed the menu back.
“And can you keep the Americanos coming? Tripp kept me up all night.” Ash pleaded as she took down another gulp.
“You got it.”
Kyle laughed as he really took in the singer, appreciating the faint bags under her eyes. “He’s a terror, isn’t he? Ali told me about the pillows he destroyed.”
“Oh, he’s an absolute bastard.” Ash admitted. “I love it.” They shared a laugh before Ashlyn spoke up again. “Hey, speaking of it being a weird town. Have you ever considered being a personal stylist? I need one and I was hoping you’d be up for it.”
Kyle’s jaw dropped as he checked her face for any sign of teasing but finding none. “Really?”
Ashlyn shrugged. “Yeah, of course. You’re the best cut I’ve had in this town. It can be a little bit of a grind when we’re on tour but it’s a good way to see the world. Plus, when we’re not on tour, you’d have plenty of time to pursue your art. Oh, and you could still have other clients or whatever as long as you don’t neglect me for so long that I start looking ragged...and the pay is pretty good.” Ash rambled, hoping she had covered everything Whitney had lectured her to remember.
Kyle leaned back and let out a big breath slowly. “Wow.”
“Just take some time...think on it. No worries either way, okay?”
Kyle blinked a few more times in shock before he was able to gather himself. “I mean, you know I’m in, right?!”
“Yeah?” Ash asked excitedly, leaning forward in her seat.
“Definitely! Are you kidding?? This is a dream of mine!” Kyle shrieked.
Ashlyn pumped a fist victoriously. “Yes! Awesome. Whit can help you get all set up with paperwork or whatever and we can put a whole set up in the house with anything you need. Just let her know.” She let out a sigh in relief. “I’m so glad you said yes. The last couple stylists just didn’t vibe with the group. It was the worst.”
Kyle clapped his hands together excitedly. “Ah! I can’t believe Ali didn’t tell me!”
Ashlyn shook her head. “She doesn’t know.”
“Well, yeah. I want you because of you...not because of your incredibly attractive sister. So, I didn’t mention it to her until I knew what you wanted to do.”
Kyle felt touched that Ashlyn thought so highly of him, placing a hand over his heart. “I’m so glad my sister was such a groupie! If she hadn’t made out with you, we never would have met!”
Ashlyn let out a bark of a laugh. “Call her a groupie to her face. I want to see what happens.” Ash’s eyes twinkled as she imagined the feisty brunette smacking around her brother. “Seriously though, you’re incredibly talented. We’re excited to have you come on.”
Kyle blushed and dipped his head shyly. “Thank you. That means a lot.”
After disconnecting from the hour long Facetime session with her brother, Ali’s fingers ran over Ashlyn’s picture on the fridge. “You are just too much.” She shook her head before pouring a glass of wine and padding over to the couch, sitting down with her legs folded under her. Once again, Ashlyn had managed to surprise her. She couldn’t believe that her girlfriend’s caring heart had extended the stylist offer to her brother. Her heart was wrapped in warmth at the opportunities this would open up for Kyle and she couldn’t believe how selflessly Ashlyn had helped Kyle achieve one of his dreams.
As she looked around her apartment she let out a long sigh. Her homesickness was quickly reaching an all time high. While Frankfurt had been incredible for her career, the distance from the most important people in her life just seemed to be getting greater. The thought of moving back to the states tumbled through her mind more and more with each day that passed. Just call Dan. It’s just a phone call. It doesn’t mean you’re signing a contract. You’re only seeing what your options are. With a glance at the clock, she did the quick math on the time back home. Pulling out the cell phone, she took a deep breath and stared down at the screen. At the last second, she moved her thumb to a different contact and dialed. “Coward” She muttered, annoyed with herself. Her mood wasn’t able to linger long when she heard the call connect.
“There’s my second favorite Krieger.”
“Excuse me?” Ali asked with an extra dose of sass.
Ashlyn chuckled and flopped down onto her massive sectional, muting the tv. “Is that what you heard? Must be something wrong with the international connection. You really need to get your phone upgraded.”
Ashlyn felt all the air rush out of her lungs when Tripp rounded the corner at full speed and landed on her chest. “Ooof! Damn Tripp.” She dodged the puppy’s tongue the best she could before tossing his ball across the room. “Sorry. He’s got never-ending energy.” She wiped her face with the back of her sleeve. “How’s my girl?”
“Your girl just had an interesting conversation with her brother.”
“Oh, yeah? Tell me more.” Ashlyn grinned.
“That was really sweet of you.”
Ashlyn sat up a little and gave a shrug even though Ali couldn’t see her. “Sweet had nothing to do with it. He’s really talented and we work really hard at making sure everyone on the team works well together. He’s personality is going to fit right in.” Ashlyn tried to stop rambling and got her thoughts together. “I’m just trying to say, I asked him because of his skill, not because of his relation to you.”
Ali felt her heart squeeze at the words. “I love you.”
Ashlyn bit her lower lip, a smile tugging her mouth sideways. “I love you too. Plus, now if you don’t like my hair, you’ve got no one to blame but your brother.”
“Perfect.” Ali grinned. The silence stretched over the line for a few long seconds, just listening to each other breath. “I miss you.” Ali broke the silence with a quiet mumble.
Thousands of miles away, the singer’s hazel eyes closed and she let out a sigh. “I miss you too, Alex.” She ran her fingers through her hair. “A lot. I miss you a lot.”
Ali took a sip of wine to loosen her tight throat before changing the topic. “Someone has a birthday coming up.”
Ashlyn smiled but decided to play dumb. “Whitney? I mean, not for over a month...”
Ali rolled her eyes. “No, you dork. Hate to break it to you but you’re getting another year older in just over a week.”
“Don’t remind me. By Hollywood standards, I’m probably overdue to start an aggressive botox habit.”
Ali giggled and brought one of the pillows Ashlyn had purchased into her lap. “What’s an international superstar like Ashlyn Harris do for her birthday? Something glamorous?”
Ashlyn rolled her eyes. “You know me...total diva.” She grinned. “I don’t know, Whit usually forces me into some sort of party whether I want one or not.” She watched with amusement as Tripp flipped onto his back and kicked his paws in the air. “I’d prefer to be on a plane headed to Frankfurt...”
Ali’s gaze moved to the fridge, eyeing the plane ticket to LAX that was tucked under a magnet for October 17th. She suppressed her smile enough to keep the birthday surprise out of her voice. “I know but we’ll get to see each other in November. Couple more weeks.”
“Right.” Ashlyn tried to keep the disappointment from her voice. A beep from the hallway forced her up off the couch. A glance at her watch had her cursing. “Shit...”
“Yeah. I just lost track of time. I think that’s probably B.”
Ali remembered Ashlyn telling her a couple days ago that Beyonce had asked her to produce a couple songs on her next album. Already, she was begging for details of the songs that hadn’t even been written. “Oh, right!”
Ashlyn shuffled over to the wall mounted screen and saw both Beyonce and Shawn standing on her front porch. “It’s them. I’m sorry, babe. I’ve got to go.” She admitted, hesitant to hang up.
“It’s okay, Ash. I love you.”
“I love you, too.” She glanced at the clock and saw how late it was getting in Frankfurt. “Sleep well, okay? Make sure if you have any x-rated dreams, I’m in them.” She teased.
“You’re too much.” Ali laughed heartily. “Good-night, Ash.”
When the line disconnected, Ali finished her wine with a large swig. As soon as she had hung up the phone, the increasingly familiar homesick ache settled deep in her chest. She put her glass in the kitchen sink before heading into the bedroom. After brushing her teeth, she changed into one of Ashlyn’s shirts she had stolen during the singer’s surprise visit and crawled into bed. “Tomorrow. You’ll call Dan tomorrow.” She assured herself out loud before closing her eyes and letting sleep claim her.