Status: New



The following morning Ashley awakes to an empty bed, Anthony had already left for work early in the morning. She makes her way into the kitchen and passes Henry who's still asleep on the couch from the previous morning. After starting a fresh pot of coffee she makes her way back into the living room and falls on the couch, sitting across Henry's legs. When he doesn't stir she frowns and pokes at his face gently, receiving a gentle swap to the hand.

"Oh, so you are up?" Ashley taunts Henry, getting up slightly and pushing his legs out of the way before making herself comfortable on the couch.

Henry groans, rubbing his eyes and sitting up.

"So, did Alex tell you he's coming next week?" Henry asks an eyebrow raised as he looks at Ashley with uncertainty.

It was definitely odd that Alex had contacted Henry in regards to the trip that he was planning. Henry had not been expecting to hear from Alex, not that they didn't get along but no one was as close as Alex and Ashley. Henry is Ashley's best friend but Alex was more like a brother. You could imagine Henry's surprise when Ashley verifies that she had not actually spoken to Alex about him visiting.

"Oh shit, I thought you knew. I wonder why he didn't tell you," Henry's eyes widen at a sudden thought, "Is your birthday coming up, did I forget again?"

Ashley giggles, shaking her head, "Not for months. It must be a work thing, I'll text him."

She makes her way back into the kitchen pouring a mug of coffee for Henry and herself, "You have any plans for today?"

Henry takes the cup gratefully, "I think Cady and I are going shopping, she mentioned getting a new couch for their apartment. I guess she just found out that Stephens couch is actually his ex-girlfriends so she's throwing a fit."

Ashley had to laugh at that. Cady had been their roommate until about a month prior when she decided to take the next step and move into her boyfriend's apartment. Since then she had been making herself right at home in his apartment, frequently complaining about the number of items that had been left behind by his recent ex.

"I don't think Stephen knows what he's gotten himself into," Ashley jokes. "You have any room for a tag-along? I could use some time out."

"You know..." Henry pauses, "It's short notice. I don't think we'll have room."

"Shut up," Ashley laughs throwing a pillow at Henry's face, "Take a shower, you stink."

Cady pulls up to their house hot, leaving Ashley to wonder how she even got a license
Cady pulls up to their house hot, leaving Ashley to wonder how she even got a license.

"Please let me drive," Ashley whines running over and opening the driverside door.

Cady gasps, offended. "Absolutely not! Noone drives Betsy but me."

"But you're going to kill Betsy with us in it!" Ashley accuses, reluctantly getting in behind Cady and buckling her seatbelt while Henry sits upfront with Cady.

Once the three are settled in the car with Cady driving towards Ikea, Ashley pulls out her phone and shoots Alex a message.

Sent 12:03 PM: Hey, Henry just told me you're visiting? Is this real life?

Received 12:05 PM: Dude, I wanted to surprise you.

Sent 12:05 PM: Well, consider me surprised.

Received 12:08 PM: I'm visiting with the boys. We're coming next week, just have to figure out some of the logistics.

Sent 12:09 PM: Who are "the boys"?

Sent 12:10 PM: You're staying with us, right?

Received 12:12 PM: I think I am. Jack is coming, I'm trying to get Ashton and Luke around, too.

Sent 12:13 PM: Luke?

Sent 12:14 PM: You think that's the best idea?

Sent 12:15 PM: I haven't spoken to him since I left. Pretty sure he hates me.

Received 12:17 PM: Could be time to make up, no? Listen, I have to go but I'll let you know more later.

Received 12:17 PM: I think it's a good idea we all get together.

Ashley feels herself becoming nauseous, unsure if its Cady's horrid driving or the thought of seeing Luke again after six years.

Luke turned the knob to Ashley's apartment after knocking continuously for what felt like minutes. To his surprise it opened with ease, allowing him to enter the space.

He hadn't expected to find Ashley there, considering there was no response at the door but he also didn't expect to find the living area completely void of any human existence.

As Paul's funeral came to an end, Luke felt himself walking angrily to Ashley's apartment wondering what could have been more important than his best friends, her boyfriends, funeral.

He continued, confused, into the apartment that Ashley had shared with Paul before his passing. The walls were bare, the only evidence of previous inhabitance being the dust lining the counters and stains lingering on the carpet.

Frustrated and perplexed, Luke dialed Ashley's number angrily unknowing that this would be the last time that he speaks to her.

Across Sydney, Ashley waited with Jack and his family at the airport. Their plane was set to board in the next half hour. She felt her phone buzzing in her pocket and pulled it out to see Luke's name flashing on the screen.

A hand reached out and touched her shoulder lightly. She turned around to see a soft, sad look on Jack's face, "You should turn that off, they aren't too friendly about phones here."

Ashley nodded before declining the call and powering her phone off.

Once her plane had landed, touching ground in Baltimore, Ashley powered on her phone and the message appeared from Luke almost immediately.

"Ashley, where the fuck are you? You didn't even show up today? It was his fucking funeral, how fucked up is that! We needed you here, I needed you here! Some fucking friend you are. Did you even care about him? How could you just leave? You know what, don't come back."

"You're quiet," Henry observes, turning slightly to look at Ashley in the backseat.

She turns towards him, ripping her eyes away from the cars passing by beyond the window.

"Alex is bringing Luke with him," She states so quietly, Henry isn't even sure if he heard her correctly.

"Fuck Luke," Cady comments, keeping her eyes on the road.

Henry sighs, "He doesn't know, Ash. Maybe you need to see him and tell him the truth."

The truth being, Ashley was there at Paul's funeral. Ashley observed all of Pauls loved ones saying their final goodbyes. She saw Luke and Ashton along with the rest of their friends but she sobbed quietly in the back, unable to keep herself together. She didn't want to see the casket be lowered into the ground, she didn't want to see her friends crying because they had lost him too. She wanted to be alone, she wanted this to be a nightmare. She wanted to wake up.

Ashley didn't want to leave Sydney, she had built a life there with Paul and their friends. She had a job there that she enjoyed. She didn't have a choice, really. Without Paul, she couldn't afford to continue living there. They had always split their bills between the two of them. When he had passed, bills were left unpaid and Ashley couldn't keep the lights on. Moving in with Alex was something she had to do for herself. Sure, maybe she could have made something work, perhaps a second job, but how could she continue to live in her apartment hoping desperately that one day Paul would come strolling through the door, again.

Maybe, Ashley should have said goodbye to Luke and Ashton. She could have explained her choices at the time she made them. But if she had said goodbye, it would have become real. Solidified the fact that Paul was gone and was never coming back.