Chapter 7 – Steady Steps

I hear the ding of the tiny bell above the café door and look up to see Kyla come through. She scans the small, dimly lit room until her eyes light on me. All of my apprehensions flare to full force when I see the guarded look on her face.

She looks older somehow, though it’s only been a few weeks since I last saw her and slapped the smile clean off of her face. She wears her tension like armor as she quickly makes her way to my table and slides into the booth on the other side.

As if we’re business partners meeting to discuss the details of a laundering scheme, she gets right down to it and asks, “What do you want?”

I exhale a bit, forcing myself not to cry or let the attic rule this encounter. Getting control of my emotions hasn’t been an easy task by any means. But the last two weeks of near constant alone time, not counting Erin and the band, and an awareness of that solitude, has taught me a thing or two about myself.

I now know that I can’t stop feeling. There’s no way to do that anymore. Nothing works like it used to. I can’t sleep. I can’t pretend. I can’t coast through it like it’s all just some elaborate ploy at being chivalrous. Part of me wishes that I could, but I can’t force it. I’m stuck with myself, in all of my hideous glory. There are only two ways out that I can see: get through it, or let it kill me.

But I’ve been avoiding picking one of those. And more importantly, I know that I shouldn’t stop myself from feeling. Now that I don’t have any tools of the denial trade and nothing distracting enough to compete with the core of me that I’ve uncovered, I’m forced to acknowledge it as it comes. And I’m finding that as I do that, in turn, my emotions are starting to flare less often. Less is still at least once a day, but as to choosing a path, well, I’m not there yet, and Kyla reminds me of why.

The last time I saw her, I hadn’t figured my options out yet. Or maybe I had and I was just forcing myself to overlook them because, in all honesty, I don’t like either of them. Death… well, I don’t think I need to explain how that’s not a great option. As to getting through it, well, it’s easier to buy a new pair of shoes than it is to scrape the shit off of the bottom of the old ones. And let’s face it, I have the means to replace my shoes as needed. I almost resent that I have money. It made building my fantasy easier.

Either way, it took me years to get into a headspace where I was even willing to accept that I have an emotional problem. Oddly enough, now that I know and allow myself to come to terms with everything, the process of cleaning house – while immensely difficult – hasn’t been all that time consuming. This is largely due to the fact that I’m not trying to clean everything up right away. I mean, what’s the point when I’m not sure what my long-term plans are? As to what little cleaning I have done while I wait for that decision to be made, well I’m just taking it a day at a time – a bite at a time, because that’s how you eat an elephant.

If I’m honest with myself, and I don’t really have a choice anymore, this is the happiest that I’ve been since that long ago conversation with a doctor that collapsed my entire world, even while I’m not actually happy at all.

It’s strange…

“I want to apologize,” I say.

She snorts, as if I just made a joke. But then she looks at me and something softens in her eyes.

“You’re not kidding…,”

It wasn’t a question, just a realization, and I confirm it with a quick jerk of my head from side-to-side.

“No,” I say when she still doesn’t quite seem to believe it. “I’m sorry.”

She clearly doesn’t trust me if her gesture of leaning back and crossing her arms is any indication.

“You’re apologizing?”

“Yes.”

“For what?”

“Well, for hitting you, obviously, but also for leaving without a word when you were younger; and for treating you like a nuisance since you found me. I’ve been an asshole, and I’m sorry, for all of it…”

Her arms drop to the table and she seems a little stunned, but that quickly turns to anger. “You’re insufferable, you know that?”

I nod. “Yeah, I do…”

And I do know that, more than she can even comprehend.

“Damnit, Ash, I really want to be mad at you and now you’re robbing me of that.”

Part of me wants to be indignant at her words. It’s not like she made it easy to love her. She was a nuisance, meddling and intrusive, and kicking me while I was down. And every attempt at explaining to her that I needed her to stop was thwarted by her tenacity. I want to be angry and lash out at her for it, but I didn’t call her here with expectations, at least not on her part. I called her here to let her know that I see what I did and have been doing, and that I recognize that it was wrong of me. I also want to be sure that we’re on good terms before I choose my path. How many times has Shirley told me not to let the sun set on my anger?

The silence is killer and leaving me to wonder if this wasn’t a terrible idea. She’s just looking at me in wonder and… bemusement?

“Kyla, please don’t laugh. Do anything – throw a drink in my face, get up and walk out, hate me, but don’t laugh at me right now. Please…”

What does she do? She laughs and I can feel tears welling in my eyes as I choke on my anger.

“This was a stupid idea,” I say as I stand to leave, but she puts a hand on my arm and stops me.

“Ash, I’m sorry, I can’t help it!”

“Why?!”

“Because that’s how I handle tension, I guess…,” she exclaims in frustration. “When I feel awkward or uncomfortable, I giggle. I can’t help it.”

I think about that for a minute, and realize that it’s true. Even as a child she’d laugh at inappropriate things. There was this one time when mom and Kyle – her boyfriend of the moment – were throwing things at each other and freaking out about something that had happened out back in the meth shed. He hit mom hard, knocking her to the floor, and Kyla tried to get between them to protect the woman for some unknown reason. Call it instinct or sheer stupidity, but she was only four, and after all the woman had put her through… Well, I guess what they say is true: mom is God in the eyes of a child.

Anyway, Kyle kicked Kyla out of the way, hard, hard enough for her head to make a dent in the thin trailer wall where she landed. She was dazed for a minute, a bruise immediately blushing to life on her too large, child forehead, and he laughed. No, he guffawed, hearty and genuine. That snapped Kyla back into reality. She got up to charge him but I caught her and yanked her back. He laughed even harder, and so she thrashed harder, and when she realized that I wasn’t going to let her go, she started to use her words instead. She called him a plethora of slurs that no one her age should know, but oddly enough, it was the, ‘You kick like a girl,’ that had struck a chord in the washed-out junky.

He enraged and I barely managed to drag her out of there before he reached us, hauling her into the woods to hide. I knew the woods like the back of my hand and he didn’t follow if the sounds of his abuse to our mother were any indication. Once we were deep enough not to hear her screams and his shouts, I started to check Kyla’s injuries. She was shaking, but most of her anger had dissipated. I thought that she was going to cry. Hell, I was, but she didn’t. Instead, she started to laugh, even though her little lip was bloodied and a goose egg was growing at the edge of her hairline.

I remember thinking at the time that her ability to find humor when there was nothing to be happy about made me love her all the more, even while it made me hate her a little bit. Her childish laugh was strange and infectious, and I couldn’t help but laugh with her, even though I resented her innate ability to retain some of her innocence with natural born coping skills. Either way, if it hadn’t been for her ability to do that, I don’t think I’d have ever laughed before the age of eleven. There was just nothing to laugh about.

That’s how she got her name, Kyla. It was the female version of his name, Kyle, and he was the first person in this world that she had stood up to. It taught us both a valuable lesson: we could fight back. We could stand up and stop taking the abuse, at least to some extent, and it didn’t matter if our lips were bloodied in the process.

It was empowering.

Mom took a beating for Kyla’s insolence, and I took a beating from mom in turn, but that last physical encounter with my mother is actually one of the best moments in my young life. It was in the middle of this altercation that I stood up and struck back, and I was never touched by mommy dearest again. For the two of us, using Kyla’s name was a reminder that even when we were helpless, we could take a stand. For mom, the name only made her hate Kyla more, but we were okay with that. We hated her just as much.

I smile to myself at the memory and Kyla points at me accusingly.

“So you can smile at inappropriate moments, but I can’t?”

I look up at her. “No, I was just remembering the day that we named you Kyla.”

She sighs wistfully. “Yeah, I was a pretty badass kid.”

“Yeah,” I agree. “You really were.”

There’s a moment of silence, but it’s not uncomfortable. At least, not until she starts talking again.

“So, you were apologizing…”

I sigh.

“I laid everything out to you, and trusted you, and you laughed,” I say.

“I know, and I’m sorry,” she says. “I only laughed because it was a good thing, and I couldn’t believe it! You finally said something real, and to me. I was shocked.”

“And happy,” I repeat her words from that day.

“Hell yes,” she says. “You let me in and it was a huge step in the right direction, and I’d been pushing you in that direction for a long time.”

“It hurt me.”

“I know, and I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry, too.”

We let both omissions hover in the air for a little bit, and, of course, she starts to giggle. Only this time, I giggle with her and before either of us knows it, we’re laughing so hard that we’re clutching at our stomachs and the rest of the café is giving us strange looks.

When we both calm down, she says, “So, now that that’s out of the way, I’m moving back in.” I roll my eyes at her, but inside, my heart’s singing just a little. “Oh, c’mon,” she says through a playful smile. “You know you’ve missed me.”

I grunt and take a sip of my now tepid coffee to hide my own smirk, but I know it’s not working.

“You mi-ssed me,” she sing-songs. “You l-ove me.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” I say.

“So…,” she smoothly changes the subject. “What’s new with you? The trip to Europe is coming up.”

I frown. “I don’t know if I’m going.”

“What,” she nearly shouts. “You have to…”

“No I don’t…”

“Ash, it’s part of your list, and it’s not like you don’t have the money, and it’s Europe…”

She leans back as if the last of her points is reason enough. “Seriously, Ash, Europe…

“I know, I just, I’m not sure it’ll be all that fun now.”

“Ugh, you make me crazy,” she huffs out.

I glance up at her in confusion. Everything I do is the wrong thing with her.

“Why does it matter to you so much? I can go anytime. I just don’t feel like it right now.”

“Because now is the time, Ash. You’re healthy, you’ve moved past some of your bullshit, and maybe seeing how big the world is will give you some perspective.”

“Jesus, Kyla, give you an inch…”

“And I’ll take the whole rope and hang you with it,” she finishes for me sarcastically.

“Pretty much,” I lament.

“Ash, you’ve made progress. Don’t stop the momentum now or you’ll get stuck in another rut.”

I know she’s right about that, because I know where this newfound ability to let the emotions have me has come from. And where it’s come from is dark, so dark that it inspires hope of a completely different nature.

“I don’t want to go alone,” I say, but what I’m really thinking is if I’m alone, I might not come back.

She leans back and seems to chew on that for a minute before getting frustrated again. So I mirror her posture and wait for her to tell me how I’ve said something else wrong. It doesn’t take long.

“Ash, believe me when I say that telling you this kills me…”

I scowl. “Okay…”

“I’ve never been anywhere but Ohio and here. And LA is great and everything, but I would kill to travel the world. I could easily just say that I’ll go with you, but I’m not going to, and honestly, it’s your fault. I’m missing out on something I’ve always wanted to do because I love you.”

“What are you talking about? If you want to go-”

“Did you ever think that maybe you should do this alone?”

“Oh yeah, that sounds like a blast. I’ll go to strange places where no one speaks English alone,” I reply sarcastically. 

It’s a weak argument, but there’s no way I can voice my real thoughts.

“Hell yes,” she says. “You’ll go and see other people, rely on yourself, maybe even find yourself, and you’ll do it alone.”

“Kyla, alone is empty. Trust…”

“Well, until you figure out how to live happily alone, you’ll be alone even when you’re surrounded by people.”

I can’t really argue with that. Even when I had her and she-who-will-not-be-named living with me, I holed myself up in my room and complained about it.

All I can retort with is, “Get that off of a high school counselor’s wall, did you?”

“No,” she replies smoothly. “But I’ll embroider it on a throw pillow for you if you want.”

I can’t fucking win with her. So maybe I should stop trying? Kyla knows that I’m chewing on her words and reaches a hand across the table to take mine.

“Ash, think about it. What’s the worst that could happen? If you get there, stay a few days and hate it, then you can just come home. But you might really help yourself if you do it. It can’t hurt to try it.”

The meddling and pushing isn’t going to stop, not with Kyla. I realize now that she loves me too much to ever stop trying to help me, even when that help is painful and irritating and unwanted and poorly executed. But it is still help. It’s still love, and whether I agree with it or like it, I’m not going to continue to push it away. This whole time I’ve been fighting her and it’s done nothing but make things harder. Maybe I should just listen to her. Like she said, what’s the worst that could happen?

“Ever seen Taken,” I ask.

She gives me a cock-eyed look. “The movie?”

“Yeah.”

“Jesus, Ash, there’s something seriously wrong with you.”

“There’s something seriously wrong with human trafficking.”

“It’s a movie, Ash. Not real life.”

“It’s a movie based off of real-life events,” I counter.

“Well, if someone was stupid enough to kidnap you and try to sell you, with your attitude, they’d return you to where they got you within 24 hours.”

“Thanks,” I say wryly.

“Just be safe, Ash. Don’t talk to strange guys. That should be easy given that you’re Kinsey 6 gay…”

She has a point there.

“I’m the valedictorian here,” I say to her. “I’m supposed to be the smart one, or some shit. You barely passed with Cs.”

She snorts. “You were never the smart one.”

“Well, then… I was always the prettier one.”

She glares at me and I can’t help but grin. I didn’t win this fight, even though I am way prettier. She’s right. I wrote a multi-million dollar program before I even graduated high school, and yet, she’s smarter about the things that really matter. I can’t deny it. This is why I can’t talk to her about why I really don’t want to go alone, what I’m really thinking. And like a circle, that’s the only thing that will make her back off and quit pushing me. So, I can’t put it off any longer. She won’t let me, and I’m not going to tell her why she should let me.

“Well, I guess I’m going backpacking alone,” I say.

She beams. “Damn right you are!”

It’s quiet for a bit, but I don’t like where it allows my thoughts to meander, so I break it as awkwardly as possible.

“So what’s new with you,” I ask. “Where have you been?”

“Oh, you know, around.”

“Around…,” I repeat stupidly.

“Mm hmm.”

“Is it a state secret or something?”

“No, not state. It’s local.”

“Okay… so where have you been? What have you been doing?”

“I’ve been somewhere doing something. That’s all there is to it.”

“Kyla, I spilled the most private details of my life, apologized, and let you talk me into a hazardous spree of international travel. Give me something here…”

She looks at her watch and stands up.

“Where are you going,” I ask.

“Don’t worry. I’m just going to get my stuff, so I’ll see you at home later.”

“Well, you don’t have to go now…”

“Yeah, I do.”

“Why?”

“Because.”

“Because why…?”

“Because… it’s… getting late.”

“Late?” I look at my phone to see that it’s only four o’clock. “It’s not late…”

“It is for me.”

“Kyla, what’s going on?”

“Nothing, I just have to go. I’ll see you at home later.”

“And then you’ll tell me where you’ve been?”

“No.”

I pinch the bridge of my nose. “Kyla…”

“Look, I just don’t want to talk about myself right now, Ash. Not for a while.”

I can’t help but snort. “Since when?”

“Since now,” she says with a level glare. “Look, I’ll get my stuff and see you in a few hours.”

I stand up to come with her. “I’ll help you move your stuff.”

“No,” she says a little too loudly.

“Why?”

“Because…”

“Kyla, what’s going on?”

“Nothing, I just don’t need your help.”

Ouch. “Okay…”

She gentles a little. “Look, I just, I can take care of it.”

“Kyla, why are you leaving right now? Did I do something wrong?”

“No, I just… I really have something I need to do.”

“At the late hour of four o’clock?”

“Mm-hmm…”

“On a Thursday?”

“Mm-hmm…”

“And you can’t talk about it because it’s just moving your stuff?”

“Yes.”

“That makes zero sense.”

She seems to think about something and then crosses her arms again in an ‘I mean it’ stance.

“Ash, this is all you’re getting.”

“What?”

“Where I’m going you can’t follow. That’s all you get to know.”

“What? Why?”

“Trust me, you don’t want to know.”

“Yes, I do.”

“No, you don’t.”

“Why can’t I see where you’ve been? Is it that bad?”

The thought that she might have been in a really terrible situation because of me makes my heart race a little.

“No, it’s not bad at all. I was very well treated.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

“You don’t want to know.”

“Yes, I do!”

“Fine!” She throws her arms up in frustration and then lets a smirk settle on her face. “You can’t know because where I’m going, Spencer is.”

That hits like a brick to the face. “What…?”

I slump into the booth as if my bones have been replaced with Jello. She puts a hand on my shoulder and pats me in a condescending gesture before lowering her voice and leaning in.

“And you are so not prettier than me.”

And with that she struts off, leaving me with all of my questions about where she-who-will-not-be-named is and how she is and what she looks like and just… everything that I’ve missed, like a recovering addict dreaming of just one more fix.

“Kyla, wait…”

“Huh uh,” she says over her shoulder. “I’m not going to talk about it or her, so don’t ask.”

And with that she’s gone and I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that no amount of badgering her on the subject will do me any good. That doesn’t mean I won’t bang my head against a wall trying.


 

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Please rate and review before moving on!


Chapter 8 – Up, Up, and the Rain

22 thoughts on “Chapter 7 – Steady Steps

  1. Pingback: Chapter 6 – Tooty Frooty In My Booty | Fiction for Lesbians

  2. Annnnnnd, another review;)

    So I was rereading some of the chapters of the first book the other day and now while I’m reading this chapter again I realized just how much you’ve improved as a writer. In the earlier chapters you seemed to try to make light of the very angsty situation by cracking somewhat inappropriate/deflecting jokes at the reading audience and now you’re just letting all the ugly yet beautiful emotions shine through unabashedly and that upgrades the story, in my eyes, from really good to a masterpiece.

    This confrontation with Kyla is a step in the right direction for pretty much the first time after allowing herself to feel. Confronting the fact that she’s hurt people with her actions in the past for the first time is a huge step even though it might seem like a mere crappy apology. She’s never outwardly given any indication that she knows what kind of pain she’s caused of that she feels any remorse for what she’s done. By saying sorry she’s making herself vulnerable in a way she’s never done before and I love it!

    Ashley being on the fence about making a decision about basically life or death already shows a lot of growth, there’s no impulsiveness here because she’s finally starting to understand the gravity of her situation somewhat. Also the fact that she’s allowing herself to deal with her attic-crap step by step shows that she’s giving herself some much needed leeway. She’s the kind of person to go in all or nothing and her doing neither in this case is a welcome change.

    Okay, so even though I know what’s gonna happen in the next chapters I’m still sceptical about Ashley going backpacking on her own. I know from personal experience how being alone on the other side of the world can make you feel. It can bring a lot of positive and let you meet new people that show you new perspectives, but it can also make you feel incredibly lonely. Not having the emotional connections you have with people you already know can make you live in your own headspace and can lead to overthinking. I felt that at this point in the story Ashley hadn’t yet made enough progress to be left to her own devices. I mean, obviously she had to learn to like her own company first before she could even consider a romantic relationship, but sending a near suicidal person off on their own? I dunno man…

    Because of my little rant above I can say that I think the whole journaling thing might be the only thing that’s got her through. With no one to be able to show your emotions to, she at least had some sort of outlet. If she hadn’t I feel like the momentum Kyla was talking about would not be kept going and she’d just experience awesome things without mentally progressing.

    The first part of the journal sounds like she’s already kind of figured out her mental state. Which I think is pretty impressive given that she barely even knew that breaking and letting some emotion out of that stupid attic was necessary. Maybe that was just denial but I felt like this was moving a little fast, even though I’d like to see this story finally going the right way for Ashley;).

    Also, a “Europe” trip that includes “Buenos Aires, Brazil” (Buenos Aires is in Argentina btw), Australia (I’d love to see Ashley go back there with Spencer later on in the story because I just feel like she hasn’t truly appreciated the beauty of Sydney yet. Their gay scene is amazing and there is way more music than you make it sound, but that’s just a minor detail:P. Another detail, they don’t eat vegemite like peanut butter, they eat little bits on toast with cheese on top to mask the disgusting taste, lol;)), “Argentina, Brazil” okay so where is she??, Nepal and Japan… That’s a world trip! The only places in Europe were Russia (again, where is she, St. Petersburg or Moscow?) and Italy, you didn’t even include The Netherlands?! I feel so offended right now (jk;)).

    Over all though, I really enjoyed reading Ashley’s thoughts during her travels, the way you wrote it shows so much growth even though you make it seem like she’s barely aware of it, which I think is really cool.

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    • Thank you for the compliment. I think that with a story like this one, I’ve grown right along with Ashley. I’m glad that’s coming through in a real way and in the writing.

      From my own experiences, I believe that real change is pretty abrupt. There’s no easing into it. One day, you’re one way, maybe even fighting the inevitable, and the next day, something has snapped and caused a major shift. And there’s usually a catalyst. For me, much like Ashley, I had a choice to live or kill myself. Unlike Ashley, I didn’t have a fantastic support system. One day though, I woke up and instead of thinking of dying, I got angry at the nonsense that made me feel that way. So I told it to fuck off, came out of the closet, and shrugged off the intense opposition, which is a daily fight. Something snapped, it was immediate, and fortunately, it didn’t shift towards suicide. That’s how I’ve treated Ashley’s shift. While there was no gradual shift, there was a lot of struggling to get to the point, so I can’t see how it felt rushed. It seemed like it was well overdue. As far as her mind going into the trip, perhaps i failed to relate how once she’d made a choice to see an end, that opened her up to seeing what’s right in front of her. She stopped fighting because there was no point. One way or the other, it was going to end and she found acceptance and peace in that knowledge, finally taking on her attic to let it do it’s worse. She had nothing to lose. Has your experience been different?

      Yes, the geography was fucked up. One reason is because I fucking suck at geography, but the other reason is because of the lollapalooza website dates and locations. It said Argentina, Brazil. I read this as city, state, not A then B. I fixed it on ff.net but I must have missed it here. I will correct it later. I’m at work on my phone. Lol Either way, you’ll find that the European trip issues have been addressed by Kyla. And i missed Ireland, New Zealand, and England. There is going to have to be another world trip. Lol I have some thoughts in mind.

      I wanted Ashley to feel lost but aware and thanks to your review, I think if nothing else, I succeeded in that aspect.

      Thanks for reviewing, my little waffle. I’ll reply to the others soon. Must work now.

      Like

      • First off let me start by saying I’m really glad you decided to fight instead of give up! You’re awesome and the world would be a shame for people to miss out on you. I might not know you all that well but as you said you’ve grown along with this story and I feel like you’ve given us a window to a part of your soul. And while not all is pretty, all is worth it!

        I agree on the change being quite sudden. My catalyst was a fight with my dad so insignificant it’s unreal. That’s when I broke and realised I needed to do something because I wasn’t happy and I was done wallowing in self-pity and living inside my own head. While I’m not quite there yet, I know that even acknowledging you’re not doing well is already a step in the right direction. That was the immediate part for me, everything after that has been an uphill battle but I feel like I’m getting there with the necessary ups and downs.

        So to bring it back to the story, I totally get the immediate shift Ashley went through and the opening up to change, but I reckon the aftermath went pretty fast. In only 3 or 4 months she seems to have figured out some important things. And while she’s obviously not yet in a completely happy place, she’s been learning to cope at a really fast pace. Maybe I’m just slow though? I dunno man, I’m no expert and I have no clue as to how fast people can change their mindset.

        Lol, no kidding your geography sucks, but I forgive you;). Just for future reference though, you mentioned New Zealand… Yeah, not in Europe either. As you know I live in Europe and I’ve been to NZ, lemme tell ya, the flight is HELLA long, lol ;). I’m looking forward to this second world trip! If you need help with the geography let me know and I’ll help you out *cheekygrin*.

        “If nothing else…” girl, you succeed chapter after chapter, you keep amazing me with your writing talent and psychological insight:).
        Alrighy, before I inflate your head even more, Imma go. Waffle out;).

        Like

  3. I never comment in here, but I actually like your writing, so I’m going to make a quick correction: Argentina and Brazil are two different countries and Buenos Aires, capital of Argentina, doesnt have a beach. Both countries are in the same side of the ocean as the USA.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for pointing this out. When I did the research for the locations of the chapter, I just looked up the lollapalooza site. I think I misread it when it said Argentina, Brazil. I believe that I thought that it was listing them and I saw it as city, state, or the European equivalent. I will be making the appropriate corrections. I didn’t mention an ocean in that portion of the journal entries, so at least that’s correct then. Thank you for having the cajones to tell me I made a mistake. This is why I miss my beta reader so dearly. I’m rubbish at geography.

      Like

  4. When I need to feel, or just experience that lump-in-the-throat feeling, I come here. Such an amazing chapter! And of course, a brilliant story!

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  5. Thank u for coming back. first off, off course my legs are nice. Why do u think I ask to look at em in the first place.. hihi. psst..don’t worry, I’m a vault. But I’m pretty sure ur girlfriend will agree with u abt these legs of mine haha. jk.

    Ok ok on with this chapter, ashley’s soul searching adventures was very well written. Not too rushed n not too lengthy, juuuust right. It’s what she learned from these trips that matters n u nailed it. I loved every bit of it. Makes me wanna do it myself. Her exchanges with kyla beginning of this chapter touched my heart. It was amazing n endearing of ashley to come forth n apologize to kyla. But despite all that, kyla still annoys me with a passion. Sorry abt that.

    I liked that Ashley did it on her own without anyone else’s esp spencer’s help. She created her own beacon of hope for a positive growth. Honestly, I don’t mind if there’s no spashley in this installment. Not yet, that is. I wld like to see Erin n Katie back in her life tho. I just think they are good for Ashley as her friends. Free from any emotional entanglement. The whole chapter is very well thought of. ur an amazing writer. pls drop by again ok.

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    • lol Thanks for your discretion. Kyla annoys the shit out of me too, but I sort of wanted that feel given that she’s supposed to be the bratty kid sister. I think it’s relevant that she is also wiser than Ashley in a lot of ways. I think that’s why she’s so annoying, not because she’s pushy so much as because she’s right. I hope you have enough love for her to tolerate her place in Ashley’s life, much like you might your own annoying sibling. I think you’re right on the money about Ashley’s progress having to be her own, as others have stated here. And that was entirely intentional. I’m glad that the morals of her journey aren’t lost on you all, and I really appreciate the encouragement.`

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  6. Wow. I am so very glad that you updated. I truly love this fic. I’m so glad to see Ashley getting better. It’s awesome that she is finding herself and figuring things out and that she is finding happiness in her life. I am looking forward to the next chapter and to when she meets up with Spencer again because I know that Spencer will be proud of the progress that she has made. Awesome job! Thanks for updating!

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    • I’m trying to update more frequently. Sorry for the delay between. I’m also writing a Clexa fic in tandem, and with my own life, it can be hard to find the time for writing. But here you go. I’m glad you’re enjoying it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. They keep me encouraged. I appreciate it.

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    • I’m glad you liked it. I’m not going to spill any hints on what’s going to happen with Spashley, but nice try. Keep reading. I think you’ll like how it all turns out.

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  7. Wow! awesome long chapter. Thank you for the clarification. I liked that this chapter is all about Ashley finding herself towards self healing. You’re right, she needs to do it alone without anyone holding her hands. And not in contact with anyone back home is a good idea. I’m glad the trip has helped open her mind and heart. Maybe she doesn’t even need Spencer in her after this, who knows. Back packing around Europe is also in my bucket list besides watching the aurora borealis. Happy you came back.
    Lookatmylegs, I love your id.

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    • I’m so glad you were satisfied with the chapter. I was pretty satisfied with it as all. A lot of what I write is my own catharsis, so it’s good to feel this sense of hope in the face of uncertainty. I think we’re on the right track with Ashley and a good emotional understanding of how to make healthy steps towards emotional coping. Thanks for commenting and for the encouragement. In all truth, I never left. My time is just very limited. Thanks again!

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  8. Does this mean that Ashley is not sick anymore? and that she has totally recovered. Or do you have something else in mind? It’s her ailment that brought on her bucket list in the 1st place , right.

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  9. Ps: I’m a bit late for this comment as we now are one chapter after but…just wanted to make one comment, I don’t really feel like you should talk about a “European trip” based on the countries Ash visited… Seems a bit weird…

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    • I hadn’t considered world versus European when I considered where Ash would go, but I’ve written your frustration in because that’s a very Kyla thing to say. 🙂

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