#6: Ashley, Part 1

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“So tell me, where shall I go? To the left, where nothing’s right? Or to the right, where nothing’s left?”

~ Anonymous

At college, she told Tracy what she was considering. 

“Oh wow! I wanna come with you!” She grinned, shaking a tic tac onto her palm.
“As if your parents would let you!” 
“I’m a big girl. They can’t stop me. Or you, now.” 
“That’s what Lauren said.” Ashley looked at her feet.
“And… Anneka?” Tracy knew what she was like.
“She’s thinking about it.”
They walked up to the others. Penny and Riana gave them both quick hugs and ran off to Art. The others were all debating unrequited love.
“It’s easily the worst thing in the world.” Jock was saying.
“The worst FIRST WORLD problem!” Tank pointed out accusingly.
“Naturally. But – oh, hey guys!” Jock noticed Ashley and Tracy standing above them.
“Intelligent conversation you had going on there,” Tracy laughed and flopped down next to them.
“How did unrequited love come up?” Ashley asked.
“Penny loves Tomas Dalloway.” Tank supplied helpfully.
“Holy shit…” Tracy grabbed Ashley’s arm. “Seriously?”
“Yeah, why?” 
Tomas Dalloway was the boy that had been clawed by Alice for liking Ashley. Tracy was the only person that knew besides her, because she didn’t want anyone to know. Tracy explained away her reaction, saying she’d kissed him at a party once, and the boys rolled their eyes. While they started talking about something else, Ashley was lost in thought. It wasn’t like her, all this drifting off into a realm of her own. But memories kept coming back to her, as if that documentary had opened the floodgates and invited everyone to join the party. In her mind now was Holly’s face, mascara streaked down her cheeks, eyes bright with fear.
After college, she messaged Lauren to say she was going for a walk in the city. She had a mission: she was going to find a job. It wasn’t going to be easy, but she was counting on luck. She went into six restaurants, two cafes and one book shop. None of them needed any staff – or rather, they didn’t need a staff member with an eye patch. She gave up, and was walking home when she saw a cafe that was new. On the window there was a sign that read ‘We are currently accepting staff. Speak to us if you’re interested!’
“I may as well try,” she muttered to herself, and went in.
“Hi! What can I get you?” A cheerful girl with pink streaks in her hair was leaning on the counter. She didn’t seem at all bothered about Ashley’s eye patch.
“Oh, I’m not looking to… um, the sign on the door says you’re accepting staff?”
“That we are! You interested?” 
“I’ll get the manager. You wait right here.” The girl disappeared through a door.
“Here she is.” The girl reappeared, moments later, with a woman that looked to be in her early twenties, with brown curly hair, freckles, and a wide smile. She, also, didn’t seem to clock the patch. Ashley wondered if the girl had warned her.
“Hi, I’m Magda Adams, call me Magda.” She shook Ashley’s hand, and then sat down.
“Nice to meet you. I’m Ashley Russo, I’m looking for a job…”
“So I hear! What kind you up for?”
“Well, I’m not fussed really. Do you need a waitress?”
“As a matter of fact, we do. Have you got any experience?”
“No, but I’m a fast learner.”
“How old are you?”
“Fantastic. You’re hired. Come in on Sunday afternoon for some training, then you’ll start on Monday. Sonia will give you a number to ring if you get sick or bail. See you then!” Magda saluted her and went through the mysterious door again.
“I was surprised too, trust me.” The girl at the counter laughed and walked over. “I’m Sonia. Have you got a phone? I can put the number on there for you if you like.”
“Ashley. Yeah, I have a phone. Hang on.” She unlocked her phone and handed it over. Sonia added the number as a contact and handed the phone back.
“Well, I look forward to working with you, Ashley! See you Sunday.”
“See you then.”
At home, the cat wrapped himself round her ankles, begging for food, so she fed him and put some bread in the toaster. Getting a plate and jam out the cupboard, she tapped her fingers on her arms while she waited. Lauren and Anneka had called her on her way home to say they were going out for dinner, so she would be on her own for a couple hours. When her toast was done, she smothered it with jam and took the plate through to the living room. She curled up with a blanket and watched a film. While she was watching it she scrolled lazily through some articles on waitressing, not giving either thing her full attention. After a while she messaged Tracy, telling her she’d got a job. Only minutes later, her screen flashed up with a call from her. She rolled her eyes, smiled and answered it.
“YOU GOT A JOB!!!!???”
“I did.”
“Jeez, Trace, you’re making me deaf in this ear! Calm down!”
“Alright, I’m calm. But how?”
“I found a cafe that just opened, a couple streets over from my house.”
“They were looking for new people?” 
“Yes. And, unlike all the other assholes, they didn’t ask if my eye affects my coordination.”
“Ugh, did people seriously do that!? Are you okay?”
“Oh, I’m fine, Trace, I’m used to it. But you could get a job there too you know.”
They talked for a while longer until Tracy had to go. Ashley chucked her phone on the sofa and cuddled the cat.
“Oh, Tonio. What am I gonna do?” She asked him, tapping his nose.
His only reply was a purr.

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