#9: Ashley, Part 1

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It had been a week since the big argument. Ashley’s knuckles were slowly healing, and she had been working every day, saving up her wages. After staying at Penny’s house for the night, she stayed with Riana, who shared a flat with two other people. Riana had insisted that she stay as long as she needed to, so she had stayed five days so far. Lauren had messaged her telling her to stay at Riana’s for a little while longer. She was still trying to talk Anneka round. 

“What you thinking about?” Laura was tilting her head, looking at her.

“My parents.” Ashley sighed. She had told her and Adele what had happened, and they’d hugged her and said she could stay with them anytime.

“I wouldn’t worry about them, Ash. She’ll come round soon enough.” Laura patted her on the arm, and then went to serve someone who had just walked in.

“Hi, how can I help you?” She turned to watch Laura effortlessly charm the customer, and her eyes widened. It was the girl from the documentary. 

“Oh, could I have a fruit tea and a chocolate chip muffin, please?” The girl smiled the same wide smile that Ashley had seen on her TV.

“Sure. Sit, sit, make yourself comfortable!” Laura fussed around the girl for a second, and then gave Yasmeen the order. Ashley half ran over to the counter.

“Yaz! It’s the girl, from the documentary!!!” 

“Seriously? You have to talk to her!” Yasmeen grinned. “Go on!”

“Okay, I’m going!” Ashley turned and walked over to the girl. “Are you Grace Pullman?” She asked her, and the girl looked up in surprise.

“Yes, I am! Do I know you?” 

“No, but I’ve seen your documentary…” 

“Oh wow, really? That’s awesome! Sit down, I’m sure I can make room…” The girl took her heavy backpack off the sofa, putting it under the table. 

“You’re actually the reason I got this job! I’m saving up to go travelling like you.” Ashley sat down next to her. 

“What a coincidence! Tell me more! Where are you going? I can give you some tips if you like!” Her face had lit up with enthusiasm.

“That would be lovely!” Ashley grinned and told her.

Later, at Riana’s, she sat at the desk, googling things on the communal laptop. She and Grace had talked for ages, swapped numbers and agreed to meet up when Ashley started her journey. She had been friendly and open, telling her life story and sighing when Ashley told her about Anneka. She had the same problem before she left, but she said her mother was fine about it now. Her dad was who she’d been looking for, and she hadn’t found him, but she had got a boyfriend in Germany. He was going to meet up with her here in London and travel back to Glasgow with her. 

Ashley’s head was buzzing with ideas and inspiration. She had been contemplating trashing the whole idea and doing what Anneka had told her to do, but meeting Grace had reminded her of her reasons. She was searching for Santiago’s name on Facebook, but found no sign of him. Sitting back in the chair, she let the memories come back to her.

She was scared. She had heard from the other kids in the Home that fostering never worked out, and heard horrible stories about evil foster parents. Adoption never happened, apparently. And now here she was, in the car with her social worker Betty, on the way to meet her new foster parents.

When they pulled up in the drive, Ashley saw a boy playing on the grass, chasing a worn out football around. His curly hair fell into his eyes, and when he saw the car he smiled a toothy smile, and ran up to the door. When she got out the car, he bowed to her.

“I’m Santiago,” He said. His accent was unfamiliar, but she liked it.

“I’m Ashley.” She said, smiling back at him.

“Cool! Come on, let me show you around.” He held his hand out, and she took it willingly. 

She had thought the house ugly before, but when he showed her round he made it seem beautiful. He pointed out all the good things, until she didn’t see the bad things. After Betty left, he got a chocolate bar out the fridge, and took her back out on the lawn. Sitting down, he snapped it in half and handed her the bigger half.

“I like you,” She’d said.

“You’re not so bad yourself.” He’d smiled at her, then looked up at the sky, pushing his unruly hair out of his eyes.

Ashley closed the laptop, and looked up at the ceiling.

“Oh, Santiago, I’m going to find you.” She whispered, closing her eyes.

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