#12: Ashley, Part 1

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“I had the weirdest dream.” Ashley told Tracy, who kept looking at her phone.

“Oh yeah? What about?” Tracy looked up.
“Well, I was at a campfire on the beach. Grace was there, and this boy… oh, and you and Adele were an item!” She gaged Tracy’s reaction carefully.
“We were? Oh!” She looked down, blushing a deep red, a smile twitching at the corners of her mouth.
“You were.” Ashley confirmed, and grinned. “How about in real life, huh?” She raised her eyebrows.
“Oh! Um, I… no… I mean…” She dropped her phone and blushed more. 
“That told me everything.” 
“Oh God, don’t tell the others, Ley-Ley.” Tracy scrunched her frizzy black hair up in her fingers.
“Why not, Trace?” Ashley was surprised. They never kept secrets from each other.
“I’m kind of afraid they’ll call me a dyke… and Adele.” She looked up, eyes wide.
“You think what!?” Ashley sat up straight, and grabbed Tracy’s shoulders. “Trace, look at me. My parents are gay, you know. I’m bisexual, for Pete’s sake! And I have my suspicions about Jock. Why on earth are you afraid to tell them? Us?” 
“Honestly?” Tracy pushed her hair back, looking sad. “I’m scared that Alice might find out.”
“Oh, Trace, I’m sorry.” Ashley knew it was because of her. Alice would stop at nothing to hurt her, and that meant she delighted in attacking her friends.
“No, it’s totally not your fault. And you know what, I think I’ll tell the others tonight.” Tracy hugged her.
All of them were together: Riana, Tank, Jock, Penny, Tracy, Grace, Yasmeen, Laura and Adele. Ashley was surrounded by her friends, happy and maybe a little bit tipsy. They were all hanging out in the park, in the playground. Sitting on swings, on the grass, the slide, the tiny climbing frame. Tank, who was the eldest, had bought a lot of cheap beer, and they’d all had some by now. Grace and Yasmeen were in a heated discussion about the best way to dye your hair, Laura and Penny were quizzing Jock on his food and drink preferences, Tank and Riana were cuddled up by the slide, and Tracy was standing up, Adele at her feet laughing. 
“ATTENTION!!!” Tracy yelled. She’s had more beer than the rest of them. Everyone turned to her expectantly, and Adele was blushing. “I would like to announce something.” She grinned, making sure she had everyone’s utmost attention, and then spoke. “I am officially a lesbian!!!” She yelled the last bit extra loud, and everybody cheered.
“Yaaayyy, go Tracy!!!”
“Slayyy, Trace!”
“That’s awesome!!”
“We’re proud of you!!!”
“I want to announce something as well.” Adele stood up next to Tracy, and took her hand, smiling. “I am also a lesbian!!” This was received with more cheers, and a few whoops.
“WE LOVE YOU BOTH!!!”
“THEY’RE SO CUTE TOGETHER!!!!”
“Go on! Give her a kiss, Trace!!!”
“Yeah, come on, Adele! Kiss her!”
“Alright, all right!” Tracy laughed, then turned and gave Adele a kiss. Everyone went crazy, and ran over to hug them. Soon a massive group hug was formed, everyone smushed into each other, laughing, and a couple of them were crying with laughter.
Everyone else started yelling out their sexualities, and they all fell back on the grass, everyone holding hands with someone. Ashley was holding hands with Tracy and Jock, smiling up at the sky. Here she was, with all of her nine amazing friends around her, new and old. Soon she was going to travelling, meet tons of new people and have a mad adventure. She played her life like a film through her head, and tears of happiness and only some sadness filled her eyes. She sent hugs and love back through time to her younger self, and closed her eyes, focusing on the present. 
“You okay?” Jock was squeezing her hand. She turned her head to the side, meeting his eyes, and smiled.
“I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my whole life.” She answered truthfully, and he grinned back at her.
“Same here. I never saw myself with so many friends, but here I am, with you guys.” He stared at her, and she stared back. They stayed like that until it started raining, and they all screeched and hollered, breaking the chain of hand-holding and running for shelter. They separated as the rain got harder, so hard they could barely see through it. They all shouted their goodbyes and ran off to their homes. Ashley and Penny raced each other, both reaching the door at the same time.
“I saw you making eyes at Jock last night.” Laura gave her a knowing smile, swooshing her mop around.
“You did? I thought you were too busy looking at your own crush.” Ashley laughed, wiping the table over and setting the napkins back down.
“Ha, Tank? No way, he’s so in love with Riana. Anyway, you dodged my question.” 
“Sorry. My hangover is so bad. I thought I was tipsy but it turns out I drank more than I thought.” 
“First time?” Laura laughed when Ashley nodded. “Your first hangover is a killer. So, you like him?”
“It sure is.” She clutched her head. “Do I like Jock? Yeah, I’ve always liked him. Nothing between us though, I think he might be gay.” 
“Oh, he is SO not gay, honey. No boy can look at a girl like that if he prefers guys.” Laura dumped her mop bucket behind the counter. “Gimme that cloth.” She demanded, holding out her hand.
“We were both drunk.” Ashley handed her cloth over obligingly. “And besides. I’m going away soon. Not like he’ll come with me, is it?” 
“He just might. And I heard him say he was straight when the big getting out of the closet fiasco was going on.” She scrubbed at the counter, and huffed. “What does that girl put on this counter? It’s all sticky!”
“Sticky, hey?” Ashley wiggled her eyebrows, and they both laughed. “Did you really hear him say that? I don’t remember who said what.”
“Oh yeah, he said it alright. I doubt he’s a closet case.” Laura stopped scrubbing and dropped her cloth, rubbing her hands together. “I think that should do it! Flip the open sign, would you?” 
“Sure thing.” Ashley had only just turned the sign around before Yasmeen came bouncing in.
“HELLO, WAITRESSES!!!” She twirled over to Ashley and gave her a hug, while Laura looked on in amusement.
“If your hangover is anything like mine, I have no idea why you’re looking so cheerful.” Ashley hugged her back, laughing.
“Why are you so happy, Yaz?” Laura asked, and got hugged.
“Okay, well, this won’t be very exciting to you, but my mother is getting me a puppy for Christmas!” Yasmeen danced around the tables excitedly.
“Oh my God! I am SO jealous. I’m gonna have to wait ages until I can get a dog – my dad’s allergic and I need a steady income, whatever that means.” Laura pulled a sad face, then grinned. “But holy crap, I am so happy for you! You’ve wanted one forever, haven’t you?” 
“I have! Mum can look after it for me when I’m at work, so mum gets company, I get a dog! It’s perfect!” Yasmeen jumped up on the stool behind the counter.
“I’m more of a cat person myself, but I’m very happy for you!” Ashley saluted her.
“UGH, my brain is moving around in my skull.” Adele announced her arrival with a grumble, and all three of them nodded in solidarity.
“Oh dear, here’s our first customers.” Yasmeen stage whispered.
“I’ll serve them.” Ashley volunteered, trying to ignore the banging of her head.

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