#15: Ashley, Part 2

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“France is weird.” Ashley announced, as they were getting off the ferry.

“May I ask why?” Grace panted, dragging her bike awkwardly.
“It just is.” Ashley replied. “Only you would get a puncture on a ferry, Grace.” She giggled.
“Hey! It’s not funny! I was planning to breeze into France with style, but my plans have been foiled!” Grace stuck her tongue out at Ashley and tried not to laugh.
“Well, maybe a handsome French gu- Grace.” Ashley stopped, looking at something.
“What?” Grace looked up, and registered the handsome guy walking their way. “Merde.” She whispered under her breath, then smiled.
“Bonjour!” The guy started to say.
“Perdon, parlez-vous Anglais?” Grace interrupted him.
“Haha, I knew you’d both freak. I’m American, just came from England, but I got a puncture getting on the ferry.” He smiled and held up a puncture repair kit. “I’ve just fixed mine, and I saw yours, so figured I could help.”
“Oh! Wow, that’s so kind of you, thank you!” Ashley smiled back at him.
“It really is. Thank you so much.” Grace went to take the repair kit.
“I can do it for you if you like?” He offered.
“Seriously? You’re like my angel.” Grace laughed at him.
“Well, it’s all good karma, I guess, although I don’t care about that very much.” 
He walked them over to where his bike was, and turned Grace’s upside down, getting to work. Ashley watched while Grace turned on full flirt mode, and wondered what Stefan would think. The poor guy had gone back home, and was working non-stop to be back here with Grace, while she flirted with blonde Americans here. It didn’t seem fair. She disliked that part of Grace, but who was she to judge? She hadn’t exactly been a saint in her time. Interestingly, the guy, who had introduced himself as Alex, didn’t seem interested in Grace, and kept looking at Ashley. 
“Kum-bayyy-aaaaaaa…” Grace sung, strumming lazily on her guitar.
“Wow, so profound.” Alex laughed, picking a tune on his own.
“I feel left out without an instrument over here, you hippies.” Ashley chucked some wood on the fire, poking Grace.
“Can you play?” Alex asked her, offering his guitar to her.
“A little bit.” She took it, playing a few chords. 
“So, Alex, if you have a guitar, then surely you can sing?” Grace asked him.
“Perhaps I can.” Alex shrugged.
“Let’s make up a song.” Ashley started playing, finding a pattern.
“You start.” Grace started plucking on the low strings, making a bass line.
“Grace got a puncture on the ferry…” Ashley started singing. Grace tutted, but sang along.
“Alex got a puncture getting on the ferry…” She grinned, looking at Alex.
“I met two weird girls on bikes…” Alex had an amazing voice.
They sung until they couldn’t stop laughing, and collected wood together for their fire. They were on a pretty little camping place next to a lake, on a pebble beach. Alex also had a tent, and they had ended up riding there together. They had dinner together and started an impressive campfire. 
“I’m going in.” Ashley said, emerging from the tent wearing a different eye patch and a swimming costume. 
“Really? Crap! I’m coming, wait for me!” Grace put her guitar in its case and dived into their tent.
“You’re not really going in, are you?” Alex eyed the water warily, going to stand next to her.
“I’m not, we are.” Ashley laughed at him, and grabbed his hand, trying to drag him in the water.
“AAAAH! Nooooo!” Alex protested, breaking free and running away. 
“Aww, come on, Alex! It’ll be fun!” Ashley put on her best puppy dog eyes. “For meee?” She begged, and he sighed.
“Argh, fine! Let me change.” She did a victory dance while he went in his tent.
“He coming in?” Grace asked, wriggling through the tent door and zipping it back up.
“Yep, I convinced him.” Ashley smiled. Grace walked over to her and whispered into her ear.
“He’s all yours, honey. I’m taken.” She nodded at Ashley to confirm her words, then started walking into the lake. “It’s so warm!!!” She exclaimed.
“Seriously?” Ashley ran over and splashed in next to her. It was freezing. “It’s super warm, Alex!!” She winked at Grace. 
“You’d better not be kidding.” Alex appeared in swimming trunks, pretending to shiver.
“Or else?” Ashley waded in up to her thighs, and then dived under the water like a fish.
“IT’S FREEZING!!!!!!” Alex screeched. “You liars! I’m gonna catch you!” He ran in after them.
“I’m innocent!” Grace yelled, swimming out of his reach.
“Can’t catch me anyway!!” Ashley called, and broke into a speedy front crawl. 
He couldn’t catch her, and after a good few minutes of chasing after her, he admitted defeat. He lay back and floated, staring up at the stars. Grace tickled his feet, and he splashed her. After a while of playing hardcore swim-tag, they all floated together.
“Did you know otters hold hands when they sleep?” Ashley told the others.
“No, seriously? That must be SO cute.” Grace gasped.
“Yeah, they float on their backs and hold… err, paws.” 
“Let’s do that,” Alex suggested, taking Ashley’s hand.
“I think it would be unwise to fall asleep in water this cold.” She replied, grabbing Grace’s hand.
“I’m not falling asleep any time soon.” Grace told them. “I’m on a mad high from this swim.”
In the morning, Ashley opened her eyes with a smile on her face. After they had been holding hands for who knows how long, they had all warmed up around the fire, sung and danced some more, then gone to sleep. She was happy, not only because of Alex, but because this was the life she had always dreamed of living, the fantasy she’d made up as a little girl, and the adventure she planned with Santiago. 
“Hey, lover girl, you’re up.” Grace poked her head in.
“Grace! Keep your voice down! And I am not-“
“You so are. He’s gone to the bakery, I gave him some money and told him to get us croissants.” She crawled in next to Ashley.
“I could murder one of those.”  Ashley moaned, feigning a hangover.
“And soon you will.” Grace was tapping away on her phone.
“Heard from Stefan?” Ashley inquired.
“As a matter of fact, I’m about to call him. Now get up! It’s your turn to take the tent down, by the way.” Grace winked at her, and disappeared out the door.
Ashley rolled her eyes and sat up, getting dressed. After rolling their sleeping bags up, she dragged the panniers out and started taking the tent down. Alex’s was still up, his bike tied to the tree next to it. She smiled to herself, loading up the bikes and digging her phone out her pocket.
“Morning, Ashley.” Alex called, and she looked up.
“Morning! How’s your lake induced hangover?” She asked him.
“My muscles are on complete fire, if that’s what you mean.” He threw a paper bag at her.
“Tut tut, unfit people…” Ashley teased, catching the bag. Inside were two of the biggest croissants she had ever seen.
“Hey! I have cycled here all the way from America, you know. Where’s Grace?” 
“She’s calling her boyfriend.” Ashley bit into a croissant.
“How about you? Neglecting yours?” 
“Ha! That’s what you think of me? Nah, haven’t got one.” 
“We all cycling together today?” 
“Sure thing.”



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