In Pieces – Chapter 23

The next morning, Ashleigh and Joey had said their final goodbyes before getting in Aaron’s car and setting off on the road back to Minnesota. They were both less than happy about this, as it meant that their summer was finally over.

Throughout their trip, Joey had been somewhat annoyed with Ashleigh. This was supposed to have been a time for them to celebrate being finished High School, and moving on to a new chapter of their life. Instead Ashleigh had spent the summer fooling around with a boy who Joey knew was probably never going to talk to her again.

Yet, she couldn’t be angry as they silently drove. Ashleigh sat in the passengers seat staring out the side window. Occasionally she would wipe her eyes with the back of her hand. The silence was making the tension worse, and Joey glanced at the pile of CDs beside her.

She wasn’t sure if Backstreet Boys music was really a good idea. She flipped through a couple more CDs… Ashleigh didn’t really like Aaron Carter, but Joey figured it might make her laugh.

Joey popped the disc into the stereo and started to sing along to the cheesy music. “I always tried to be the flyest kid on the block, the popular one with the rising stock. So that’s when I had this bright idea, throw the party of the month-”

“Nah! The party of the year!” Ashleigh chimed in. As much as she adored Nick, she’d never been a fan of Aaron’s. She and Joey had always taken every chance they’d had to make fun of him.

The two girls laughed as they continued to sing along to the CD. Ashleigh began to feel a little better, though she was still depressed. Leaving Nick was not something she had mentally prepared herself for. Every time someone had mentioned them going home and going to school, Ashleigh had pushed the thought to the back of her mind. She didn’t think that the day was ever going to arrive.

“Why do you have this?” Ashleigh asked skeptically.

Joey shrugged. The CD wasn’t hers, it was part of her brother’s collection. “I think someone gave to Aaron as a gag gift. You know, ‘Aaron’s Party’.” She said.

Ashleigh nodded. She turned to look back out the window. She’d felt a little happier after a few minutes, and then the sadness returned.

“It’ll be okay, Ash.” Joey said, trying to cheer her up. “We’ll start university and we’ll make a bunch of new friends. It’ll be fun.”

Ashleigh shook her head and stared at her feet. “I don’t want a bunch of new friends. I only want Nick.”

Joey looked at her friend sadly. She didn’t think there was anything she could say that would make Ashleigh feel better. Instead she just listened.

“I love him.” Ashleigh continued, starting to cry again. “God, I love him so much.”

“I know, Ash.” Joey said quietly. How heartbreaking this was. Ashleigh had fallen in love for the first time, only to have her heart broken a couple of months later. By her idol, no less.

“I’m never going to see him again, am I?” Ashleigh asked, not really wanting to believe what she thought to be true. “This is it, isn’t it?”

Joey shook her head. She didn’t want to tell Ashleigh that she knew Nick was probably never going to call her, but she also didn’t want to give her friend false hope. “I don’t know.”

Ashleigh sighed. “I mean, we spent two months together. It was fun, I thought it was fun. He’ll call me right? Why wouldn’t he want to?” Ashleigh tried to rationalize the thoughts in her head. Nick had been nothing but sweet to her. In her eyes, all she saw was perfection when it came to him.

Joey bit her lip. She hoped that for Ashleigh’s sake, Nick would call her. Otherwise, Joey didn’t really know what was going to happen. Imagine meeting and falling in love with your idol, only to have them break your heart.

Joey just listened as Ashleigh reminisced about her time with Nick. Was there going to be any way she would be able to get over him?

“That time that his bus broke down…do you remember that?” Ashleigh spoke quickly, feeling that the only way not to be upset about having to leave would be to re-live the entire summer. “That was so funny! Remember when we played I’ve Never? I love that game… this time was way more fun than when we used to play it with Kate and Jen.” Ashleigh babbled.

Joey couldn’t help but smile. She’d had quite a bit of fun that summer herself, even though it wasn’t with Ashleigh. Still, she was also looking forward to starting University. She’d known that their summer had been just that – a summer. Ashleigh had felt as though she was going to spend the rest of her life with Nick. As ridiculous as Joey thought that was, she still felt awful for her friend.

Ashleigh continued to ramble for a good portion of the trip home. There were times when she’d be struck with a pang of sadness, but she pushed it aside feeling as though this was only a short separating and in time she and Nick would be together again.

By the time the girls arrived back home, they were both exhausted. Joey quickly dropped off Ashleigh at her house. As it was late when they finally made it back, everyone was asleep and the house was quiet. Silently, before heading to bed, Ashleigh picked up the phone and dialed Nick’s cell number.

There was no answer.

Not thinking too much of it, as it was quite late, Ashleigh figured he was probably asleep. She left a quick message on his voicemail letting him know that she’d safely gotten home and then headed to sleep herself.

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