In Pieces – Prologue

Ashleigh Dane sat smiling in the centre of a sea of people. She was in her now fiancées house, at their engagement party.

She was a short girl, only about 5’3. Her blonde hair was cut short, layered and falling just above the frame of her face. At 25 years old, she felt as though her life was finally becoming complete. She had an enjoyable job owning and managing a local coffee shop, and was about to get married to a man she’d been with for the past three years.

They say everyone has skeletons in their closet, but Ashleigh didn’t think that everything was worth sharing. Especially when they were things she’d much rather forget about. Everyone has secrets and regrets, things they wish they hadn’t done, or things they loved so much, that it was painful to talk about and just easier to forget.

That Saturday afternoon at her soon to be In-Laws house, Ashleigh mingled with the guests, discussed with her friends the finer points of the upcoming wedding, such as what colour the chairs were going to be, and what kind of dessert would be served; you know, the important things. She was genuinely happy, something that she never thought she’d feel again eight years prior.

Her best friend, Joey was also in attendance. The two of them had known each other since they were in the sixth grade. They’d always been in sync with each other, always having the same interests and while some friends grew apart as they grew older, Joey and Ashleigh just grew closer.

It was no surprise that Joey had already been cooking up ideas for Ashleigh’s bachelorette party. So when she’d heard on the radio that their most beloved Backstreet Boys were coming to town she’d figured it was the perfect thing for them to do together.

Still, she wasn’t sure how Ashleigh would take the news that she’d got her hands on a couple of front row tickets to their show. Sure, Ashleigh still bought their CDs on release day, and if they happened to be on television she’d sit and watch. However, when they’d come to Minneapolis for their Never Gone tour, Ashleigh hadn’t batted an eye. She didn’t make a mention of the concert at all.

It was quite a change from the boys last world tour before their comeback. Ashleigh and Joey had taken upon themselves to follow the boys for their summer off, see a few shows and follow their tourbus to the next city. They did what any fan would do back in those days, they stood outside hotels, ditched their concert seats at the stadium and tried to sneak into better ones, attempted to pull strings to get backstage, the works.

For the first few shows anyway. Until they ran into Nick and AJ at a club after a show. That made things a little more interesting, and far more luxurious than sleeping in the back of Joey’s brother’s borrowed car in a Wal*Mart parking lot the morning after arriving in the next stop.

I’m getting a little ahead of myself here, where were we? Oh, that’s right, the engagement party.

Joey pulled Ashleigh aside from posing for pictures with Matt, the adoring fiancée.

“What’s up?” Ashleigh asked, still beaming. “Are you having fun? Matt’s mom makes good food, doesn’t she?”

Joey grinned, unable to keep a straight face. She was unable to contain her excitement, excitement that Ashleigh had mistaken for giddiness about her engagement. “I’ve got a surprise for you.” She said devilishly.

“Oh?” Ashleigh asked, wondering what Joey was talking about. Joey was never one to be able to keep her mouth shut.

“You might hate me for this but, consider it as possibly your last act as a single woman.” Joey winked, handing her best friend a card.

Ashleigh raised an eyebrow as she opened the card. “You mean a bachelorette party?” She said.

“Something like that.” Joey replied, eager to see Ashleigh’s reaction.

Ashleigh, after what seemed like an eternity to Joey, finally opened the card and peered inside. “Oh God.” She breathed, not knowing what to think. She was sure whether she should be ecstatic or irritated. She had just gotten engaged, and now Joey was taking her to a Backstreet Boys concert? Much less, seating the two of them in the front row, where Nick would clearly be able to see her.

Joey smirked, Ashleigh hadn’t thrown the card back in her face, which was obviously a good sign.

Ashleigh took a couple of seconds to stare at the concert tickets that lay in her hands. Those skeletons I mentioned earlier? Backstreet Boys was definitely high on Ashleigh’s regret and forget list. “How did you get these?” She whispered, not wanting to draw attention to herself.

“Aaron works at Ticketmaster.” Joey said passively. “So? Do you like?”

Ashleigh laughed a little. Joey’s older brother was always pulling strings for them and helping them out, especially in their Backstreet Boys related endeavors. “I…guess.” She stammered, unsure of what to say. She didn’t want to upset her friend, especially after the trouble she’d probably gone through to get these tickets for them. But she wasn’t sure, was Nick really a part of her past she was ready to dredge up? Especially after it had taken her so long to forget about him?

Ashleigh sighed, thinking that going to their concert probably wouldn’t cause any hassle, Nick probably wouldn’t even notice her there, and if he did, it was unlikely that he would recognize her. The concert might be good, bringing things in her life full circle. This might give her some closure, and afterwards perhaps she wouldn’t feel the need to listen to those CDs every day. “The concert’s in a week.” Was all she could manage.

“Yeah, gives you time to get yourself mentally prepared.” Joey giggled, knowing that Ashleigh would be worried about the Nick situation. That was typical, even though it had been eight years ago, Ashleigh never was one to let things go.

“Uh huh.” She said, lost in her thoughts and memories of the last time she’d held Backstreet Boys concert tickets in her hand.

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