DISCLAIMER: South of Nowhere and its characters are the property of The N network, no infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Dedicated to Isabella, in honor of her birthday. July 20th, 2007
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
"Is it on?" Ashley asked as she turned the video camera to face herself. "Yep there's the little light helllllllo little light!" she said with a big, toothy grin.
The camera quickly whipped around to catch Spencer rolling her eyes. She was sitting on the edge of the bed, her feet on the floor, torso leaning inwards, her left hand supporting her as she played with some lint in front of her with her right hand. "Could you be any more goofy?"
"If I wasn't goofy, you wouldn't love me." Spencer stared down at the lint and smiled a private smile, her hair falling in her face, concealing her away. "So come on talk!" Ashley chided.
"What else, silly?" Ashley again turned the camera on herself and smiled a big, cheesy grin. "ME!" She turned the camera back on Spencer.
"Haven't we played this game once already?"
"No. That was about virginity, this is about, as I just said, me."
"And we're doing this why again?" Spencer asked, her face quizzical.
"Because, for the tenth time, I'm going with Kyla to Baltimore to meet her friends, and I want you with me."
"That's why they invented cell phones, you know. You can call me any ole time" she said with a dismissive wave of her hand.
"Yeah, but when I call you, I don't get to see your blue eyes."
A slight rose-coloring passed over Spencer's cheeks as she lifted her right hand to brush her hair behind her ear. A soft, almost in-audible, "Okay," escaped her lips.
"Okay, I'll do your stupid video!" Spencer barked out with a laugh.
"Great, so start talking!"
Spencer swung her legs onto the bed, crossing them in front of her. She reached over with her left hand, grabbing a large, ever-so girly, pillow and pulled it into her lap, hugging it to her chest as she bent forward. "I don't know what to say!"
"How about " Ashley stuck her tongue out of the right corner of her mouth, cocked her head, and looked at the ceiling, "Oh, I know!" She looked directly back at Spencer, her eyes forming narrow slits, her face stern. "Tell me what you thought of me the first time we met! GO!"
"The VERY first time?"
"Okay after the little bitchfest at the lockers like later in the gym and when I took you around town, showing you the sights."
"You remember the whole day, don't you?"
"Yeah I remember everything when it comes to you," Spencer replied, her voice soft.
Ashley lifted her gaze from the camera's screen, staring directly into Spencer's eyes; they locked gazes for a moment, their 'windows to the soul' doing all of the talking for them. There was an extended beat of the unified heart before Spencer finally cleared her throat and looked down at the floor in thought. "Well... I thought at first you were pretty crazy, as in certifiable."
Ashley finally returned to looking at the viewfinder. "Natch, every one thinks that."
"So, I'm unoriginal?"
"No, it's just the air I give off." There was a beat of a pause before she continued. "Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but I seem to remember you getting a pretty good look at my tattoo."
Spencer blushed again. "Yeah, I did, it was kind of hard to miss."
"Oh, you could have missed it; you had to lean back to see it. I think you were trying to check out my ass."
Spencer gulped. "No I I just saw a dark splotch on your back, so I looked."
Ashley's eyebrows knitted together. "Okay so what did you think?"
"That it was pretty but I could never get one."
"Oh, you're so getting one someday."
"Of what? 'Property Of Ashley'?"
"You already have that one it's on your forehead for the whole world to see. We'll get you a better one sometime though."
Spencer smiled. It always made her happy when Ashley referred to plans at some point in the indeterminate future. "Well, we'll just have to see about that, won't we?"
"Oh there's no 'seeing', it's happening." The conversation paused, the question answered, the banter lulled. "So what about when we were out riding around?"
"It was fun. With all the craziness of moving, I hadn't had time to just hang out with someone in ages. It was nice to do that again and I liked seeing the places that interested you, it was a quick way to learn a lot more about you."
"Yeah you learned a lot about me that day " Ashley said, her voice trailing off as if lost in thought.
"Yeah the hand. I mean yeah, I liked you, and I had just taken you out in a friendly manner, and I don't THINK I put my hand over yours on purpose, but it just happened, ya know?"
Spencer's face got all serious for a moment. She stared directly into the lens, obviously deep in a thought. "Ask me about the hand," she finally said abruptly.
"Ask me how I felt about the hand!"
There was a knock on the door. "Spencer? Can I bring some laundry in?"
Both girls rolled their eyes, Ashley quickly dropped the video camera down to her right, concealing it with her leg. "Yeah, Mom," Spencer replied.
Paula opened the door, always nervous about coming in her daughter's room since she had caught her and Ashley together. She smiled at Spencer as she carried in an armful of shirts. She looked at Ashley, their eyes locked, neither smiling, Paula finally conceded and said, "Ashley," with a little nod of her head.
"Paula," was the non-committal reply.
Both girls could tell their clothes were getting a quick once over for any signs of intimate involvement being interrupted by her arrival. Spencer blushed, Ashley smirked.
"So " Paula said, turning to the dresser to put away the freshly laundered clothes, "what are you girls up to today?"
Spencer cleared her throat as Ashley rolled her eyes. "Well, Mom, Ashley's going to Baltimore for a week with Kyla to meet all of her friends and see where she lived."
Paula spun around so fast Ashley thought she was going to end up with a case of whiplash. "Really, Ashley?"
Ashley smirked, squinted her eyes, and tilted her head to the side. "Yeah Paula, that's right, no big, bad Ashley corrupting your daughter for a whole week."
"Ashley!" Spencer growled.
Taking a deep breath, Ashley looked to the floor, and coughed. "Sorry reflex." She shook her hair out and looked back up at Paula. "Yeah Kyla wants me to meet all her friends, so we're going for a week."
Paula was still basking in the after-glow of, once again, getting Ashley's ire up. "Well, I think that's a great idea. She's learned all about your life, it's time you learned about hers."
Ashley turned more towards Paula. "Yeah, it was her idea, but I have to agree, I'd like to learn more about her.
"Well, I hope you have a fun time," Paula said as cordially as she could. As she turned to leave, her eyes caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a video camera down to the side of Ashley's leg. It had been out of sight until she had turned towards her more. She opted to say nothing, not wanting to alienate her daughter further by having her watch, yet another 'Inquisition of Ashley', as they had come to be known in the Carlin household.
With a nod to each girl, and a plastered on smile, Paula left to do more household chores.
Ashley glared at the door, burning holes in it with her eyes as she shook her head.
"She's trying, Ashley."
"Wise up, Spence. She and I are never going to be best buddies."
"Come on let's finish up the video, okay?"
Ashley took a deep breath and raised the video camera again, bringing her girlfriend into focus once more. "Alright where were we?"
"I was telling you to ask me about that afternoon and your hand."
"Oh yeah well obviously you have something you want to say about it, why don't you just say it?"
"Well let me ask you something first. When we kept looking at each other, and then you moved your hand away why did you?"
"Why did I move it?"
"Because I could tell it was freaking you out, doofus."
"What if I told you it wasn't a freak out, but, instead, it was more, I was surprised?"
Ashley's brow furrowed. "What do you mean?"
"I mean it didn't bother me that your hand was there, I was just surprised, was all. We had talked about boys, so I had kind of assumed you were straight."
"Oh so you hadn't picked up any clues I liked girls as well as guys then?"
"No, I hadn't, not until that moment."
"All this time I thought I had freaked you out, but you were really just surprised?"
"Yeah " Spencer looked down for a moment, her hands fidgeting with the pillow "but it was "
"It was more that I thought " Spencer looked up again, directly into the lens, "I thought maybe I had finally found someone who had the same thoughts I had."
Ashley's head snapped up from the view screen, her jaw dropping. "You mean "
"That I had these thoughts about girls before? Yeah, but it was more I knew I noticed pretty girls, and I liked being around girls, but I thought it was more just that 'girl bonding' type stuff, you know?" Spencer replied, crinkling her nose and squinting her eyes.
Ashley didn't know what to say or do; this news had set her head to spinning. "I thought "
Spencer set the pillow aside and unfolded her legs to pull her knees to her chest. "That you had turned me? That you had made me this way?"
Ashley gulped. "Yeah."
"No I mean, yes, you helped me be more sure it's what I really wanted, but I would be lying if I said I had never noticed girls before and hadn't wondered what it must be like to be with one."
As dumbfounded as Ashley was, she turned her attention back to the viewfinder, keeping her mouth shut and just wanting Spencer to say whatever came to her mind. A million things raced through her own head, but this was, unexpectedly, Spencer's time to spread her wings and deal with her own feelings and motivations.
Spencer turned her head to the left, staring out the window of her room. There was a long silence, the only sound a lone tree branch scraping against her window in the summer breeze. A sly, wistful smile started to creep across her face. "Laura," she said. "I think she was the first time I felt something different."
"When was that?" Ashley asked in a voice barely above a whisper.
She turned to look back into the camera, tilting her head to the right, her hair falling over her shoulder. "Don't laugh."
"First grade she was my best friend. And all I can remember, and it only happened once, was feeling this overwhelming motivation to kiss her."
Ashley's expression stayed flat, her eyes locked on the view screen, but silently screaming inside her own head with so many questions for Spencer. Each new revelation was opening another flood gate of her own befuddlement.
"We were on the swings, and I looked over at her, she was giggling " Spencer's eyes glazed over, her memory obviously going back to another time, another place, "her blonde hair was flying out behind her as she'd swing up and as she came down, it would wrap around her face, hiding her. And it was like this flash a revelation of 'Wow I want to kiss her.'."
Spencer chuckled and looked down at the bed again. "No of course not. I mean, I thought it, but then I just thought 'Oh, friends don't kiss and we're just friends!' It wasn't until several years later that I realized what it might have really been."
"Or it could have just been innocent."
"Yeah " Spencer's voice hushed and she looked back up into the camera, her head still tilted, "but it wasn't."
"Wow so you think you've actually always been this way?"
"I guess so I mean how do you know?" her eyebrows knitted together, her eyes squinting. "It would explain a lot, you know?"
"Like your dismal first time in that barn?"
Spencer blushed, but grinned at the same time. "Yeah, like that, and why I so wasn't into it once we got in there."
"The way you made it sound, it was like he was the one to blame for it being so short."
"Well, yeah, he was too excited, but I also just wasn't into it, and at the time I didn't realize why. Now I think I do." She stared off into space, her words trailing off towards the end.
Ashley studied her, letting her have her moment, not wanting to intrude on something she was obviously still wrestling with internally.
Spencer finally shook her head, snapping out of her thoughts. "Okay, that got like WAY too serious," she said with a laugh.
"I thought you were going to start quoting philosophers or something next," Ashley said with a smile, trying to lighten the mood.
"Yeah, yeah come on, what else do you want me to say for this oh-so-important video?"
Ashley looked around the room, her expression blank, as she tried to think of a new subject for Spencer to discuss. "Mmmm, how about how much you'll miss me?"
Spencer lowered her head and looked up through her eyelashes at the camera lens, the corners of her mouth dancing with mischief. "You know I'll miss you every minute of every day."
Ashley's grin was enormous and full of pride. "I'll miss you too hold on! I got an idea!"
"I'll alert the media."
"Smart ass," Ashley said as she walked over to the TV at the foot of Spencer's bed and placed the camera on top of it. She zoomed the lens in on Spencer, and ran over to join her on the bed. She entered from the side opposite of where Spencer sat, and crawled slowly, on all fours, towards her girlfriend.
Spencer turned to face her, but leaned back as if trying to get away from an obnoxious odor. "What are you doing?"
"Shhhh, come here."
"Because I said to," she said with a grin and a twinkle in her eye.
Spencer smiled back and leaned forward, their heads meeting in the middle. They paused, their eyes darting back and forth, studying each other, losing themselves, before they leaned in for a passionate kiss in the middle of Spencer's bed and the middle of the video camera's lens.
After several minutes, they broke apart, smiling at each other before Spencer finally said "Come here," and placed her left arm around Ashley's neck to pull her down on the bed with her. They laid there, facing each other, Spencer on her left side, propping up her head with the corresponding hand. Ashley mirrored her, laying on her right.
They were content in their silence to just lie there, studying one another, trying not to forget a single detail of the other's face. While a week may not seem long to most, to two teenagers in love, no matter what their orientation, it would seem like an eternity to them.
Spencer's eyes traced down the length of Ashley's body until she spotted what she was looking for, her eyes flashed back up to Ashley's as she bit her lower lip. Her eyes darted back to whatever her target was and she grabbed Ashley's left hand with her right.
Ashley started to pull away, more from shock than anything else, but then it dawned on her this was a replay of their first afternoon, lying in her bed together, when their hands accidentally touched. There was no uncertainty this time though, Spencer knew what she wanted, and she was going to have it.
Their hands hung suspended in the space between their stomachs, each grasping tightly to the other. This was their bond, their pact, their unbreakable thread that now bound them together. Still neither found a reason to speak, just to stare and enjoy the visage of the other.
It was Ashley who wiggled her fingers first; moving to place them between Spencer's paler, welcoming digits. They both looked down at the new sight, then back to each other, smiling.
Hand holding had a whole new meaning to them after their conversation just a short while before. They leaned towards one another again; their mutual kiss was soft, and tender, more mature and content than their usual passion-enflaming embraces. No, this was something new and different; a whole new level of intimacy had been achieved, all thanks to a hastily made video so one would not forget the other.
On the other side of the room, the video camera made a clicking noise, indicating the tape was at an end. Ashley arched her right eyebrow, "Guess that mean's we're done here, huh?"
"Nice try I'll never be done with you."
Ashley threw her head back shaking out her hair, "I bet you say that to all the girls!" a small chuckle noticeable in her voice.
"Oh yeah, that's me, I woo 'em, and then I leave 'em."
There was a light knocking on the door. "Spencer?"
Both the girls rolled their eyes as Spencer rolled out of bed and opened the door. "Yeah, Mom?"
Paula peeked over Spencer's shoulder, making a face at the sight of Ashley lying in her daughter's bed, waving back at her with a wide smirk on her face. "It's time for dinner if if Ashley would like to stay, we have more than enough."
Spencer's face displayed numerous emotions in a very short span of time as she turned her head to look over her shoulder at Ashley. "You want to?"
Ashley's jaw hung open. "Um sure if you're sure that's alright."
"Spencer, why don't you go downstairs and set the table, I'd like to talk to Ashley for a minute alone."
Letting out a sigh, Ashley sat up on the bed and turned to face Paula. Spencer shot her a concerned look, but Ashley just smiled and said, "Go set the table we'll be down in a minute."
Spencer looked from Ashley, to her mom, and then back to her girlfriend. "Okay don't be too long."
Paula walked further into the room and waited for Spencer to walk out in the hall and close the door. There was no sound of footsteps that followed though. "Go on, Spencer, I know you're standing there." There was a soft grunt followed by footsteps.
"What do you want, Paula?"
"I have a confession to make," she said as she leaned back against the door, folded her arms, and looked down at the floor. "When I was in here earlier, I saw the video camera you were holding and I've been standing outside listening."
Ashley felt her heart skip a beat, trying to remember everything that was said since Paula had left the room. "And?"
"And, I have to admit, all this time I thought you were to blame I didn't know it went so far back with her."
"Did you ever think to ask?"
Paula looked up, her eyes squinting, her speech punctuated with exaggerated head movements. "Oh yeah, Ashley, because she and I have been so close lately, I was sure she would open up to me."
"No reason to get snippy, Paula."
Her expression softened. "Sorry look I know I shouldn't have listened in, but I worry about her."
"Because she's with me."
"I'm not going to sugar-coat it, but yes, because she's with you."
Ashley got off the bed and walked over to stand directly in front of Paula. "I give you my word, Paula, I will never do anything to hurt her."
"Intentionally, you mean."
Ashley squinted, her teeth clenched, and she stepped even closer to Paula before she launched into her defense. "Yeah, because un-intentional never happens in straight relationships does it, Paula? I mean, every straight person always ends up with their first love, don't they? Everything is just peaches and cream for all those perfectly well-adjusted, no dysfunctional traits, straight people. Please give me a break, will ya? I have no plans to hurt Spencer. And un-intentionally? How can anyone plan for that? You can't. So worry about Spence all you want, but don't use me as your scapegoat for what may, or may not, happen to her in this life. And as for listening in? Yeah, you shouldn't have, and you suck for doing it, but if it makes you finally realize what your daughter's been going through for a long time now, then maybe, just maybe, something can be salvaged out of you messing with us again and again."
"Are you done?"
"With you? Yes. With your daughter? Never."
Paula took a deep breath. "I can't believe I'm about to say this, but you're right."
Ashley felt her knees go weak, but she maintained.
"I should have talked to her, I should have asked her a lot more questions when I learned about the two of you, but the way I learned " her voice trailed off for a moment, and Ashley's cheeks visibly turned red as she thought back to Paula walking in on them as they were about to make love, "I over reacted and I handled it badly. I admit it."
"Yeah, you did, but you have to remember something, no matter how hard you've been on us, Spencer still loves you. Nothing I do can ever change that, and I wouldn't ever try. You're her mom, and " Ashley rolled her eyes to the ceiling, "and I can't believe I'm about to say this " she looked Paula directly in the eyes, "you're a good mom, yeah, you've pulled some crap, but it was always out of love."
Paula felt tears welling up in her eyes. "Do you think I can fix it with her?"
Ashley smiled warmly, seeing the impact her words were having. "Yeah I really do. But you have to talk to her, don't just keep assuming you understand this, because you don't."
"I want my little girl back, Ashley."
"She never went anywhere, Paula. She's the exact same person she was before she met me, and that is apparently a much gayer girl than either of us knew."
Paula let out a little laugh. "You may be right." Paula reached up and wiped at the corners of her eyes. "Listen we should get downstairs to dinner, but how about when you get back from Baltimore, the three of us go out to dinner some night?"
"I'll say yes on one condition."
"Oh lord what?"
"While I'm gone this week, you have an actual talk with her about who she is, and that you'll work on loving her the way you used to."
"I still love her Ashley, nothing can stop that."
"But does she know that?"
Paula paused for a moment, uncertain of the answer, and that bothered her. "Touché, Ashley, touché." She moved forward and opened the door to the hallway, they walked out together, and when they started down the stairs, there was a rather obvious flash of blonde hair running back to the dining room.
One Week Later Baltimore
"You're going to see her tomorrow night, do you have to stare into that stupid little view screen again?"
"Yes, Kyla I do," she said without looking up.
Kyla was in bed, Ashley on the floor next to it. The room was dark except for the glow of the viewfinder dancing across her face. Even with her in-ear earphones playing Spencer's voice in her head, she heard Kyla give out a long sigh and roll over in bed. She didn't care. This was her nightly ritual since they arrived. She had to watch the video every night before sleep, and always pause it in the same spot.
"It's coming up now," she thought, "Spencer is pulling me down to the bed her eyes looking me over there she went for the hand, and " She clicked pause just as their fingers interlaced.
This was beautiful to her, intricate, it was their feelings for each other made manifest. Such a simple gesture, made daily by couples the world over, but to them it meant more; to them it was a connection to that first day they met, that awkward moment in Ashley's bed. Holding hands meant as much to them now as sex did to other people.
She rolled onto her side, placing the video camera in front of her. She wanted to go to sleep with this being the last thing she saw, these tangled fingers of theirs, this joining of young souls that had already faced so many trials, and was sure to face more.
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