My fists shook as I glared at Justin. "So, what do you have to say now?" The words escaped before I could stop them, but I didn’t regret them. "Don’t you want to blame me some more for causing Abby’s death? Am I still undeserving of having her back?"
"Ash." Carla placed her hand on my shoulder.
"Even if she didn’t have a gun she might have used something else, but the chances are if she used anything else I would’ve gotten to her in time." I fought back the tears threatening to fall. "She died thinking I don’t care about her. I have to live the rest of my life knowing that. So, go on, say what you want about me. It’s nothing I don’t already know."
Justin gave me a long, hard look, his eyes looking darker. Before I could read his face, however, he turned to Carla.
"I didn’t know she knew where I kept it. It was on the top shelf of my closet. She shouldn’t have even been able to reach it. And, she had to have found the key to get in the box."
Carla looked at us both. When she spoke again, her voice cracked, "Neither of you are to blame. Abby was old enough to know what she was doing. This was her choice. So, you two need to stop blaming yourselves and each other, because Abby loved both of you and would hate to see you fighting. Can you at least put your differences aside for her?"
I nodded. I didn’t know about Justin, but for Abby, I would do anything.
That night, I rolled around in bed, trying to get comfortable. I wasn’t sure how long it took to fall asleep, but when I saw a slightly younger version of myself, it was all the confirmation I needed to know sleep won.
I was on Abby’s back porch. Dream Ash stuffed his hands in his pockets and walked away, headed for home. Intense longing and sorrow bubbled inside me at an overwhelming rate. A teardrop rolled down my cheek, and I brushed away a red curl from my face.
Once again, I was Abby.
Dream Ash became blurrier by the second as tears clouded my vision. I knew this scene now. I was reliving the end of the first time I had broken her heart. My knees buckled under the intense pain as the tears turned into gut-wrenching sobs. Yet, Dream Ash continued walking away, as if he couldn’t hear cries from the girl he left behind. But, I knew he could hear her. When I walked away from her, I had heard her, and just like him, I had continued walking.
The moment faded as quickly as it appeared, but as soon as it did, I became lost in another vision. I stood by the gate at the Kelford High football stadium, watching the team sprint onto the field. My—Abby’s—eyes were glued on one person, and when I saw the number forty-two on his jersey, I knew.
Giddiness filled her, but Dream Ash didn’t spare her a glance. Something bumped against her, nearly knocking her over.
The girl—dressed in a cheerleading uniform- rushed toward Dream Ash and he leaned forward and kissed her. Abby’s giddiness diminished as despair took its place. Poor Abby. I could sense her thoughts as if they were my own. She wanted to be her. She wanted to be every girl I ever kissed. She wanted to be every girl I ever held. She wanted to be every girl I ever smiled at. She wanted to be my everything.
The football field faded, along with the crowd, but I had a feeling this was far from over.
I stared at Abby’s reflection in a bathroom mirror.
Rage coursed through her—me-and as soon as her eyes locked on the girl behind her, I knew why.
Brigit watched her, amusement lighting up her green eyes. She looked a couple of years younger, features a little less mature, and her blonde hair reached only her shoulders, not down her back as it did now.
"You may have Ash fooled, but anyone else can see it as plain as day. You have a thing for him."
For a second, I could’ve sworn Abby’s heart stopped.
"I-I don’t know what you’re talking about." Her voice was barely above a whisper.
"Don’t lie, Abby. The first step in getting help is admitting you have a problem."
"Why would you even think that?"
Brigit stepped closer. "I see the way you look at him. That look says you want to get in his pants."
Abby laughed, but it was too forced to be sincere. "You can’t be serious."
"I’m just here to give you a word of advice. Move on. Get over him. He doesn’t want you."
"I don’t want Ash."
She cocked her eyebrow. "I don’t believe you. You’re the world’s worst liar."
"Believe what you want."
Brigit smiled in a way intended to look sweet and innocent, but to Abby, it was one of the scariest things she had ever seen. "Don’t worry. Your secret is safe with me. If I tell Ash, he’ll magically admit he’s in love with you, too, and you two would be all over each other in a split second. You’d have everything you ever wanted, and I’m not about to be the cause of it."
"You don’t have to worry about that. Ash made it perfectly clear he doesn’t want me."
Brigit scoffed. "Oh, you have got to be kidding me! If he knew you were in love with him, he would force himself to fall for you to make you happy."
I woke up, my body trembling and shaking. I couldn’t stop the tears falling from my eyes. What the hell just happened?
I’m here for you, I’ve always been here for you, and I always will be here for you, but just because I love you doesn’t mean you have to make yourself love me, too.
This thought wasn’t mine, but I knew the voice. It was as if Abby was standing beside me, whispering the words straight to my brain.
I lay down again, but sleeping was impossible. Abby’s words repeated over and over in my mind. She was here. She had to be. She was always there for me, no matter how much I didn’t deserve it.
But, what did she mean about making myself love her? Was that what she thought? How was that even possible? Besides, why would I purposely put myself through the pain of loving someone I could never be with? I would just have to prove to her I was serious.
Abby deserved something in return for putting up with me for so long. She deserved justice for what happened. She deserved to know she wouldn’t be forgotten.
I went to her room and rummaged through her desk drawers until I found a bottle of super glue. Then, I grabbed one of the smaller collages I made containing photos of only us. I originally intended to keep it for myself, but now it had a new purpose.
I slipped out the back sliding glass door, hoping not to disturb anyone. I headed home with my materials and went to the garage. There, I found a full bottle of red spray paint.
I didn’t give it much thought. I got in my black Mustang and drove off, heading toward the school. Would I get caught? Probably. Would I be suspended? Most likely.
Was it worth it?
I made it back before everyone began to stir, or so I thought. Slipping off my shoes, I headed down the hall, but before I made it to Abby’s room, Carla appeared in the doorway.
"Morning," I greeted her, mustering the best smile I could.
"Morning," she replied. The dark circles under her eyes told me she must’ve had about as much sleep as I did, if not less. "You’re up early. Your mom complains because you’re usually last minute waking up."
"Yeah, well, I couldn’t sleep. Nightmares keep haunting me." Not a complete lie.
She had an odd look on her face, making her seem a million miles away. "I had a strange dream last night myself."
This caught my interest. "Want to talk about it?"
She looked at me, and the faraway look almost disappeared. "Abby’s with her father, Ash."
Was she losing it? "Um, well, they’re um . . . kind of both . . . you know." I rubbed the back of my neck, wishing for one second I could keep my mouth shut.
She shook her head. "I don’t mean it like that. I had a dream about him last night, and I haven’t dreamt about him since I married John. But, he told me he was with Abby, that she was safe, and that she loves me and she’s sorry." She leaned against the doorframe, hugging herself. Her bottom lip trembled, and I had a feeling she was on the verge of a break down. "You must think I’m losing it, right?"
"No, not at all." I walked closer to her, not really sure what else to say. If Abby’s father was communicating with her through her dream, then did that mean . . .
She wiped her eyes. "It doesn’t really feel like she’s gone. I still picture her at six AM making coffee. When I walked into her room this morning, I expected to see her getting into her usual fight with her hair that I would have to help her with. Then, I walk in and see the blood stain, and I just . . . " She turned away from me. "I’m sorry, Ash. You have your own feelings to deal with. I don’t want to burden you with mine."
"No, it’s fine. Really, I’m—"
She turned back to me, her face as composed as it was before this conversation started. "You need to get ready for school. Abby wouldn’t want you to miss on her account."
I nodded, knowing this was the end of that conversation.
Kelford High wasn’t the same.
The change in atmosphere was apparent as soon as I set foot on the property. I felt like a new student, someone who didn’t know what to expect. I couldn’t wait to see the reactions to my artwork.
I went in late enough to miss homeroom. As soon as I opened the front door, conversations stopped. Everyone stared at me like I was an alien. Some looked scared, others looked shocked, and, when I reached them, my friends glared at me. I looked past them, focusing on the middle of the lobby wall where I proudly displayed my collage, along with the words in red spray paint: Abigail Jenkins Never Forget.
I had several more places throughout the school and outside that I had spray painted the words, including the gym, the library, and Abby’s locker. This would cost me, but if I could never forget her, then I would make damn sure no one else could, either.
Someone grabbed my arm, and a cold chill ran up my spine. Without looking, I knew who this touch belonged to.
"What the hell were you thinking, Ash?" Brigit snapped, her green eyes glaring at me. "You threw everything away for her!"
I wrenched my arm away, eyes boring into hers. These same eyes that had been a part of Abby’s personal hell now looked at me with no ounce of regret whatsoever. It was like she was made of ice. But, even ice melted. Perhaps she was made of stone instead. "Don’t touch me. Just looking at you makes me sick."
She withdrew her hand, surprise lighting up her face but only for a second. "You’re going to get suspended over some spineless girl who killed herself. Are you happy?"
I glared at her. "You’re not at all sorry, are you? Abby is dead, and you did nothing but make her life miserable. So, Brigit, the question is are you happy now?"
For a second, she seemed at a loss for words, and even a second was a long time for Brigit Dawson. "I can’t help that she couldn’t handle the truth."
"One of these days, you’re going to eat those words. I just hope I’m there to see it." I didn’t wait for a response. Instead, I walked away.
I headed to my locker, but someone was already standing there. As I got closer, I was able to make out his tall, muscular build and light brown hair. It was Mike Ingram, one of my friends.
"Are you here to lecture me, too?" I couldn’t hide my annoyance.
"Why are you wasting your time worrying about some dead girl?"
I shot him a glare, but I refused to answer. Instead, I shoved the key into the lock. Before I could open it, he slammed his hand against it.
"Are you forgetting there’s a game on Saturday? You could get kicked completely off the team if you get suspended. Did you even think about that?"
"Consider me off the team now."
"You’re ruining your life over someone who’s not even here. Someone you said for years you wanted nothing to do with. What were you doing, banging her on the side and too ashamed for anyone to find out?"
Mike slammed into the lockers as my hands gripped his shoulders, shaking him. We were almost an even match, height being the only exception. Surprise was my edge.
"What the hell is your problem, Daniels?" He shoved me off, but I punched him in the jaw.
"Whoa, boys!" Our principal took hold of each of us, stronger than I expected. He looked at me. "Asher Daniels, you need to come with me."