“Holy shit,” Randy sighed, the palm of his hand resting on the back of his neck.
“You love her.”
“What?!” I laughed nervously, rubbing my hands together. “That’s ridiculous. I hardly know her and—”
“Dude, don’t give me that ‘I’m a man and can’t express my feelings’ bullshit. You love her. I haven’t seen you smile this much over a girl since my sister.”
“I…” I knew he was right. But that scared me. How could I love Ashlyn and not be able to show the world how I loved her? We couldn’t even go out to see my show tonight, and I had a feeling that wouldn’t be becoming any easier.
“Confucius said, ‘Wherever you go, go with all your heart,’ Danny.” Randy placed his hand on my shoulder.
“Did you just quote Confucius?”
“I did. And it was awesome.” He smiled my way and shoved me. “Come on. Let’s get set up.”
Arriving back home, I tossed myself into bed, exhausted from the show. Randy had somehow managed to bring two girls home with him, and I could tell they were having a little too much fun in the living room. He had a thing for having his own naked music parties nowadays.
I picked up my cell phone and texted Ashlyn. She was probably sleeping, yet just in case she wasn’t, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity of talking to her.
Me: All clear. Henry has no idea.
Ashlyn: He stumbled into the house a few minutes ago. How was the show?
Me: Good. I missed you in the corner booth.
Ashlyn: Wow, you really are addicted to me. Stop hugging your pillow.
I laughed out loud at her comment, wishing she were lying naked next to me in my bed. I wouldn’t even have to do anything with that naked body except hold it. I loved the way she felt against me.
Me: I’ll stop once you quit petting baby pandas.
Ashlyn: I thought you liked when I pet your baby panda?
Me: There’s nothing baby about this panda.
Ashlyn: I just LOLed. You’re such a dork.
Me: Text me something you wrote tonight. Something from your book?
There was a long pause. Either she was typing me an excerpt or she had fallen asleep.
Ashlyn: He never stepped in to fight her battles. Most women might have been turned off by the ungentlemanly action, yet it only turned Julie on that much more. She loved the way he allowed her to be strong for herself. She loved the way he believed she had the strength of all of the Goddesses combined. She loved the way he allowed her to be a hundred percent individual. That is precisely why she wanted to love him for the rest of time.
I read her words over and over again. Taking in each one.
Me: My father would’ve been right. I’m not good enough for you.
Ashlyn: I think you’re just right for me.
Me: Is this the book Gabby and you were working on?
Ashlyn: No. I started something new.
She was finding herself, too. It was the most beautiful thing to watch happen—Ashlyn discovering who she was again all on her own. I felt privileged to be able to witness her growth.
Ashlyn: Henry walked into my room and stared at me for the longest… What did you say to him?
I smiled at the message and rubbed my fingers against my brows.
Me: I asked how he was doing. Maybe you should, too. Goodnight, sweets.
Ashlyn: Goodnight :)
I rolled over and began to read the letter I’d received tonight from Gabby. I knew the letter was supposed to bring me comfort, but for some reason, it only brought on doubts.
#1. Fall in love.
To the boy who’s loved by a girl,
I wonder if you know how lucky you are. My little sister here doesn’t know it, but she puts up walls. Her heart is locked and chained shut from the world. She hides behind her books, and she doesn’t let anyone in. I figure it’s because once our dad left, she never wanted to feel that way again—abandoned.
But here you are. Someone who found the key.
Can you do me a few favors?
Show her off to the world. Shout it from the rooftops. Take her out on dates. She loves to dance—even though she’s really bad at it. Make other couples jealous.
Be her golden.
Because I promise you that she’ll be yours.
You’re doing great.
Since I read Gabby’s note, I’d felt terrible. Ashlyn’s sister was right. She deserved to be shown off and she deserved to go out on dates. She deserved to be loved out loud.
And I didn’t know how to do that.
Don’t stop until we’re done.
Then run off the tracks.
Never look back, never look back.
~ Romeo’s Quest
“Do you always walk around cemeteries alone?” I snickered, seeing Daniel.
He turned to look at me and smiled wide. “Only when I’m waiting to see a pretty girl.”
I rolled my eyes. “You’re corny.” He pulled me closer to him and slowly licked my bottom lip before he kissed me. “Mmm,” I muttered against his mouth. I cleared my throat. “Jake from school sent me a text asking me out again,” I whispered, biting my bottom lip.
Daniel arched an eyebrow. “The guy can’t catch a hint, can he?” He paused and lowered his voice. “Do you want to date him?”
I stepped backwards. “What?”
“I mean…he can actually date you, Ashlyn. This isn’t right—meeting behind buildings, in cemeteries—”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” My eyes watered up. Why would he say such things? I was happy with him. We were happy. The only thing I could think of that could have brought on the change in Daniel was the note I’d given him last night.