Page 74 of Loving Mr. Daniels

I laughed at Bentley’s comment and pulled him into a goodbye hug. “Take care of yourself, okay?”

He pulled back and kissed my forehead. “You too, Ash-Ash.” Turning to Daniel, Bentley shook his hand. “Daniel… Take care of my kid sister, okay?”

Daniel held on to Bentley’s hand for second longer and smiled. He then stuffed his hands into his pockets. “I will.”

He would.

Chapter 37

Home—what does it mean?

It’s your eyes staring back at me.

Just Breathe.

~ Romeo’s Quest

“Mom?” I said as I turned the doorknob, entering the apartment. It was exactly the same. The living room still had the large, ugly floral print frame traveling around the ivory-colored walls. The television was still on crappy reality television. The couch was still the same brown mundane color.

Yet it all felt different.

Daniel walked in behind me, closing the door. “I don’t think she’s here,” I whispered, but I didn’t know why. It felt as if I were trespassing, and if I were to get caught, the world would crash around me.

I stared down the hallway toward what used to be Gabby’s and my bedroom. Every hair on my body stood up. Goose bumps covered my skin. I hadn’t known I would feel so scared yet so angry just by standing in the apartment, but I did. I wanted to scream, but my throat was tight. I wanted to cry, but the tears wouldn’t come.

Walking to my bedroom, I found that the door was closed. My fingers wrapped around the doorknob and I pushed it opened.

Just like the rest of the apartment, everything was the same but somehow different. I hated that.

My side of the bed still had a few of the books I’d left behind sitting on my dresser. The closet was filled with both my clothes and Gabby’s.

I moved to my bed, which was perfectly made, and sat down on the edge of it. Patting the spot beside me, I invited Daniel to sit with me.

“It smells like you,” he noticed. “I know that sounds weird, but it does.”

My eyes moved to my pillow and I picked it up, breathing it in. It had recently been sprayed with my favorite perfume.

“I’m going to tell her how much trouble she caused,” I stated, staring up at Gabby’s side of the room. Her Beatles posters were still hanging up. Leaned up against her bed frame was her acoustic guitar. Pictures of her and Bentley were still taped all over the wall. Photos of her and me… “She abandoned me when I needed her the most.”

I looked to Daniel, who was giving me pained eyes, yet he didn’t speak.

“She—she told me to go away!” I stood up, feeling my blood start to boil. Being back here was stirring up my emotions; being back here was pissing me off. “I could have helped her! I could have taken care of her!” I screamed, pacing back and forth.

He kept staring. I kept breaking.

“And then she has the nerve to spray my pillow?! As if she misses me?!” I huffed and puffed, my face heating up. I pounded my hand against my chest. “Gabby was my twin! If anyone should have fallen apart, it should’ve been me!”

I was both furious and nervous. Furious because Mom had turned to alcohol when she could have turned to me. And nervous because I was afraid to see her broken.

Moving over to Gabby’s bed, I started ripping her comforter off, tossing her pillows to the side, tossing her sheets to the ground. “She’s not coming home, Mom!” I cried into the air.

Next, I hit Gabby’s posters, tearing them down. I reached for the photos and started tearing those to the ground, too. Daniel wrapped his arms around me and pulled me off of the bed.

“Ashlyn, stop,” he ordered.

I couldn’t. My mind had been taken away from me by the sadness, by the memories. How dare Mom order me to leave. How dare Henry take care of me. How dare Gabrielle get cancer. How dare Ryan kill himself!

“I gave Ryan a place to stay. We were supposed to sleep it off and figure things out in the morning. Rebecca calmed down. She wanted him to come home. Hailey needed him… What an ass**le. He’s an ass**le for dying!”

It wasn’t fair. They’d all left me when I would have done anything to stay with them. I would have given them all the love they needed.

Why wasn’t I enough?

He was holding me around my waist, yet I kept kicking and screaming. “Let me go!” He held on tighter. I started kicking my legs around, clawing my fingernails into his arms, trying to rip his hold of me away. My howls grew deeper and the pain only intensified. “Let me go!”

“No.” He held on and placed me against a wall to control my kicks. My body landed against the cold wall and I cried. “I’m never letting you go, Ashlyn. I’m never letting you go.”

“You will! You will let me go.”

My stomach twisted and I felt like I was going to vomit. He wasn’t trying to, but he was lying to me.

Because everyone always let go.

My vision began to blur over and I felt lightheaded.

“You’re having a panic attack,” Daniel whispered against me as my breathing started to increase. My insides tightened. “Calm down for me, sweets. Steady your breathing.” He turned me around so I was facing him. I yanked on his shirt, pulling him closer to me.

I lost it.

Completely lost it.

But he was still there.

We sat on the couch, facing toward the front door. When I heard keys jingling, my heart pounded against my ribcage. The door opened slowly and I saw Mom walking in with Jeremy behind her.

I stood to my feet and heard Mom gasp. Tears built up in her eyes and her shoulders slumped.