“We can’t do this anymore, Ashlyn,” I whispered.

Her eyes widened, surprised by my words. “What?”

“I can’t see you anymore.” I wondered if the words burned her as much as they were burning me.

“What are you doing, Daniel?” she questioned, stepping away from me. “You brought me down here to…to break up with me?” Her eyes glassed over, yet she didn’t let the tears fall.

I didn’t reply. I felt if I said the actual words then they would hold more truth than I was interested in succumbing to.

“Say it!” she hollered, moving over to me. She shoved me hard against the chest. “Say it! Say you don’t want to be with me!”

“Ashlyn,” I choked out. I was doing this to her; I was breaking her.

The tears started to pour out from her eyes and her body began to shake. “Say you don’t want me anymore! Say it!” she cried as she pounded against my chest. With every hit, a part of me died. With every punch, a part of her disappeared, too.

I grabbed her wrists and pulled her against me, holding her close.

“I let you in,” she sobbed against me, her fists hitting my body. “I let you in and you’re leaving me.”

“I’m so sorry,” I said, holding her in my arms. I tried my best to comfort her, but it felt pointless since I was the one hurting her. “I love you so much.”

“No.” She pushed herself away from my hold. “You don’t get to do that. You don’t get to hurt me and hold me, Daniel.” She took a deep inhale and wiped away the tears still pouring from her eyes. “That’s the first time you even said those words. You can’t say you love me and then break my heart. So say what you really need to say. Say it and I’m gone.”

I took a breath and looked down to the ground. When my eyes rose, I saw her bloodshot stare. I exhaled. “I’m breaking up with you, Ashlyn.”

She let out a small whimper before all the color was drained from her face. Her body shivered for a moment. She turned toward the exit and began to walk away. “Go to hell, Daniel.”

Chapter 24

Don’t believe the lies.

~ Romeo’s Quest

What kind of ass**le broke up with a person after leading them on? I needed a cold shower to calm me down, because my blood hadn’t stopped boiling all day. I walked toward the bathroom to wash up and paused when I heard Henry’s voice inside.

“I know… No, she doesn’t know. Kim, it doesn’t matter! She’s staying here.”

A lump formed in my throat.


As in, my mom Kim?

“Okay. Okay. Goodbye.” His voice faded away and the doorknob turned open. When he saw me, he stepped back. “Ashlyn. What are you doing?”

“Since when do you use the bathroom upstairs, Henry?”

He walked past me and shrugged. “Rebecca was in the one downstairs.”

“Oh.” I searched him for any kind of emotion in his body language. Nothing. “Then why were you talking to Mom?”

He rotated back toward me. There was a sudden twitch in his mouth and his eyes darted back and forth. “University of Southern California is interested in you attending. Mr. Daniels is going to help by writing you a recommendation.”

“Don’t change the subject! And I don’t want his help!” I yapped like a child. I felt it, too. My angst, young instincts hammering my emotions.

Henry must have been thrown off by my response. His face showed bewilderment. “Calm down, Ashlyn.”

I couldn’t. It was as if the world were trying to push me to the edge, and I wanted to jump. How could Mom call Henry but not me? Not one text message my way? “I won’t calm down! I’m tired of everyone trying to help me when I don’t ask for help. You all don’t know what’s best for me. I didn’t want to move here. I didn’t want to go to your stupid high school. I didn’t want anything to do with you. Why can’t anyone just talk to me? I’m nineteen years old, not five! I’m a freaking adult! You’re ruining my life!” I rushed away with tears and slammed my bedroom door.

Hailey was sitting on her bed with Kleenex next to her. She’d been sick for the past few days, and her nose was redder than ever. “Ashlyn, what’s wrong?”

Before I could respond, the bedroom door opened and Henry stepped inside. “Hailey, Ashlyn and I need to talk.”

“I don’t want to talk to you!” I screamed, feeling the burning tears running down my face. I crashed onto my bed and cried against my pillows. “I don’t see why you all won’t just tell me the truth! Someone just let me in!”

“She’s in rehab, Ashlyn.”

His words sounded as if they had been dosed in heavy guilt. I looked up, my eyes red, confused. Hailey picked up her box of Kleenex with widened eyes.

“Oh? What’s that, Ryan?! You need me? I’ll be right there.” She awkwardly made her way around Henry and disappeared.

“What?” I muttered. My stomach was in knots. I held on to the pillow so tight I was almost certain the stuffing was going to fall out from pressure overload. I blinked rapidly, trying to control my thoughts. “What do you mean she’s in rehab?”

Henry’s feet sank into the carpeted floor with each step he took closer to me. “She started drinking a lot more after we found out Gabby was sick.”

“She had it under control,” I whispered.

His head shook. “No. She didn’t. At the funeral, she told me she was checking herself into a three-month program. She gets out around Christmas. Ashlyn, your coming here had nothing to do with your mom not wanting you. It was Kim’s idea because she wanted to be able to be the parent you deserved.”