Love's Someday
on her face, the slight tremble in her hands, and the way she sat so close to Erica it looked as though they were joined at the hip.
    “It’s so good to have you here,” Vicki said as she wiped at her eyes that had grown moist again.
    Ashleigh smiled, unable to speak. She wanted to ask, Don’t you hate me, even just a little? They seemed so happy to have her there. She could feel and see their love for her, but it was so hard to accept. And then Ashleigh realized she was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Eventually, they’d get around to telling her how shitty it was for her to walk away without so much as a word.
    “I can’t just sit here and pretend that everything is normal.” All conversation ceased and everyone turned to look at Ashleigh, who felt her face growing hot. When she’d found her voice, it came out a bit louder than she intended. “I just walked out,” Ashleigh said, gesturing with her hands, as if no one in the room understood her point. “Scream at me, do something, but don’t pretend we just lost touch over the years.”
    “Okay.” Chantal set her drink down and held up a hand as Vicki tried to intervene. “You broke our hearts. Especially hers,” Chantal said, nodding in Vicki’s direction. “I was angry, and twenty years ago, I would have torn your ass to shreds for doing what you did, but that’s just the point. It was twenty years ago.” Chantal’s voice softened. “I understand why you left, but why cut us out of your life?”
    As painful as it was to hear Chantal speak her mind, Ashleigh began to relax. “It was just so much easier to run away.” Ashleigh felt Erica’s arm slip around her waist. “I didn’t want to be forced to think about why and what I was doing. I didn’t want to debate the pros and cons. I just wanted out.” Ashleigh took a shuddering breath. The room was silent as everyone waited for her to continue. She stared at the floor unable to look at Vicki and Chantal.
    “After a month or two had passed, I thought about getting in touch, but I figured that you all hated me at that point and I was afraid to face up to it. Then I woke up one morning and a year had passed, and it was just too late.” Ashleigh swallowed hard. “I spent so many years hating Alex, blaming her for everything, but when I was finally honest with myself, it was me I hated. I was the one to blame.”
    Chantal exhaled loudly. “We could never hate you, Ash. It just hurt us…all of us.”
    “Please forg —” Ashleigh’s words were buried in Chantal’s shoulder as she pulled her into a hug.
    “You’re forgiven,” Chantal said through her tears. Ashleigh felt Erica’s arm slipping from her waist, giving room for Vicki to join in on the hug. When finally they did release each other, Ashleigh noticed Kaitlyn and Drew huddled together sniffing and passing a box of tissues between them. Erica didn’t meet her eyes; instead she stared at the floor. But it no longer felt like a dream. It was real now, and Ashleigh felt her life beginning again at that moment.

    Photo album upon album was dragged from every closet and bookcase. Drew, Erica, and Kaitlyn were going through each one as Chantal explained the stories behind some of the more embarrassing moments caught on film.
    “Would you like to see the rest of the house?” Vicki asked when Chantal began another tale.
    Ashleigh took her hand, welcoming the escape, and followed Vicki down a hall off the den. “This is our guest room,” Vicki said as she switched on a light. “I should say it’s Jaclyn’s room.” Vicki rolled her eyes. “She stays with us at least once a month when she and Lindsay find something new to fight about.”
    Ashleigh moved into the room, taking in the décor. It was definitely Vicki’s touch. The rug and curtains matched the muted colors of the plaid comforter on the bed. Nothing floral, all sharp lines, and, of course, impeccably clean. The surfaces in the connecting bathroom shined, accented by

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