He is a sunset on a Saturday morning after staying up all of Friday night creating memories; wild and free and beautiful. He is a lazy Sunday afternoon wrapped in a blanket in front of the fireplace; warm and loving and homelike. But I’m a 3am on a Monday night stuck in a thunderstorm; stressed and raging and full of destruction.
At least that’s what we would’ve been like if he was still here. That’s what I would’ve used to describe us with, but now there is no us to describe anymore.
It might sound weird, but although we haven’t been together in ten years, I still love him. I was never able to love anyone the way I love Ashton.
The pain of losing him had been almost unbearable to live with the first few years. My world shattered, I dropped out of university and quit speech therapy. I didn’t really do much the first two years after his death. I was nearly 21 when Lynn finally convinced me to go to therapy, well, she didn’t really convince me; my favourite author did.
It was one of those night where I couldn’t fall asleep, because every time I closed my eyes images of Ashton giggling would plague my mind. It was then that Lynn grabbed the copy of my favourite book that she’d gotten me for my eighteenth birthday off of the shelf and opened it in front of me on the page with my happy birthday message. Somehow the words “and no matter how broken you feel, never stop loving”, made me realise that life was not worth wasting because I lost someone I loved.
When I signed up for therapy I didn’t think anything could be worse than losing Ashton, but talking about what I missed about him in detail, definitely hurt more than losing him. My therapist eventually sent me to a support group to learn how to live without a soulmate; that is where I learned that it’s normal to feel this way.
I learned that other people feel this soul wrenching, heart-breaking, earthshattering longing for their lost soulmates too. They miss the good and the bad, they miss the morning kisses and holding hands, but they also miss the fights, miss not having to clean up tea bags that are left in the sink.
I met great people at support group, but my favourite person was James, he was also easiest to communicate with since he was deaf and knew sign language. James was born without a timer and he had spent all of his life worrying what could possibly be so horribly wrong with him that no woman would ever fit him. He dated girls when he was younger, but they all left him as soon as they met their own soulmate. James’s heart has been broken too many times to count, his self-confidence was shattered and he was extremely unhappy. Support group helped a bit and soon we became friends.
James is caring and silent, he never voices his opinions. Unlike Ashton, Ashton was never silent, he always told me his opinion even if I didn’t like it, which often resulted in arguments. Ashton is different from James in every aspect and maybe that is why this works; because he doesn’t remind me of my lost soulmate in the slightest.
James needs me to fill this void in his heart, the place that is reserved for your soulmate. James doesn’t necessarily need me, just someone and I suppose I am the same. The only person I really need is Ashton, but he can’t be here with me.
So instead of Ashton I settled for a relationship in which James and I don’t love each other, but we do care for each other. He cooks and I do the laundry and we make it work. I will never say James and I have to try to be together, because trying is an Ashton-thing, almost everything is. James and I just make it work, we don’t try, we can’t try, we just have to do it. In our soulmateless lives we had to decide between spending the rest of it alone and unhappy or together and content.
Am I happy that two years after I met James I married him? No, not really.
Is my life, the way it is right now, the closest I can ever come to true happiness without Ashton? Yes.
Before Ashton I would’ve been positive that I could’ve loved James, that I was in love with James, but Ashton made that impossible. See, the thing is that Ashton shaped me with his love, with all its rough edges and smooth surfaces. Ashton made me realise that there is no possible way for me to ever love someone who’s not him, because even though I did not want to admit it in the beginning: Ashton is still my soulmate, my perfect match, the person I should be with the rest of my life. But unfortunately we only got to spend all of his life together, a life that was way too short. But we have to take whatever is left of life and work with it.
And that is exactly why we are on our way to Australia to visit Ashton’s mum, Lauren and Harry and their family for Christmas: just taking what little life has to offer. Lots of people always tell me how beautiful it is that Ashton’s friends and family keep in touch with me, but to me nothing about that is beautiful.
We all do what makes us cope with this in the best way possible, for me that is being as close to Ashton as I can be, unfortunately the closest isn’t being held by his arms anymore, but it is being close to the people that knew him.
“Mummy, look! It’s Australia!”
I get snapped from my train of thoughts as I look next to me to see a little five year old excited boy pointing out the window as we fly over Australia. He turns to me with the biggest smile ever, a smile without dimples. I comb my finger through his light blond curly hair, his hair that is not the same shade of blond as Ashton’s, it’s James’s hair.
“Yes, Flynn, I can see that.” I tell him.
“Lucy, look. That’s where we’re going. That’s where we’re visiting Nana and Uncle Calum, Michael and Luke.” I sign to a smaller blonde girl. I purposely don’t speak to the twins, they grew up signing. James and I both agreed to raise them like that, I’m glad he already knew BSL, I don’t think I could’ve handled teaching a different boyfriend how to sign all over again, it’d remind me too much of Ash.
My whole life is fully in sign right now, after dropping my “English Language and Literature” course and getting myself back on track again through therapy I landed a job as a sign language teacher. I also immediately dropped my speech therapy after Ashton’s death and to be complete honest: I haven’t spoken in years, not since my first visit to Ashton’s grave.
“Mummy, is that where Uncle Ash is? Are we going to visit him?” My five year old daughter signs to me.
“Yeah, honey, we’re going to put some flowers down for him. That’d be nice, huh?” I reply to her and I let my fingers ghost over her braid. Lucy’s hair is a bit darker than Flynn’s, more like my hair.
But the truth is that we won’t be visiting Ashton, yes, we will be visiting his grave but we won’t be visiting Ashton. We can’t. Ashton is dead and all I have left of him are memories.
I look down the row of seats, to the people sitting next to me: my caring husband who is not my soulmate and my two beautiful children without dimples and without a love for drumming that I love more than life itself. My little brother who up until Ashton was the first boy I had ever loved, my baby brother who now knows who to sign to and who not to sign to, Eliot who is currently holding hands with his boyfriend. Thankfully for him his soulmate didn’t turn out to be a girl, because just like he said when he was eight: “Girls are stupid, they don’t like football and they don’t like to play games, they’re boring.”
And lastly: Lynn and her husband are here with me, because as previously mentioned: she is an angel who has never done anything but help me. She held me night after night when Ashton passed away, she didn’t leave my house for a full five months after his death. And even after all these years we still visit each at least twice a week.
I catch a glimpse of the seatbelt lights and accordingly click my seatbelt on, preparing for landing. Butterflies flutter through my tummy in both fear and excitement of having to be back in the place where everything reminds me of Ashton again.
“And now we pop them in oven and wait for them to be ready. Does that sound like a good plan?” I sign to my two children who seemed to have lost interest in the biscuits as they run out of the kitchen and into the garden to play in the warm Australian sun.
I wipe the kitchen counters clean and set an alarm on my phone for when the biscuits are supposed to be ready. I walk towards the backdoor and lean against the doorway, watching Lucy and Flynn play tag on the grass.
But as I look out over the grass the image gets distorted, instead of two playing children I see a guitar lying on the grass with a guy sitting next to it while he’s scribbling away in a notebook. It doesn’t feel like that day was exactly ten years ago, it feels like it’s still today. It feels like I’m still eighteen and I just put the biscuits that I baked with my boyfriend in the oven. It feels like tomorrow I will be spending Christmas with Ashton, like he didn’t die tonight exactly ten years ago.
I place my phone on the table in the garden and start walking towards Ashton, but with every step I take he seems to disappear more and more, making room again for my beautiful children. I kick off my flip flops and do not hesitate to run after them and join in on their game.
After a while I exhaustedly let myself fall back on the grass and stare up into the blue sky, wishing to be able to live life as carefree and enthusiastic as a child again. A shadow casts over me and I look up to see Calum looking down on me.
“Calum.” I sign as I jump up and launch myself into his arms. It doesn’t take too long for the kids to figure out that their favourite uncle has arrived and they both receive a big hug from him, before he sits down and pulls me down next to him. The grass gently tickles my bare legs that show beneath my dress.
“So you’re staying for dinner tonight?” I ask him.
“Yeah, I don’t really do Christmas parties anymore. I spend all of my Christmases at the Irwin house and so do Luke and Michael, it’s kind of become a thing. We need to keep remembering him, you know.” He signs to me.
“I know. I’m sorry we couldn’t make it last year, it’s quite expensive to come down here, especially over Christmas.”
“It’s okay. How have you been holding up? We haven’t Skyped in a while.” Calum asks me with a slight frown on his face.
“I cope. It never really gets easier, does it?”
I nod in response, not really knowing what to say.
“Are Chloe and the baby coming too? I’m so excited to meet him.” I try to stir the topic away from Ashton again.
“Yeah, they’ll be here soon. I just wanted to check up on you before everyone came here today, this is always a pretty crazy day.”
I nod again. The house won’t stay as empty as it is right now. In not too long Anne-Marie and James will be back from the shops with enough food to feed everyone: Harry, Lauren and her husband, Lynn and her husband, Luke, his wife and their two year old, Michael and his fiancée, Calum and his small family, Eliot and his boyfriend and James and my two children.
“It’s been a pretty relaxing day so far.” I sign to Calum. “The kids are a good distraction, we baked the usual biscuits this morning.”
And then I remember the biscuits. I jump up and run over to where I left my phone. Shit! The alarm went off ages ago, of course you didn’t feel your phone vibrate if you don’t keep it in your pocket. Damn it, Beth!
I rush inside and pull out the tray of biscuits and yes, they look as black as anything. I stare down at them in wonder and am harshly reminded of the first, and up until now, the only time I ever burnt a batch. I look at them and remember the argument with Ashton that followed this event last time. I remember the last words he signed to me before he walked out the door “I’ll be back before you know it.”
I can feel my eyes starting to fill up with tears and I’m pretty sure it’s not due to the smoke that is clouding the kitchen right now. I turn around to see that Calum has followed me into the kitchen, he blankly stares at the black Christmas cookies and I know that every second of that horrible day comes back to him too.
I want to say I’m sorry, that I’m sorry that the very thing that killed him that night so horribly had to make a comeback today, but as he finally looks me in the eye I can see that he’s not mad. He’s not hurt. He has a look of determination on his face that is hard to describe. He pulls something out of his pocket and tosses me the object. I catch them and look down: car keys.
“I’ll watch ‘em.” Calum signs to me when I look at him in confusion.
I quickly push the tears back and take action. I find a container in one of the kitchen cupboards and scrape the hot, burnt messes off of the tray and lock them up in a plastic box before rushing out of the kitchen and jumping in Calum’s car.
I know that I’m speeding, but I don’t care, I feel like I owe Ashton to be there quickly. I only ever get to go visit once every year or every two years. I press a few random buttons in the car until the dashboard screen tells me that there is music playing from the speakers, I don’t care that I can’t hear it, I just hope Ashton can. I sometimes do that when I miss him a lot, I play music to try and feel him near me again.
I know that I double-park my car as I shut the car door behind me, but I also do not care, re-parking the car will only slow me down even more. I set a high pace as I walk down the cemetery, the weather is beautiful, much like the day of his funeral. And yet again I feel like the world is mocking me, mocking me with showing me her beauty on days that bring me so much pain.
I kneel down in front of his grave and my eyes slide across the flowers that are there. His grave is never without flowers, family, friends or even old fans always make sure that it’s never empty here. I hope he knows how much he’s loved.
“Hi Ash,” I speak, I cough slightly, it’s been a while since I spoke. I only ever speak when I’m visiting Ashton’s grave. “I burnt my biscuits again today and I just needed to bring them to you.”
I open the plastic container and empty it on top of some of the flowers that were put there. Tears start to burn in my eyes, because the memories that are coming are just too much right now. “I wish that this time though, burnt biscuits was paired with dancing around the kitchen with you, but it wasn’t.” I say as I try to choke back tears. I close my eyes and wipe my tears away and in that moment they don’t feel like my hands, they feel like Ashton’s gentle hand caressing my cheeks and trying to mend my broken heart.
“Pretty strange that today is the day I burnt my second batch though, all those years later, ten years to be exact. You know, Lynn told me the other day that sometimes she has to watch old interviews of you again to remember what you look like. Not me though, I meant what I said all those years ago: I won’t forget you.
“Lynn and her husband are here in Australia too, we’re all going to celebrate Christmas together. Lynn is very lucky, she ended up marrying her soulmate and is now pregnant with their first baby. I wish we could have gotten a chance to do that too.” I say and look down at my lap.
“But I married James. He asked me again if he could come and visit you too this time, but I don’t want him to. For some reason I just know that you wouldn’t want him here, I don’t think you would like him, you probably think he’s not good enough for me.”
I let out a bitter laugh. “Sometimes even I wonder if he’s good enough for me and sometimes I can’t help but wish I never married him and could’ve married you instead, but then I look at the twins and know that my two munchkins are here because I married James. I may not love James the way I love you, but I certainly do love our children. I love them so much and I hope you care for them too. They keep asking about you, Lucy even said, upon hearing your music a few days ago, that she’s going to be as famous as Uncle Ash.”
At this point I don’t even know if I’m crying or laughing anymore and that confuses me, this is probably the first time that I haven’t just felt sad when coming here. “Remember what you said about adventures, Ash? They’re my adventures. My life here, surrounded by my children, by your family and friends and yes, even by James, that is my adventure. I’m not entirely happy like this, I can’t be, not without you, but I am content with life. I’m surrounded by people that love you and love me and even without you here I still get the privilege of loving you. I just hope that you still love me.”
I look down to his grave and look at the burnt biscuits and once again I think back to how we danced in the kitchen, Ashton’s lips pressed against my forehead as I felt him whisper words against my skin, a message that seemed to hold such a big meaning.
“Was that it?” I speak. “When we danced in your kitchen and you held me closer than ever before? Was that what you told me? That you loved me?”
My mind starts to wonder to every possible moment that he could’ve told me, all the nights that I fell asleep before him. Or maybe it was in the moments where we hugged and he used to hold me a little closer, a little longer than usual. Did he tell me then? When my face was buried in his shoulder and I couldn’t see him talk?
“You know, Ash, I would’ve said it back. I would’ve said it right there and then, my feelings for you had never felt stronger than that night in the kitchen, if only I had realised that sooner.”
And then the sun starts to shine even brighter than before. “Isn’t it just sick how the saddest days are always the most beautiful ones? Look at the sun, it shines almost as bright as your smile used to shine.” I scoff, hating the world right now, but as I feel the heat of the sunbeams warm up my skin I start to wonder if maybe, just maybe the reason for the beautiful moments is just because my soulmate is looking down on me, smiling his dimply smile.
I look up to the sky and close my eyes, trying to take in the warmth as a soft summer breeze plays with my hair. And for the first time I don’t feel broken; I feel incredibly blessed. Blessed with my family, blessed to be so close with his family and friends, but most of all I feel blessed that my soulmate that left, never really left me.
Guess who finally got their internet sorted and was able to upload? Me (:
So this will be the very last thing I post for Feel the Beat, thank you to everyone who took the time to read, comment and vote.
This won't be my last fanfic. I'm going to mourn the ending of this story and then start writng a new one, so just stay tuned.
Also: I'm worringly proud and satisfied by the fact that I ended FTB with exactly 51,000 words.
If you ever want to talk to me about FTB, need advice for your own fic, need someone to fangirl with or just to have a nice chat with me: contact me on kik (RandomMegs)