I should have known he'd go crazy.
"You can't quit me. It would destroy me."
I pointed out, "And you quitting the band would destroy Calum, Michael, and Luke. Not to mention, the fans. The guys were part of your life long before I came along, and they'll be there long after I'm gone."
He placed his hands on either side of my face and spoke loudly. "Stop talking about leaving me!"
For the first time, Ashton scared me. I was 99% sure he wouldn't hurt me. But the way he'd been behaving had me questioning that percentage. I calmly but sternly told him, "Ashton. Let go."
It was like someone flipped a switch, and he realized what he was doing. His face softened and he let go. I immediately stood to leave. "I have to get out of here for a little bit, so you can clear your head. You're not thinking clearly. And I don't know how to help you, but you need help." My voice cracked and I saw Ashton reach for me, but I continued toward the door. I was surprised when he didn't try harder to stop me. I paused long enough to tell him, "I love you." The words barely came out, so I wasn't even sure he heard them.
Corey stopped me. "Are you okay? How's Ashton doing?"
Of course, I was crying again at this point. "I don't know, Corey. I don't know anything right now. Come get me if you need me, but I'm trying to give us both some space right now."
I could hear music coming from Michael's room before I got to it. Acoustic guitars, specifically. I felt better before I even knocked on the door. I had to knock a couple of times, though, because they couldn't hear me over the music.
Traci opened the door and led me to sit on the floor near the end of the couch next to Michael. She handed me a cup that she had already prepared for me. I took a sniff to figure out what was in it. Whatever it was, it was strong, which was exactly what I needed. She told me, "One more minute, chick. You had one more minute left and I was putting on the boxing gloves. Wait, that's probably not the best thing to say right now. But holy fuck, you're crying again. Do I need to go kick his ass for real? Was he an asshole?"
I laughed through my fading tears at her rambling. I answered the last question, "Yes and no. He's all over the place. I didn't accomplish anything. I finally just had to leave. I think we just need to spend a couple hours apart and regroup." I realized the boys were listening to me, which was a little embarrassing. But I forgot all about my embarrassment when I looked at Michael. I gasped at the bluish-purplish fist sized mark on his left cheek.
"Fuck, Mikey." I got up to take a closer look and I tentatively touched it. "It looks so much worse already. I'm so sorry. You're going to have to perform in front of everyone with that. Shit." He offered a tight smile and I suddenly felt awkward for invading his personal space, so I sat back down.
He said, "Don't apologize. It wasn't your fault. I'm just sorry I didn't get to hit him back, or keep him from doing that to you."
"I'm fine. He didn't mean it. But I don't know if I can forgive him so easily for doing that to you. I'm sorry."
Everyone laughed at me for apologizing yet again. I told them, "Okay, let's get back to this music I heard before I came in. Go ahead, carry on."
All things considered, we had a great time. They played for a little bit, mostly goofing around and making up nonsense songs. Then we played a drinking game that Michael made up, which wasn't really even a game. It wasn't a game because we all had to take a drink every time someone cursed. So we all drank the same amount. Needless to say, we all ended up sloshed within an hour, especially Traci and me. But if there was ever a night I needed to be drunk, that was definitely it. My lip hurt from laughing so much, but it didn't take long before I wasn't feeling any pain at all. I also couldn't feel my nose. That's how I know I've had too much.
But eventually, talk turned back to Ashton. The guys all agreed that they'd seen a difference in him since we started dating. And that made me really sad, because I felt like it was my fault somehow. Even in my extremely drunken state, I knew it wasn't my fault at all, but I still felt guilty.
Luke said, "He's obviously happy to be with you. He talks about you all the time."
"Seriously, all the time," Calum emphasized.
Luke carried on, "Yeah, and he always looks so happy when he talks about you. But he has these mood swings and wants to be by himself all the time. When he was with Brandi..." He paused and held up his hand. "I'm not comparing you to her. I'm just stating facts... with her, he'd go out sometimes, but he wouldn't really participate, ya know? He'd be there, but he wouldn't join in the fun. But I think it was because that's how she is and he just went along with it so she wouldn't get mad."
Calum butted in again. "That's because she's boring. Remember that drama when Allegra called Brandi 'boring' in DMs and it got leaked?" We all laughed about it, probably way more than we normally would have.
Luke finished his explanation. "But anyway, yeah, now he doesn't do anything except play the shows and isolate himself. I'm not saying you're to blame, it's not your fault at all. But it has something to do with the way he feels about you. From what I've seen, he's, I don't know... so possessive and obsessive even, I guess. Does that make sense?"
Did it ever. "You hit the nail on the head, Luke. It goes beyond normal jealousy. And I can't deal with him being violent. I know that's not him. That's something else taking over when he's like that. But I don't know what to do about it."
Michael said, "I worry about him. We all do. We've talked about it, but we're afraid to say anything to him, because he'll probably bite our heads off. That's the other thing I've noticed. He snaps so easily. Like earlier tonight." He gave a short embarrassed laugh.
"Yeah, I've had a taste of that a few times before. And it was really bad tonight when I tried talking to him before I came here."
After that, we kind of sat around quietly for a few minutes, lost in our thoughts and wishing we could do something to get Ashton back. The only solution I could think of was to give him up.
Sitting there not talking, everyone ended up looking at their phones and we all saw the same thing. Ashton had posted a link to a lyric video of Forgive Me by Evanescence.
Even Traci, as angry as she was at Ashton, said, "Damn. Why does he have to be like this? I want to hate him right now, but I can't. It's like... what's the word I'm looking for?"
I knew exactly what it was like. "Fighting gravity."
Traci exclaimed, "Yes! That's it. And you get extra points for the New Kids reference." We always got excited when we worked lyrics into everyday conversation. Fangirl problems, I guess. She reached over and gave me a high-five, the liquid in her cup spilling over the edge. "Aww, fuck. What a waste."
Calum said, "I can't take you anywhere. Always wasting good alcohol and shit. I think you need a time out. Let's go." He threw in a wink, and I knew what that meant.
I took Traci's cup and said, "I'll take the rest of that since you won't be needing it anymore, thank you," and downed it in one quick gulp.
Traci pretended to pout, but followed Calum out the door like a little puppy. At least one of us was getting some that night.
Luke took Calum's lead, stood up and stretched, and said, "I'm gonna go, too. It's been real." And he was out the door.
That left Michael and me staring at each other. I was just opening my mouth to say I was leaving, too, when he told me, "Come sit up here. It's more comfortable."
I sat next to him and we didn't even really talk for a little bit. We were both engrossed in our phones. I definitely shouldn't have even been on it in my current state. That was confirmed when I saw people's responses to the song Ashton had tweeted. I was surprised that "Brashton is alive" wasn't trending. Everyone mistook his post as asking Brandi for forgiveness.
Now, I didn't have nearly as much of a jealous streak as Ashton, but those comments awakened a little bit of jealousy within me, though I knew there was nothing to be jealous about. Those people didn't even know what they were talking about. It was just the thought of them thinking Ashton was directing that song to Brandi that pissed me off.
I joined in the game and tweeted, #BrashtonIsAlive. Fuck yes they were, because that was our ship name also.
I immediately got a DM from Ashton asking "wtf?"
@CliffordsCougar: Brashton is our ship name, too.
Okay, honestly, there were a few spelling mistakes because I could hardly control my fingers. But he understood.
@Ashton5SOS: Oh yeah. Never thought about that. So does this mean you're not quitting me?
With so much alcohol in my system, I'd forgotten how upset I was with him. And as a matter of fact, I suddenly felt compelled to let everyone know that he belonged to me, not Brandi.
Thankfully, Michael interrupted my thoughts before I tweeted something stupid. "Are you on Twitter? Are you seeing this shit?"
"Yeah. But think about it. That's my and Ashton's name combined, too. So the joke's on them." I laughed at myself.
"Ahh, good point. That's funny."
Ashton sent me another DM that was just a bunch of questions marks, waiting on my answer. I laid the phone down, because I wasn't in the mood to go down that road with him again that night.
Michael put his phone away, too. He asked, "Are you okay?"
I nodded, and my eyes were drawn to his cheek once again. I got to thinking about what the two of us must have looked like, sitting there together. If anyone outside of our friends saw us, they'd probably think we'd beat each other up. I started laughing about it and told Michael what I was thinking.
"What a fucked up night, man. I hope you two can work things out. You're so good for him. I don't know why he has his head up his ass. But maybe you can help him figure it out. But be careful, okay? I don't want him doing something like this again." He gently rubbed the swollen part of my lip, and I closed my eyes for a second at the sensation. It was so light and brief, yet I felt it in the pit of my stomach. But I knew it was just the stupid alcohol making me feel that way, so I ignored it.
"And I don't want him to do this again, either." Just as he had, I ran my thumb over his injured cheek. And just as I had, he closed his eyes. I took advantage of the moment and looked at every beautiful feature of his face up close. He had a few light freckles across his pale skin. He had just the right amount of stubble, which made him 20 times hotter. And his full lips were the perfect shade of red.
A wave of emotion came over me. I remembered every reason why Michael had been my favorite when the whole crazy situation started, back when I was simply another unrecognizable face in the crowd. But somehow I still had enough sense to know that my feelings were exaggerated because I was intoxicated. I slowly let my hand slide away, and Michael opened his eyes. He smiled at me warmly, as though he knew what I was thinking. Then he hugged me.
"It's going to be okay, Bree," he said.
That's all it took for me to start sobbing, hard, and he held me until I was able to stop.
I felt so broken and little and miserable. All I wanted in the world was to love and be loved, by Ashton. I just had to figure out how to make everything like it was in the beginning.