I had the opportunity to bring up his clinginess, so I went for it, giving him one last chance to improve before it ruined everything.
"I have to tell you straight up that something has been bothering me for a while. I've tried talking to you about it before, but I feel like you haven't taken me seriously. Because if you did, you would have changed it by now."
"What are you talking about?"
He seemed to be listening, so I continued. "If this sounds repetitive, it's because it probably is. But I'm going to say it one more time. As much as I love talking to you, I can't do it around the clock. To put it bluntly, you have to stop calling me every hour of the day. It's impossible for me to talk to you that often, Ashton. It hurts me so much to tell you that, but it's gotten out of control. You're suffocating me even when we're thousands of miles away from each other." I shook my head at myself, trying to comprehend my own words. I was actually complaining about Ashton paying attention to me. But it was truly wearing on my nerves.
He was quiet for a minute. I was holding my breath, waiting for him to go into defensive mode as usual.
"Yeah, okay. I'll back off. I meant what I said, I'll do anything to make you happy."
His attempt lasted a whole day. I'd never felt so discouraged before. There was nothing else I could do about it. He was literally obsessed. I knew this, but I had a hard time accepting it because I truly loved him with every fiber of my being. So to convince myself, I looked it up.
"Constantly calling/texting"... check. "Takes everything personally"... check. "Gets jealous easily"... check. "Goes through personal items/phones/computers"... check. "Makes you feel afraid to say/do the wrong thing"... check. "Talks about marriage early in the relationship"... check. The list went on and on, and Ashton fit at least 90% of the signs that I found.
It forced me to take a step back and think about my options. It was like he'd lost touch with reality or something. It's still hard for me to explain. But if he wasn't willing to see that there was a problem, there was really only one option.
Aside from my issues with Ashton, I realized I'd lost touch with myself. I was still the same person, but I'd unintentionally isolated myself, which was something I always said I'd never do if I got involved with someone. I didn't talk to Traci nearly as much as I used to. I didn't even call my mom every day anymore. And the worst part was that I all but stopped spending any quality time with my children because I was always either talking to Ashton, or keeping up with him on social media.
The thing that topped it all off was when Molly brought home a paper from school where the students had to fill in the blanks with statements describing their mothers. Nearly every response had something to do with me paying so much attention to Ashton. The first one was "My mom's favorite thing to do is: be on her phone." Next was "My mom loves it when: I go to bed so she can talk to Smash." I would have loved to know what her teacher's reaction to that one was. Then there was "It's especially nice when my mom: spends time with me and doesn't go to concerts." It broke my heart. I decided then that no matter what, I had to do something about it. But how? I'd tried talking to him over and over, and got the same result. It was time to let go.
One thing I couldn't totally blame on my relationship with Ashton was the fact that I was drifting away from Traci. She was partly to blame, too. That's just the way it goes when you get involved with someone. She'd started dating this guy named Andrew soon after our last trip. I was surprised because it seemed to happen suddenly, though she'd told me about the guy before. He was someone she worked with, who she'd always been attracted to, but he was engaged to someone for a long time. Then after his fiance called off the engagement, he was afraid to get involved with anyone for a while, which was actually pretty smart. But Andrew finally asked Traci out, and she became attached quickly. She told me that keeping busy with him was helped her to get over her infatuation with Cal, and also with 5SOS in general. I wished it could be that easy for me, minus dating someone else, because at that point I knew no one would ever live up to what I had with Ashton, not counting the bad parts. Because when it was good, it was the best.
One particularly busy day at work, I had to help out in the emergency room for a few hours because one of their nurses got sick. I'd left my phone in my office, and didn't bother going back for it when I'd realized it, because it was a relief to have a little freedom. Though, I knew I'd hear all about it when I did talk to Ashton. It was such a terribly confusing feeling to love him and miss him so much, but at the same time feel that it was necessary to avoid him.
Sure enough, when I made it back to my office that afternoon, there were multiple missed calls. He even took it a step further and called my work phone and left a message on it. He said, "I thought since I can't seem to get a hold of you on your cell phone, maybe you'd answer your work phone. But I guess not. At least let me know you're alive, please." His words seemed like he was concerned, but his voice wasn't even friendly.
I would have called him back, in case he actually was worried, but I had a meeting in 10 minutes. That was the only reason I'd been able to leave the ER, because I had some important information to present. So while I was gathering up the things I'd need for the meeting, there was an overhead page for me to call the operator. That wasn't unusual, so I didn't think anything of it.
I picked up the phone and dialed the operator, who said she was transferring an emergent call to me. Naturally, I was automatically frightened, thinking something was wrong with one of the kids. When it rang, I answered, "Hello, this is Bree."
"Finally! Care to explain why you're avoiding me?"
"Ashton, shit, you scared me. Please don't call here saying that it's an emergency."
"Well, why aren't you answering? Are you mad at me? Did I do something wrong?"
It was time for the nonsense to end. I kept my cool, and was nearly in tears when I bluntly explained, "Yes, I'm mad because you won't listen to me. And I'm mad because there's nothing I can do about it. And I'm mad because I'm going to lose you. And I'm mad because this conversation always comes up at bad times. I can't do this right now, Ashton. I have to get to a meeting." I was so desperate to get my point across, and I was shaking. I couldn't handle arguing with him anymore.
He had the nerve to ask, "Can't you just skip it?"
"No, I can't! I'm one of the presenters, and the one who called for the meeting, actually. I'm sorry, but I have to go."
His voice got softer, and he pleaded, "Then can't you postpone it? Just a few minutes? I haven't heard your beautiful voice in forever."
In any other situation, I would have been putty in his hands with those words. But with things the way they were, he sounded like a crazy person. A legit cuckoo crazy person. I told him, "I talked to you before I came to work this morning. That was just a few hours ago."
"It seems like forever ago."
"I love it when you say my name."
I was getting nowhere. "Don't you have better things to do than talk to me all the time?"
"You are the better thing to do. I wish we were in the same state right now." He laughed mischievously at his innuendo.
Even when I wasn't happy with Ashton, I knew that if I could be with him physically, it would be a different story. Things were always good when we were together, unless he got jealous about something stupid. But I couldn't tell him that I wished we were together, too. It would only encourage him.
I sighed, not bothering to hide my annoyance that time. "I'm sorry, but I have to go." I hung up without saying goodbye and my heart shattered.
My cellphone buzzed right after I hung up with Ashton. I tapped "reject call". And that's when I knew for sure what I had to do: walk away from Ashton. But I wasn't about to do it over the phone. I would take care of it when we were together again, which would be in just over a week.
Kendra stopped by and noticed me sitting still, staring at my phone. She said, "Ready for this meeting?"
"Yeah, I was just getting my things together." I felt a tear spill over that I was trying so hard to keep at bay. I wiped it away and put on my brave face, pretending that I didn't feel sorry for myself.
Remarkably, Ashton left me alone the rest of the day. But I knew it wasn't because I'd finally gotten him to realize he needed to chill. It was because he was being spiteful, which was even worse than not listening to my wishes.
I nearly broke down and called so many times, but that would have been giving him what he wanted, and I was too stubborn for that. It was so hard being unhappy with Ashton. I never thought I'd live to see the day that I didn't want his constant attention. And it hurt like Hell to admit it.
The next day I couldn't think about anything except how upset Ashton must have been. We went nearly entire 22 hours without any contact, and I couldn't stand it anymore, which was ironic considering the reason why we weren't speaking.
On my lunch break I sucked it up and sent a text.
To Ashton: I'm so sorry if I hurt your feelings. You know I love you and I never want to hurt you. But you need to understand that you hurt me by not listening to my concerns. Not only that, but you hurt us. This isn't working for us, and if it doesn't change, we can't be happy together.
His response was exactly as I thought it would be, at least the first part.
From Ashton: I'm not apologizing for loving you. We should talk as much as possible because you never know when it may be the last time we hear each other's voices. People die unexpectedly all the time.
What the fuck? That was the most random thing I'd ever heard him say.
To Ashton: Don't talk like that. :(
From Ashton: It's true though.
To Ashton: I honestly try to talk to and be with you as much as possible. I can't apologize enough for not being able to do it more. You deserve more than I can give you. We need to have a serious talk about this when we're together.
He didn't acknowledge the point of that message at all.
From Ashton: Those last 3 shows can't come soon enough. After that I'll have all the free time I want. And I'm spending every second of it with you.
I tried telling him in so many ways without blurting it out what my intentions were when we met again, but he didn't acknowledge it. He was either in denial or was ignoring it. My guess was the first option. I couldn't understand why something so perfect had to turn out the way it did. Why couldn't he just listen to me? It just went to show that people aren't always who you think they are.