I knew the right thing to do would be to stop him. But he was so intoxicating. I had to have him one last time.
When I think back now, I believe that Ashton was aware that it would be the last time, too. There was just something different about it that I'm not sure how to explain. It was almost like he'd accepted that I was trying to end our relationship and he was pleading for me to change my mind. It was so beautiful, yet bittersweet, with so many emotions happening at once.
When it was over, I knew there was no time to waste. Traci was no doubt waiting for me to let her know it was okay to come back. And the longer I put it off, the harder it would be. Plus, I figured with us both in our most vulnerable state, maybe he'd actually listen.
Tears blurred my vision, but I never broke eye contact while I spoke. Mainly because I thought it would be the last time I ever got to look into his eyes. But also because I had to hold his attention and get my point across. I didn't have the strength to go through it again if he refused to hear me out.
But surprisingly, Ashton started speaking before I did. He brushed the hair away from my face and said, "Please don't. I'll try harder."
I had a speech prepared, but it all went out the window when my mouth opened. I finally said, "No matter how much we love each other, it's never going to be enough for either of us. And it's because I love you so damn much that I have to let you go."
"But if we love each other so much, there's no reason why we can't be together."
I saw his eyes tearing up, too, and I totally lost it. I gave up the fight to not cry. "You have this need that... that I can't even explain or understand. And even if I did understand it, I can't give it to you."
"But, Aubree, think of how amazing things are when we're together. Like what just happened. And even when we're doing nothing but sitting alone together without saying a word, you can't deny the connection we have, babe."
"You're right. When we're together, and you're not being a jealous asshole, it's literal perfection. But when we're apart, which is the majority of the time, it's not good at all. In the very beginning it was. But the damage is done, Ashton. It's too late. Nothing's going to change."
"If you love me as much as you say you do, you wouldn't ask me to change."
"That's the whole problem, though, Ashton. If you were the same man I met, there wouldn't be a problem. You changed after we got together. Everyone has noticed, it's not just me. You need to let go and find yourself again, Ashton. You're amazing without me. I'm just toxic for you or something. I don't know how else to say it."
"There's a way to make it work. You can drop everything and stay with me, Aubree. You and the kids can go wherever I go. It's that simple."
"No, Ashton. There's nothing simple about it. I can't just uproot my kids' lives like that. Yeah, they'd think it was a blast at first, but that's a complete lifestyle change. And I wouldn't be able to work. I know it sounds crazy, but I happen to love my job. And no way would I ever rely on you for money. That's out of the question. Besides, if it didn't work out in the end after all, I'd have nothing. No job, no house, no financial stability to raise my kids. I'm sorry, but no."
I knew the chances of giving into his pleas were higher with every minute that passed. He was holding me tightly and it felt so right. It would have been easy to say fuck it all and give it another chance. But I didn't do it.
Traci called me, for which I was thankful. Ashton tried to get me to not answer it, but I did anyway. When I answered, Traci apologized, but said she wanted to make sure I was okay. I told her I was.
"So is it okay if I come back up? I'm sitting here in the lobby with all these fans, looking like a stalker. It's awkward as fuck."
It was her room, too. It would have been rude to tell her no. "Yeah. Can you give me five minutes?"
"No problem. Let me know if you need more time."
I told Ashton that we had to get dressed because Traci would be there in a few minutes. He reluctantly did so, but the whole time he was getting dressed, he begged me to think about it some more to be sure it was what I wanted.
"Ashton, it's all I think about. You, me, us. The good, the bad. It consumes me."
I heard Ashton's phone vibrating and I knew it was because it was time for him to leave. He closed his eyes and threw his head back and groaned angrily. "Fuck. I can skip it, Aubree, if you'll just come to my room so we can talk some more." The phone kept buzzing, but he ignored it.
I shook my head. "Listen to yourself. You're not skipping shit for me, Ashton. You have a job to do. Other people are depending on you. And there's nothing left to talk about. Go, okay?"
Traci knocked on the door just then and I let her in. Ashton was standing at the foot of my messy bed, sadly looking at the floor with his hands in his pockets. Traci sat down on her bed, looked at my bed, then at Ashton and me. It was obvious what we had done while she was out of the room. I'm sure she was perplexed because she knew my intent. The bemused look on her face almost made me laugh.
It was so quiet until she stood up again and walked back toward the bathroom and said, "I'll just, uh... yeah," before she went inside and shut the door behind her. Even Ashton smiled a little at her awkwardness. I reached up and touched his lips, out of habit I guess, then regretted it because his smiled disappeared.
"This isn't over," he said quietly. Then he gently cupped my face and kissed me softly, yet aggressively. His eyes bore into mine and he said, "I love you." And with those words, he left.
I felt like he took my last breath with him. My chest was tight and my legs barely held me up. I sat down on the bed before they gave out. I'd never felt such despair in my life. I hated myself and I couldn't imagine ever being happy again.
I don't know how long I cried, but I literally cried myself to sleep. When I woke up, Traci was still sitting beside me on my bed, where she was consoling me before I fell asleep. She saw that I was awake and turned the TV off.
"Girl, no offense, but you're gonna need a cold washcloth for those puffy eyes before we leave this room."
I had to laugh. I loved that she always found humor in bad situations. "I don't even care what I look like. It's not like I'm out to impress anyone."
"You're doing the right thing, you know. I mean, if it's meant to be, you'll work out something in the end. I know you both love each other more than words, but if something doesn't feel right, you can't ignore it."
I nodded my agreement.
"Hey, he's texted you a couple of times. I didn't read them, I just saw who they were from in case it was your mom. I'll delete them so you don't have to read them if you want."
"That would probably be the smart thing to do. But no, I'll read them."
She handed me my phone. I was afraid that by "a couple" she really meant "multiple." But there were actually only two. In the first one he was telling me that he was keeping us on the list for tickets whether or not we wanted them and he hoped to see my face in the crowd. And the other one said they were headed to Dallas right after the show, but he'd stay behind with me if I wanted him to. He also said that he loved me.
I messaged him back, saying that we would be at the show, but we had an early flight and were planning on being in bed by midnight, because it was the truth. He sent one back right away that said, Okay. I hope you enjoy your night and sleep well. I love you.
It was important to me to make sure he knew that I still loved him even though I couldn't be with him. So I replied, I love you, too. Always will.