I went back and forth that night, debating whether or not to send Ashton a message thanking him for the gift. I didn't want to be rude and not thank him. But I also didn't want to stir anything up. But when I spent a few minutes with Molly before she went to bed, she asked if she could talk to Ashton and thank him. I told her that I didn't know what he was doing, and he may not be able to talk to her right then. So I sent a simple text.
It said: Molly says thank you for the gift. It was thoughtful of you to send her something for her birthday. She loves it.
I waited up for a little while to see if he'd reply, but he didn't. As a matter of fact, he never did.
However, Ashton didn't miss a beat over the next couple of months. Every date of importance brought more surprises.
At Christmas he sent a gift to each of the kids, along with a note that said, "Santa told me you've been good this year. I'm glad to hear you've been listening to your mommy. Regretfully, that's something I wasn't very good at. I hope you are all doing well. I think of you often and miss you like crazy. Merry Christmas."
Until then, I'd never seriously thought about how he lost more than just me when I ended our relationship. And the kids lost the only father figure they'd ever had. I was too wrapped up in my own selfish needs, I guess. This spurred a new round of sadness and guilt that I couldn't shake.
I started to call or text Ashton so many times after that. I'd type out a message, sometimes a simple "thank you" for the gifts, and other times a rambling of "I'm sorry" and "are you willing to let me make it up to you"?But each time I'd delete it after reminding myself that he was with Brandi, and he probably didn't care to hear anything I had to say, as a friend or otherwise. He'd said he wanted to keep in touch, but I figured that since he hadn't taken the initiative to speak to me, he must have changed his mind. But at least he didn't ignore the kids, for which I was thankful.
Valentine's Day started out super shitty. I couldn't get any work finished because I had to help out in other areas all morning, which I'd grown to hate. I never got to eat lunch, and ended up with a terrible headache. And when my usual flowers from the kids arrived, I sat at my desk and cried for a good 20 minutes, remembering how Ashton surprised me the previous Valentine's Day.
But it all turned around, kind of, after I got home and checked the mail. There were three cards, one each for Molly, Ash, and myself, postmarked from Los Angeles. The sender could only be one person. I ripped open the one addressed to myself and sat down on the porch, too anxious to wait until I got inside to read it.
It was one of those cards with a pretty picture on the front, but blank on the inside to write your own message.
I hope you are doing well. And I hope you're okay with me sending this. You have no idea how many times over the past five months I've wanted to pick up the phone and call you. But I'm sure you have nothing to say to me. I, however, have so much that has been left unsaid. I won't worry you with it all right now. I'm hoping I'll be able to tell you in person some day. I must say, though, it's been helpful with songwriting, which I'm up to my eyeballs in recently. But the one thing I can't wait any longer to say is that I still love you. It's been so hard pretending that I don't care anymore. I wonder all the time if you've moved on; if you've found someone else. And I swear, I don't mean that in a jealous sense. If you have, he's the luckiest man alive. You deserve to be with someone worthy of your love, because you have so much to give. I was such a fool to not fight harder for you. And an even bigger fool to ruin what we had in the first place. I'm not going to ask for another chance. You already made it clear there wasn't one. With that being said, I'll always be here with open arms should you ever change your mind. I know I shouldn't be sending this to you. You surely know what's going on in my life. Who doesn't? But you're smart enough to know that things aren't always as they appear. Not a day goes by that I don't hear you asking me, "Are you happy?" that day we met. You knew the answer before you even asked me. I'll just say that the answer is the same. I can't imagine ever being happy with someone else. But I'm trying. All of that aside, I remember once upon a time promising you a Vegas trip for your birthday. And I intend to hold true to my promise. So with your birthday coming up soon, I wanted to give you ample time to arrange to be off work and such, so you and Traci can spend a whole week in Las Vegas. I want you to spend your birthday with your family. But the next day, I hope you'll accept my gift and hop on a plane for a week long birthday celebration. I've already booked a suite and will take care of the airfare when you give me the go-ahead. Don't worry, this isn't a way to bribe you or use this as an excuse to talk to you. I just want you to have a memorable birthday. I'll send the details, and you won't hear from me otherwise. So, happy Valentine's Day, and happy early birthday, babe. Please accept this gift from me. It would bring a little happiness to my heart.
"Oh my fuck," was all I could say to myself, even after I read it several more times.
I couldn't get over that he basically said he'd take me back. And this Vegas trip was something Traci and I'd been wanting to do ever since we'd met. Adrenaline had my entire body shaking. I couldn't even think straight.
I hadn't seriously considered the possibility of us getting back together before. Yes, I longed for it every single day and I was still having a tough time convincing myself I'd made the right decision. But I was terrified we'd end up in the same situation, and I physically could not go through another breakup with him. Oh, that, and the fact that he was dating someone else, depending on the day of the week and the atmospheric pressure, kind of put a damper on things.
I didn't give Ashton an answer about the trip right away. Not only did I have to make sure Traci could go, but I had to make sure it was right to accept his gift in the first place. Obviously he was sending us gifts behind Brandi's back. I felt a little guilty about that, no matter the state of their relationship. And although he said it wasn't bribery or a way to stay in touch with me, I wasn't totally convinced. But then again, Ashton was a very generous person, so maybe I was wrong.
Reading his confession of unhappiness got the wheels cranking in my head, and I thought more and more about all of the "what ifs". Ashton had certainly proven that he could lay off the constant contact. The jealousy issue could only be proven with time, if we did get back together. But what I was most concerned about was how he was doing. He wasn't happy, but what I needed to know was if he had worked on his issues. I thought so, since he'd not contacted me directly until then. But again, that was something I had no way of knowing for sure unless I spent some time with him. Too bad that wasn't possible.
There was only one person that could help me sort through those kind of issues. I called Traci that evening after I got the kids settled in bed. We texted and sent Snapchats every day. But we hadn't actually talked to each other in a while.
She answered saying, "Girl, what's up? You haven't called me in forever."
I laughed at her. "True. But the phone works both ways, you know."
"True, true. So really, what's up?"
"Well... you know that girl's trip we talked about taking?"
"Hell yeah. Why? You have something up your sleeve?"
I had the card in my hand, smiling at it once again. "I do, actually. Do you think there's any chance of you getting off work for a week following my birthday?"
"I'll find a way. But where are we going?"
Traci shrieked and I could just imagine her doing a happy dance. She had a bunch of questions like how much and where we'd stay and all of the necessary information.
"I don't know."
"What do you mean you don't know?"
"It's a crazy story, actually." I proceeded to read her the note from Ashton, while I cried once again.
When I was finished, Traci was quiet for a minute, then she said, "Sweet baby Jesus, Bree. What are you going to do?"
"I don't know. I'm so torn right now. I thought I was finally getting over it, kind of. But now he's basically given me this open invitation. My heart is telling me to jump in feet first, but my gut tells me to let it be. And then there's Brandi. Even if he's not happy with her, I don't want to be the reason for them breaking up. I don't want to be that person. Again. Fuck, I don't know what to do, T."
Leave it to Traci to think logically. "Okay, so do don't anything. At least, not right now. This is all fresh in your head and seems like a huge deal right now. Well, it is a huge deal. But give it time and you'll be able to weigh the pros and cons and think about it more clearly. No offense, but I'm glad I'm not the one faced with this decision. Honest to God, I think you did the right thing at the time. But maybe it could be different this time. Maybe it's meant to be, and that's why you've been given this opportunity. So just give it some time, and if you think it's right at all, grab it by the balls and run with it, you know?"
So that's exactly what I planned to do.