We’re eating Chinese food. Again. It seems to be Ashby’s absolute favorite. Take out boxes stick out of the top of the garbage can as I shove in the last few and then return to the fridge to put away the leftovers.
“Come eat. I can take care of that.”
The silly man pops back into the kitchen from the living room, our plates of food balanced in his hands as he gives me a meaningful look that suggests saying no isn’t really an option. Sticking my tongue at him, I cross the space between us and accept my plate. We haven’t picked out a kitchen table yet. I’ve convinced him that we really should have it before the holidays, but he’s skeptical of online shopping and we haven’t decided on a day to visit the furniture warehouse.
I settle onto my spot on the couch, my laptop already set up on a chair opposite our sitting space to give us something to watch. “What are you in the mood for tonight, Mr. Carter?”
Mouth already too full of orange chicken, he gives me a shrug and motions for me to click something. Rolling my eyes at his silly expression, I turn on the documentary I was in the middle of on my lunch break at work. A complex look into numerology and astrology and the way the two sciences might be able to help each other further find answers to the biggest questions of the world.
“I didn’t know you were so interested in the stars, Lucy.”
I give him a shrug as I spin chow mein noodles around my fork. “I like to watch all sorts of things. The last one was about the ocean.”
He nods along to my words. “I remember. You didn’t like the giant squids.”
“The purpose of the video was to talk about recycling and cleaning up the ocean. They didn’t need to traumatize me with clips of the scariest aliens in the universe.”
Ashby throws his head back and chuckles like I’m the most hilarious person ever. I love his laugh. I love the way that he lets the sound vibrate from his chest to his mouth like he’s savoring every part of it. It reminds me that he hasn’t always had a happy life.
Rather than get into our crappy origin stories, I focus on the computer screen as dictionary definitions for different words flash across the video. Ashby munches next to me, the sound competing with the calm voice of the documentary. He’s an impeccable eater when anybody else is here, but an absolute gremlin when we’re alone.
He trusts me enough to be himself.
That thought settles like a brick in my stomach. It knocks the wind from my chest. I almost choke on my last bite of food.
He trusts me.
I was a mess when we met. I’m still a giant mess. Ashby Carter flaunts our relationship. He shows me off and then stands back when it’s my turn to perform. I don’t know what to say other than he’s absolutely perfect. Even my mom liked him.
I just don’t know if I’ll ever be enough.
He’s had eighty years of life before running into me. There’s no way for me to bridge that kind of experience. I’m making shit up as I go. Whether at work where I challenge my boss for more hours and to give me creative freedom or out at any of the fancy restaurants Ashby wants to try after dressing me up in all sorts of colored fabrics, I always feel a bit out of my own depth.
Everyone else has their shit figured out and I’m over here watching videos steeped in conspiracy theories.
Real sexy, Lucy. That’s what gets a guy to stay.
“Do you think any of this has real substance to it?” He asks next to me, his hand halfway raised to his mouth with a piece of broccoli while he arches an eyebrow at me.
I knew he wasn’t going to like it. “We can watch something else.”
He drops his fork and grabs my wrist before I can click the laptop mouse and put myself out of this misery. “Why? I’m enjoying it.”
I shake my head. “You think it’s silly.”
Confusion clouds his dark eyes. “It’s not silly. I think it’s interesting. You’re interesting, Lucy, and I’ve never seen this topic discussed before. I just wanted to know if you think it’s real?”
It might be foolish of me to tell the truth, but I can’t lie to him, so I nod my head. “I hope so. I’d like to believe that there isn’t necessarily an omniscient spirit carving out our lives, but that the universe has a hand in crafting fate. How else would I have run into you and fallen in love?”
Pink colors his cheeks. “You don’t think my good looks and awkward tendencies had anything to do with falling in love?”
His hand is still on my wrist, those cool fingertips pressing against my pulse as I smile at him. “It might have done a little something. We’re basically opposite astrological signs, so I guess the universe didn’t technically set us up for success.”
Questions flit over his features. It’s not a night for questions. My scientist can’t focus on anything else until he thinks he has an entire problem solved. I tug him close and silence him with a kiss.
Ashby melts against me, his immediate reaction to deepen our intimate touch as he carefully balances his plate in his other hand. This. I could do this every day and I believe that we were destined to stay together.
Tears threaten to spill. I need a moment to myself. Just to gather my thoughts and compose myself. My emotions are sitting right under the surface of my skin. They’re pushing and pushing and going to spill over if I can’t go take a deep breath and calm down.
“Where are you going?”
I barely manage to lean back and disentangle myself from the man. Off the couch. I have to move and get space and… and I don’t know what else, but I can’t draw a full breath and there’s tears already blurring my vision.
Crap. I don’t want him to see me like this.
I don’t have a way to answer. Shaking my head at Ashby’s next words, I leave at a slight jog, taking my entire plate with me to the bathroom as I close and lock the door behind me. I let the plate sit on the edge of the sink as I settle onto the ledge of the bathtub. There’s no stopping the tears.
I bury my face in my hands, but it’ll never be enough to silence the sobs coming out of me. Ashby can hear. He can hear everything. Usually, it’s cute, but right now I don’t need him privy to my mental breakdown.
As always, he’s there anyway, his voice low on the other side of the door. “Lucy? Did I say something wrong?”
He could never say anything wrong. That’s the problem.
I’m the problem and I have no idea how to express that without him coming to the rescue like a vampire in shining armor.
“I can’t help if you don’t talk to me, Lucy.”
My chest is so tight. I stagger to my feet and stare at my red face in the mirror. I don’t know how to fix this. I don’t know how to feel better. How’s a girl like me supposed to wake up every day next to someone like him and feel like the world isn’t going to tear us apart?
He’s too good to be true.
There’s some crinkling on the other side of the door. Ashby must have brought his food, too. I listen to him rustle in the hallway as I grab a handful of toilet paper and attempt to fix the mess that is my face.
“You believe in constellations bringing people together, right?”
It’s not exactly how I would usually phrase the concept of astrology, but I don’t bother correcting him as we continue to speak through the door. “Yeah,” my voice leaves me in a croak, the traitorous vocal cords doing nothing to mask the fact that I’m upset from the caring man waiting for me.
There’s a snap and then Ashby’s voice filters through the wood once more. “So, do fortune cookies fall into the same category? Like fate has a way of making sure you get the right words at the right time?”
“I hope so, because mine says,” there’s a dramatic pause as he pulls the paper out from the cookie. “You will marry your lover.”
I let out a hiccup as I smile at myself in the mirror. “Marriage, Ashby? Is that something you’re already thinking about?”
“It’s something I would like to think about with you. You’re my everything, Lucy Lore.”
Here he goes again. Telling me that I’m amazing. He’ll confess to our empty hall that I bring magic into his life. The walls of this house have heard every way he can possibly phrase the words I love you. Ashby Carter loves loudly and on repeat.
He deserves a girl who does the same.
“What if you find someone who is better?”
“That’s impossible. I want you, Lucy. I’m not going to change my mind.”
For a genius, Ashby can be so thick sometimes. I don’t want to spell out my insecurities to him. I don’t even know if I can find the words to do so, but we’re clearly not going to continue our evening until I can, so I try my best to get it out.
“What if we get fifteen years down the line and you realize that I’m annoying or I just stop fitting into your life? You have a whole family that’s immortal. I haven’t even met your older brother. What if he hates me and you decide to take his side?”
I wish I could see him. He probably has his forehead on the door as he listens to each and every syllable of my ridiculous monologue.
“Love isn’t something that just happens to people, Lucy. It’s a choice. I’ve made it every day since you patched me up after the carnival and I’ll continue to make it every day after that. I want everything you’ll give me and I’ll never think you’re boring or annoying or not enough.”
“But how do you know?” I’m yelling the words at my reflection, the stupid girl in the mirror pressing me to get to the bottom of this before we lose our heart completely to that man out there.
“I just do, Lucy.”
Hot tears streak down my cheeks. It’s not enough. I can’t base my entire future on him just happening to think he knows something.
“I was born in 1926, Lucy Lore. Since then, I’ve survived war and been transformed into something more than human. I’ve loved one person before you and only stopped when he threw me out of his life.” There’s a short pause as he takes a shuddering breath on the other side of the door, the impact of those words rattling me to my bones. “I’m not asking you to be certain about this right now, but I’ve lived long enough to know when I want something, someone, and I will never give up on you. If you asked me to leave, Lucy, I would, but I wouldn’t stop loving you.”
That’s it. The right combination of words to thaw the icy hold my emotions have had on my heart. I leave the sink in a near sprint, fumbling with the lock and crashing out into the hall.
Later, he’s going to lecture me about how hard it is to get fried rice off of the floor. Now, though, he doesn’t say anything about the plate of food on the floor, the sweet and sour sauce exploded over both of our ankles. I wrap my arms around him and bury my face in his shoulder.
“Just tell me if you ever start to resent me.”
He chuckles into my hair, promising that my worst fears will never come.
This blog post was a special request from my number one fan and amazing spouse. She’s the entire reason behind my Lore series becoming a published sequence and I can’t so no when she begs for more Lucy and Ashby scenes.
Let me know in the comments below if you enjoyed this week’s story and be sure to check out Lore on kindle vella to catch up with these two characters: Lore
As always, please take an extra moment to read my writing partner’s story as well! Let’s go to the ocean by Bridgette White
Have a great night and we’ll see you next Saturday!