A Tale of Two Sirens
Author's Note: Donjo here. It's time for the next episode of the Ashley Dani Power Hour! Thanks to everybody who has enjoyed this so far, as well as those responsible for the DRU :)
The hours of the afternoon passed by so slowly that I couldn’t help but walk to Max’s house almost a half hour early. I was sure that he wouldn’t mind too much. His parents left over an hour ago, after all. He was, however, still a little surprised to see me early.
“Ashley? W-what are you--- I mean, you’re early,” he said as he opened the door.
I greeted him with a kiss. “I decided that I couldn’t wait any longer to see you. Is that a problem?”
“Well, it’s just that I’m not quite ready,” he explained.
“Don’t worry about planning anything special,” I smiled, touching his shoulder gently, “I have everything I need right here.”
Max blushed. “Ash…”
“---Why don’t we sit down?” I interrupted.
“Okay, but I really need to talk to you,” he said, getting serious. I simply smiled at him as I led the way to his couch. We both sat down.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I’ll just get straight to the point. You’ve been acting different lately, Ashley,” he started.
I sighed. “So you really did call Leslie.”
“So she got to you first, and you’re still acting the same? Why?” he asked.
“I don’t know how you could possibly think I’m acting different! I haven’t changed at all!” I snapped.
“Yes, you have!” he snapped back.
“I can’t believe you’re reacting so badly to me just kissing you more. It’s the natural progression of a relationship,” I told him.
“But not this quickly! And it isn’t just that, either. You’re more cocky about your singing and what you can get away with around me, and you’ve been acting, well, sexy. You’re more irritable, too. It’s almost like you’re being the exact opposite of the person you really are!” he claimed.
I couldn’t help but laugh. “You’re wrong.”
“No, I’m not! I couldn’t be any clearer about it. You aren’t the same girl you were a week ago…”
I leaned closer to him. “I’ve always been the girl you see in front of you.”
“How can you not realize that you’re changing?” he asked, exasperated.
“Because I’m not,” I whispered, pressing my lips against his, “now kiss me.”
Max tried to push me away, but my superior strength didn’t let him. I straddled him, pressing myself against him.
“Ash! This isn’t right,” Max said, still fighting to avoid kissing me. Silly boy.
“Let’s just forget about this matter of whether or not I’m changing, and just enjoy the moment,” I told him.
“I can’t,” he breathed.
I leaned back, taking off my shirt. I didn’t wear anything fancy so that it would be easy to remove it. I smiled, softly stroking a finger along his lips. “How can you even think of refusing me?”
He gulped. “Because… this isn’t you, Ashley.”
I grabbed his wrist. “You’re still going on about that? Just accept that you’re wrong, and enjoy the gift I’m giving you,” I told him, guiding his hand to my bra-covered breast. He recoiled backwards as he touched it.
“I told you, I can’t do this!” he yelled. He pushed at me again, actually knocking me off his lap. I grimaced. I shouldn’t have leaned back enough to give him leverage. In retaliation, I shrugged my bra off, revealing my exquisite breasts to Max’s eyes. I could see him hesitating between his earlier refusal and letting in the pleasure that I offered to him.
“Don’t you like what you see?” I asked, pushing my chest out, “It’s yours, Max.”
Suddenly, his eyes flashed with anger instead of hesitation. “What the hell is wrong with you? I can understand wanting to get a little closer to me, but this is going too far!”
“It’s simple. I’m a beautiful woman who wants you. What man would say no?”
“Me.” He said resolutely.
I laughed. “My, my. Aren’t you just a paragon of virtue? Refusing sex when it’s offered?”
“I just don’t know who you are anymore,” Max sighed, “just… put your clothes back on, and… and…”
“And what, exactly?” I asked.
“Get out,” he said.
“Get out?” I asked, confused. What was he getting at?
“You… you aren’t Ashley. You aren’t my girlfriend. Just leave. Please,” he said.
It looked like I was working at a futile effort. I put my clothes back on. “So you’re breaking up with me.”
“If that’s what you want to call it… then yes. I’m breaking up with you, Ashley. If you can’t get your act together, we can’t be together.”
I felt myself starting to tear up. He was severing our relationship based on some false assumption that I’m not being myself? I steeled my nerves and fought back the tears. I couldn’t let him see any weakness. Either way, it didn’t seem like he was going to relent. “…Fine,” I said, “you win. I’ll leave.”
I started to walk toward his front door, but he stopped me just before I crossed the threshold. “I’m sorry it had to end this way,” he said.
“Me too,” I said, walking out of the house. Fighting tears the entire way, I made my way back home. How could he do this to me? I thought we were closer than this… how could he have changed so much?
By the time I made it home, the only thing I could do was collapse into Mom’s arms and cry.
I didn’t leave home at all the next day. Not after Monday’s debacle. At first, I was depressed and crying over the situation, but that changed when I gave myself some time to think about it. Now, I was so pissed that not even Aka Manah seemed to want to mess with me. This was all Max’s fault. He tried to pin the blame on me, but he was wrong. I didn’t know what I ever saw in the idiot. I sighed. Leave it to me to find the one guy who didn’t melt at the sight of a pair of breasts.
I planned on staying in on Wednesday, too, but people kept bothering me with phone calls. I ignored several calls from Melissa, but I felt that I should at least answer Leslie.
“Hello?” I answered.
“Ashley! Thank goodness I was able to reach you!” Leslie said quickly.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“You disappeared yesterday. That’s what’s wrong!” she said. There was a hint of sadness in her tone.
“I needed to think about some things,” I told her.
“Well, I’ve got Jan with me here. Do you mind if we come see you?” she asked.
I suppose there was no avoiding persistent friends. “Sure. Go ahead,” I said.
“Okay. We’ll be right there,” Leslie said, “bye!”
“See you,” I answered, just before she hung up. Since I was now expecting company, I got into some more presentable clothes and went downstairs to see Mom. She’d probably want to know that someone was coming. Instead, I found Dad sitting in the Den, reading the newspaper like usual.
“Morning, Dad,” I said, giving him a small wave.
“Hey there,” he answered, “are you feeling any better?”
“Yeah,” I answered.
“That’s good to hear. Your mother and I were worried when you locked yourself in your room yesterday.”
“That was kind of stupid of me.”
“Actually, I’d be worried if you didn’t do something like that. I know how close you were to Max. He was a good man.”
“No, he wasn’t,” I said, still feeling bitter, “he wouldn’t have instigated this if he was.”
“I know you’re still feeling bitter, but you need to give yourself time to understand why he chose to break up with you,” Dad explained.
“I know why. We just aren’t compatible,” I said, crossing my arms.
Dad looked me in the eye. “If that’s the case, perhaps it’s for the best that you found this out now rather than months down the line.”
“Maybe it is,” I conceded. “Anyway, Leslie and Jan were worried about me too, so they’re on their way here to see me. Is that a problem?”
“Not on this end. I’m sure your mother would agree, too. You need to see your friends.”
“Where is Mom?” I asked.
“She’s on her way home from some small errands,” he said.
“I wonder who will get here first,” I mused. As if on cue, the doorbell rang.
“Looks like your friends win,” Dad said.
“I’ll go let them in,” I said, walking off to the front door. As soon as I opened it, I was greeted by the sight of two smiling friends.
“Hey Ash!” Jan chimed first.
“Morning,” I said, moving aside, “come on in.”
My friends took my invitation, and I led them up to my room after telling Dad where we would be.
“Well, make yourself at home, I guess,” I said, motioning around the room. Both girls moved and sat on my bed.
“So, how did your thinking go?” Leslie asked.
“It went fine. Were you really that worried about me?” I asked.
“Of course we were!” Jan exclaimed, “We want to help you, Ash.”
“Help me with what, exactly? I don’t need any help,” I told them.
Leslie sighed. “Fine. Let’s not go there, then. How did your date with Max go?”
“The bastard broke up with me,” I almost growled.
“What!?” both girls exclaimed in unison.
“Why in the world would he do that?” Jan continued.
I shrugged. “Apparently, he really didn’t want to have sex.”
“I warned you not to try anything funny!” Leslie snapped.
“And I didn’t give a damn about what you wanted me to do. Go figure.”
Leslie stood up. “Just what is wrong with you?”
I laughed. “Funny. Max asked me the same thing.”
“That’s because there really is something seriously wrong with you!” Leslie almost yelled. Jan seemed to be content in letting her do all the work in grilling me. However, this line of questioning was only pissing me off even more. I had no reason to vent at Dad earlier, but these two were giving me plenty. I clenched my fists.
“So you came all the way here just to keep arguing that I’ve changed somehow?” I asked calmly.
“No… but it seems that all of our conversations lately go in that direction, doesn’t it?”
“And we keep arguing because you are wrong!” I snapped, “Why can’t you see that?”
“Why can’t you see that you’re not the same person you were two weeks ago?” Jan demanded, joining the conversation again.
“Why can’t you see that I haven’t changed at all?” I demanded back.
“Just look at yourself! You’re wearing darker colors and more revealing clothing, you’re quick to anger, you’re openly antagonistic to everybody, and you’re acting like a slut!” Leslie yelled, “You’re the complete opposite of the girl we met on the first day of school… the girl who was so easy to like,” she finished, her tone falling into sadness.
I sighed. “You’ll have to try harder than that. None of that is news to me.”
“So you’re saying that the Ashley we both know and love was just an act?” Jan asked.
I smiled, playing along, “And what if it was?”
“Do-Do you care at all about our feelings?” Leslie asked.
“Why should I? All you’ve been doing for the few days is trying to lecture me about a flat out lie! And now you’ve come all the way into my home to do it! Why should I care about your feelings when you can’t seem to care about mine?” I ranted.
“We’re doing this because we do care!” Leslie yelled. She grabbed my shoulders. “You need to snap out of it!”
I pushed her away, much to her surprise. “Don’t. Touch. Me.”
“That was uncalled for!” Jan exclaimed, jumping forward to comfort her stunned friend.
“What are you going to do about it?” I asked. Something about being able to scare these girls like this made me feel… powerful. When Jan said nothing, I just laughed. “That’s what I thought.”
Jan looked down. “I don’t know who you are anymore.”
Leslie spoke up. “I just don’t get it, Ash. Whatever’s happening to you, it’s getting worse and worse every day. How can you not see it?”
“Because there is nothing to see! You have no business coming into my home and throwing these accusations at me!” I yelled.
“No, we did have business with you… but not anymore. It’s clear that you don’t want us to bother you anymore,” she said softly.
“Ah! Now you get it!” I said, smiling.
Leslie took Jan’s hand. “We’re just going to go, then. We won’t be bothering you anymore.”
Jan looked at her friend with wide eyes. “You mean…?”
“Can’t you see that she doesn’t want to be helped? There’s no use arguing with her,” Leslie answered. Tears were starting to pool in her eyes. Jan’s soon followed as she seemed to see what Leslie was getting at. Leslie turned back to me. “Goodbye, Ashley.”
I scoffed. “So you’re abandoning me too?”
“No. You’ve abandoned us. If… If you can ever look inside yourself and realize what you’re doing… we might still be there for you. But right now, there isn’t a single person I know who would be friends with such an insensitive bitch,” she said. I was surprised at her choice of words. She never said things like that.
“Fine, then,” I said, drawing on my anger. “Go. Just go!”
The two girls didn’t say anything. They just left my room, tears streaming down their eyes. Before Jan left my sight, however, she turned around.
“Please… remember who you are…” she pleaded with me. I said nothing, and just waited for her to leave too. I closed the door and immediately drove my fist into the nearest wall. It went clean through, but I barely felt the pain. Just what the fuck was going on!? First Max, and now my closest friends? Why were they all abandoning me like this? I haven’t changed a single bit! I fell on my bed, tears forcing their way from my eyes.
As long as nobody was watching… perhaps it was safe to let some of it out…
After arriving home from her errands, Janice Martin spent some of her time listening to the argument that her daughter was having with her best friends. She simply couldn’t believe what she was hearing… talk of Ashley becoming the opposite of who she really was. She knew that something seemed off about her lovely daughter, but this was far worse than her initial fears. She made sure to get out of the way before Leslie and Jan left Ashley’s room, but the damage was already done.
Something was terribly wrong with her daughter, and she had no idea what could be done about it. When the doorbell rang, it came as solace for her troubled mind. She was surprised to see who was at the door.
“Melissa?” Janice asked.
“Good Morning, Janice,” Melissa said, “may I come in?”
“Of course. Please, make yourself comfortable,” Janice said, letting her friend in. The two women joined Carl in the living room.
“What brings you here today, Melissa?” he asked.
“Ashley hasn’t been returning my calls lately, so I thought I should come check up on her,” she said.
Janice frowned. “I don’t know if she’s willing to talk to anyone right now. She just had a falling out with her friends.”
“Has she been acting any different lately?”
“Yes, she has. That was the point of contention between her friends. Ashley clearly is acting different, but she is aggressively denying the notion.”
“So it’s almost as if she can’t personally see that she’s changing?”
“It would appear so.”
“So Aka Manah is more powerful than we gave him credit for…”
“Does this mean that it’s only a matter of time before we lose our daughter?” Carl asked.
“Not if we can help it,” Melissa said, “we’ll keep working on a solution to remove that mark.”
“Is there anything we should do to help in the meantime?” Janice asked.
“From the sounds of it, Ashley is growing to be a danger to herself, but she’d probably react badly if we tried to detain her without having a solution ready. It may be best to try giving her space to fight this herself for now, given the nature of her assailant,” Melissa mused.
“So you wish to refrain from extreme action unless it’s truly necessary,” Carl said.
“Exactly,” Melissa confirmed, “How differently have you seen her act?”
“She’s spent a lot of time either in her room or out of the house, but it’s been clear to us that she isn’t quite the same. Her friends quite clearly said that she has taken a complete flip in her personality. They were both with her earlier, but they stormed out of the house in tears,” Janice explained.
“So she’s becoming the complete opposite of the Ashley we all know?” Melissa asked.
“…Yes,” Janice said, disheartened. Carl moved to comfort his wife.
“Please don’t give up on her. It could be part of Aka Manah’s plan to make her act in ways that drive everybody she loves away from her,” Melissa said.
“Even if we’re the last people in the world on her side, we’ll still be there for her,” Janice said. Melissa smiled.
“As long as you don’t give up, I’m certain that we can bring Ashley back from wherever this cursed being takes her. I promise that we’ll find a way to bring her back.”
“Thank you, Melissa,” Janice choked out.
Melissa gently grabbed her friend’s hand. “We won’t give up, either.”
Carl smiled. “That’s what we’re counting on. Please, help our daughter before she does something she’ll truly regret.”
Melissa nodded; no words were necessary. With Ashley’s condition evaluated, Melissa let her parents be and left to continue the search. Janice, however, found herself at a crossroads. If she or Carl worked to prevent Ashley from leaving the house again, they’d merely arouse their daughter’s anger and possibly make things worse. If they left her to her own devices, however… her condition may worsen on its own.
She turned to her husband and began to discuss what they should do.
Later that day...
It might surprise you, but there are about a thousand different parts and pieces to the modern car. And here I was reassembling one from the ground up and adding some new things to it, just because I was bored. In my defense, it’s kinda hard to stay in one place like we have to in Delta Beta Zeta and not go insane just from all the boredom. So, I got back into my car hobby, even though Mama doesn’t quite understand why I like it as much as I do. For me, it’s being able to say that what I drive is uniquely mine and there isn’t another one like it in the world. One of one, if you will.
Now, here I was bent over the front of my car. I hadn’t put the hood back on yet and I was covered in grease, oil and other random fluids and such that make cars work. Mind you, I was smart enough not to wear anything nice while I’m wrenching on a car, as that would completely ruin it, so I was wearing an old black hoodie and an old torn up pair of jeans. It was unseasonably warm today, so I could get away with just that. I had just finished re-installing the turbo charger when I heard a loud knock on the metal door to my storage unit. I wiped my hands off on my shop rag and answered the knock.
“Jan, Leslie, I wasn’t expecting you two for another fifteen minutes.” I said with a sunny smile at the looks on their faces. Even covered in dirt, oil, grease and only God knows what else, I still looked like sex on two legs the way only a pin-up girl can.
“Hi Danielle.” Jan said first, but was looking around the storage unit with confusion and wonder written plainly on her face.
“Well hey there to you too, Dani. I hope you don’t mind me asking, but just how in the world do you always manage to look as good as you do?” Leslie asked me quite bluntly.
“I’m not all that sure myself, actually. I’ve always blamed genetics and thanked my Mama for what she gave me.” I said with a wink and a smile. That got a good laugh out of the two of them. “So, since you’re here a little early, I’ll turn on the space heater to keep you girls nice and toasty.”
“Thank you.” Jan said, still looking around. “Is there anywhere we could take a seat?”
“Yeah, I’ve got the seats for the car sitting on the floor over there. I’ll drag ‘em around for ya and we can get to business.” I said as I did exactly that.
After telling the kids my thoughts on Ashley and what might have been going on, they proceeded to fill me in on how she had been acting at school and the small and not so small changes that have been happening fairly rapidly. Apparently, she was a total “Girl Scout” (as opposed to a “Boy Scout”) and in a week or two she had turned into some kind of slutty tramp or some such thing. That, more than anything, had me worried. A girl can get into a whole heap of trouble acting like that. All told the three of us talked for about fifteen, maybe twenty minutes before they had to get going to do whatever it was that teenagers do these days. After they left, I called Cindy and set up a lunch date with her to get her thoughts on Ashley and how things have been going at the dojo. Until then, however, I needed to finish getting my car put back together.
After having my private cry, I began to think about my situation a little more. As I slowly realized something, my lips curled into a smile. If they all wanted to see me be “different”, then I’d show them different. I’d do something people couldn’t help but notice, and be sexier at the same time.
Yes, I thought as I drifted to sleep that night. Tomorrow would be fun.
“Good evening, my dear,” Aka Manah’s voice echoed in the emptiness.
“You haven’t been showing your face very often,” I told him.
“There is no need for me to show my face to you. It is getting easier and easier to influence you without these meetings,” he told me.
“Then why are you here now? To revel in my sorrows?” I demanded.
“Of course not, my sweet. I seek to comfort you in your time of need,” he said.
“Bullshit!” I snapped, “You just want to advance your own agenda!”
Aka Manah instantly appeared in front of me, gently stroking my cheek. “Such anger… such finality. Yet, I’ve still kept enough of your old self within you to know sorrow as your loved ones abandon you. You are progressing far better than I could have possibly hoped.”
I slapped his hand away. “You haven’t earned the right to touch me.”
“Oh? Is that so? What about young Max?”
“I wouldn’t take him back even if he begged at my feet,” I said.
He smiled. “Would it please you to know that I wouldn’t refuse the gift you offered him?”
I smiled. “Of course you wouldn’t. Max was just the exception.”
Aka Manah smiled back. “You become more beautiful with every word you say.”
I laughed. “Flattery won’t get even you anywhere.”
“I merely speak the truth, and I must say that I wholly approve of your latest plan. Black truly is your color.”
“I’m glad that you approve, but you wouldn’t be able to stop me even if you didn’t.”
“I have no desire to stop you. You are your own person, are you not?”
“And you’d better not forget it.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it. But, I believe this is enough for one night. I wish nothing but the best for you, Ashley Martin. May your remaining relationships continue to flourish.”
As he disappeared, I began to wonder if I was wrong about him. Was this kindness genuine, or just a means to an end? Whatever it was, he couldn’t stop me from pursuing my own goals. That much, I was sure of.
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