Alexa B-Side: #21 - Ashley

Alexa B-Side: #21 - Ashley

“I still don’t see why we can’t go! We go every year and we were invited!” The teenaged girl yelled out in frustration over her father’s decision.

“I told you I am not dealing with that freak! He has made this family a laughing stock!” her father said as he slammed down the magazine on the arm of his recliner. He stood up abruptly to try and prove his point and spilled his beer. “God dammit! Now look what you made me do. Karen grab me a towel! This discussion is over. We are going to your Uncle Ken and Aunt Peggy’s tomorrow.” Bob said as took the towel from his wife and began soaking up the spilled beer.

Bob’s wife watched as her daughter raced from the room screaming how mean her father was. She knew that Ashley and her cousin had made a connection when they ran into each other at the State Fair and Karen knew that they had exchanged text messages. Karen still didn’t understand the reasoning behind her nephew’s decision to become her niece, but the bond her daughter and Alexa had started to form was growing. After taking over the cleanup duties from her husband and depositing the towel in the laundry she walked down the hallway. She took a deep breath before she knocked on the door. “What?” was the tear-filled, terse reply Karen heard from the other side. Karen opened the door a bit. “Can I come in” she asked the prone girl and slowly slipped into the room and took a seat on the bed net to her daughter.

‘Why does dad hate Alexa so much? She just wants to be happy.” Ashley said as she raised her head from the oversize giraffe that she clung to. Karen rubbed her back. “I don’t know Ash, but you know how he feels about gay people and he probably sees it that way.” Ashley contemplated what her mom said for a moment and burst out rather forcefully ‘Well that’s just wrong” before flopping back down into her bed. Karen was torn. While she did not approve of gay people, she understood her daughter’s need for closeness to someone in her extended family. Ashley had no cousins on Karen’s side of the family and all the Quinn cousins were older. The closest one in age to Ashley was a boy and Ashley did not care for him. So, Karen began to think to herself. How could she help her daughter and keep the peace in her house? She gently rubbed her daughter’s back before she headed back out the door and towards the kitchen.

As she opened the refrigerator to get herself a can of Diet Pepsi, an idea started to form. Maybe Ashley could go to one of her friends, she thought. No that wouldn’t work, as her two closest friends were both out of town for the holiday. One to their cabin and another to their grandparents in Worthington. Karen had no family, having lost her only brother in Iraq to an IED and her parents now in Arizona. What about Charlotte? While the relationship between the sisters-in-law had been strained since the funeral, they had remained on speaking terms. Karen had been kept up to date on the lives of her nephews, and she guessed her niece, as their lives continued. And one thing Karen had learned was that Alex, now Alexa, was happy. She had been in a terrible car accident but had survived and was now engaged to the Thompson girl. Maybe she had found the happiness she craved for so long. The idea of staying with Charlotte began to strengthen. Karen put the unopened can back in the fridge and grabbed her phone.

In the time Ashley had been left alone, she had logged on to Facebook on her phone and checked out her cousin’s page. Ashley was amazed at the pretty young woman her cousin had become. Alex had always seemed a little different as he was growing up, but it was hard for Ashley to really know. She was six years younger than Alex and the age difference had meant they weren’t that close but they had always gotten along. And when Uncle Dick had died, Ashley had been amazed at the strength Alexa had shown at her mother’s house knowing that there were people there who would be against her, namely their Uncles and Ashley’s own father. When the two had crossed paths at the State Fair, Ashley knew she wanted to welcome her properly into the extended family. Ashley’s attitude towards her cousin may have shocked her cousin, but the shock was to be Ashley’s as when she was showing her lamb a cheering section had formed at the side of the show ring, that of two of her cousins and their girlfriends.

Karen knocked on the door again and without be acknowledged walked into her room again and sat down next to her daughter. “Ashley, I have an idea and but we have to sell it to your father. What would you think of spending tonight and tomorrow with your Aunt Charlotte?” Ashley’s mood instantly changed. Excitement came to her eyes and she began to nod. “OK, you stay in here and I am going to go talk to your father. As her mother left, the excitement grew and Ashley went and found the large carry bag she used as an overnight bag and began digging through her dresser and closet looking for clothes to bring with. The excitement level was instantly doused as a loud scream came from the direction of the family room. “Ashley! Get in here now!” Ashley began a slow walk down the long hallway and making the turn into the main family portion of the house. She could see her father in his chair, seething over the plan Karen had come up with.

“So, you would rather spend Thanksgiving with that fruit of a cousin than your own family. Fine, I will remember this. You never want to be part of this family anyway. Always playing around on that god damn phone of yours. Well go. We were planning on going up to the Cities on Friday morning and I am not coming to get you so it looks like you will be stuck with your aunt and the fruit cake for a few days. Now get out of my sight!” He screamed as Karen mouthed a thank you at her husband and was treated to a grunt. While a now confused Ashley worked her way back down the hallway, Karen returned to the kitchen and called her sister-in-law. Karen made arrangements to have Charlotte pick up Ashley at the Erickson Store in town, since Karen had to get her son from a friend’s in town.

Ashley finished packing the last few items she thought she would need and made her way down to her mother’s Equinox. Her mother was already running late and was a bit short with her as she climbed in. On the drive in to town, Karen started to explain a few things to her daughter. “I can say that I am disappointed in you Ashley. I thought you were a little more mature than that, having a temper tantrum over something that had already been decided. I stuck my neck out for you and you need to realize that. You know your father does not support homosexuals and either do I. But I recognize your need to connect with your cousin, so I decided to grant you this one time ‘wish’. But while you are at your Aunt Charlotte’s I want you to think about if the way you acted this evening is the way a mature young lady acts.” Ashley instantly felt small. Her mother always had a way of making her feel like a four-year old.

The mother and daughter pulled up in front of the store, nothing was said as Ashley exited in the car and opened the back door to grab her bag. “Tell your aunt to call me when she wants you to come home” was all Karen had to say to her daughter. At that moment, Ashley had never felt so alone. She slung her bag over her shoulder and slowly entered the store. Not sure how long her Aunt Charlotte would be, she went to the coffee counter and ordered herself a small pumpkin spice latte. She made her way over to one of the booths and tossed her bag in. As she sat there a sadness came over her. Was she really rejecting what her family stood for? Was it wrong to be kind and accepting? Was that what she had always been taught, not to be judgmental? The words of her mother rang in her head and she slumped down and began to whimper. She wasn’t sure how long she had been there when she heard a voice that she did not expect to hear.

“Hey, Ashley. You ready to go?” the pretty brunette with the blonde girl at her side said. Ashley was stunned. She was expecting to see the somewhat stern visage of her aunt, instead it was her cousin. Confusion overtook the young girl. No more than when her cousin sat down next to her and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. To go from feeling so guilty to feeling accepted was too much and the emotional roller coaster proved too much for the sixteen-year old and the tears began in earnest. And Alexa, a person who should have rejected her because of how her parents had acted, pulled her in and comforted her. Ashley knew at that point that she was being held by one of the kindest people she had ever met. When they eventually got up to get Charlotte’s grocery items, Ashley was able to witness the strength this woman she called her cousin had. She watched first hand as another person tried to tear her down and then watched as Alexa slowly came back at the woman. Not forcefully like a Quinn, but subtle and crafty. And then when they were headed back to Charlotte’s house, Alexa and Jenny played the music of an English girl group she had never heard of. It was great!

As Ashley sat in the back seat, she thought about the argument with her father and the coolness her mother had shown while she tried to remain upbeat, she began to feel down. But it wasn’t because she had gone against her parents. She felt sad because her parents did not know what a truly exceptional person Alexa had become. A smile crept across the teenager’s face. “Man, my cousin is cool” she thought.

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