Why Stella? -By Aarushi
A/N: Thanks so much to Kristy(toffeecakesxox), my awesome beta who edited this in a span of a day! And to Mimi(spinelesslysweet) my amaze advisor who is ready to spend hours on the phone with me discussing the most trivial details.
Thanks so much to Kristy(toffeecakesxox), my awesome beta who edited this in a span of a day! And to Mimi(spinelesslysweet) my amaze advisor who is ready to spend hours on the phone with me discussing the most trivial details.
I'd thought I wouldn't upload this until at least a few chapters were done but I couldn't resist, hehe.
Ashton Sinclair had received the blow of his life. He couldn't believe she would do that. They'd been together for almost three years now; didn't that mean anything to her? He'd thought he was actually in love, even when he didn't exactly know the definition of that word and she'd gone on and stabbed him right in the gut! There had been rumors before but he'd learnt to take them with a pinch of salt. After all, people loved to create unnecessary scandals at Villanova Academy, he'd never even thought of taking any of it seriously. Until a few hours ago.
He closed his eyes shut as tightly as he could. The visions of Gwen in bed with his best friend were driving him insane. He shouldn't have even expected any better of Logan: that guy would do anything with a hole. But Gwen, Gwen he'd trusted with all his heart. Ashton snorted bitterly. "Heart," "Love," "Trust," they were all crap, weren't they? At the end of the day, people sucked and that was all there was to this freaking universe.
Ashton tried to look outside the window of the train to avoid thinking of the two people who had meant so much to him, and to whom, he had clearly meant nothing. There was another month of summer left; maybe he could use this time to find another school? He could transfer somewhere far from Burlington and join a boarding school in the West Coast. But why should he have to run? He hadn't done anything wrong. They should be the ones running away and they should never be able to show their face to him again. Changing schools in his senior year would very likely cause some discrepancies in his Cornell application and the last thing he needed was them to be the reason behind his rejection from his dream school. They'd screwed him over just enough.
What the hell had he been doing anyway, randomly boarding a train? All he knew when he saw Logan and Gwen was that he wanted to get as far away from them as possible. He hadn't said a single word to either of them and they'd been too stumped to say anything themselves. Ashton couldn't even think clearly so he'd just left his car parked outside Gwen's house and walked aimlessly for god knows how long. When he'd realized he was outside the train station, he'd just bought a ticket to the first train leaving and boarded. He was kind of glad he'd done that, though; the heavy sound of a moving train made it a little harder to think which was an immense relief. Ashton was also thankful to have gotten an entire compartment to himself as he really wasn't in the mood to see people.
What Ashton didn't know was that his peace was momentary and a whirlwind was waiting for him just outside the New York Station.
Stella ran at a speed she thought was never introduced to mankind. The train to Maryland would leave in five minutes and she had just reached the New York Station. It wasn't about where she was going or how late she was, it was all simply about the fact that she'd never missed a train in her life and she wasn't going to let her record break now. She held on tight to her backpack and kept running, thanking the lords for giving her the brains to buy the ticket beforehand. Although extremely aware of people staring at her, she ran through the station and, instead of feeling embarrassed, chose to wave at them and carry on. When she finally reached the train, it was already moving slowly so she ran harder than even before – and Stella hadn't thought that was possible!
A middle-aged man gave her a hand as she made it to the train entrance, and she jumped in.
"Oh, thank god!" she exclaimed while trying to catch her breath. After about a minute she realized the man was still holding her hand.
"I'm in, you can let go now," she said, giggling. "I'm not that attractive."
The color in the man's face turned blood-red as he let go of Stella's hand. She winked at him, hoping she hadn't made him uncomfortable with her silly little comment. Then she started walking briskly towards her seat. The second she found it she looked up and gave the skies a thumbs up: an epitome of the Y chromosome would be sitting right across her.
"Hi," she said with a huge smile, making herself comfortable in her seat.
The boy-toy didn't say anything; instead, he looked away from her and out of the window.
She snapped her fingers. "Hey!"
He still ignored her.
"Where are you up to?" she asked brightly, not expecting an answer.
"I have no idea," the guy said softly, eyes still outside the window.
Tella burst out laughing. This trip was going to be so interesting.
Ashton couldn't believe he was stuck with a freaking red-headed psycho, after everything that had already happened to him today! This girl clearly had a fetish for words and seemed to believe the world would end if she stopped talking.
"And then I thought, 'oh what the hell? I might as well,'" she accounted. "I mean, give the dude a break for God's sake! He did always want to see me; it just took him about six years to bring himself to tell me that."
As hard as Ashton tried to filter her words, he'd understood from her ramblings that she was going to Maryland to visit her estranged father. Who the fuck cares? He thought. Now she was rambling about how she had spent all her life in a boarding school in New York.
"The food at my own house feels so unfamiliar because I'm so accustomed to the food at my boarding school. They have the best—"
"Shut up." Ashton had seriously had enough. "Just shut the fuck up. I don't care if you're going to see your father or your uncle, if you lived in a boarding school or a freaking brothel—"
Ashton stopped mid-sentence, realizing what he had just said.
"I didn't mean—"
"It's okay." She still looked cheery. "You're obviously super pissed off about some other crap and you're just taking it out on an innocent stranger."
Ashton shook his head. Her reaction only perked up his anger. He hadn't met anyone who believed life was all roses and rainbows before. He wanted to shake her back to reality. Why was he even putting up with this? There was nowhere he needed to be; he could get off this train the next time it stopped. Till then, all he could do was endure. Thankfully, the next station came about ten minutes later and he finally got the chance to be free.
"I just love how Manhattan looks covered in snow," she was going on. "The terrace of our dorm building—"
"I need to get some air," Ashton said, cutting her off and walking away before he had to put up with her any longer. He got off the train and learnt from the words in a huge hoarding that he was in the New Jersey station. Well, it really didn't matter where he was as long as he was far away from Burlington. Maybe he could spend a few days in New Jersey so that when he went back he would be more prepared to face Gwen, Logan, and the whole situation. Ashton sighed as a fresh surge of hurt and anger hit him. No matter what he did to avoid it, the images of them in bed together kept flashing in his head.
There was suddenly a nudge on his shoulders so he turned around. It was the crazy red-head again.
"The train's already moving, come on." She looked like she was in a rush.
"Why the fuck are you following me?" he asked, annoyed beyond reason.
She blinked, confused. "The train… I thought you wouldn't want to miss it."
"If I didn't want to miss the train, I would've freaking boarded the train." Ashton was aware of how bitter his voice was.
"You know what? Go to hell," she said and started running at warp speed.
What was Stella thinking, trying to help out a guy who was clearly beyond any help? Instead of thanking her for taking the trouble to get out of the train to inform him of its departure, he was just being an asshole! She'd overlooked his jerk-ish behavior in the train because she'd thought he was probably going through something but now it seemed like he just enjoyed being a prick.
Stella ran harder and harder thinking of how much it would suck if she missed her train because of this. But even as she ran, she could see the train moving faster and in the back of her mind she knew there was no way she could catch up with it this time. By the time she reached the railway track, she was faced with its back. For the first time in her life, Stella had missed a train. The fact took a while to register but the second it did, she rushed in the opposite direction to find the jackass who had caused this.
"You!" she bellowed when she saw his back.
He turned around and gave a humungous sigh.
"You made me miss my train!" Stella exclaimed furiously.
"I didn't ask you to get off of it." He sounded tired…of her.
"I was trying to help you and all I get in return is attitude?" she asked, squinting her eyes.
"What do you want from me now?" he asked in a low whisper.
"I want you make sure I safely board the next train to Maryland." Her voice was highly authoritative. "Until then, you better not disappear."
Truth was, now that she was stranded in a random station, she was really afraid to be alone and the least this guy owed her was some company.
"Fine, I'll help you catch the next train." He sounded defeated. "After that, just leave me alone, okay? And for the love of God don't do me any more favors."
It seemed like he was pretty desperate to get rid of her. Fair enough, Stella thought. She wasn't dying to be around him either; she wouldn't have even asked him to help her if she knew anyone else at all around here. In any case, he had obviously acknowledged the fact that he owed her one, so it was all good. And if they were going to be around each other for whatever time, introductions were in order.
"Stella," she said raising her hand for a shake. "Stella Milligan."
He turned around and started walking, ignoring her hand. After walking for half a second he looked back "It's Ashton," he said. "You coming or what?"
Ashton thought this would be the only way he could get rid of her: help her out until she got the hell out of his face. Once the freak was gone he could find a nice hotel to spend a few days in and then go back to Burlington. He walked with this "Stella" till they found the inquiry desk of the Jersey station.
"When does the next train to Maryland leave?" Ashton asked the receptionist.
"Just a moment, sir," the receptionist said and typed something on her computer.
"I could've asked her myself," Stella mumbled, frowning.
"When?" Ashton pressed the receptionist, purposely ignoring Stella.
"It's eight a.m. tomorrow," she said, looking up.
"That's bloody perfect," Ashton said sarcastically. "Isn't there anything earlier than that? Anything at all?"
Stella started rambling again about how she should've believed her horoscope this morning as Ashton cursed the universe.
"I'm really sorry, sir," the receptionist said politely. "But that is the first train we've got to Maryland. Actually, you just missed one a few minutes ago."
"Don't you think I know that?" Stella burst at the receptionist before Ashton could say anything. "I was on that goddamn train! I could sue your company for not keeping track of their passengers. I paid to be taken to Maryland and—"
"Miss, if you could please show me your ticket, I could make you a new one for tomorrow morning for free." the receptionist looked a little shaken. "That's all I'll be able to do."
"Are you sure?" Ashton gave the receptionist the smile that made dumb freshmen girls at Villanova swoon.
The receptionist blushed. "Uh, let's see." She tapped on her computer some more. "There definitely isn't any train before 8 a.m. I can, however, provide you with a free room at our adjoining motel where you can spend the night."
An entire night with this human tornado? Ashton would go mad.
"We'll take it," Stella jumped to say, not giving Ashton a chance to say anything.
He shook his head again. How was he going to survive this night? He didn't have to stay with her though, he reminded himself. If this girl was stupid enough to miss her train she should be left alone to face the consequences. But then again she was quite an entertainment. If he wandered away alone, all he would think about was the deceit of Gwen and Logan; whereas if he stayed, he could spend his time wondering what it took to create such an over-the-top individual. Plus he had kind of promised to stick around till she boarded the next train to Maryland.
"Yeah, whatever," he said and started moving.
After about ten minutes they were in the motel room. Thankfully it wasn't one of those sleazy motels with nothing but a huge bed right in the middle of the room. This one was fairly spacious, had a fully working television and a clean, attached bathroom, which Stella was currently using to take a decade-long bath. Ashton was glad to have the alone time and, surprisingly, he'd used it to watch Tom and Jerry on the T.V. instead of wallowing in self-pity.
"That has got to be one of the most ridiculous things created by mankind," he heard Stella's voice behind him. "I mean, think about it, if the poor cat spent his entire life chasing after the same mouse, what the hell did he ever eat? And besides, what exactly is supposed to be so funny about—"
"It's just a cartoon," Ashton cut her off, not bothering to look at her.
"So what?" she said defensively. "That doesn't mean I can't have an opinion about it."
Nobody - and that meant nobody - made a fuss about Tom and Jerry like it was a United Nations Security Council issue. Ashton was learning that the best way to deal with Stella was by just ignoring about ninety per cent of what she said. He just shut up and concentrated on his cartoon – for about the next few seconds until he heard a very loud shriek. When he finally turned, he found Stella looking out of the window.
"Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!" By her tone, Ashton wouldn't be surprised if she announced that she'd just encountered a UFO.
"What?" he asked, unsure of whether or not he wanted to hear the answer.
"It's a Karaoke bar!" she exclaimed in a state of utter delight.
"So?" he raised an eyebrow. A freaking Karaoke bar, weren't those things in every street and lane of America?
"Don't you get it?" She looked at him like he was retarded. "Do you never watch movies? This is supposed to be our moment to shine. We're stranded away from home; we can do anything we like, be anyone we want to be!"
A derisive "Uh-huh" was all Ashton could manage.
"See, all my life I've wanted to sing in public but I never quite had the balls to do it around people I know. And now I am in a strange town with a stranger, coincidentally residing alongside a Karaoke bar!" The excitement on her face was hilarious. "We have got to go there."
"You will go there while I stay here and watch my cartoon." Ashton said in what he hoped was an all-settling tone.
"Don't be ridiculous!" Stella screwed about ninety-nine muscles in her face as Ashton internally laughed at how her choice of words could be used to describe her own expression.
"Do me a favor and just go," Ashton tried, although he was fairly certain she wasn't going to back off.
"You specifically asked me to not to do you any more favors." Her face gave away an evil sort of a satisfaction. "Why would you rather sit here and brood like an idiot anyway?"
"I don't brood." He gave her a pointed look.
"And I don't talk," she said, rolling her eyes. "Now let's get going."
There was no way she was going to leave him alone, was there? Ashton could ignore her and keep watching T.V., but he knew she wasn't going to shut up until he lifted his butt and followed her to that Karaoke bar. So he did exactly that.
There was a bouncer outside the bar.
"I'd like to see some identification," he said sternly to Ashton, and then looked at Stella and added, "Please."
Oh the perks of being born a woman, Stella thought. She looked at Ashton from the corner of her eyes and saw a painfully smug look on his face. She then fully turned her head to look at him, fluttered her eyelashes and produced an ID from the purse she'd brought along. Between missing the train and now, Stella had silently thanked her mother a thousand times already for having the sense to make her carry a backpack. Any other kind of luggage and her stuff would've left with the train.
"Dental Assistant, huh?" the bouncer asked, studying her ID. "No wonder you have such pretty teeth."
"Yours aren't too bad either," Stella said with a cheesy grin. "Can we go in now?"
"What about your friend's identification?" he asked suspiciously.
"He's just with me," she smiled and, before the bouncer could respond, pulled Ashton inside the bar. It was heavily crowded, just like Stella had hoped. She was going to make sure this evening was eternally memorable.
"Fake ID, how cliché," Ashton said as they reached the barman.
"Scorn, how wonderfully original," Stella countered, stretching the muscles of her lips into a visibly fake smile. "Two tequila shots, please," she then addressed the barman.
"I don't want one," Ashton said.
Two mini tequila glasses were produced in front of her. Stella took each one in both her hands and drank them in one go. "Who said it was for you?" she winked. And then she walked towards the empty Karaoke floor.
Ashton quietly watched as Stella went up to the floor and removed her jacket, revealing the tube top inside. She gave a thumbs-up to the DJ and the music to Swing Swing by The All-American-Rejects started playing. He snorted at her choice of song. This was the song his band had performed the first time he'd played bass in front of a live audience. Ashton had been a little nervous so Gwen and Logan had taken him on a mini-drive just before it to calm him down. At that time he'd thought himself to be so lucky to have friends like those.
Ashton took the vodka glass that was in front of him and drank it in a swig. "Can I have one more?" he asked the barman.
After his third drink he started watching Stella perform. He realized this girl could sing, like really sing. From her comment at the motel about being afraid to sing around people she knew, he'd expected her to sound like a mooing cow. And maybe it was the alcohol talking but at that precise moment, with the mike in her hands and her semi-revealing clothes, the barmy red-head looked kind of hot.
Swing, swing, swing
From the tangles of
My heart is crushed by a former love
Ashton hadn't thought until now about how the lyrics of this song absurdly matched his present situation. He closed his eyes softly and focused on listening.
Can you help me find a way to carry on again?
He doubted it was even possible for him to carry on, to move past this, to forget and to forgive them for their duplicity.
He shot another glass of vodka.
A few minutes later – or it might've been hours or days – the song was over. There was a huge applause from the audience as Stella opened her arms wide on an ending note. It felt like she was right in front of him the next second.
"You didn't suck too bad," Ashton said in a voice slightly unlike his own. He was on his fifth glass.
"I kicked ass, thanks." She looked like she was on top of the world. "And you look drunk. How much could you have possible had in the last seven minutes?"
"Not enough to clear the image of my girlfriend in bed with my best friend," he said and started laughing at the top of his voice.
"So that's your story," said Stella. "I must say, I'm kind of disappointed."
Had she said something that should be pissing him off? Ashton's head wasn't registering much. Somehow there was now a mini tequila glass in his hand, one very similar to that in Stella's.
"To me, the rock star, cheers!" She clinked her glass to his. They drank.
"To being screwed over, cheers!" he said to their next shots. They drank.
"To meeting random strangers in trains, cheers!" she said. They drank.
"To screwing random strangers to get over being screwed!" he said.
His head didn't know where those words had come from, he didn't remember getting out of that bar and yet, somehow, in the next second, they were in their motel room undressing each other.
Stella opened her eyes to the sound of something like an alarm bell. Instantly, she felt a stabbing pain in her head.
Ow, Ow, Ow, Ow, Ow.
She looked around, trying to ignore the pain and noticed there was no one in the room.
She suddenly sat up straight as she started remembering whatever she could of last night. The Karaoke - she had kind of been awesome, all that tequila and then coming back to the motel and…
Shit, shit, shit.
She tilted her head upwards to look at the clock that had waked her up. It was 7 a.m. Her train was supposed to be at eight. The alarm had been set intentionally. She looked beside her pillow and found a new train ticket.
So he had left. After everything, he hadn't even waited to make sure she got into the train. As she forced herself to go to the bathroom and take a shower, she pondered over whether or not she should be pissed. He had, to put it in the narrowest sense, kind of taken advantage of her. But then again, he had been drunker than she was, so one could easily say she had taken advantage of him. She had kind of been pushing him to be around her since yesterday. Plus the poor dude had clearly gone through some crap, no matter how cliché the crap was.
By the time she got changed she had decided she wasn't pissed. Not that it would matter anyway, he was just a stranger she would never see-
Something suddenly triggered in Stella's mind. A kind of contentment started filling her whole body as she rushed to her backpack, took out her journal, and flipped it to the very last page.
100 Things To Do Before I Die
01. Sing in public.
She'd thought she would achieve – or even want to achieve – this next one of her silly ambitions much, much later in life but what was done was done.
32. Have a meaningless one-night-stand with a stranger.
A/N: The beginning of this story is heavily inspired from one of my favorite Indian movies called Jab We Met. To anyone who has seen it and freaked out reading this, I do apologize *toothy grin*. The rest of the story has nothing to do with that movie so yay (although the girl is going to be a lot like Geet) (:
Rest of the story will be mostly from Stella's POV.
I am going to try and live my wishes of writing a cliché in a unique way through this story. I hope I satisfy you. Please review if you have anything at all to say about this story!