In a long line of Minivans and SUV's, Ashley joined the rest of the moms and dads retrieving their little ones from morning kindergarten. She watched the rain trickle down her vehicle's windshield then sat back and closed her eyes. Her young daughter was humming back in her car seat, to no song in particular. Catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror, she looked at her blonde hair, with strawberry highlights, pulled up in a clasp. Playing with the wisps of her curls she studied it hanging down, framing her face. There was a glint in her green eyes, and they were intense and full of life. She still felt 18 despite her 33 years of age. She was a pretty confident teen but now she was even more confident as an adult.
Presently she felt she sometimes got lost in a world of bill paying, carpooling, housework and other mundane things that occupy a stay-at-home mom's day. She'd walked away from her career a few years back, raising her children was her most important job ever and she took it seriously. Somewhere along the way she lost parts of herself. She was mom, wife, sister and daughter but not always Ashley. She was only slightly the girl she remembered at 18.
Shifting her focus from her daughter's beautiful humming to the familiar song starting on the radio, her mind drifted back to a wild week one summer after she graduated high school...
Her hair was long, down to the middle of her back with spiral curls. Athletic, spunky and full of life, she was always willing to laugh or make someone laugh. She believed life was for living, enjoying and savoring, "Carpe Diem" was her motto. With men, however, she felt she was inadequate. It was probably due to her first love, Andrew, who broke her heart and treated her badly. She loved Andrew whole heartedly, but he never loved her, however it took her until now to figure that out. Pining for him to this day she rarely gave any guy a chance. Currently she was dating a guy who was the typical bad-boy, for some reason she felt she deserved the punishment of his company. Vic didn't love her, and she didn't love him so there were no expectations. Suspecting Vic slept around on her she knew there was nothing to their relationship and it was only a matter of time before she kicked him to the curb. Why she hadn't yet was a mystery to even her.
Donna was Ashley's wild friend. The two were really close their junior year until Donna's mom had a breakdown. Dragging poor Donna through her demented state, her mom kept her locked in her bedroom, punishing her for things she hadn't done. One day she ran away and called Ashley to let her know what she had done, what she planned and where she could be found. It was a crazy time to say the least because when Donna's mom found her she had her signed into the psych ward of a local hospital. She eventually got out, against doctors advice and her mothers orders, immediately calling her dad. Her dad had remarried and moved to the other side of the state. Before the end of their junior year she made the move farther east with her dad and step-mom. Ashley lost the daily companionship of her best friend and was in a dead end relationship with an asshole. It was a rough time.
During their senior year they would visit each other and when they did they truly had fun. It always reminded her why they were best friends. Life was fun, with no worries and she even forgot about her horrible boyfriend. On those visits they filled their days talking about life with one another and meeting guys, as so many teenage girls do.
Donna's dad and step-mom owned a vacation home in Myrtle Beach South Carolina. Every year they drove down to spend a week vacationing in their home as well as checking on the upkeep. This year she was living with them and was slated to make the trip. One day in April Ashley got a phone call from her.
"Hello?" Ashley said.
"Hey Ash, how are you? It's Donna." Donna excitedly responded.
Thrilled to hear from her friend Ashley replied, "Donna! I am great, how are you?"
Donna seemed to bubble over with happiness through the phone, "I am fantastic! My dad and step-mom have a beach house in Myrtle Beach and we are going down the end of June for a week!"
"Oh Donna, that sounds great," she echoed her friends excitement. She had been through so much in a year that she needed nothing but good things to come her way.
Immediately she bubbled back, "Oh wait! It gets better." Better? Ashley thought. Excited to hear how so she listened as Donna continued without waiting for a response, "They said I could take you with us, if you are allowed that is."
She gasped, excited about a week's vacation without her parents with her best friend. "Oh god that sounds like fun! I will have to ask my parents and get back to you." she knew that running to her mom or dad with Donna on the line was a bad idea so she kept talking about normal things planning to call back the next day if she had an answer from her parents. Clearly excited, she hung up the phone and tried to decide when it would be the best time to approach her parents. Since she would have to travel to the other side of the state it was suggested that Ashley take an Amtrak train out to avoid anyone having to drive the distance each time.
With their plans laid out she hoped her parents would agree to allow her to go. Waiting until dinner she used the phone call as a way to bring it into the discussion. Her parents said they didn't see any problems with her going but they would need to discuss it further and give her an answer the next day.
The next day it was set, her parents told her she could go as long as she paid for the train tickets, to which she gleefully agreed. The next month and a half her life sped by filled with the highlights of a young girl's life. It was her senior year after all. Finals, although not one of the highlights, occupied most of her time. Prom and graduation rounded out the end of May. Getting a summer job she feverishly prepared for her trip, looking forward to it with great anticipation. She told herself This is going to be a trip to remember.
The day arrived, at last, and she was standing on the platform waiting to board the train. Never having traveled alone, let alone on a train, it was an experience that she knew she would savor. Once the doors were opened she boarded the car and found a row of seats to plop down into. Settling in, she situated her bag she had full of snacks, books and music so that the next fourteen hours wouldn't be too terribly boring. Well, they were terribly boring. The train stopped in several towns to load and unload. There were no young men to feast her eyes on or converse with, but the scenery was breathtaking. The train traveled through the mountains and a horseshoe curve. Snapping pictures, she took in the beauty of her state. Finally arriving at her stop she stretched her legs and stepped from the train and up the steps to find her friend.
It was two days before the drive down the coast and the girls enlisted the help of Donna's older brother, who was 21, in acquiring some alcohol. They planned to party at the beach appropriately. Packing their suitcases they carefully hid their mobile bar. Convincing her dad to allow them to take her car, so that they wouldn't have to drive the girls anywhere, they now had wheels. So it was set; they had a place to stay, booze, bikinis and transportation.
The caravan left at 3 am in order for them to arrive in the daylight at the beach house. It was a comfortable 4 bedroom with two rooms flanking the left side of the great room and two flanking the right side. It was a few blocks from the main street and beach, and a bit of a walk but Ashley was not complaining, a beach vacation for the price of a train ticket and some gas money. Selecting their skimpiest legal bikinis, they bolted to the public beach after arriving. They looked around trying to find the "perfect" tanning location, whatever that was. To an 18 year old girl that was either in the middle of everything or next to the cutest guys.
Monday and Tuesday flew by. The days were full of sunning, and hanging with a group guys who had rented a beachfront condo. It was fun drinking with the five guys and soaking in their hot tub. They weren't interested in any of them so it was a short-lived party. At night hey drove from where they were staying in south Myrtle to the northern section and partied on the strip. It was glorious at night on the strip, with men and boys everywhere. Parking close by, they would down some alcohol in the car then walk around. It was a wild experience to have the guys openly hoot and holler at them or walk right up every five to ten feet to introduce themselves. They got tons of offers to parties. The names and room numbers given to them on small pieces of paper helped but they soon forgot who they thought was cute, and who they were not interested in.
Wednesday morning and afternoon was filled with the typical boy watching as they sunned. They showered after dinner and headed out to party once again. Again they headed back to the strip and Ashley could not believe some of the horrid lines thrown her way through the course of the evening. She was only 18 and wasn't all that versed in pick-up lines but still she rolled her eyes as a guy asked her, "Were your parents thieves," after a short pause in silence he continued, "Then who stole the stars that are in your eyes?" That had to be one of the worst one there ever was. She knew that guy was either really drunk or he thought she was really stupid to fall for something so horrible.
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