Aster liked to be on the move: to the music, to the beat of the sirens, to the steady waves of people on city streets next to her. She was someone who had to continually push herself forwards in order to balance the pace at which her heart beat. It had been that way ever since she was a child. The easiest way to combat the flutter was to dance rather than walk. A half-step ahead everyone else and then moving into the brisk contortion of the allégro. From allégro to arabesque, Aster's morning routine was easily filled with learned movement that carried her through the day. Her parents, her friends, and her partners had always complained that she kicked too much in her sleep. Perhaps, truthfully, it was just that she never stopped dancing. The last few months, however, her feet had been strangely still as had been everything else. 

It hadn't been easy to leave Evermore. In fact, it was quite possibly the hardest thing that she had ever done and Aster wasn't a fan of doing things the easy way. Her teachers had always called her the 'do hard things' girl. She liked a challenge. They stimulated her, made her eyes brighten, and a spark go off in her soul; but it seemed that the further she moved away from Evermore and the closer she got towards her dream of dancing on a stage in the American Ballet Theatre, the more it was like energy was sapped from her core.  

She rose with the sun, despite a suddenly tired body and mind which wished to allow the darkness of sleep to let her sink into the covers until ten a.m. greeted her with caffeine. Her limbs felt heavy, but routine ultimately won over and the young woman rubbed her eyes, straightening the bed covers and stretching her sore body as she sat by the window in her penthouse apartment. It wasn't the kind of thing she could afford on her own, but being a principal dancer did see a few perks and she was going to enjoy them the short time that her body would last. Knowing she wasn't human did mean she had longer years on the stage than most ballet dancers before her prime was over. She was grateful for her magic, in that way, but in many others it seemed to tear at her insides. She felt split in two from the person she wanted to be, had trained to become, and knew tradition didn't understand. She had magic, but not the kind she understood. 

Was it wrong that she wished to be human? Despite it would mean she would shine fewer years, Aster had never understood the part of her family that supposedly made them so special and the kind of special she was they adamantly refused to understand.

The only person who dared to glimpse between both worlds had been Ridley and as Aster wrapped her sweatered arms around herself, covered in the beginnings of a New York sunrise, nothing felt right. In truth, here, despite that it was her dream...she was alone. She had never been good with people and being so dedicated to a craft had its price. Much of that was the time spent in practice and engaging in the time spent with herself. She knew herself deeply, but when it came to her relationships with others -- they often faltered. 

Aster looked out the five-pane window which partially obscured the awakening city. She wondered how many people out there just went through the day going over the motions and forgetting to really look at their life, adjust their perspective, and really fight for the things they wanted. For so long, she’d thought that thing that mattered most to her was ballet; but how much could dance really matter if she didn’t have someone to dance for? 

Memories fought in her mind of late night practice where Ridley would sit on the floor and eat spaghetti and watermelon, watching her twirl in circles occasionally sending blasts of colorful sparkles her way. To anyone else, pasta and pink fruit would sound ridiculous, but it had always been one of Ridley’s favorite things. Aster hadn’t understood how precious moments like that had been until sitting here alone with the playback was suddenly and surprisingly painful. 

Does there have to be such terrible a price for self improvement? Will I...always be alone? Aster wondered to herself. Her normally adept fifty minutes of stretch were slowly in inching by lost in thought and surrounded by still, soft silence. 

Aster stood, stirred by the energy boost that normally came with waking up to tune of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony of her alarm clock every five a.m.The life force that had been missing for nearly six months and kept her trapped like a zombie, going through the motions had abruptly shorted into her limbs.

She knew what was missing. 

The cab pulled to a stop in front of her family home. It was three stories and made of red brick, with white marble pillars standing like tall guards in front of the double doors. Aster remembered her childhood home. It was practically a country trailer next to this mansion. A strange part of her preferred it, despite how much she loved the fine things she had now. Or perhaps, it wasn’t the home she missed, but the difference of the people who lived inside. Back then, her family had been close and her mother still spared the occasional laugh for her childhood antics. The more well-off they became, the further emotional distance seemed to separate them from one another. As she lifted the suitcase from the bed of the taxi trunk, Aster steeled her nerves and reminded herself that she hadn’t come back to Evermore to embark on train Gallagher.

Only for Ridley. They one person who made this place feel sane.  

Aster bit her lip, approaching the manicured lawn with apprehension. It was only as the double doors slid open and a familiar figure with brighter, blonder hair waved goodbye to someone inside did her heart skip a beat.

The suitcase dropped into the grass. 

Her toes lifted from the ground. 

I’m back.

you could be my melody, I don't know what I'd do without you

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The Gallagher family had become like a second family to Ridley all her time spent with Aster the love of her life for a time, truth Ridley would always love Aster. They had gone their separate ways Aster needed to focus on dance more and well Ridley running headlong into situations with her family without thinking was causing Aster stress and taking away from her dance. The two agreed to be friends because they could not imagine a life without the other after all they had gone through. Shortly after the breakup, Aster left Evermore altogether to be rid of Ridley or the memories Ridley was never really sure.

After Aster had left Ridley still made a habit of stopping in to see her family having tea with Aster’s mother, or chatting up her father while he worked. Ridley was loved by the Gallaghers which is why she came around even after the breakup. Today was no different Ridley had woken up a little early just to get ready and head over to the house to have breakfast and morning tea with her second mother. When she arrived at the door was unlocked and Ridley made her way inside.

Sitting down at the table as the food was served and in walked Aster’s parents “Morning Ma and Pa.” She teased them. “Sleep well?” Ridley always asked the same question it was sort of a routine the trio joked and chatted about anything and everything that came to mind. When the food was done Ridley and Ma went out back to have their tea. Ridley was questioned about her new job, and how she and her siblings were getting along she answered honestly. Half an Hour later Ridley was slipping back into her shoes waving bye as she stepped out the front door, turning around her heart stopped.

“I uhh.. See that…” She was not sure why she didn’t say Hi first or why that had been the first thing out of her mouth but it had. This was the first time since the breakup that Ridley was face to face with Aster, so many emotions coursed through her she wasn’t sure which one she was feeling more at that moment. Making her way down the steps towards Aster Ridley felt like her body was in autopilot, it was moving but she felt like she had no control. She ran over and wrapped her arms around Aster tightly hugging her, and that was when the tears rolled down her face. “I’ve missed you.” She whispered as she tightened her grip just a little bit more.

Ridley had so much news to tell her but she was not sure where to start or how to start really, all she wanted to do at that moment was hold her and not let go. In a way, she feared if she let go that Aster would vanish again Ridley was not sure if her heart could take Aster leaving her again. “Don’t go, please don’t go.” her voice was soft and had a hint of pleading to it. 

As Aster stood in front of the two story brick home, staring down the grand double doors, white pillars, manicured lawn, and shiny windows, she couldn't help but feel a terrible sense of unbelonging. This was not her home. Her parents had moved into the large double decker while she was away after her father had been offered a huge promotion and tenured stay at his job in the Evermore Morning News broadcast. She knew that her parents had finally made it to the place where they never had to worry about their financial state again and in some way, she loved the wooden floors and lavender bedroom that they'd created just for her, but the rest of the time it just felt empty. The posters that hung over the new double bed were from her old home and while to most they may have evoked a sense of nostalgia, to Aster they were only a reminder of how little her family knew her. Granted, every time she came into the city, she stayed as far away as possible and it wasn't something that she could either remedy or understand about herself. There were plenty of people who had far worse childhoods than she'd had and would relish in the success that she'd found and the wealth her parents relished on her, but it so often felt empty.  

Her grip on the handle of her suitcase turned to steel, whitening her knuckles as she stared down the driveway in front of her with determination. Before she could move forwards, a familiar shadow and soft voice slipped through the front door waving goodbye to a family that Aster had never been able to appreciate...yet here was Ridley, basking in their glow. As she looked over her best friend, Aster was flooded with memories.

The door shut quietly behind her and an aroma of smells wafted in from the kitchen, surrounding Aster with the soft relief of being home after a long day. However, it was tempered with a cold blast of October air from the window and the reality that she felt more lost than she'd ever known. In the kitchen, to the right, was Ridley wearing her 'kiss the cook' apron and covered in a mess of what looked like a batch of gluten free cookies which were her favorite. It must have been a surprise, because the slim brunette hadn't seen her yet and was immersed in her own world, licking batter from a spoon. Normally, the mess would have annoyed Aster and she would have integrated herself into the scene with a wet rag and carefully helped the delicious treat not make spots inside their home, however, today she simply ignored it and entered their shared bedroom walking past her girlfriend. She pulled her suitcase from the closet and started taking clothing from her dresser with glass forming over her eyes. It wasn't tears; it was distance. After all, as long as she didn't look Ridley in the eye, it would be like she never existed, right? She'd fade out like the discordant notes on one half of their karaoke song. The apartment would go back to being a beautiful mess, without Aster trying to control the moments they spent together...and she would be gone. After all, you go through life thinking you need so much until you leave with only your phone, your wallet and a picture of your lover. 

The conflicting desire to move forward and the pulsating need to get away made her freeze, ice cold hands and frost-tipped nose; yet somehow her insides were hot, swirling with guilt. This is me. My fault, my problem. How dare I come here? I'm a homewrecker and there are reasons that people....

The sentence broke off in her mind, but before she could finish, there was a pair of familiar arms clinging to her body. Aster was slow to reach out, but once she did, it was with a strength that she hadn't felt in months.

"I'm so sorry." Aster bit her lip, hard, a copper taste of blood in her mouth as she was face to face with one of the friends that she had always kept

 around. "I was wrong and I shouldn't have left."

But, even as the relief from finally apologizing came over her shoulders, Aster had to look away. It was a long story and for the first time, she wanted to tell it to the one person that she had never lied to, ever. "Can we talk?"

It took a few minutes before Aster moved to return the affectionate hug, Ridley slowly let go of the hug too look into eyes big usually bright eyes. Ridley rested her hand on Aster’s cheek wiping the drop of blood from her lip. “Oh Dancer.” She whispered and pulled her in for another hug. No matter what happened between the pair Ridley would always Love her, Aster had been her everything at one point. She supported Ridley through hard times and nothing would ever change that.

“Stop apologizing, we both messed us up, we both needed different things, You are home now, that is all that matters to me.” Ridley’s hand ran down Aster’s arms to hold her hands.

“Yes of course we can talk. Here let me help with your bags.” Ridley took the bags from her.

Turning on her heels the diviner headed back towards the house she was just about to leave, Opening the door Ridley slipped out of her boots and bounded up the steps with the bags to place them down inside of Aster’s bedroom. Sitting on the edge of the bed. Ridley shrugged out of her jacket once more, resting it behind her on the bed.

Removing her phone from her pocket she texted and e-mailed the people she needed to, telling them she would be a while longer. Or that she may need to reschedule Ridley had gotten quite good at keeping deadlines so she was sure that people wouldn’t mind.

Looking up as Aster entered the room Ridley simply pat the spot beside her “What is on that marvellous mind of your little Dancer?” She asked reaching out to take the woman’s hands into her own and squeezing tightly.

{ TW: Rape } 

It was more than a little nerve-wracking to walk back into her home after almost a year and have no one look up from their seats. They were used to her prancing in and out and sometimes not saying goodbye. Her relationship with her family had grown tenuous over the years. Especially, with her mother. It was like walking on eggshells as she advanced up the stairs and entered the lavender painted room with large windows and a double bed. Apparently, they did still know her favorite color, despite everything that had gone wrong in the last ten years. She did love purple. That was one thing that had stayed the same. Aster ran her fingers over the dust on the dresser before settling down on the bed as Ridley gave a nice pat to the spot next to her. She wasn't sure that she wanted to do this...honestly, to open up about everything. She wasn't good at talking, or being honest. She'd spent years stuffing everything into little boxes and only allowing her frustration or sorrow to come out in either snide comments or passionate dance that it seemed very few understood. 

Ridley had, however. In a world where very few people had ever tried to stay, tried to listen, or tried to guide her out of a dark place, there had always been Ridley. Sometimes, Aster didn't feel like she deserved someone so kind and giving, who's darkness was so different to her own; but pain was not something that could be compared. It was in comparison that she'd run away and made so many mistakes last time. This time she had to do things differently. Perhaps, that meant being honest and actually finding away to talk about some of the worst things that had ever happened to her. It meant speaking up about what had actually happened the day that she walked out on her best friend. It meant owning up to her past and how it had influenced her actions. 

It meant being wrong. Aster didn't like being wrong.

It made her chest feel tight and her hands feel cold. 

She bit her lip, picking at the bedspread's fringe and avoiding Ridley's gaze. "I didn't mean to leave. Not really. It was instinct more than anything." 

That wasn't right. That wasn't what she wanted to say. That sounded like she wasn't taking responsibility. Aster pulled her legs up to her chest, struggling to find the words. "A long time ago. When I was a little girl, someone told me I had to keep a secret. That I couldn't tell anyone even if they hurt me." 

She took a deep, shaky breath. "He was my dance teacher. When I was seven. Until I was eleven. I begged my parents to send me to school in England. I didn't tell them why. I didn't tell them that it was because dance was the only thing that felt safe, but the person who was supposed to help me succeed was...breaking that apart."

She buried her face in her knees, her words muffled. "That day I left. I ran into him. In the supermarket. With his new clients. She was eight. She had blonde hair."

Aster sniffed, looking up, clearly unable to express how long she'd been holding this back from people. "She looked like me."

Ridley watched Aster as her words came though she looked like she wanted to take them all back and so Ridley did as she often did; she sat and waited quietly letting her have the time and space to figure out her way of saying things. When the truth came out Ridley’s hands shot up to cover her mouth as the tears rolled down her cheeks. “Oh Dancer.” She uttered in a strained voice and without thinking she wrapped her arms tight around the other woman and simply held her tight to her chest.

Rubbing her back, “I am so sorry that happened to you, I wished you had of told me back then, I wished I had known what happened that day for you to end us.... I still love you I will always love you. Most of all I just miss having you in my life in some way. You are very dear to me; I can’t believe someone did that to you! We need to do something! Get in contact with the new client's family. The police... something.” Cupping Aster’s cheeks in her hands.

“Dancer you are not alone, I am here with you every step, every day.” Though she knew they could not be romantic again, because Ridley had an interest in someone else. She would never leave Aster she would never abandon her, not when she needed Ridley most.

Ridley simply wrapped her arms around Aster holding her tight again; allowing her to just break down and let it all out for once in her life just let all the emotions about it out

When the words got out, something inside Aster broke. It was like the all of the secrets that she'd been carrying inside were a dam that burst and all the sudden after almost fifteen years, the flood could wash her clean. She still remembered his face and how over five years, he'd slowly broken down every shred of trust that she'd placed in a coach as a child, someone meant to guide and protect, who had only used his advantage over her as a big and strong man to hurt her in ways that she couldn't even express. The images had never gone away, not completely. She'd just learned to ignore them like one would a blister on your foot, only in her mind. She'd been in control until a few moments ago. It was a burden that she had soldiered through in silence for so long that in speaking there was first a feeling of freedom. She lifted her head from her wrists, mascara decorating their delicate bones, and sniffled. As Ridley's arms wrapped arond her, she was reminded of the joyful laughter that they'd always shared together. Whenever she was with Ridley, the raw feeling in the back of her mind gnawed less. It wasn't forefront. She could be somewhere without constantly looking over her shoulder or keeping up a guard.

Aster knew that they were broken up. By all intents and purposes, it had been a year, and through her own fuck up Ridley had to deal with silence and her own disappearance. She'd only ever answered enough texts to let the equally small diviner know that she wasn't dead, but that couldn't be in Evermore and she couldn't say why. After that, she'd locked her old phone in a drawer. She knew she was guilty of so many things between them. By all means, Ridley deserved a fresh chance at love, with someone who wouldn't skip continents when she was afraid. She deserved more than Aster had to give. It was only through sheer surprise that Aster could marvel that she was being hugged right now instead of pushed away. Ridley was something special, that was for sure, even through her obsession with watermelons.

Aster lay her head back on the pillows, taking a moment to take in a deep breath, which ended in a resounding and slightly embarrassing hiccup. Her lungs were not used to crying. Her body was not used to emotion. She was used to putting herself in tiny boxes and closing the door as a way to move on with what had happened. This was a sea of uncertainty. Her brows lifted slightly at the idea of talking to the police. She knew there was good reason. Surely, she was not the only girl in Evermore whom this had happened to - that was impossible. Predators tended to have patterns and if her grocery store viewing had been correct, his were still the same as the day that she'd met him. They were young and blonde and liked to dance. 

Even though she didn't know why, the idea of speaking to someone else other than the person next to her was terrifying. More terrifying than the first time that she'd ever moved on her own, or had a fight with her parents. "I don't know if I could." Her voice shook. "I...I've never told anyone but you." 

When Aster lay down Ridley did the same as so many times before, resting her head close to Aster’s Taking Aster’s hand into both of hers Ridley squeezed tightly. She wanted her to know she was there and she wasn’t alone in this not now, Ridley was sure that Anders would understand Ridley flaking out and spending a few nights with Aster given the circumstances. 

Though she would have to explain to the man she liked the whole proper situation when able but Ridley hoped deep down, she wouldn’t lose him, he meant a lot to the diviner and she hoped she meant the same to him. Turning and planting a kiss to Aster’s temple.  

Ridley nodded “We will do it together when you are ready, but I truly think it is a good thing to tell, get him arrested and off the streets and not able to do it to anyone else ever again. You are the strongest person I know Dancer. Always have been, I know we’ve had our ups and downs but I am here I will support you through all of this. I love you, of course, I'll still be here for you silly goose.” 

It was true Ridley did still love Aster but not enough to try and let go of Anders there was room in her heart for both of them. Ridley moved her free hand up to hold the side of Aster’s face and she just cuddled the woman beside her to let her know she was safe and sound right where she was. 

Sometimes, Aster wished she could disappear. She'd tried before to spin so fast that it felt as though her body would burst into a display of sparkles or air, but physically she'd only been left dizzy with sore feet. She wondered how her mind had shut out something so prominent. Aster sighed, as her eyes traveled around the lavender room. It truly was beautiful and like usual there was a large box of gifts on the desk from her father. She could already spot the Marc Jacobs perfume resting at the top. He knew her very well and perhaps for all of his distance, he was trying to show it. Aster had once caught him writing in a journal all of the things she said on one of her vacations back home during the summers as a teen. It had been filled with her grades, her likes and dislikes, and how she'd developed a passionate hate for the colour fuschia after having to wear it on a giant bow as the understudy in Alice in Wonderland. Her Dad was one of the few people that she'd ever really been able to talk to, apart from Ridley. "So, how are they?" 

It felt strange to have to ask someone else about your own family, but perhaps it was okay. Aster was finally realizing that all the years she'd been running from 211 Beech Street were not either her fault or her family's. Sure, her mother was controlling, but it had come from fear of loss. If she'd known what had happened to her daughter, Aster was certain that everything would have changed. Maybe, she would have some of the closeness with others that she'd always felt like she was missing. "I wish I were braver, you know. To talk. But, I always feel like there's something stopping me. Some big...damn lock on top of me."

She turned to Ridley and sat up, hugging a pillow to her chest. "It's why I left. Even though my memories weren't serving me, I just felt guilty. I saw you and I saw me and I couldn't see us as equals, Rid. You have this ability to lift anyone up and I couldn't...I can't just drag you down." 

Aster bit her lip, an earnest amount of honesty coming out of her rambling thoughts. "I am not whole enough for someone like you."

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