London Rain

A short story based on Laughing

There were certain things she remembered about the way it used to be. Certain moments of bliss, of complete love that filled her, of adoration. It wasn't that she hated the way she lived at the moment, but some part of her longed for the way it used to be. It had been difficult for her at the beginning, struggling with these feelings when a new relationship made itself known to her. Hell, she was surprised Luke had stayed with her, despite all of her stupid fucked up issues. Every time she brought it up, he was sure to point out that it had not been her fault. It had been no one's fault. He had been sick, she had barely known him, he had been her father. It was difficult and he would wait for her to sort things out. Even when she told him she didn't love him, he hadn't been willing to accept it. At the time, she had hated him for it, but now she was grateful for every moment she could have with him due to his insane amount of understanding. Yes, she could admit it. She loved Luke and hoped that some day they would be able to spend the rest of their lives together.

However, this seemed to be a sore spot for him. Because Ashleigh refused to marry. It wasn't that she didn't like the idea. In theory, it would be wonderful. Both families together, bound together by the happiness that only a wedding could bring. But what Luke had never understood, in all his years of quiet agreement, was that gaping hole that would be there when Ashleigh married. It went without saying that she despised her stepfather. He was by no means a bad man. In fact, she could think of no one better suited to care for her mother. Apart from Ashleigh's own father. But due to her unwillingness to forget and let go, there had always been bad blood between them. Therefore, at her wedding, he would not be the one to walk her down the aisle. There was only one man she could imagine walking her down the aisle. And he was gone. Eternally twenty-five. While her mother turned thirty-five. Thirty-seven. Thirty-nine. While Ashleigh herself turned ten. Fifteen, eighteen, twenty. This was a fact that Luke did not seem to comprehend. No matter how hard he tried to understand, no matter how many times Ashleigh explained it to him, no matter how many times she sobbed out the words to him, there would never be resolve between them on that issue.

Sitting on the bench, she slid her gloved hands between her knees to keep them warm, watching her breath before her, creating a swirl of fog over the sea of white. She couldn't remember the last time it snowed in London, let alone at the right time. It amused her to see the drivers struggle to gain control of their cars on the icy roads, others complaining about the cold. In the past few days since the blizzard had first hit, she'd found herself sitting at her living room window, or sitting outside in the park, watching the children play, their faces ecstatic with the new development in the weather. When she had been young, it had snowed only once. When she was five, just months before she turned six.


"Can I eat it?"

"Careful o' the color, luv. Don't wanna eat yellow snow."

Ashleigh furrowed her brow, her tiny, five-year-old arms nearly straight out at either side due to the over-bundling her mother had done. She watched as her father bent down, picking up a handful of snow in his own gloved hands, rolling it into a ball and showing it to her. "What're you gonna do with that?"

"Throw it at you," he answered, grinning and throwing it lightly, under-handed, hitting Ashleigh's arm. She squealed in delight, struggling to fight her way through the waist deep snow (at least, waist deep for the tiny girl), falling forward into the soft snow. "All right?"

"S'cold!" she cried, holding her arms out and struggling to push herself up. Then there were hands underneath her arms, pulling her to her feet and turning her to face the other way. She grinned, finding herself face-to-face with her father, both of the noses and cheeks bright red with the biting cold. "I never seen snow before. We don't get snow where I come from. Have you seen snow before, SamCarter?"

Sam smiled, standing up and squinting across the dazzling snow at a bench nearby, holding one hand over his eyes to shield them from the sun. "Once. Not this much, though."

After a moment, he cupped both hands around his mouth, shouting across the seemingly deserted park. "Oy! Rach! C'mere!"

They heard her mother's voice, faint even in the surprising silence, her figure small and dark against the white. "I'm not dressed for snow!"

"Eh, bollocks to that!" Sam called back, beginning to trudge through the snow towards her, Ashleigh hurried after him, as quickly as her tiny legs would allow, falling three times before she finally caught up to find her mother laughing, Sam lifting her off the ground and cradling her in his arms. "C'mon. You don't wanna disappoint Ash, now, do ya?"

"Disappoint Ashleigh, or disappoint you?" she questioned, grinning, both arms wrapped around Sam's neck. Ashleigh watched, happily, wanting more than anything to be apart of the love that she could feel radiating from her parents. She threw herself forward, grasping Sam's legs and hugging them tight (or as tight as her coat would allow).

"See? She wants you to come play with us. Hey, Ash, what d'you think?" he questioned, looking down at her. Ashleigh giggled, never releasing his legs.

"I think you should throw Mommy in the snow," she answered. Sam pursed his lips in mock thought, turning his eyes towards the sky.

"Hm. Ya know, that sounds like a brilliant idea."

"Sam, you wouldn't dare. Sam. Sam, don't. Sam, please-"

Before Rachel could protest anymore, Sam had tossed her lightly into the deep snow, sending Ashleigh screeching and laughing, throwing herself on top of her mother.

"You…" Rachel pushed herself up, grabbing Ashleigh around the waist and pulling her down into the snow beside her.


A small smile made it sway onto Ashleigh's face at the memory and she reclined back onto the bench, shutting her eyes for a long moment. She could still remember the way she had felt infinitely warm, despite the freezing weather and the snow that had made its way into her boots, soaking her socks. She could still hear her mother's laughter and her father's voice. Though she found herself gradually forgetting it. It terrified her and, every night before going to sleep, she would go over a conversation she had heard him engage in, or the way he sounded while he was reading to her before bed. Anything to keep that memory locked there. Even the day her baby brother had died. She didn't think she would ever forget the sounds that came from her father's aunt's sitting room that day when he came home. At the time, she'd had no idea what happened. After all, she'd never even seen this baby brother of hers. But how could a five-year-old have understood miscarriage? She'd since been enlightened on the ordeal by her mother. Apparently, she'd found herself pregnant again and gone through the first six months with no problem. Her father had been ecstatic. He had, after all, been absent during the time her mother had been pregnant with her. He'd gone out and bought toys for the boy, they'd picked names for him. Nickolas Joshua, he'd been named. And then one day, her body had simply rejected the fetus and she'd miscarried. It was the first time Ashleigh had heard her father cry like that. Not just a few silent tears, but great, heaving sobs that made her own heart hurt. She remembered pushing the door to the sitting room open and finding her parents embracing one another, crying the way she had cried when she fell off of her tricycle.

She sighed, wringing her hands together. Ashleigh remembered those days she spent with her father. She felt her tiny heart would burst with love and adoration. He had been her whole world, and she his. No one could come close. And when she saw both of her parents together, cuddled on the couch, speaking of nothing and everything, sneaking kisses, she knew that no man could ever come close for either of them. Sam Carter had been everything to Ashleigh and Rachel. Not even her stepfather came close.

"Knew I'd find you here," the voice startled her from her reverie and she jerked, her head swinging round to the side to find her mother seated beside her. "Luke came by looking for you."

"Eh," Ashleigh waved in a hand in the air, dismissively. "He's persistent, isn't he?"

"It can't be that bad," Rachel bumped the twenty-year-old's shoulder, playfully and Ashleigh sighed, reaching up to adjust her beanie. "Chad asked if he could come to the grave tomorrow."

"Why would he want to come with?" Ashleigh crinkled her nose in the manner she'd done since she was three. Rachel shrugged, folding her gloved hands and holding them close to her as she peered out at the snow.

"He wants to be there, I guess. I dunno, Ash, just humour him," she answered and Ashleigh sighed, laying her head on Rachel's shoulder.

"I'm sick of boys," she groaned. Rachel laughed, reaching an arm around her shoulders, stroking her long brown hair.

"That's the point. They make you so sick of them, you'll do anything to get them to stop. Usually, that means marrying them," she announced. Ashleigh smiled, laughing softly.

"Would you have gotten married?" she asked, suddenly, and Rachel frowned, hand stopping.

"What do you mean?"

"If Daddy hadn't died, would you two have gotten married?"

Rachel grew silent and Ashleigh lifted her head to eye her mother, curiously.

"I dunno," she answered, finally, eyes focused on something before her. "Can't say."

"But you two would probably still be together, yeah?"

Rachel smiled, standing up and bending to kiss Ashleigh's forehead. "I wouldn't have it any other way."


It had happened so quickly. One minute things had been perfect. Ashleigh had a family. She'd spent her first birthday with Sam-no, Daddy. She couldn't remember a time when she'd been happier. Then everything had exploded and she couldn't remember a time when she'd been more frightened. Daddy wasn't supposed to be hurt. He wasn't supposed to be in the ambulance. Mommy wasn't supposed to be crying. No one was supposed to be sad. Ashleigh was six now, shouldn't things be happy?

She couldn't remember.

She hated the hospital. She'd never been in one before and the minute she stepped inside, she realised she never wanted to be in one again. Mommy was holding her, telling her Daddy was going to be okay. Everything was going to be okay. They were going to go home in a little while, all three of them, and they would live happily ever after.

Ashleigh remembered the way Daddy fell over after the man put the knife into him. She didn't know why the man hated Daddy so much. Especially not since she and Mommy loved him so much.

She didn't even realise she'd fallen asleep until Mommy was shaking her awake, telling her Daddy wanted to see them. Her heart lurched and she smiled, clambering to get up, wanting more than anything to run into Daddy's arms. Mommy took her to his room and what Ashleigh saw terrified her.

He was laying in a bed, hooked up to all sorts of machines, his skin white, looking very, very tired. It took all of the courage in her tiny, six-year-old body to follow Mommy into the room.

"Hey, Ash," Daddy called, though his voice sounded tiny. Like he was sick and couldn't speak well. Ashleigh smiled at the sound of his voice, feeling most of her fear dissipate. This was Daddy. There was no reason to be afraid.

"Hi, Daddy," she announced, softly, climbing onto the bed and sitting beside him. He smiled at her, wrapping an arm around her body and holding her close. She lay against him, sighing contentedly.

"How's Oscar?" he questioned after a long moment and Ashleigh giggled at the mention of the pit bull puppy she had received as a birthday gift.

"He peed in the house today. Mommy had to clean it and it was really stink," she plugged her nose to illustrate just how stinky Oscar's pee had been and Daddy laughed, hugging her close to him. "Are you sick?"

"'Fraid so, Ash," Daddy was quiet for a long time and she felt him kiss the top of her head a lot, squeezing her tight. "Could you dous a favour, luv?"

"Uh-huh," Ashleigh nodded, vigorously, toying with the bed sheet beside her.

"Take care o' Mummy for me. She's gonna need you a lot soon, okay? I want you to take good care of Mummy and Oscar" he whispered and Ashleigh frowned, looking up to find Daddy crying.

"Don't cry, Daddy," she whispered back, reaching up with a tiny hand to wipe the tears from his eyes. It only seemed to make him cry harder. "Can you help me?"

Daddy didn't answer. Instead, he hugged her tight, his whole body shaking as he cried. Ashleigh hugged him back, still not quite understanding what was going on.

Looking back now, there was so much more she wanted to say.


As they drove the cemetery-Ashleigh, Rachel, her stepfather and Luke-she realised quite a few things. One of which happened to be that, despite the fact that she had felt robbed by her father's death for so long, she had been given so many chances. She had spent her sixth birthday with him. She had been able to call him Daddy. She had met him, which, according to Rachel, may not have happened, had he not randomly called her one day. She had had a father, if only for six months.

And the other, that she had been incredibly selfish. Here she had a fantastic boyfriend who was willing to give her the world. And she kept pushing him away. He could have left so long ago, but here he was, riding beside her to the grave of her father. The first time in fifteen years someone else had come with her and Rachel. It felt right. It felt perfect.

She did not, however, say a word to Luke right away. Instead, she followed her mother to the grave, the men hanging back a respectful distance. She bent down, setting her flower on the snow and tracing the words etched in the fading stone. Already she could feel the tears build, but this time, she felt herself smile. And quietly, where no one could hear, she spoke to her daddy for the first time in fifteen years.


"You're just gonna go back to your gaff without seein' any o' London, then?"

"Planning on it."

"Seems to me you could use a tour guide."

"Your perception's horribly off."

"Last chance. I won't even charge you the tour fee."

"Fine. But first, tell me your name."

"Sam Carter. Now tell me yours."

"Hey, I'm not the one who pleaded for a tour guide."

"Touché. Come on, there are a few landmarks 'round 'ere, we can walk."

"Fun."

"You sure you don't wan' my coat?"

"Positive. Does it always rain here?"

"Most o' the time. You get used to it. Ain't half bad, actually."

"It's gotta be better than 90 degree weather."

"True. That's the London Eye."

"The London Eye? I don't get it."

"Ferris wheel. Holds 800 people. I've never been on it. Fear o' heights."

"You're afraid of heights?"

"That's wha' I said."

"So you do drugs and smoke-"

"'Ey, I only smoke pot."

"Fine. You smoke pot and cigarettes, but you're afraid of heights."

"Ironic, isn't it?"

"Wanna know something really ironic? Ever since I was a little girl, I've wanted to get married. You know, white dress, doves-"

"Doves?"

"The works. And back home, there's this guy I've been dating. He asked me to marry him a couple weeks ago and I flipped. I started thinking 'I can't marry him. Not him.' So I left. I wanna get married, but when the chance comes along, I turn it down."

"Ironic."

"Yeah."

"Why are you tellin' me all this?"

"Rachel Blake."

"Wha'?"

"My name. Rachel Blake."

"Nice to meet ya."


Well, that's that. The end of Laughing. Now, if you've been with the story long enough, you know that I've been struggling with this story over the past year or so. This will be the last time I ever write a sequel. Not to say that I didn't enjoy it, I enjoyed every minute of it. After all, Sam has always been my number one muse and he and Rachel are my babies. But I was forcing it and it wasn't fair to anyone. Reading over the second half of it, I found the story had gone a place I couldn't follow. I tried pushing it too much and it finally got away from me. Rather than leave it hanging, I've decided to close up all loose ends with this small epilogue. I may still have Sam, Rachel and Ashleigh pop up in short stories from time to time for nostalgia's sake. Though I'm not promising anything.

I will not, however, stand for anyone telling me this was a bad idea. I am the judge of that, and only me. I already feel horrible about this, but there was no way around it. It has always been rooted in reality. Nothing ever comes up roses in the end.

I love the character of Sam and it hurt to let him die, but there was nothing I could do to stop it. I'm sure every writer out there understands exactly what I'm talking about.

This was the most difficult thing I've ever had to write. I finished at 2AM, literally sobbing. You have no idea how much I'm going to miss these characters and I wish more than anything that I could bring Sam back. But this isn't a TV show. And what's done is done. I can't say I'm sorry. All I can say is Thank you. Thank you to everyone who reviewed, who e-mailed me with support and everyone who read this over the past year. I can't thank you enough.

If anyone would like to talk to me at all,please e-mail me at

I hope to hear from some of you and to the rest, Good Luck in Life.

Cheers,

Shelly

2:16AM11 December, 2004