Title: Theory of Possible Selves
Fandom: South of Nowhere
Disclaimer: I don’t own them and make no profit. By the way, the title is an actual theory. I don’t own that either.
Archiving: This will be at www.realmoftheshadow.com/harper.htm with the rest of my drivel. Thanks to Kim for housing it.
A/N: This is a little bit of nothing where Spenser thinks about the future. This is not beta’d, so all mistakes belong to me. Feel free to let me know what you think, no matter what the flavor. I’ll be at Xfjnky2@yahoo.com.
She’s pre-med, just like her Mom. Or, maybe creative writing because she’s secretly always wanted to do that. No, pre-med. It’s predictable and perfect and perfectly practical, and even in her future fantasy life, Spenser is having trouble with the mold’s suction cup grip on her behind. Ashley, of course, isn’t in college because spoiled yet ignored little rich girls with aspirations of rock star fame don’t have to go to college. They land an occasional gig, stay up all night partying and personify surly and adorable when awoken by their girlfriend at 6:30 in the morning because said girlfriend is terrified of missing her 8:00 class, but they don’t go to college. Maybe they do later, Spenser postulates, mainly because she doesn’t want to have to deal with the stress that will come along with having a famous rock star girlfriend. Not that it’s the fame that bothers her imaginary future self… it’s the inevitable groupies.
Not that she and Ashley will be officially living together, her mind rushes to assure itself. She has an apartment close to campus and she imagines the real reason they are avoiding domestic bliss is that her mother finds it easier to pretend that her perfect daughter is still just as perfect as ever (and not indulging happily in a multitude of cardinal sins) when she doesn’t have to see firsthand evidence of the surprising lack of moral decay that comes along with a gay relationship.
Besides, even though Ashley officially still lives at home, it doesn’t keep her from spending every night in Spenser’s apartment of supposed autonomy. Not that she minds, because she’s probably gotten slightly addicted to waking up with a slim yet surprisingly strong arm wrapped tightly around her waist and Ashley’s breath puffing lightly against the back of her neck. Unless that particular sleeping arrangement proves to be awkward, in which case she is more than willing to adjust her fantasy future. Quality sleep is way more important than romance movie clichés, and she’s practical enough to accept that fact.
She is undoubtedly in a study group, because she has to get an A in intro biology or she’ll trash her chances at med school right out of the gate. Everyone in her study group will think she’s nice and sweet, and the more she tries to shake the sweet farm girl from Ohio image, the more tightly it will cling (and unfortunately she’s got the experience to back up this particular conjecture). Only now she has to add geeky into the mix, because the first year of college is important (at least that’s what Clay tells her every time they talk on the phone) and if that means minimal partying and maximal studying, then she can do it. No, she will do it. Unless, of course, Ashley’s pout grows to enormously cute proportions, in which case she might be persuaded to take a break.
She’s not sure why she has never really talked about Ashley much to the people in her study group. In fact, she’s sure that half of them don’t know she’s not single, and of those who do know, only a few pick up on the fact that Ashley is a girl. It comes as a bit of a surprise to them, then, when she shows up at the holiday party with her girlfriend in tow. Not too much of a surprise, because it is California, but she has the sneaking suspicion that some of her imaginary study group friends will have unconsciously decided that she’s far too boring to be involved with anyone even remotely interesting. And Ashley, if nothing else, is interesting.
She can’t decide if future Ashley will wear ripped jeans, motorcycle boots and an indecently tight tank to the party, or if she’ll pull out the skimpy, sexy red dress she keeps hidden in the closet for occasions when she wants to wow. Either way, she imagines her pretend study buddies will take one look at the petulant, pouting, ambulatory manifestation of sex holding her hand and experience a paradigm shift so sudden and extreme that it will rival a religious experience. And then Ashley will discover the fun to be had in making geeky boys blush and stutter, and she’ll be all bedroom eyes and perfect girlfriend because of the kick she gets when it registers that the two hot girls are absolutely together in every sense of the way. Not that Spenser minds, really, because when they get home, Ashley will undoubtedly come through on all the unspoken promises.
Their future selves always have fabulous sex. She’s sure of it.
They’ll break up. She’s not sure why, but it’ll be Ashley’s fault. A week will pass, maybe two, before Ashley arrives at her door bearing a sulk and a single flower (bouquets are far too passé). She’ll crack the door open and look at her with that expectant sadness that she’s perfected, and Ashley will break right in front of her eyes. Then it will be apologies and sweet kisses and promises and pleas, and she’ll open the door wide and let Ashley in because it’s kind of silly to think she could ever keep her out. Not when she really doesn’t want that. Because she doesn’t… she wants Ashley, but she has to have her on her terms. She can’t be bullied, can’t turn into one of those girls who gets walked all over because she needs to keep hold of her dignity. And, she admits ruefully, Ashley is one of those girls who could do that and not even really know it, and Spenser refuses to be a long suffering Lifetime movie heroine.
They move in together for real the middle of her sophomore year, and it doesn’t matter what her Mom thinks because her Dad is there with a bottle of wine as their first official guest. She makes spaghetti, or maybe a salad, but nothing too complicated because she’s far too busy making straight A’s to worry about learning how to cook and Ashley certainly isn’t in contention for the role of domestic goddess. They have a small table, but the empty fourth seat makes them all sad, and things are a little strained until after they share the first glass of wine (and her Dad is even cooler for ignoring their minor status). Then it starts to matter a little less, and Spenser thinks about love and what it feels like to have it and be immersed in it, and suddenly she’s happier than ever that she’s a part of her family and that her family, or at least part of it, has expanded to include Ashley. And she probably hugs her Dad and tells him what she’s thinking, because he’s the kind of guy who wants to hear things like that.
She tries not to think about everything that could go wrong. She tries not to think about freaking out and breaking up with Ashley and pretending like it never happened because she suddenly discovers that she can’t deal with it anymore. She tries not to think about herself at 35, married (and her brain can only picture Aiden here, and she tells herself that its because she doesn’t really know that many boys and that right now he’s the logical replacement even though that will change) with four kids and shopping in some random, sterile grocery store somewhere, cart full of organic produce and diapers. When she thinks about those things she tries not to think about, she can’t ever imagine herself happy. But she thinks about them anyway, thinks about seeing Ashley, beautiful as ever, with her fingers wrapped around those of her obviously adoring girlfriend. And she sees her future self ducking down the bargain aisle, unwilling and unable to face the happiness she could have had as she tracks their progress through the store with jealous eyes. They have a basket, not a cart, and it’s full of bright colors and maybe some junk food, and she’ll stare down at her frozen organic strawberries and hate them and not even know why. Because it doesn’t make sense to hate organic produce, and she’s sure she’ll buy it no matter how her life turns out, but she thinks that the reason she hates it is because it’s in a cart and not a basket, and it’s sitting beside an economy pack of baby wipes and a six-pack of Aiden’s beer and her ranch-flavored rice cakes.
She hates the way that, as a result, the sight of rice cakes makes her want to cry (and sometimes it doesn’t even matter what flavor). Because that’s not going to happen, and she shouldn’t even be thinking about it but she can’t help it. She thinks about her Mom, and how much she hates Ashley and how much she’s going to hate what’s going on between the two of them whenever her parents’ marital crisis clears up enough for Spenser to divulge. Then she wonders if she’ll be able to put up with all the guilt and disapproval, because she’s never really had to worry about things like that before. But then she takes a moment and reevaluates and decides that she thinks she can put up with it. Especially since she knows that her Dad knows, and he’s told her and showed her that he loves her because of who she is, not in spite of it, in so many ways that she thinks he should start his own chapter of PFLAG.
So no… she’s not going to cave. There will be no Aiden, though she can’t make promises about frozen organic strawberries because it doesn’t make sense to willfully consume pesticides just to thumb her nose at a misguided possible future self who was already miserable to begin with.
There will most definitely be Ashley, and she doesn’t worry about the fact that she can’t imagine anything positive about the two of them that goes further than the next five years. She’s giving herself room to grow and change, and she’s allowing for the fact that Ashley has a habit of introducing chaos to her life. Given that, it seems ludicrous to plan and meticulously map out a future that will never go according to plan.
And, while she’s at it, screw pre-med anyway.