Dust kicked up as the trailer drove past at 60, riding the breeze a few meters before settling again. The dodgy service station out on route 5 was still in business even without the patronage it used to receive decades ago. Old Jim Farley worked the cash register, or rather took a drag from his cancer stick, humming along to the latest pop tunes on the morning radio. The fuel pumps were caked in dirt, the occasional scratch cutting through the mess. None of the meters read over forty dollars. Petrol just cost too much nowadays. A single 'A' frame sign stood out on the road, attempting to coax in the occasional traveler. ‘Gas and bottle; $35'. What an enticement. The sign stood strong against the desert wind, rattling occasionally. The only things within a 40 mile radius around the 'revive, survive, fill-yah-car-up-and-make-us-happy' stop was sun, sand and a beat up tar road, with more potholes than the government could afford to fix. Out of place, on the gravel curb sat a black clad figure.. She sat in the sun, rubbing her temples and holding a lit cigarette between her lips.
The fuel indicator began to sink below empty.
Slamming his hand against the wheel, Trevor cursed up a storm. The middle of fucking nowhere. And another three dollars more for the swear jar. Looking over the dashboard, it felt as if he was a part of a hunter s. Thompson creation, being that oddball journalist on his way to Vegas minus a Samoan lawyer and a shitload of much needed drugs. Fuckin' sand everywhere. In the distance, what looked like a shack had popped up. He prayed for a service station because there was no way he wanted to be pushing this baby. Jet black 56 Chevrolet; beckoned to the ladies, turned men’s eyes green and made him one happy guy. It had been his grandfathers and dear god; he loved that car as much as the man whom it came from. His grandfather was just like him, all skin and bone and toothy grin. Couldn’t hold down a job but could lay down one hell of a bass riff. And that was where he was going; a gig in Vegas, hoping to hit the big time. That was if he ever made it. As if retorting, the car started to grunt and slow. The smudge had become a very trashy fill up; a place that had to have been standing four or five generations. '50m to Farley’s Stop'. What a name. What a fuckin' name. The car rolled to a stop and Trevor sat there staring out the window as if nothing had happened. Then he slammed his head into the wheel and set the horn blaring. Fifty fucking metres.
He left his ride to bake in the heat as he walked up the road, dust coating his black cowboy boots. The tight jeans he had donned that morning were not for hiking through no man’s land. He should have tied his hair up too. Sweat trickled down his neck and back and he wiped at his forehead before it got in his eyes too. Ten meters away, Trevor noticed someone or something lying on the curb. Hitchhiker on lunch probably, he thought. As he got closer, he realised it was some goth rocker lying out like she was at the beach, tank top rolled up to reveal a flat pale stomach with the tattooed wings of a bird barely hidden by low riding pants. She blocked out the sun with a heavily tattooed forearm. He raised an eyebrow as the muffled screams of slipknot reached his ears. What a bloody character.
"Hey! Hey you!"
Startled she jumped as best anyone can whilst lying down. More like a spasm really.
"What the fuck man" She mumbled.
Must have been asleep.
"You goin' somewhere, eh? If you give me some help, i can get ya there"
She sat up groggily and stared him straight in the face.
"I don’t know what 'elp you'll be needin' Mr., but i been outta that business for a good many years now, a'hight?"
He chuckled. He didn’t what to know what business the scraggly bitch had been into. Her grey eyes looked as if she was drugged, still filled with sleep. Her thin lips were painted red, and she looked as if she'd slept in the war paint a couple of times. There was a metal ring in the side of her nose and a bar through her septum. Her clothes consisted of a shirt which read 'fuck off you fucking fucker', baggy black pants and worn in docs.
"Jeez lady, i just wantcha to help me push my car. I ran outta gas."
She stared at him for a bit, in the annoying kind of way people do when they try to place something.
"You know what? You kinda remind me of noel fielding, yeah? With yeh hair all like that"
Who the fuck was Noel Fielding? She licked her lips and smiled. It was almost too sexy for a girl like her.
"What’s yeh name?" She asked, getting up and dusting the sand from her back.
"Trevor. But you can call me whatever. Doest really matter"
He looked her up and down again. She caught him this time and realised her shirt was still rolled up.
"Checkin' me out, huh?" she stuck out a studded tongue and winked slyly.
Trevor ignored her, looking away as she adjusted herself, and pretended to be interested in the shop attendant, restocking and lip synching some cheesy shop music.
"Don’t worry 'bout him, ay. Good bloke. Gave me breakfast even if i couldn’t pay 'im"
She laughed. "Probably felt sorry me".
"He should do. You looked like a goddamned homeless person." Can’t lie, you know?
She squinted up at him, hesitating before punching his arm a little too hard. "Wanna push or not?"
An hour, and a few painkillers later, the two were on their way.
The girl sat with a foot on the dash; the other where it ought to be. Spread-eagle, like a fuckin’ bloke. Trevor shook his head but couldn’t help the smile that crawled across his face. What a character.
"So, Trev, you let strangers in ya car of'en?" She crushed the butt of her cigarette on her shoe and lit up another.
"Not normally" His eyes stayed on the road. "I never did ask your name".
She ran her fingers through matted black hair. "Which one do yeh want?"
Trevor glanced at her. She was actually serious.
"Well, i guess I’ll take what i can get"
Running her tongue across her lip, she leveled her gaze at the car roof.
"Born, London Central hospital, 1991, Elizabeth Anne Taylor"
She blew smoke out the open window and smiled straight at Trevor.
"But don’t yeh be callin' me that, ay. It’s Lizzy to you"
"Where you off to, Lizzy?"
She seemed to contemplate it, and then shrugged.
"No plans really." Just gettin' around, yeh?"
She looked steadily at Trevor’s face, concentrating on the road. His hair was too long, but not long enough; curling past his collar. Almost like a bloody mullet. But it suited him. He really did look like Noel fielding. Maybe she just watched too much BBC. The rucksack by her feet clunked as she readjusted her foot and knocked it.
"What you got in that bag anyway?" Trevor asked.
She winked at him and said, “black magic".
She hadn’t failed to notice the bass guitar in the back seat, so she changed the subject.
"Whatcha got that baby in the back for? You look sexy holdin’ it?"
"Wanna find out?"
She laughed but said nothing else.
The scenery had given way to semi rural area, government owned community lots and trashy rentals. The greenery was sparse but what little there was, was clearly treasured.
"You gotta place, Charlie boy?" she asked as she tied back her hair.
He slowed as he turned the corner into another main road. A small town lay in front of them now. "I may do. What's it to you?" he asked.
"I'd kill for a place to crash yeh know? Ill payeh back, honest."
She glanced back at the bass again. "Could be yeh roady” she chuckled.
Trevor pulled into a back street. "Actually, we got one of them already."
"Oh yeah, I’m in a band. We're called 'Candy Apple'"
She burst into laughter. He should have been pissed. Would have been if she was anyone else.
She wiped the tears from her eyes, smudging the black liner.
"Candy Apple?" The corners of her mouth pinched in a half grimace half smile, trying hard to hold back another outburst.
"Our last lead and founder was a bit ‘Lolita’ oriented style. Thought it was sexy to call us 'Candy Apple'".
She still had that pinched look on her face.
"Oh come on, it’s not that funny!"
Deciding it best to avoid the band name thing, she rolled her eyes and looked out the window.
“Yeah sure, whatever"
The street they were on was lined with sardine like townhouses, all crammed into the same little neighborhood with barely an inch between them. The lawns were neat and orderly, children’s bikes parked beside family cars. The smell of dinner seeping out open kitchen windows, the sounds of evening TV shows and conversation muffled through fly screen.
"This is me". Trevor pulled up at a corner house, the yard empty and the lights off.
"Eddie must be out...” he mumbled.
Paying no mind, Lizzy stretched out and cracked her knuckles. "What now boss?"
"Boss?" he put the car in park and ripped out the keys. "If you’re staying here, just... dont call me that, okay? I’ll feel like a fucking pimp".
She laughed again and lurched out of the car.
The smell out here was different to the city, she thought. Birds rested on rooftops and bats chattered pointlessly, nestled in the occasional tree.
Trevor thought she looked awful pretty under the setting sun.
Unlocking the front door, with Lizzy at his heel, he walked into the refreshing cool of his place. He would have shucked his clothes and jumped in the shower had the girl not been there.
He spun around to face her. She stood there, or rather slouched in place her face expressionless and haggard.
"This is my dwelling."
She raised an eyebrow
"You steal anything, you touch my stuff without asking, and I will kill you and then feed your remains to my goldfish"
She looked at him with that same expressionless, eyebrow cocked face before looking away. So much for humor.
"As re-dick-ulous as that sounds, i believe ya"
She dumped her rucksack on the couch and looked around the room. Your basic bachelor pad. Couch, TV, Xbox. The coffee table was covered in car mags with coffee cup rings staining the timber. The kitchen was surprisingly clean though remnants of breakfast lay on the bench. She would kill for some cheerios. The walls were plastered with posters of cars and bands. No nudie pics. Surprising.
She looked at her feet.
"Want food, kiddo?"
Trevor had moved into the kitchen and was fixing himself a sandwich.
Why so nice Mr. gee-tar?
She slumped into the chair at the bench and stared absently at him.
"Corpse bride, I’m speaking to you"
Her gaze ran to the box of open cheerios.
Dear god, I’ve brought home a stray dog, Trevor thought to himself.
He poured out the cereal into one of his many mismatched bowls. A sharp noise came from Lizzy's stomach.
"When did you eat last?" he asked as he slid the bowl across the counter.
"Dunno". She shoveled that cereal in like it was the last supper.
He showed her where the shower was and after taking the towel he offered, she slid the door closed. She had lost that teasing grin. She was all 'back in 20 minutes' with no idea when twenty minutes would be over. Eddie hadn’t showed up yet and probably wouldn’t for another day or two. The man had a terrible habit of getting stoned at a girlfriends place and forgetting he had work to do. The gig was in three weeks. No vocalist and missing, potentially stoned manager. They were fucked. So fucked.
He scrubbed the dishes and lay out a blanket on the couch. He had no spare room and there was no way he was putting her in Eddie’s room. If he really did come home, there was no knowing what he'd do with her.
A voice not particularly amazing but not ignorable carried down the hall from the bathroom. The voice was far from smooth. It was gravely and mesmerizing. The kind of voice that sounded good with bass.
Lizzy stepped out of the shower and looked at herself in the mirror. Free of that day old makeup and nasty clothes, she could have been fourteen. Her body was flat and thin with no shape. Her breasts were small but there. Her skin was pale all over, her stomach a little burned from the sun earlier that day. Her hair dripped onto her shoulders and she wondered how she'd gotten here. Wondered why she was here again. Another person's pet. She toweled off the water silently, staring back at her grey eyes. She saw nothing there. Many a man had said he'd seen passion or perhaps curiosity, maybe even love there. Liz had only ever seen grey. She pulled on her underwear and stared at the door. She needed clothes.
Trevor tried awkwardly not to look at Lizzy as she stood in front of him, clad only in her underwear.
"Well, yeah. I don’t actually have any clothes on me, Charlie"
Trevor looked away and mumbled about getting her something.
Lizzy wasn’t self conscious. She knew what she was and how people saw her. She didn’t care. She’d been given names. Freak. Anorexic. Model material. Disturbing. Beautiful. . Whatever. She sat on the couch and pulled one of Trevor's blankets over her. It was cool but it smelled good. It reminded her of home. She closed her eyes.
Trevor came back into the room with a set of his old pjs. He had riffled through his clothes, steaming. What kind of girl would do that in front of a stranger? And some random male, possibly (but definitely not) a rapist of all things! Jesus! Fuck!
His face flushed red but he controlled his anger. He didn’t even know her. For all he knew, that was normal to her.
Now he watched her as she slept. She was out cold but she was still sitting up. Damn. All the anger he felt earlier left him and he almost felt compassion for the girl. He awkwardly slipped her arms into the shirt, a good size too big for her. And he had thought he was small. He tried not to look as he pulled the shirt over her breasts and slid his pants up over her slim thighs. She didn’t make a peep, dead to the world. He lay her down and tucked her in.
She was so pretty without all that junk on her face. He noticed that she'd left her nose ring in.
He gazed at her. What a character. He kissed her forehead without thinking and slinked off to his own room.
The next morning, Trevor dragged his eyes open to the sound of blaring metal and the shout of conversation.
Muddy eyed, he slumped out of his room and into the kitchen.
Lizzy stood in her bra and old pants, leaning against the kitchen bench with a cup of instant coffee in her hands. Eddie, still wired from an all too evident trip of a lifetime, rehashed the events of the previous few days to a sleepy eyed Liz. He was bouncing around and waving his hands. He hadn’t slept. His Mac was buzzing on the coffee table in the living room, hooked up to the speakers. Death metal. Trevor walked over and turned it down.
"Yo, man!" Eddie called in greeting.
"Dude, its 10, keep it down" He mumbled as he rubbed his eyes.
Eddie powered on. "Found your lady on the sofa, man. You holdin' out on me?"
Eddie was six foot three, a little taller than Trevor. His hair was a long dirty brown and needed a good brush. A wash too. He was your classic stoner and computer techie. The band manager. He had taken over after their old manager had left, but it hadn’t been the same. His style was just... so fucking brutal.
Forgetting his earlier question, he continued talking music with Liz, talking at her as she tried to wake up. She caught Trevor’s eye and smiled. Her hair was all over the place and the bags under her eyes made her look twice her age. She nodded in mock interest when Eddie paused but stayed silent.
"So Trev man, I’ve been form chinchilla to Antarctica and i still have no vocalist. I also got a call from Gabby who said you are a dick, who needs to get ya mind tank into gear. You missed practice yesterday man" Eddie pouted.
Practice. He had forgotten all about it. From the breakdown of his car until now, everything was just a hazy memory.
Rubbing his temples he cursed.
Gaby was their drummer. Had been for five years. She was a good friend too, almost like a little sister. He sighed. She had never called. She should have called.
"She never called. Couldn’t have been that important"
Eddie focused on Trevor’s face the best he could in an attempt to be serious.
"Dude. The gig is in three weeks. If they found out we have no vocalist we would be cut off. The main aim right now is to find that lucky lad or ladette ripe for the picking and make them ours"
He turned to wink at Liz and she shook her head, amused.
Eddie held his finger up as if to say something extra, paused and said, "Man, I’m gonna crash. Laters". He took off toward his room and waved back with a sly smile at Lizzy. "You too Liz". Trevor looked at his feet as he heard his roommate’s door thud shut. Fuck.
Slumped on the coach, Trevor strummed his bass as Lizzy watched, entranced. She loved the way his thin fingers became a part of his instrument as he worked his magic. The sound reverberated through her chest and made her think of the mellow, sexual beats Muse threw out. She closed her eyes and began to sing along to Trevor’s playing.
Trevor stared at her pale face, continuing to play. He watched her lips move. Envied her. Wanted her.
It wasn’t five minutes before Eddie pounded back into the room, his motorcycle boots still on, vaulted the couch and narrowly avoided landing on Lizzy's lap. She yelped and cowered against the arm of the vinyl chair.
"Lady, marry me"
Eddie was just too much.
"You are my lady oh wise and beautiful one; be my candy apple"
Liz's eyebrows came together in confusion and amusement.
"I think yeh a bit much before me breakfast, Charlie."
Eddie stared at her as if he wanted to kiss her all over in praise.
Trevor interrupted by twanging an off note.
"Oi. What the fuck man?"
"Dude, she is our pot of gold, our Frank Sinatra, the perfect replacement!"
Liz sat silent and picked at her black nails.
Replacement? She hardly knew these two. She didn’t know who she was replacing. She didn’t think she wanted to know. Her mind told her she ought to at least be worried like a sensible girl would. Perhaps question what exactly these weirdo’s wanted. But where would that get her? When she was a little girl, she thought being smart would give her everything she wanted. She had it for a while, thought she did at least, but it was gone now. So why did she care?
"What is going on?"
She needed a smoke.
Eddie looked at her enchanted. "Liz, i am asking you, no, I’m begging you. Please sing for our band"
The room was silent.
"Buy me a pack of Marlboros and yeh have deal" she said.
Trevor watched Liz's ass as she walked down the aisle in Wal-Mart. She looked good in his too tight jeans. Her hair was still all over the shop, swept to the side showing off the tatts on her neck and the spiraled stretchers in her ears. She scratched the rabbit inked on the back of her neck and told Ed to ask the staff again where the sparklers were. They were going to Gabby's to celebrate the good news. Eddie had let her know over the phone and her squeal of delight wasn’t missed by any of them. Liz had suggested they buy a fuck load of sparklers, duct tape them together and set them off.
"My brother used to do it. It’s bloody awesome."
Trevor had smiled at her childish idea. It suited her.
Eddie had refused to put out the cigarette between his lips, so as he piled the sparklers into their cart, he looked around casually for ninja staff who wanted them gone. You couldn’t blame them. A Goth bunch really, trailing smoke and sarcasm behind them, they were just open to a fuck ton of American prejudice.
Eddie put the butt out on his leather duster as they approached the checkout.
The cashier wrinkled her nosed and said "that’s $46.50"
Liz chuckled, amused by the look on the cashiers face. She strolled out the door and slouched against someone’s car, closing her eyes against the sun...
Eddie passed the woman a fifty dollar note and stared at her through his round red sunglasses. The woman looked terrified. She didn’t mention having a nice day or smile at all, just handed over the change and looked warily at Eddie out of the corner of her eye as she served the next customer. Eddie stormed out, hiding a smile of satisfaction pulling up the corners of his mouth. Trevor paused and looked at the woman.
"Have a nice day, yeah?"
He smiled at her warmly. She remained in her stony faced stupor. Worth a shot.
Outside, Liz produced a lollipop from her pocket, but neither of her companions asked where or how she got it.
Gaby's parents house was huge. Sprawled out on an acre, the house was more of a manor than anything. The three of them felt obliged to take their muddy shoes off at the door. Gabby welcomed them in, all smiles and girlish laughter. Liz watched as Trevor and Eddie made small talk. She was as pale as herself, with pink dreadlocks pinned neatly out of her face with butterfly clips. Her arms were muscular for a woman but Liz guessed that came from years of drumming. Her clothes were adorned with tears and holes, safety pins holding everything together on her curvy frame.
The girls pink lips parted in open mouthed happiness when she spotted Liz.
"Oh, how rude of me, god damn, you are pretty"
Liz stood there silently
Gaby walked up to Liz and put her arms around her. "Welcome to the family, Girl"
Trevor was secretly amused at the stunned expression on Liz's face. She didn’t say much other than a slight movement of the head or the occasional one worded answer. Trevor realised that he was the only person she had actually had a proper conversation with. All of them ate heartily and had a good few drinks. Conversation ran from the band to other going-on’s in their lives, but Trevor always came back to Liz's silence. She seemed happy to sit there and be surrounded by their simple chatter.
Liz looked into Trevor’s eyes. He stared back. She didn’t care.
Another strange place. Another night away from her old life. How long had it been now? Five years? She closed her eyes momentarily and found Eddie staring as well. She needed to get out. She needed air.
Eddie watched Liz get to her feet. He wouldn’t lie; he wanted the girl, but there was something frighteningly protective about how Trev kept watching her. Liz asked Gabby if she could be shown outside and Gaby happily obliged. When she returned without Liz, the smile had faltered.
"She’s so vacant"
Eddie chuckled. "We don’t even know the girl, Hun. She could be a crack head for all we know".
Trevor said nothing.
Gabby lay back and crossed her legs. "She doesn’t seem the type. I think she’s just living somewhere else, in her head"
Eddie lay back too, ending the conversation with a 'meh' and lit up a joint.
They started arguing over some TV soap and Trevor was forgotten. He slipped into his own thoughts.
Liz stared at the openness of the sky. It was speckled with millions of brilliant lights. The moon was only three quarters full but it was full enough for Liz. She smiled at the simplicity. Trevor slunk up beside her and sat a little too close.
Liz continued gazing at the sky.
She stayed silent but listened.
"Liz, i like you."
She blinked and parted her lips.
"Look, Liz i--"
Gaby and Ed bolted out of the house screaming with laughter, holding the sparklers duct taped together just as Liz had described. She smiled as the sparks began to consume the others and blew up into a small fire ball.
"Nice" she whispered.
Trevor turned to her and kissed her cheek.
Eddie crashed out on the couch and Gaby mumbled something about her needing to sleep because she had exams soon, but they were welcome to stay. Trevor watched gabby traipse into the back room. Liz stood motionless and blank as always.
"Liz, please look at me"
She turned and smiled up at his concerned face.
"Whatcha so worried about Charlie? I ain’t done nothin' to upset yeh 'ave I?"
He couldn’t help himself. Trevor took her face in his hands and brought her lips to his. When he pulled away, Liz’s eyes were half closed and her lips parted suggestively.
"That was nice" she whispered.
Trevor put his arm around her shoulders and smiled. God she was cute. He slid his arm slowly down so he encircled her waist and led her to the guest bedroom. Silently they slipped out of their clothes, in a dreamlike state. Their hands were all over each other, but not hastily. It was slow and more curious than sexual. Trevor ran his hands over Liz's breasts which were always hidden under too many clothes. Liz smoothed Trevor’s androgynous curves with her open palms. His hands were in her hair and she pressed her lips against his. It was strange way to make love, without actually doing the deed. But the flow of energy between them was perfect. Content. Liz’s body brushed against Trevor and he stifled a moan.
"Not now my love" she whispered.
He agreed silently. Not now. He had everything he wanted. Warmth, company and silence.
The next morning, perhaps afternoon, Liz opened her eyes to Trevor’s sleeping face. She smiled. She really ought to start calling him Noel. She stroked his unusual nose and brushed his hair from his forehead. He opened one eye slowly.
"What are you doing woman" he asked.
He planted a long kiss on her open lips. Even after he had stopped she could feel his lips there. Wanted them back.
"Do it again. Please" Her voice was soft, like she was embarrassed to ask.
Trevor's smirked. He licked his lips as he looked at her mouth and he felt her shiver. Her naked body felt so good against his, he couldn’t help reacting. He pushed her on her back and lay on top of her so she could feel him between her thighs.
Liz looked into his eyes with that sexy little smile playing on her lips again. He kissed her, and he kissed her hard. What a fuckin’ character.
"You are tempting me" he growled softly into her ear.
She chuckled "I dare you. I double dare you".
Gaby looked in the direction of the spare room.
"What do you think they're doin' in there?"
Eddie sat behind his newspaper and ignored her.
"Hey!" she threw a pillow that crashed through the barricade.
He looked at her blankly, his hands still holding the paper that was no longer there.
Eddie got up and kissed her on the forehead.
"Sometimes i wonder how we're related" he stalked off to the balcony, lighting up a joint before he was outside.
Her tattoos seemed to move against her, with her, coming alive on her skin. The birds, the rabbits, crickets, flowers and words ran together until none of them stood out. None of it mattered. Trevor breathed Liz in. Her sultry grin and shuttered eyes made him harder than any girl ever had. She opened her mouth to his kiss.
Liz let her body feel and closed her eyes. Reality was a lie. Everything was possible.
Trevor watched Liz stare at the ceiling. It seemed as if she didn’t even breathe.
"I could do this for three weeks" she whispered
Trevor smiled, stroking her jaw.
"Sing to me Lizzy"
She stared at the ceiling without acknowledging him. Just as he had decided to forget it, her voice filled the room. Quiet, but brilliant. That warm bourbon taste was her voice as her lips shaped an old evanescence ballad.
Gaby listened to the husky voice and knew Liz had surpassed Billy. They had all wanted it, prayed for it, but hearing the talent behind that sultry voice had granted their wishes.
Eddie blew out a puff of smoke and smiled. It was an empty smile. He closed his eyes and listened to Lizzy’s voice flow out the open window. God she was good.
Three weeks blew past. Neighbors complained as they smashed out track after track. Belted out Metallica, Slipknot, Evanescence, Megadeth and a few of their own. Liz could scream, she could purr. She growled and she turned that mic into an amplification of all her personalities.
Eddie turned to her at the end of the third week with the most sincere expression the man could muster. "Welcome to candy apple, baby girl"
Sweat poured down her face. Her red lipstick shone against the harsh lights. Liz couldn’t see a thing.
Gabby tapped her set quietly to make sure everything was right. She considered her drumsticks and decided to buy new ones next pay day.
Eddie closed his eyes against the screams of the crowd and drank them in. You're mine.
Trevor looked at Liz and wanted her just as much as he had the first time he'd seen her. Tight black jeans torn at the knees, a low cut tank top with 'Bite Me' written on the front and her hair spiked up in a Mohawk. She was Candy Apple.
The crowd called to them. They swayed and waved and jumped about but remained invisible to the band. Fans had travelled miles and payed more than they could afford to see their come back. The first riff ripped out of Ed's guitar as they were announced. Liz lifted her arm and devil horned the crowd.
Gabby brought her sticks together.
Trevor held onto his bass for grim death and grinned wildly.
By Laura Ashley