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Ashley woke up and groped for Justin, but didn't find him next to her. The pillow still preserved the shape of his head and the blanket was all piled on her side. Standing up against the pillows, she looked around in the room. Thanks to the morning light, she saw him standing by the window, looking out completely absorbed in his thoughts. Ashley closed her eyes and sighed softly. The moment that she feared all night had arrived. Insecurity was killing her, so she had to find out what Justin had to say to her. She pushed the blanket aside, covered her naked body with her robe, and slowly got out of bed. Ashley approached him and lightly touched his shoulder, trying to make him turn and look at her. Justin winced and turned to her.
"I woke up and I didn't find you next to me," she said trying to hug him, but Justin stood still. "My love, you're already fully dressed... Wow, apparently, you can't wait to leave... Hearing 'I love you' from me scared you quite a bit, isn't it?!"
"Ash, don't say that! You shouldn't joke about it," he replied, walking away from her. "Last night I came here to tell you something very important, but quite stunning. And now I think it's time to talk about it."
Justin sat down in an armchair and he started to stare at Ashley's face. He was so serious... Was it possible that she didn't know a thing about all that his grandmother had told him? Was she as innocent as she was looking right now or had she played him from the beginning? Had their meeting at Cape Cod been that... casual, as he had always believed it was or was she just a player that was acting? To whom did she said 'I love you' the night before? To him or to Brandon? Ashley sat down on the bed, facing him. She raised an eyebrow and waited for him to start talking. She was ready to hear all that she had to say.
"Damn, last night I had a whole speech prepared in my head about how I should start to tell you all, and now I don't remember anything at all..." Justin said, nervously running his hand through his hair.
"Why do you have to start, Justin? Maybe it's enough to continue. Or, if you wish, I could tell you 'start from the beginning' even if it's such a cliché," she replied, but the way Justin looked at her just froze her soul.
"You remember that a bit over a year ago, I underwent a very important surgery. I received a new heart. What you don't know is that my surgery was done on the same evening as your car crash." Justin started staring at her carefully and following her every little reaction.
"I didn't know this detail. Well, this is another thing we have in common," she exclaimed slightly smiling, looking relieved since she was expecting a speech about the ending of their story. "Wait for a second... don't tell me that after all this time, your body is rejecting your new heart? Justin, what you're trying to tell me is that... "
"Ash, 'my' heart works perfectly, that's not the problem."
"What is it then? Justin, stop being so vague, please! Just say what you have to say once and for all!" she asked him raising her voice.
"Ashley, do you know what happened with Brandon after the accident? I know you've always said you were in a coma when he died. But I was wondering if someone told you something about what happened to him once he arrived at the hospital... Maybe your brother mentioned something to you?"
She shook her head in complete disbelief. Again with this? She had confessed to Justin that she was in love with him and had spent the night making love to him and Justin was yet again worried that she might still be in love with Brandon?! How long would this jealousy scene continue? Oh well, she will keep playing his quiz game, maybe this way he would convince himself about the futility of this whole talk.
"No, I don't know anything about it. I woke up from the induced coma a few days after the funeral and I was so upset finding out about what had happened that I didn't ask anyone about a thing. David and Emily were in Riverhead in the hospital with me and stayed there until my situation stabilized and the doctor gave us permission to return to New York, to follow the rest of my treatment at Lenox Hill Hospital. My relationship with Marianne was practically non-existent, so she never told me where Brandon's grave was. She forbade me to look for it."
Justin pulled his armchair closer to Ashley.
"So you didn't have any idea about the fact that Brandon was an organ donor?"
"No," Ashley added, completely astonished, "we've never talked about it. I have known Brandon for more than six months, but he never told me anything about this matter. "
"Ash..." he murmured and took her hand in his. This was the first time he touched her. Ashley looked first at Justin's hand holding hers tightly and then at his face, so serious and impenetrable. "What you're telling me right now is that you knew absolutely nothing about the fact that the heart beating in my chest is..."