|I first ran away from home when I was 10 years old, my mom had left two years earlier because of abuse from my dad, but she soon left me alone with no contact. The first time I ran away, I was caught two weeks later and returned home. The next time I changed my name was when I ran away into New York City.
I became what we called a street rat; living on and under the streets...
until I followed this woman Bridgette too closely.
Ashley Phoenix Riley
On the Rise
Copyright © 2013 Jessica C
All Rights Reserved.
Image Credit: Picture purchased and licensed for use from
123rf.com. The model(s) in this image is in / and are no way connected with this story nor supports nor conveys the issues and situations brought up within the story. The model(s) use is solely used for the representation of looks of the main character(s) of this particular story. ~Sephrena
It is Christmas morning, Mom Bridgette, Momsi Cathy and I already awake and are visiting, I become more antsy as time passes. We are waiting for Melanie to wake up and come to be with us. Melanie is now like a Grandma one feels to choose.
Melanie finally comes into the living room and Mom goes to the kitchen to get some tea and coffee, announcing, “We will open gifts soon after I come back.” I’m the only one bouncing and clapping like a child. Cathy greets Melanie with a kiss and hug.
Thinking back to meeting Melanie, I get up and give her a hug and then a nice kiss. “My darling, are you always going to kiss your Grandmother with a kiss like that?” I decide not to answer and sit down with a smug smile.The first time I met her she wanted a kiss from another woman. I guess I kind of over did it.
Cathy makes a small stack of four gifts. She sits back down and another minute or two passes before Bridgette enters with the coffee, hot water for tea and some juice. Mom asks Melanie, “What would you like tea or coffee?”
“No offense, but I would like to serve myself. It annoys me; people serve me like I lost my ability to do anything.” Mom apologizes; Melanie says, “Bridgette don’t worry you pretty panties into a knot. I just need to release a little vinegar and encourage you to ask.” Everyone smiles and serves their self.
“Ash,” Mom says, “take a good look at the pile of gifts that’s a normal Christmas. This being your first Christmas, we’ll spoil you a little.” Just getting through my Christmas stocking excites me enough. I’m getting tingling feelings and my panties are getting very warm. I guess it’s a girl thing. At the very top is a small heart shape box. Mom and Momsi, both wrapped it; so when I tare one off the top layer and it is still wrapped. “Oouu, you two frustrate me.”
Cathy giggles, “You don’t have to open it.” Right, I am already through the second wrapping. I open the gift and there is a silver locket on a delicate double chain. It helps to have nice fingernails as it opens to a picture of me and another of Bridgette and Cathy. My eyes tear and I get up to run to my room, but Mom anticipates and holds me here with a hug. “If we let you run each time, we won’t have the time to eat of spend with each other.”
“Thanks Mom and Momsi, it is the best.” It’s nice as Mom and Momsi aren’t wearing bras and they are just nicely warm and soft each time they hug me. I gently touch one of mom’s breasts and she smiles, “Yes you’re warm and soft too.” It is spooky how Mom knows my thoughts and feelings.
I get Mom’s gift hidden in a branch of the Christmas tree. I stand there as she opens it to find the cameo. Cathy tells her, “She found it on her own Bridgette; she even had brought the money to buy it.” Mom stands and gives me a hug, telling me how wonderful it is. I just love seeing Mom move her hair and put a necklace on.
I truly get spoiled with oodles of cami tops, sweaters, and blouses, skirts, jeans and two dresses, while my shoes are mostly gift certificates. Among the gifts are two dolls, one is dressed in a flowing gown. It could be a baby’s baptismal gown. I look to Mom’s tummy, I’m wondering if this time next year if I will soon be having a sister or brother. Today, Jenny is my baby to play with, I hug her and twirl to swing her around and let her know I am so happy to have her. The other is a fashion doll and she has a wardrobe of clothes.
Hours have passed and even I’m done opening gifts. There’s a knock on the door from the Stephen’s Apartment below us and the doorbell rings immediately after it. I let Mom or Cathy let up the Stephens as I go to find out who else is coming. The people are in the inside door so it’s someone we know. It’s Julio and his family; “Merry Christmas Julio and family!”
“Ashley, this is my wife Marcella and my daughter Marietta, she’s called Ettie at school and our son Keifer.” Marcella pats her baby bump “I think this is Francesca.”
“Welcome and let me take your coats please. Julio, does Cathy know all your family?” Marcella has a rice and black bean dish as well as seasoned chicken and warm flour shells that I help take and lead them in to meet the others.
Grandma Stephens, Claudia and Claudia’s father Gary Stephens are already in the kitchen. Grandma has mash potatoes, turkey gravy, broccoli and her homemade bread. “Mmm…m!” I can now smell the turkey. I see cranberry relish as well as a relish tray I helped Cathy make. By the amount of food, I anticipate there are still others coming. I take Claudia and Ettie to my room; Keifer is invited but he chose to stay with the grown-ups instead of coming with ‘girls’. Claudia and Ettie are close to the same age and quickly find my stuffed animals and my dolls. They are quickly playing together.
I let them play as I put up my new posters: one with a larger fairy sitting on a flower blossom and several others flying off in the distance. I have a another poster of a hunk flexing with some weights and then two teen girls sunning in the mist off a city fountain.
I hear the doorbell to the backdoor of our apartment and set off on a run to answer. “Oh, it’s Jackson and Ty(ler) his girlfriend.” They’re staying in the small apartment off the alley. They came Saturday and I’ve seen them come and go but have not met them. They’ve been on the streets; time in the apartment should give them time to decide about their life together.
Ty has a large cream pie that she presents for the meal. Jackson is very comfortable. Ty is not only shy but I can tell she’s uncomfortable.
Of the two, it is easier to tell Ty is off the streets. She is self-conscious about her clothes that hang on her and her look is that of someone poorly kept. I introduce myself and then take them to the lounge. Mom hands Ty two gifts and another two to Jackson. I encourage Ty to follow me. We go to Norm’s old room. Ty opens the first gift to find a camisole and another blouse to wear with it or alone. She tears and I give her a knowing hug. The second gift has a long rose color skirt with a pair of tights and a pair of pantyhose. Ty’s moved, and I know she wishes she could change into them.
“Ty there is a bathroom with a shower across the hall, would you like to use it and to change into your new clothes?” She smiles and I say, “If you would leave the door unlatched, so I can put a comb and brush in there for you to have.” She doesn’t say it but I know the fear of not being able to do things as one would like. “And if you want after you’re done I could help with your hair and some make-up.”
Ty asks, "Do you think we have time? I can’t do it quickly like a…” She pauses scared to say more. I respond, “You are a real girl. And yes we will take the time.” She gives me a big hug, “One of my robes should be in the closet. If you want to change in this room that would help you to cross the hallway discretely.” I am feeling for Ty so much; I feel in sync with what she is going through. It seems like my own change was a year or lifetime ago. I know we’re like snowflakes; she has her own feelings and thoughts. I wonder about her story and how she has gotten here.
I go rummaging in my room through my things to find a new brush, a new comb with pointed handle, as well as a spray for tangled hair. I pick up an extra deodorant that is new, hair barrettes, etc. I also find a new pair of light yellow panties. I enjoy being there for another girl like me. I send Claudia and Ettie to tell Bridgette and Cathy, “I’m helping Ty and we will need some forty minutes. Will that be okay?”
They are very happy to get my message; I expect that at least Claudia will return. I put some of the things into the bathroom. Then I go back to Norm’s room and assess Ty’s things as best I can without going through her stuff. Her purse is one thing I will like to change if I were her. We have purses Cathy and Bridgette have offered me; two which I think Ty might like.
Mom returns instead of Claudia, “Ash, I appreciate you helping her. …Jackson is voicing a little concern that he doesn’t want you changing her.”
I say, “Did you share she’s a young woman, hopefully with a mind of her own? I’m not thinking anything more than to help her feel more comfortable. If she doesn’t want it that is okay with me, but I think it is her choice.”
Mom says, “Relax young lady, I know you and I’m not worried about Jackson. I do think he truly likes Ty.”
Ty opens the bathroom door and calls me, “Ashley, would you mind helping me? I’m having problems with my hair.” I come to the door as she sees Mom and me, she smiles.
“Would you mind if Mom and I both help you?” She opens the door and we squeeze in and have her sit on the toilet. One good thing is she will have to trust us as she can’t see herself in the mirror from there. Mom takes the lead in drying and getting the snags out of her hair. Mom has a way of talking to Ty, “Ty you have very beautiful hair and I thank you for using the right conditioner. That will be a big help.”
I am squatting in front of Ty and I’ve already looked around the room, “I’m glad you have the pair of panties on and your bra? What would you like us to help with?” She shyly smiles and shakes her head. Returning the smile, I ask, “You have a very nice feminine look. I’m jealous that is all you on top?”
She says, “I like nice clothes and makeup but it’s like I don’t get either on quite right. Do you know what I mean?” Mom’s confidence and warm glow relaxes Ty into gaining her confidence in us. I say “You have done quite well and the street really doesn’t lend itself in putting our best foot forward."
Ty looks at me, “Do you have some friends who were on the street? You speaks likes you know someone who’s been there.”
I say, “Four years before Mom adopted me I was actually under the streets. We considered ourselves ‘Street Rats’.”
“Four years, I wouldn’t have lasted that long.” I ran off three years ago, but just came to the Apple late in the spring. I thought things would be better in the big city. If it weren’t for Jackson, I’d been pimp bait, dead or… I almost gave up my girl dreams to go back home.” All the while I cleanse and moisturize her face and begin with a foundation. Mom has combed out and is now shaping her hair. Mom is right she is pretty and her hair is very nice.
“Hey we can share stories another time,” Mom says. “Let’s get you across the hall and dressed and made up. Ty would you mind if I check you bra, I think it might help to change the straps some.” Back in the room, Ty removes her robe and while I don’t know about her boy parts, her breasts are those of a cute girl and modest in size.
Mom adjusts the straps and hands Ty the camisole and slows her down in putting it on. “Try not to stretch it dear, just bring it gently down straight over you.” Again she’s smiling as she feels the difference. “You don’t have to use a half slip, but I think it might feel better,” Mom suggests. I have the skirt opened up, with tags and labels from the store all off. I hold it down as she steps into it while holding my shoulder for balance. Ty’s takes hold of the skirt with me and I see her enjoyment as it glides up her legs. I notice she has shaved her legs.
There’s a belt that loosely goes around her waist. She knows not to tighten it like a boy might. She lets the skirt rest on the hips. She’s putting on the blouse, and looks to button it up. “Mrs. Riley, would it be okay if I left the blouse open?” It could go either way, especially while she’s in the house; keeping it open looks a little more attractive to me.
“Hey Ty, do you have another girl name that you like?”
She says, “I’ve always like Megan, but Ty works better I think on the street.”
“But you’re not on the street and today’s Christmas.”
She glows, “Well then would you please call me Megan, Megan Grace.”
Mom says, “Megan, the name becomes you.”
The house phone rings and Cathy calls to Bridgette to pick up the phone in her room. She picks up the portable near us. “Hello. …Yes Cheryl, I remember your Mom and Dad. I don’t like being called on Christmas nor do I usually work much this coming week… Yes, usually means I understand and will make an exception. I’m willing to see the two of you on the 27th, and the 30th, if needed… No, the two of you can change your schedule if it is important… I gave you my address, you have my phone number. Call if you can’t find me. I look forward to seeing you.”
Mom’s more than a little miffed, “If it wasn’t something I would wish for me; I wouldn’t be doing this.”
Mom turns her attention to Megan and me. “Well Megan, I hope you are ready; I look forward to introducing you. But wait a minute,” mom goes and comes back with earrings still on their card and shows them to Megan. Megan takes them off the card and puts them in her ears.
Megan doesn’t say it but she’s nervous as we walk in to the living room. Megan smiles as she’s introduced and others greet her warmly. I am sure Gary Stephens only sees a young woman. Turning to Jackson, Megan shyly steps back and his face holds a mixed message. “Ty, you looked pretty enough but I like you as you were.”
She looks at Mom and then me, “I would like you to be happy for me.” She goes to him and gives him a kiss on the cheek and a small hug. She bumps him with her hips and he begins to soften. Cathy calls us to come to the dining room.
I didn’t know the dining table has two more sections, but it extends the table so everyone can sit around it. Gary asks if Cathy would like him to carve the turkey. “I’ve already asked Bridg’ to do it as the as the other head of the house.” Mom smiles at Cathy and gives her a kiss. I’m happy they claim their place and are openly affectionate. The turkey gives off a nice aroma that blends as a bouquet with all the other dishes.
Everyone takes their time in eating as they find a lot that they enjoy. Marcella comments, as the meal is winding down, “This is a most unusual dinner table; I enjoy the atmosphere around the table. There is no rush to flop down and watch television.” Julio leans over to give her a kiss.
“Please let me help with the dishes,” she asks?
I say, “You can help clear the table, but Mom prefers if Julio and I will help do the dishes along with others who did not prepare the food dishes, if they are willing.”
Gary makes a remark to which Julio retorts, “I’m an Army Ranger, and I have no trouble doing the dishes.” Gary sits back down not knowing what to say.
Julio speaks up to share, “I was well on the road to losing my family when Bridgette stepped in to help me.” Gary stared at Julio, he wouldn’t ask but he still had questions. Julio says, “If it is alright I would like to share. This isn’t easy but today is a good day to talk about grace.”
“I’ve been in war as well as gangs; I am no weaker than I was. My wife reached out to Bridgette who saw scars that don’t show and my macho mask and helped me to peel it away. Even now, I have nightmares, but not as many and I have other buddies beside Bridgette who can be there for me. I could out drink any of you and still could. But there is a gutter I crawled out of each time; I don’t like being there.” Ettie comes over to her father and take one of her hair clips and combs his hair wither fingers and clips in his hair. Julio kissed his daughter and thanks her.
“I apologize Ash, that your Mom missed your concert on family night. I don’t know when an episode might hit and none of the guys answered Marcella’s call. Marcella took our children to be safe and Bridgette was there for me.”
“You mean that pretty lady can handle a Ranger out of control,” Jackson asks in puzzlement.
“She could if she needed to…” Julio says as Bridgette interrupts. “…Meeting force with force is not my first option; Julio has a powerful spirit that is tender, loving and reachable; it’s now stronger than her/his ugly side.” I’m sure Mom didn’t intend the ‘her’.
Mom walks behind Gary, taking off her necklace as she goes. She begins to place her necklace around Gary’s neck but doesn’t clasp it. Instead she puts the necklace on the table and massages his neck and shoulders. Mom could have embarrassed him but it is not her style. Gary looked at the necklace, I’m sure he’s tempted to put it on but doesn’t.
Julio tells of one battle that they kinda won but not everyone lived through it or others who were no longer whole. He didn’t finish the story. “Most of us won’t tell this much and especially to those who have not been there. You’re the first group for me to share without other warriors who have been there.”
We were clearing the table, and I overhear Gary talk to Mom. Gary says, “I’ve been in Iraq and a tour in Afghanistan before Claudia was born and I met her mother. Her mother was one of my nurses in a VA hospital. She understood better than most, but I’d drink too much and had too much s*t inside.”
He continues, “Thanks for not putting the necklace on me; I kinda want it but I’m not sure what Claudia would think.”
“Why don’t you ask her; I think your daughter is fairly mature and has a lot of love for you as well as some hurts.” He talks with Claudia, who picks up the necklace and leaves with her dad for another room. Gary is back to help with the dishes. The necklace isn’t visible but later I see part of the chain around Gary’s neck.
I’m in charge of putting extras in containers, throwing away the rest, cleaning off plates and food dishes. I also am responsible with Melanie for cutting the pies, and getting plates and forks ready. Melanie gives me a hug to cause me to pause. “It’s crazy I know but the good feelings kind of hurt.”
Melanie says, “Patti told me it might happen, how the good feelings kinda hurt you?”
I say, “I don’t know how to deal with, memories of Jack sitting in my hole in the wall. When I'm staring at holiday windows the hurts come to mind. I feel good today but guilty because Jack doesn’t get to enjoy it.”
Melanie asks, “So if you were still Jack the hurt wouldn’t be there?”
“No, I would be in jail and my butt would be someone’s Christmas present.” I shiver at the thought. “Even if Jack were here and doing well, I expect the memories would be bitter sweet. I am proud of having been Jack, I think they will always be part of me, but the hurt and smells catch in my nostrils and cause... Well that's enough.”
Claudia shakes me; Megan is there and asks, “Could you help paint our nails when you’re done?” It is good to get back to Christmas Present. This time we are in my room. I ask Megan to take her pantyhose off as I do Claudia’s fingernails. Marcella comes in and asks if she can polish Marietta’s fingernails.
Megan shapes the nails on her left hand, as it is an acquired skill to do the same to one’s good hand. I take over and she selects a polish that goes well with her new skirt. I do both hands before starting her toes. Like me, Megan’s feet are sensitive to other people touching them.
The others had gone back to the living room so I am free to spray a perfume mist into the air that Megan and I both walk through. It is fun to see her walk into the living room and sit in Jackson’s lap. He has no trouble seeing she is even prettier and he cuddles her warmly. He's having trouble keeping his hands from wandering. Luckily it is time for pie, cookies, coffee and such.
It is late afternoon when my mother and sisters call. They are joyful and tell me they are at our Grandmothers. “Ashley, your Grandmother knows we have found you and she is asking to see you.”
“Does she know I am a girl? Are you sure my father won’t come to know where you or I am?” My cynical side surprises me, but I detest the idea of seeing him ever again.
“Granma thought we were joking until she saw your picture with your sisters. She knows you are beautiful inside and out. She says she loves you and yearns to see you.” I didn’t say I would; something about connecting with my extended family angers me.
Bridgette is holding me and my back is against her. “It’s okay you are safe; your parents have room to share you.”
Speaking to Mom and my sisters, I ask, “Does she want to come with you? I would rather see her in the spring, if that would be fine with her.”
“I already told my mother we need time with you and your new family. I think Bridgette and Cathy would alright with it if she came now but I agree I think spring would be soon enough.” Beth grabs the phone, “Ashley thank so much for the keyboard it is better than I would ever hope for. I am composing a song, “Ashley Phoenix Rising.”
“Will you play it when you come,” I ask?
“It will not be finished, but I will play some of it and Dana can sing it, if she would. I’ll warn you it is about you and a boyfriend… lover.”
“I am too young for…” “Yes you are, however I didn’t go there. It is about your heart and not his… well you know.” There is laughter at both ends, hopefully three moms wondering. “Dana wants to say thanks for the karaoke machine, so here.”
“Mom says I can’t speak long but I am so thankful. I love having another sister. I hope we can go shopping again, see you on the twenty-eighth. Mom thanks Bridgette for making it possible for her to be off this week.” I look to Mom not sure what she has done to help.
They sing, “We wish you a Merry Christmas… We love you.” All of a sudden I miss them more than I had.
I turn around to Mom, “Growing up is the pits. This is better than being on the streets, but I am kind a angry that you let me feel this way. I want only the good feelings and go back to stuffing the rest.”
Mom hugs me, kisses me on the forehead, “I can handle that, and I am thankful you feel them in your heart. I love you and I am so happy for you, please know that.”
“I’m your daughter too how could I not.” My mind flashes back to a time Jack is following Bridgette wishing she would notice me. “She did” I whisper.
“She did what Ashley?” I wake from that moment, “I was thinking back when I wanted you to notice me.”
“Were you on Eighth Avenue? That was a time when I wished I could help you; I wished you were a girl.” No way, I flash back and look up to a street sign, 63rd Street and Eighth Avenue.
One circle is complete.
Author's Note: Due to a variety of factors, including new story ideas I wish to take my hand at in pushing forward with, I am, for now, retiring this particular story to the back burner. I would personally like to take this moment and thank all of my readers who have stayed with me for this long with "Ashley." It has been quite an adventure. ~Jessica C
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