Crushed – the forge electricity flows through


Ashley fell in love like it was nothing. She liked boys with crooked smiles and long, greasy hair. But she wasn’t picky; often, a quick look was all it took to capture her heart. I was a grade above Ashley, but we rode the same bus. Her voice carried all the way to the back where my friends and I sat. Even with the motor roaring under us, we heard all about her loves: Aaron and Andrew, brothers; a tenth grader who wore thin glasses and once brought a knife to school; and the new kid, Chris.

I knew enough about Ashley’s crushes to know this was true. Chris was tall, at least a foot taller than the rest of the boys in his grade, and even most of our male teachers. He was skinny, too, all legs and no grace; he tripped over his own feet when he walked. But I think it was his deep voice, his crooked fingers, the black clothes he wore that hooked Ashley. Halfway through the fall semester, Ashley decided she was goth, wearing thick eyeliner and slinking chains through her belt loops. On the bus, she often slid her sleeves to her elbows to proudly show us her cut marks, pink and scabbed. Surface wounds.

I laughed. The insult was so mean because it was true. Ashley pretended to like loud, screaming music, pretended the pentagrams she doodled in her notebooks had sinister meaning, pretended, for a brief period, that she was a vampire. But Ashley was soft. She often rode the bus with her Walkman pressed to her chest, eyes half-shut, crooning softly to herself. Not softly enough. We all heard. And we all looked at her, in her ratty Black Sabbath T-shirt and oversized tripp pants, then at each other, mouthing, “Mariah Carey?”

Soon after he arrived, Ashley claimed Chris as her own, and in a few weeks they were dating. Real dating. Not the tame side-hugging, chaste hand-holding kind of relationships most of my friends had. 10 ethanol gas problems Ashley and Chris made out in the second-floor hallway almost daily, with Ashley sitting on the windowsill, her legs hooked around his tiny waist. Chris hunched to reach to her height and kissed Ashley’s wide-open mouth, her tongue slipping against his closed lips. Once, as I walked to math, lunchbox swinging, the two were so tangled up in each other it was hard to tell where one ended and the other began. Then the bell rang, and Ashley pulled away, staring up at Chris with a smile so sincere, so lovesick, I felt a stab of—something.

I didn’t like Ashley. No one I knew did. She’d balance in the aisle of the bus and pretend to surf, screaming when we clipped a curb. She snorted when she laughed. She didn’t know who she was so she tried out different versions of herself: a prep in pale pink sweaters and stiff denim skirts before the all-black wardrobe. A year earlier, when the snow first began to melt, she wore fairy wings to school, her eyelids sparkling with blue glitter.

And I watched her with Chris, how she beamed when they walked hand in hand, and I knew with certainty that Chris never loved her back. He had a peculiar strangeness to him. electricity in india ppt Something dark. He typed death metal lyrics on his calculator during algebra, his head flattened to the desk, eyes focused on his lap. He cracked crude, sexual jokes to make me and Nadia, the eighth grader who sat in front of us, uncomfortable. He religiously read about the Columbine massacre.

This made Chris blush. He was kind of a freak, but he cared enough about his image to know that Ashley brought his down. Mean girls called her fat and jabbed the flesh at her waist with their sharp acrylic nails. They made fun of her freckles and limp, dark hair. Boys pretended to like her—sometimes kissed her—then ignored her in the hallway. Even my own friends feigned niceness with Ashley. That purse is super cute, Ash; text me whenever and we can hang! Then we laughed at how they fooled her as she happily hopped off the bus, waving back at us.

That’s the last real thing I remember about Ashley: how she cried when a boy broke her heart. A week or so later, our math teacher moved Chris to the back row because he chatted so incessantly. Nadia took his vacant spot beside me. The two of us played tic-tac-toe during class and copied each other’s homework. By the end of the year, Chris had transferred again. Rumors spread that he’d been caught masturbating in class. storing electricity in water I never knew if this was true. I think it’s more likely that this was the lore of bored teenagers.

Ashley, I assume, fell in love again. I assume I still rolled my eyes when she sang to herself, struggling with the higher octaves, and that I laughed when my friends mocked her. She subtly moved to the periphery of my life. Ashley was such a non-factor that I was well into my junior year before I learned she’d transferred to a school in the suburbs the prior spring. I don’t know how I justified her absence on our bus, in the hallway, but the news startled me—how, just like that, she was there one day, gone the next.

Five years after I graduated high school, I began dreaming of Ashley. I’d wake uneasy each morning. I had no reason to think of her. We must’ve been Facebook friends at one time, but I’d weeded my friends list after I graduated, deleting hundreds, even most of the girls who rode the same bus as Ashley and me. Girls I once considered my best friends.

A man appeared in a few of Ashley’s photos. Noticeably older, and huge like an offensive tackle. He had a scraggly beard, wild blond bedhead, and a unibrow. In most of the pictures of the two of them together, they were kissing, mouths open. Just like how she kissed Chris. I found even more evidence of the Ashley I remembered—mirror selfies of her wearing a sparkling fairy costume and neon-pink eyeshadow; candid photos of her laughing, her head thrown back.

Six or so months later, a winter storm blew through West Virginia and left me stranded in my apartment for days. I’d just adopted my cat Pearl, and she and I were growing irritated with each other: she climbed my curtains; I squeezed her too hard to my chest. I’d watched too many movies, taken too many naps, eaten too many snacks. I was hopelessly bored.

I squinted, confused. We don’t know anyone in Florida. But when I opened the page, the mugshot attached to the article made me sit up so fast my head rushed. Ashley looked no different than when I’d last seen her almost ten years earlier. Her skin was pale as ever, and she had a stripe of acne along her jawline; her hair was little longer than I remembered, still parted severely in the middle. Her face registered no emotion.

The article detailed the charge against Ashley: principal to aggravated manslaughter. Legal jargon. It means Ashley didn’t intend to kill her boyfriend’s son, and yet she did. The article described the death in vivid detail. On Christmas Eve a month earlier, Ashley and her boyfriend James—a man older than her by a decade, a man who hired her at first to nanny his children—had been playing Minecraft. electricity kwh calculator James’s kids, a son, Jimmy, and a daughter the press never named, were too excited to keep quiet, too riled up to sleep. As punishment, the two had been forced to stand with their noses against the wall. But Jimmy fought back. (Playfully? Defiantly?) Ashley summoned him to the couch, shoved his face against the cushions, and sat on his back, the game controller still in her hands.

In her police interview, Ashley called it the “squishing” punishment, an escalation of their standard nose-to-the-wall punishment. As the son struggled, clawing at her, James pushed Ashley aside and sat on Jimmy’s torso. Ashley shifted down the couch to sit on Jimmy’s legs. The combined weight of the two of them was almost five hundred pounds. Jimmy protested, screaming I can’t breathe four times. His sister counted.

I can picture her with startling clarity, rubbing her arms to keep warm on the chilly December night, the smoke rising from her cigarette in a wisp. Ashley told the police that she and James were gone just 10 minutes. That when they returned Jimmy’s lips had turned blue. James called 911 and started performing CPR. Ashley ran back to the garage, the smell of her cigarette lingering, and prayed. That’s the detail that returns to me in quick, breathtaking bursts: I’m pumping gas, and there it is; I’m submerging my hands in suds to wash my dishes, and again. What a sad, stunning desperation, to be 22 and somehow still believe she could pray the boy back to life.

For weeks, Katie escorted me to math. She’d make me linger in the hallway, her fingers gripping my wrist so hard I bruised, until we spotted Chris. He waved, sometimes, but only to me. Then one day he stopped beside us—I can’t remember why, or what we said, or if we really said anything at all. I stood aside as the two of them flirted: Katie’s voice baby-high, and Chris laughing, raking his fingers through his hair.

Days later, Chris started dating Ashley. The news devastated Katie. Rattled our entire friend group. Hold on, her? Chris is dating her? Anyone who chooses her over you doesn’t deserve you, anyway. Our language was coded. It meant: Ashley was not nearly as pretty or thin as Katie, and those two things mattered most. We didn’t devolve into straight name-calling; we teetered at the edge of it.

The snide comments my friends made about Ashley’s body easily could’ve been made about mine. npower electricity meter reading But I didn’t stop them. I laughed, too. I laughed even though I wore low-rise jeans that fell below my hips and rubbed thin in the thighs. Even though I tugged at the hem of my cotton T-shirts, petrified the fabric had lifted and revealed the dark red stretch marks on my sides. Even though I bargained with myself: You can have a boyfriend when you lose ten, fifteen, thirty pounds.

There’s also the fact that Chris confused me more than I ever admitted. My crushes before him were fleeting and insignificant, but Chris triggered a deep curiosity in me. He had long fingers I imagined on me, in me. I’d watch his lap to see if he got hard during class. (He did, often.) I didn’t want to date Chris; I wanted him to want me. Want me more deeply than any other girl. More than Katie. More than Ashley.

And there’s the fact that Ashley and I both rode the bus to the end of the line. Once all my friends were gone, I’d move next to Ashley and listen to her prattle about Chris, about Twilight, about songs she liked. After I got my first phone for my fifteenth birthday, she flipped open her own and shoved it toward me. “Add your number,” she said. “We can text!”

The Ashley I remember wanted to be liked but didn’t know how. She had more heartbreaks in a year than I’ve had in my life. She was a sad, lonely girl who wanted, just once, to love a boy who loved her back. She was sweet and irritating and not very smart and trying her best, and maybe the reason I didn’t like her was because I worried she reflected more of myself than I ever wanted to admit.

In August 2016, Ashley was sentenced to thirteen years in prison. The assistant state attorney pointed an angry finger at her in the courtroom and reiterated her role in Jimmy’s death: “ She’s the one who calls him over, she’s the one who sits on him initially. She hears ‘I can’t breathe.’ He’s pinching, he’s scratching, he’s fighting for his life, and the defendant is doing nothing other than adding to his mental anguish.” Ashley sobbed as he spoke, her head bowed, her hair hanging in her face.