Summer stepped out of the town car with clear instructions: Make Ashton Irwin fall in love with her.
The girl did not know much about him, aside that he was a drummer in a band. There were various other tidbits of information that her handler had told her before dropping her off at the beach. All of the information was to be used with the intentions to become appealing to the target.
She walked down the sandy board walk looking at each and every face, trying to pick out the one she saw in the picture. Even though she was supposed to be working, she was still on vacation, and so she managed to appreciate the sunshine and the soft breeze that took the heat off her skin. And she stopped walking, leaned against a railing, and closed her eyes for a split second to take it all in because on the job or not, she had to enjoy the little things, if only to survive another day.
She opened her eyes, blinking helplessly against the bright sunlight. But then to her pleasant surprise she saw that the boy she was after was walking down the board walk right across her path.
Ashton Irwin was quite upset. Today was supposed to be relaxing, he was supposed to be on a date with his girlfriend Bryana. But then management swooped in insisting that "the band get together today to practice." But then when the practice fell through, and management rushed him off to the beach to "Relax, meditate, get back to your roots." Whatever that meant, Ashton was not sure. But he was sure of one thing. Management was getting much too manage-y.
It was one thing for them to control where they played, and when to do interviews, but messing around with his personal life was going too far. Now Ashton was deep in thought of what exactly he was going to say when he saw them again.
And that was the exact moment Summer decided to make her move. "You look awfully angry for being outside on a lovely day like this one."
Ashton was surprised for being called out on his sulking by such a pretty girl. Of course at the moment he did not think she was any prettier than most girls, but even after almost five whole years of fame, and attention, beauty still caught him off guard. "I had plans, but they fell through."
He meant to brush her off, and continue walking. He knew he couldn't turn her away from a picture or an autograph if she asked. But He didn't much care to be around anyone at the moment. Not in such a grumpy mood.
But this was a girl who was not easily thrown off, especially when she was on a mission. Summer followed up, "So now your day is open to do anything you want?"
"Look, I just want to walk by myself, I'm sorry. It's just one of those days." He said.
"Oh, but I can't find it in myself to let such a handsome fellow as yourself, on such a beautiful day as this, go on with such a big frown on his face. You've completely ruined my whole day if you don't let me cheer you up." She said.
"You're pushy." He said.
"I'll buy you a shake, and if by the time you finish it, and you're not smiling, I'll leave you alone forever." She promised.
Ashton knew very well that she was flirting with him, and that he really shouldn't partake in a shake with this girl when he had it going so well with Bryana. But he also knew when he looked into her blue eyes that she was not going to take no for an answer.
So he obliged to the girls wishes with a "Why not?" and promised himself to keep his frown permanently on his face until she was gone out of site. He added solemnly "I could never turn down a free milkshake," as if that excused the whole thing as no big deal.
"Good." The girl said, sticking her hand out in front of her, "My name is Summer."
"Ashton." He replied as he took her hand in his. He noticed her hand was rather small, her fingers just barely wrapping around his palm. Although this was not too unusual because she was at least five inches shorter than he was, and he did have oddly large hands.
The handshake did not last very long before she pulled away and started walking towards the concession stand she passed by earlier. "Come on then." She told him. And so he followed, though he wasn't happy about it.
A couple moments later he asked her, "are you a fan?" He was suspicious as to why she had not asked for a picture yet, and why she did not know his name. He assumed that perhaps she was pretending.
She looked at him quizzically and asked "Of?"
So Ashton decided that if she wasn't being honest she was a very good actor. Which were actually both true as Summer was being honest in that instance because she did not know that he was famous. And she also did happen to be excellent at acting.
"Oh, nothing." He said, but then thought better before she pried more. "Um. Actually. . .Of shakes? Are you a fan of milkshakes?" Ashton thought that even if she were pretending not to know who he was, then at least he could pretend not to be who he was too. He thought it might be nice to be someone else for a change.
The girl smirked at his attempt to weasel out of giving up information, but she played along anyways in good sport. "Oh yes. Milkshakes, I'm a huge fan of them. They're my favorite pass time, drinking milkshakes. In fact I don't know how I keep my figure with all the milkshakes I drink. It's really the only thing I eat to be honest." Summer stole a look at Ashton.
Her joking seemed to make his face contort into an even uglier frown.
They came up to the concession stand. Summer got out her wallet, and asked "What flavor do you want?"
"A small banana milkshake, please."
"Okie dokie." She said and then turned around to the cashier and asked, "what is the largest shake size that you have?"
"We have Large, and we have extra large, but-"
"One extra large strawberry milkshake, and one extra large banana milkshake."
Ashton spoke up, "No, I want a small banana milkshake, not an extra large one. Are you mental? These things are huge, they're bigger than your head."
"So?" She replied.
The cashier asked, "Extra large, or small?"
"Extra large." Summer said, even though Ashton tried to protest further. She simply told him, "I'm paying." and then added as an after thought, "Anyways, an extra large milkshake is the only way to remedy an extra large frown such as yours." There was a stare down at this point, but Summer won when she said, "And seeing that your frown just keeps getting bigger, it seems that I might have to buy you a second milkshake just to be sure it'll work its magic."
When the milkshakes arrived on the counter Summer was slightly taken aback to find that Ashton was not exaggerating one bit. When he said that they were bigger than her head, he was understating it. In the real light of day, the milkshakes were twice the size of her head, if not more.
Her utter astonishment was enough to get a belligerent giggle out of Ashton. She flashed a smile at him nonetheless, "See, their magical properties are already working."
She lead him out onto the beach where they found a place to sit. The Sun was hidden behind clouds, which brought the temperature just slightly under heat death levels. And then they sat side by side, and slurped at their milkshakes in silence for a time.
Ashton's face was growing tired from all the frowning. He really was not built to be mopey all the time. In fact his normal expression was that of a smile. But still not wanting to let her win, he let his frown turn into a blank stare. And he began to lose his anger and replace it with sadness.
"So, do you care to elaborate now on what's got you so gloomy?" Summer asked.
He sighed. Just about to give into her demands, but then thought better of it. "I have a girlfriend."
"Why are you sad about that?"She asked.
"No. I'm not sad about that. I'm telling you. I have a girlfriend. I have a girlfriend, and I need you to stop flirting with me and trying to get to know me because I have a girlfriend, and yeah." He rambled on only realizing how weird he sounded when he finished.
"Oh. You thought I was flirting with you?" She asked, even though she knew that she had been the whole time. But also knowing that she did not mean any of it, she effortlessly brushed it off. "'Cause I didn't mean to. I, mean yeah, you're hot, but honestly, I'm not talking to you for anything else besides your smile. I'm sorry if it came off as flirting."
"Well you were flirting with me," He said, then took another sip before adding. "And you were really bad at it too. No skill whatsoever. It was distasteful, and crude, and cheesy, and you should really know better."
"Yeah, I'm sorry, I'm sure your girlfriend is much better at it than I am. Where is she by the way? Why isn't she here cheering you up instead of me? I'm sure she'd do a much better job of it." Summer said.
"She was supposed to be here." He said.
"And why isn't she?"Summer asked.
"Things came up." He said.
"Like?" Summer asked.
He huffed when she didn't give up. "I had to bail on her for band practice, and she didn't want to wait around on me, and I didn't want her to wait around on me, so now she's sailed off somewhere to sea on a private yacht without me. And then practice fell through. Again."
"Huh." Summer hummed. "That really sucks. What kind of band are you in?"
His eyebrows knitted together. And then he angrily grumbled, "a marching band," before he could stop himself. It was such a strange idea, imagining Five Seconds Of Summer marching up and down a field in marching band formation. The ridiculousness of it was making his lips hurt as he tried to hold back the smile that threatened to form.
"Nerd." Summer said.
And the boy couldn't help but laugh at his own stupid joke. He had been seething and angry for far too long. He couldn't remember the last time he laughed. Really laughed. Not in a sneevy way like snickering or chuckling, but actually full on laughed out loud. His lungs were so unfamiliar to the activity that it hurt and burned when he sucked in air just so he could let it all out again in a whinnied sort of holler.
Summer thought about joining him at first, but once he started to sound like a hyena she decided against it. She knew that she had to let him get it all out of his system. She knew how painful it could be to let yourself be happy in a situation that did not warrant happiness.
Tears were running from Ashton's eyes by the time he was done. He could barely catch his breath. "A marching band. Yeah. I should join a marching band. I bet they don't fight all the time. And they wear uniforms so you can't pick them out of a crowd."
"So you don't actually play in a marching band?" She asked.
"You know, I still can't believe that you don't know who I am." He said.
"Sorry. . .I don't get out much." She said, digging her toes into the sand.
"We're not that famous that everyone knows us or anything, but we're getting close." He said.
"That's good. What genre?" She asked.
"Pop punk. Rock." He said.
"Oh. That explains it. Not my favorite genres." Summer confessed. "Are you any good? If you're getting close to everyone knowing-your-face famous, than you must be?"
"We were. We're fighting a lot now. We almost didn't make it through the last tour. We're all just getting through for the fans right now. 'Cause they count on us. But at the same time, how can we live like this, why would we continue through this if we're not happy?" He said.
"Why are you fighting?" She asked.
"I don't even know." Ashton admitted. "We can't agree on the sound we want. We're getting serious. World tours. Sold out gigs. Lots of them. And it's just so much pressure. From the producers, and management, and the fans. And then on top of that, the media attention. It's not what any of us thought it'd be. And we started it so young. We're still only kids really, and we have no idea what we're doing." He took a breath, feeling better after getting this off of his chest. "Most of it's great, it's just lately that we're fighting a lot."
He looked at the girl who sat beside him. She stayed silent and listened the whole time even though she seemed to have nothing to gain from it.
"I hadn't said that out loud before." Ashton admitted.
"I'm glad I could be here to listen." The girl said, but unlike a lot of other things she had said in the past, she truly meant it. She had not had many jobs like this one, and it was a nice change of pace. "Do you happen to be the drummer?" She asked knowing full well that he was the drummer.
"Yeah, why?" He said.
"That makes sense. The drummer is the heart of the band. You keep the beat going. And if there's a problem, like everyone being offbeat, or missing their cues, you'd be the first to sense it. But at the same time, you feel like you're the only one holding everything together, and I think you need to let the others take some of the responsibility, and you need to relax." Summer said.
"We're falling apart." He said.
"So you're having problems. It's never going to be easy. But you still care, right?" She asked.
"Yeah." He said.
"And you're not actually going to let it fall apart?" She asked.
"No." He said.
"Then I think, that right now you just have to let it go, look around you at this beautiful day, and don't let it pass you by. Because you deserve to enjoy it." She said.
"But," He started.
"There is nothing you can do about it right now. You are stranded on a beach. You just have to accept that." She said.
And so, Ashton finally opened his eyes to see his current surroundings, took a deep breath of the salty air, and let it out with all of his worries. He took in the sun, and the laughter of a nearby family building sandcastles. He searched the water for the surf-boarders waiting to catch a wave. He even looked over at the girl sitting beside him and really noticed how pretty she was for the first time.
She wasn't pretty in a tempting way. She was staring into her strawberry milkshake, a look of horror on her face he assumed from the daunting task of finishing the last half of it. This was the first time that Ashton realized he hadn't even thought to ask her if she were okay, or why she was on the beach alone. Not that he thought that someone couldn't go to the beach to be alone and still be happy, but she was very eager in forcing him to accompany her.
The look of horror on Summer's face was not because she thought she couldn't finish the drink. It was actually because she was afraid that she would finish it much too soon, and then she would have to go back home. She thought of how strange it was that one could forget how much they hate something until they get a chance to get away from that hated thing.
"Why are you here?" Ashton inquired.
"I'm on vacation." She reminded herself constantly that this was a vacation. A mission in paradise.
"Where are you from?" He asked.
"Missouri." She said.
"Are you headed back soon?" He asked.
"No. I'm never going back there." Summer said with finality causing a silence to hang over them. They stirred their melting milkshakes around in their ridiculously large cups. "No but we don't need to talk about me, we're supposed to be relaxing." She said, laying back in the sand. Summer tried to balance the cup on her rib cage. The cool perspiration soaked through her shirt, it felt nice against her skin.
But Ashton wouldn't drop it, not when he had suffered through telling her his troubles."Are you by yourself?"
"No." She said.
"Who are you with?" He asked, looking around.
"Well, right now I'm sitting here with you." She said.
He looked over at her. "I meant on vacation, who're you with on vacation?"
She held his stare. "Why'd I need to be with someone else to go on vacation?"
"I didn't say you did, I was just wondering if you were with anyone." He asked.
"I have a boyfriend too, you know. And I'm not going to cheat on him with you." She said.
"What?" He said.
"I'm joking." she said with a grin. "Of course I'd cheat on him with you." And when he began to get up, she added, "Still joking." But he looked at her with narrowed eyes, and then continued walking away. "You're not going to make me leave you alone forever now, are you? I did get you to smile. Twice now!" She called after him.
She quickly got to her feet to chase after him. When she finally caught up he said, "I still don't know anything about you."
"Sure you do." She was out of breath from the sprint, and a belly full of sugary ice cream. "You know my name is Summer, I'm from Missouri, I like strawberry milkshakes, and I have a boyfriend."
He rolled his eyes. "Where the hell is a garbage can?"
"You haven't finished with your shake." She said.
"I've had enough of it." He said.
"And you smiled." She looked up at him, eyes pleading. But the boy was set in his decision, and she knew she had to give something up. "I don't want to go back yet, and if you leave, I'll have to."
"To Missouri?" He asked.
"No. To my house. Here, in Sydney." She said.
He crossed his arms. "You said you were on vacation."
"It's a little bit more permanent now, but it was a vacation. . .In the beginning." Summer remembered what it was like when she first got here. How new and exciting everything was, how different it was from her little dingy town in Missouri. She was just a kid back then. Everything had changed since then, and so had she.
Seeing as Ashton was still stranded too, and how desperate she seemed just to have a friend, he decided not to leave her alone. "Okay fine. I'll hang out with you, but I'm not going to finish this shake."
"But you're not even half way done with it." She said.
He looked at her shake to see that she had somehow managed to slurp up three quarters of it already. "How did you drink that much of yours?"
"I told you. I like milkshakes." Summer laughed. Ashton smiled. Summer looked down at the sand. "Do you want to build a sandcastle with me?"
He nodded his head, and so they went off to look for a good location. They settled upon an untouched patch of sand right next to the shore, and the two began to dig and pile sand up to defend against the waves. Summer's manicure was ruined quickly, and she did not even try to prevent sand from finding its way underneath her nails.
"The waves are breaking our wall!" Ashton said.
"Dump more sand on it." Summer said.
Eventually they fell back, and turned their original castle into a moat as a buffer, for the new true castle. Ashton made the towers, though they looked much more like mountains, and Summer decorated their walls with seashells, and planted seaweed on the slopes to look like pine trees. They found twigs, and pretended they were little people.
"If we have citizens than we surely must build them homes." Summer said.
"I do concur." Ashton said.
And thus little squarish mound homes were erected with tiny little windows, and chimneys. And then they both realized that they had built themselves a little kingdom, and if there was a kingdom, there should also be a king and a queen to rule over it. The two decided to hold a coronation ceremony, and for a proper coronation they needed a feast.
"All the food in the kingdom?" Summer asked.
"All of it." Ashton said.
So they went on an expedition to buy pizza, and burgers, and hot dogs. Nachos, baked pretzels, corndogs, and everything else on the menus of the concession stands on the beach front. When they arrived back at their kingdom it was still there, safe and beautiful. Although the moat was a little deeper, and wider, and the big wall was starting to melt away. It was nothing a little more sand couldn't fix.
"If I do say so, this feast is magnificent." Ashton said.
"Indeed, it is, my king." Summer grinned as she took a bite of a fry.
Ashton blushed, but kept on smiling as he shook his head. "I can't be the King. I don't have a crown."
"Oh!" Summer said. "Of course." She began to rummage through all of the treat bags. After a moment she found what she was looking for and presented him with a circular donut. It had pink frosting, and sprinkles in the shape of stars. "May I?" She asked.
"Is there one for you too?" He asked.
She reached into the bag again, and drew out another donut. "Do you think the yellow frosting tastes like bananas?" She asked as she eyed it.
He took her yellow frosted donut, and placed it on her head as she bowed. "I pronounce you Queen Summer. Queen of the Sand Kingdom, and milkshakes, and a damn good time."
She looked up at him through her eyelashes. Summer earnestly liked this boy. She didn't mean to, but he was sweet. There was something about his smile that would never leave her. Everything was all right as long as he was smiling.
"And I pronounce you King Ashton. King of the Sand Kingdom, boyish good looks, and. . ." She trailed off trying to think of something truly great to say.
"And daring adventures into the great unknown of space and alien warfare." He said.
She giggled. "You're a space adventurer now?" He nodded, about to go on with his new story. But Summer's phone vibrated in her pocket. She didn't want to pick it up. But she knew that nothing good would come from her ignoring it. If they were calling her, that meant that they were already here. So she pulled her phone out of her pocket as Ashton was describing what the aliens looked like.
Ashton trailed off when Summer put the phone to her ear. He couldn't hear what the person on the other side was saying. But Summer's face had lost it's glow as she listened. After a moment, she said "okay," and hung up.
"What was that about?" Ashton asked.
"I have to go." Summer said sourly. She looked at Ashton. "I'm glad I met you."
"Yeah." Ashton said, sitting up straighter as she got onto her feet. she began to walk away from him. "Hey, can I get your number?" He called after her.
She reached up on top of her head, and caught the donut before it fell. Summer had heard Ashton ask for her number, but she liked him too much to let him down. If they stayed in contact he would eventually find out the truth. She couldn't have that. So she pretended not to hear him, and she took a bite out of her donut.
"Hey, this does taste like banana!" She called back to him with a laugh, and then she started jogging away again. It was just like ripping a band aid off.
Ashton sat by himself on the beach in the middle of a large sandcastle. He should have chased after her and asked her for her phone number. But she was too far away now. He saw her get into a dark town car. Maybe it was better this way, he thought. He could only imagine the kind of trouble he would get in if their friendship lasted.