I’ll go into why Return to New York is a novella centring on Fayth in another blog post.
For now, let’s talk about Astin!
Poor Astin went through a lot in What Happens in London.
I really felt it was important to cover how he deals with the aftermath of what’s happened to him.
Unfortunately, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t find a way to make his next part of the story fit Return to New York or What Happens in Barcelona.
So I thought I’d share it with you on here instead 🙂
Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing Astin’s story with you under the title What Happens in Texas. If you’re reading this in the future, just click the tag at the bottom of the post to check out the rest of the chapters.
If you’d like to receive email updates each time a new chapter is posted, you can sign up to my mailing list.
WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR WHAT HAPPENS IN LONDON FROM THE BEGINNING. Proceed with caution if you haven’t read/finished What Happens in London!
What Happens in Texas
‘Hello?’ Astin opened the door with one of his crutches. It was a necessary lifeskill he’d recently developed thanks to his back injury. While he resented the crutches, he knew how lucky he was to be walking at all. Just a few months earlier, he’d been bed bound. And still with Hollie. Fuck, why had he said those things to her? What was wrong with him? She was never going to speak to him again. Not after what he’d said. He could text her and apologise all he liked, but she’d ignored his attempt at an apology. That was her saying she was done.
He entered the small but well-equipped kitchen. Pots littered the sink. The sides were covered in half-chopped vegetables. Usually he’d get up and start cleaning it – he couldn’t stand mess – but not this time. Travelling from London to Texas had drained him.
He collapsed into a chair, his head bowed. Hollie’s angry face flashed through his mind. There was no way she’d ever speak to him again. Why had he pushed her away when he needed her more than ever? Why?!
‘When did you get so emo?’
Astin jumped. He looked up to see his old friend Pablo standing in the doorway. His olive skin was even more tanned than the last time Astin had seen him, and his face was a little chubbier. With his Evil Dead t-shirt and inquisitive gaze, though, it seemed that Pablo hadn’t changed much since they were in high school.
‘I’m not being emo,’ said Astin.
‘Your face is wet,’ said Pablo. He grabbed a piece of kitchen roll and handed it to his friend. Astin dabbed at his face and realised he’d been crying and hadn’t even noticed. Damn, he was out of it.
‘Are you crying because of your back or your ex-girlfriend?’
‘As abrupt as ever, I see,’ said Astin.
Pablo shrugged, pulling out a chair and sitting beside his friend. ‘No point tiptoeing. Who’s got time for that?’
‘You live in the middle of nowhere, where nothing ever happens,’ said Astin.
‘Ah yes, the reason you left. How did the high-flying life suit you?’ Pablo raised an eyebrow.
‘It suited me fine thank you.’
‘Uh-huh. Then why are you back?’
‘Well well well. If it isn’t the guy who thought he was too good for this town.’
Astin’s eyes widened. It was her. Martha. His first girlfriend.
His stomach fell. They hadn’t spoken since they’d broken up five years earlier. She had no make-up on and was dressed in jean shorts and a plaid shirt. It had hurt when they’d broken up, but not nearly as much as it had when he and Hollie had broken up. He hadn’t known it then, but he didn’t love her. Not really. Not compared to how he’d felt for Hollie. He did, however, still have a deep affection for her. She was his first kiss; a few years later, he’d lost his virginity to her. She was also the first person to dump him.
‘You could look a little happy to see me,’ she said.
Pablo rolled his eyes. ‘He’s been grumpy ever since he got here.’
‘No I haven’t!’ said Astin. ‘How did you find out I was here?’ He got up and hugged her. She smelled earthy, as if she’d just come from the outdoors. She probably had – she loved being outdoors and spent more time outside than in.
‘Coincidence. I came to drop some horse feed off for Pablo,’ said Martha.
‘Pablo’s a horse?’ said Astin.
‘Neigh,’ said Pablo, a wry glint in his eye.
She knocked Astin’s hair. The top was long and gelled back, away from his face. ‘Gel. You gel your hair now. What’ve they done to you?’
‘I like it,’ he said defensively.
‘He’s not low maintenance any more,’ said Pablo.
Astin glowered at him. ‘Shut up.’
‘Designer clothes, hair gel, next thing you know you’ll be getting mani/pedis with Martha,’ said Pablo.
Martha scoffed. ‘Don’t think so.’ She held up her hands. Her nails were short and scuffed, dirt embedded underneath them. He held his up. They were short, neat, and clean. ‘Some things never change,’ she said, rolling her eyes.
‘I like to look after myself, that’s all,’ he said. They didn’t need to know that he hadn’t shaved for months after the accident, growing a beard that had caused Liam to liken him to a young Santa. It wasn’t something he wanted to remember.
She scoffed again. ‘Some good that did you.’
‘You heard too, huh?’ said Astin. He sunk back into a seat at the wooden dining table.
‘You know there are no secrets around here. Your mom’s not changed a bit,’ said Martha.
‘Bitches never do,’ said Pablo.
‘Hey,’ said Martha, pointing to him, ‘that’s his mom you’re talking about.’
‘He’s right,’ said Astin. She was a bitch. Especially if she’d been blabbing about him behind his back. She hadn’t told anyone what had happened with his brother, had she? ‘Did she say anything about Coop and me?’
‘Only that he visited you, then he went to live with your grandparents,’ said Martha. She hopped up onto the kitchen counter and swung her legs. Pablo didn’t react. ‘Why? Did something happen?’
‘No,’ lied Astin. He and Cooper had barely spoken since getting into a massive argument when they’d lived together in London. It wasn’t until Cooper had left that he realised how much he needed him there, especially with Hollie gone. He still hadn’t apologised to his little brother. Each time they spoke, he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He kept telling himself it was better to do it in person, but he’d kept putting off booking his flight out of fear of flying with his injuries…and hope that Hollie would return.
‘Whatever you say,’ said Martha.