Ashley in the Interim, Part Two

The following is a quick mini fiction set in the world of Little Busters, a Tales from the Loop game I play in.

We are experiencing a little bit of a time jump, moving forward three years to 1992, after the monsters were defeated and most of the kids have drifted apart, moved away, or otherwise stopped being friends. Ashley is 17 now.

My character, Ashley is “The Jock” archetype. And I wanted to do some mental exercises to get into her head three years later. Here is part two.

CONTENT WARNING in this piece, for anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable reading about someone cheating on someone else.


Ashley
Spring 1992:

“Silly Weird Thoughts…”

Ash skated around the rink, trying to focus but still unable to shake the conversation she had with Sam earlier in the week. One of her teammates rushed up and met eyes with her, she nodded and they linked up to block. As they whipped around Ash could feel herself letting go. This was one of the only things that made her feel real anymore, made her feel like she wasn’t just treading water and waiting for the next bad thing…

Her ankle was almost healed up enough, but it still hurt. A product of last weeks match, but everyone powered through these sorts of injuries here, and Ash loved that level of commitment. These were her people. They knew how to fight.

An elbow came up and met her in the lip and she could feel it split against the guard. With a smile she whipped around and tripped the offending girl, the small crowd shrieked with glee and the referee descended, grabbing Ash for a trip to the penalty box. But she raised her fists in the air to incite her crowd some more. She loved being known for not backing down. She loved that they loved her for showing the aggression the others had always made her feel crappy about.

In the box she looked up at the group of people that made up her most loyal fans. One girl even had a sign, “You can’t cage the ATOMICFIREBIRD!” Ash took off her helmet and winked at the girl, who hid her face behind it.

After the game she found the girl in the crowd.

“Hey.” Ash said as she leaned against the railing as casually as possible.

“Oh!” The girl looked flustered. “Oh hi! You were awesome tonight!” the girl said, tucking her hair behind her ear and fidgeting, as her friends giggled behind her.

Ash reached out and untucked the hair from the girls ear. “I’m not worn out yet. Wanna get out of here?” The look on the girls face as she wordlessly shook her head yes and bit her lip was more than enough for Ash to forget all about Sam, at least for that night.

The girls friends made good natured teasing noises at them as they left, and Ash loved the power in that as well. All silly weird thoughts out of her head as she linked hands with the girl and walked out into the hot Chicago night.


Amazing Art of Ashley provided by Julian, AKA: Triangle Art

Ashley in the Interim, Part One

The following is a super quick mini fiction set in the world of Little Busters, a Tales from the Loop game I play in.

We are experiencing a little bit of a time jump, moving forward three years to 1992, after the monsters were defeated and most of the kids have drifted apart, moved away, or otherwise stopped being friends.

My character, Ashley is “The Jock” archetype. And I wanted to do some mental exercises to get into her head three years later. Here is part one.


Ashley
Spring 1992:

Ashley sat on the bleachers looking out at her teammates running drills, she was nursing a *slightly* strained ankle which would have been easy enough to power through but the coach benched her anyway when he saw her limp.

It was fine, Samantha was there, her back leaning against Ashley’s chest as she read her biology textbook. Ashley ran her fingers idly through Sam’s auburn hair and let her mind wander. In moments like this it was almost easy enough to imagine being satisfied with this life. She could let go… Move on… Be happy. She smiled to herself.

A slight bit of movement to her right shook her from this as she saw the distinctive curly brown hair that could only belong to Darcy* disappearing off into the woods behind the bleachers. Her reverie dissolved… Reality returned.

“Sam?”

“Yeah babe?”

“Have you ever seen anything weird in this town?”

“You mean like Greg Taylor’s mismatched socks?”

“No… I mean.. Unexplained… Adults acting weird… Mysterious stuff?”

Sam leaned away and looked at Ashley with a furrowed brow. “You have been reading too many of those weird books. I told you, try some Salinger or maybe some Dickens instead, ok? Something *normal.*”

“Yeah, you are right. Just silly weird thoughts.”

They leaned back into each other. Ashley resumed stroking Samantha’s hair. She was no longer smiling.


Amazing Art of Ashley provided by Julian, AKA: Triangle Art

(*Darcy is one of the kids who helped defeat the monsters, who Ashley has grown estranged from, much to her sadness.)

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you…”

“…You have to go to them sometimes.”

-A.A. Milne    


A note on timing: I wrote this in December and never posted it because I was in too much of a mental slump to proofread it.

Tonight is the finale of “Little Busters” the Tales from the Loop game I have been playing online.

I definitely knew I was going to get a little emotional at the end, and I was right. But I need to do a little backtracking first…


Tabletop Roleplaying Games and me!

When I was twelve I was already primed and ready to discover D&D. I had inhaled the Dragonlance books when I was 11, I would hide in the hayloft and read them when I was supposed to be doing farm chores… nobody was pleased with this.

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Teeny Brit. (I was already 5’7″  though)

My younger siblings and I were in the middle of a custody thing with my foster parents, and on the weekends we got shunted off to the grandparents where we would play Dungeons & Dragons. It was that set in the black box, so we had everything we needed to ignore the world and sit in the basement and play. When I think about that box, I can still smell the woodstove and the musty old encyclopedias we grabbed off the shelf for name ideas. As the oldest, I was, of course the DM. Naturally.

This little happy bubble of gaming was popped when I tried to play with people in my local high school. It was not a kind place for women, as I was identifying as at the time. I played a pixie rogue named Mosquito with an all male group, and it was a struggle sometimes, but I kept quiet and didn’t object, even when I was being objectified. I just wanted to play. Being docile was the only way. I regret not speaking up, but back then, how could I? I think my silent complacence probably led to a lot of those guys thinking their behavior towards women gamers was completely fine, and I regret my part in it.

Post high school I dabbled for a moment in 3rd edition, back in the safety of playing with my brothers, and eventually I was in a 4th edition game with some folks which had one of the best DM’s I have ever had to this day, but adult stress and scheduling got in the way, and it ended abruptly. I shrugged and gave up, resigning myself to finally being too old for D&D.


Six years later…

It was here, in this tabletop dry period where a friend suggested I check out Critical Role. “There is a lot to have to catch up on, but they are about to start a new campaign tonight!” So I shrugged, and settled in for a night of… watching other people *play* D&D?

I. Was. Floored.

Up on the screen was a bunch of adults, playing this game, having a great time, and they were all clearly my age, or thereabouts. Not only that, but there were a lot of women! And some of the characters seem like maybe they might be LGBT?! I was instantly in love. And I wanted back in. If they can play D&D, then I sure as heck can get back in. Why did I ever think I was too old?

The thing was, everyone around me varied from interested but too busy, to interested but could only play when I was at work, or some mix. I did get to play my first 5th ed game as a one shot at PAXeast 2018, which was great! I figured, “you know what, if I can just play a one shot here once a year, that will be enough. I will survive. It’s fine.” August rolled around, and puttering around on Twitter I saw a post that my pal Litza had retweeted by some fella named Gnomedic who was looking for people who wanted to play an online “Tales from the Loop” game. I replied that I was interested but a complete novice, and they both encouraged me to apply. So I did.


Little Busters

lb
Our First Game… My cheeks hurt afterwards from all the laughing.

And that, of course, if you read the beginning of this, is history, as they say.

I joined the game, and made some amazing new friends. I was of course, terrified to try to roleplay with strangers, let alone knowing there would be other strangers watching, but Gnome, and Pro, and Kristine, and all the others made me feel so welcome, and their kindness gave me courage. The characters and the world crafted by everyone involved was so inspiring, it fueled my own creativity and led me to begin thinking I could DM again.

As chapter one closes tonight, I will take these friendships forward, some of them to other games, some of us continuing our journey into chapter two. And as I continue to branch out more in the online ttrpg community, I will never forget that it was the chance Gnome took on me to bring in a complete unknown, and the joy that it brought to my life that opened up this world to me. I have a lot of “firsts” in my roleplay experience, and this is another first I will never forget.

To: Gnome, Pro, Kristine, Michael, Djinnaya, Robbie, PB, Red, and Kenny, I will never forget our little weirdos. ❤