Rachel Kennedy was seventeen when she met the man she'd claim with her last dying breath was 'the only love she'd ever know.' He was ten years her senior, an unapologetic asshole, wealthy from family money and the son of an Israeli diplomat firmly ensconced in a bubble of overbearing privilege. Her sunny-eyed smile didn't magically melt his cold blackened heart nor did it even tone down his insufferableness a negligible bit, but Rachel was blinded by teenage love and Daniel had finally found someone willing to put up with his shit just enough. Despite heavy disapproval from her family, the two began a whirlwind romance that culminated in Rachel sneaking out of her bedroom window, falling into her beloved's arms, and being whisked away in a fine example of the world's worst cliche. Days after her eighteenth birthday, they were wed. Weeks after her nineteenth, after one enjoyable but tension-fraught year of Daniel endeavoring to breed the next generation Bassevi heir and having nothing but great sex to show for it, her OBGYN solemnly informed her she had a defect in her fallopian tubes that would make natural conception impossible. Fortunately, the first round of in vitro took, and Rachel was with child not long after.
Thirty-two weeks of an uneventful textbook pregnancy later, and Rachel went into preterm labor. Because nothing is ever that easy. Asher was born premature, scrawny, not even quite four pounds and he spent nearly two months in the hospital's NICU before being released with no lasting defects save a lung insufficiency that would eventually become a mild form of asthma. But from the way his mother, and through shared madness eventually his father, treated him--it was as if Asher was the most delicate, vulnerable, fragile creature in existence, prone to fatal injuries if breathed on too heavily. He grew up living in an overprotective suburban bubble, his mother constantly over his shoulder, shaking his inhaler in his face with every ordinary huff of exertion from normal toddler play and scooping him up to whisk him away to the pediatrician's office with every odd hiccup. Which was basically the only time he was even allowed to leave the safety of his home or immediate perimeter of greenery. He wasn't even permitted the knowledge of the existence of pizza, macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets or any other childhood diet staples, instead raised on a regimen of raw vegetables, quinoa, sushi, nuts, seeds, and everything awful that couldn't be warmed over 118 degrees because 'preservatives.'
He was a miserable, lonely, slightly underweight four year old.
But eventually, he had to go to school. His father stopped being a useless sack of shit and put his foot down, refusing to allow him to be homeschooled like Rachel had wanted and though private school was well within their means, they came to an agreement to enroll him in the closest public school. Private school would be a continuation of his safe, boring, socially stunting bubble and Daniel was clever enough to realize his child would be a complete weirdo if allowed to continue on as he was, completely dependent on his mother and with no discernible hobbies or interests beyond listlessly kicking a ball around the yard.
Kindergarten was an experience. A true trial by fire. In one short school year Asher was met with cruel reality after cruel reality--he was lame. He was super lame. He didn't know what a power ranger was, how to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which kind of dinosaur was his favorite, or what an enlightening, existential experience it was to jump off the swings and aim for the biggest amount of air. He was quickly singled out and pushed to the side as the weirdo despite his father's 'too little, too late' interventions. Getting 'accidentally' nudged into a manatee habitat tank on a school field trip to the zoo might have done him the favor of ending his awkward existence early--being that his idea of swimming was 'rapidly sinking like a rock'--but another older kid hopped in after him and nixed his shot at an easy out. But he did come away from that harrowing experience with something even better than a merciful death: a new friend. His first friend. Some mer-person named Devin Taylor.
Unfortunately for Devin, Asher didn't know how to do 'friendship' the proper way. The cool way. He followed the older boy around like an unwanted barnacle, announced to every open pair of ears that 'Devin is the coolest' 'he saved me from manatees' 'he saved me from vicious sea beasts' 'he saved me from sharks' 'he fought them off by hand' 'he killed one just by staring it down.' Asher rapidly progressed from 'weird kid' to 'obnoxious kid' as he leeched off of Devin's presence and took cues on how to be normal, figuring out what his favorite dinosaur was (anything that started with 'D'), how to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (however Devin did it), what exactly a power ranger was (cool, but not as cool as Devin). He never managed the swing thing, because asthma, and his lungs seizing up and trying to murder him quickly made him realize swings probably weren't the best thing, out there. Nor was pollen.
School got easier in time, the more 'human' Asher behaved, the more grades he left behind, the more willing he became to abandon his mother's rigorous rules for play and schoolwork and hygiene. Slinging mud at a shrieking girl landed him his first real kiss, after he apologized and picked her a dandelion and gravely informed her how much prettier she was than said yellow weed. Even as Devin aged out of elementary school and moved on without him, Asher thrived and matured and gained so much weight eating stolen peanut butter and jelly. By the time he reached middle school, he was a ball of excess energy that wanted to grow up and save the world some day. As an astronaut. Or the president. Or Michael Jordan. Ideally, all three at once.
Then puberty struck, and Asher's energy took on an aggressive edge. Playful wrestling with other boys at recess became less than playful, more and more often ending in bloodshed and Asher's newly acquired potty mouth landing him in the principal's office on numerous occasions. Despite stern lectures by both parental figures, every teacher that ever had a spine, and one too many guidance counselors who fancied themselves child psychologists, Asher only got worse. He was pulled from school after breaking another boy's arm in three places during an argument about something irrelevant like the best Britney Spears song, put on formal suspension, and was mandated to see a therapist. His therapist recommended medication, some variant of Adderall and a lesser antipsychotic to quell his violent outbursts and tame some of his restless energy.
Asher lasted three months. Three months of awful side effects like anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, dizziness, and persistent nausea which he suffered in (mostly) silence, entirely for the sake of his mother--who'd gone through some harrowing mental instability issues of her own during Asher's angry rebellious introduction to puberty and teenaged hormones. His father only really seemed to notice that Asher was improving, doing well with his tutors and catching up academically to the other students in his year but his mother knew better. They came to a quiet agreement to wean him off of his meds with his therapist, aside from a low dose anti-anxiety drug that could function enough to take the edge off of his impulse control problems. After he showed some mood improvement and didn't immediately haul off and punch his dad in the face after some teenager/parent argument of the hour, it was decided he could return to school. Six months later.
He re-entered the public school system as a freshman in high school, and was delighted not only to be reunited with other teenagers but also Devin. His presence helped Asher keep tenuous control of his aggression, and he took cues from Devin's love of swimming by channeling his hostility and vigor into sports. Sports, sports, more sports, high school was all about sports. By then he'd grown out of his childhood illness and rapidly discovered just how much he preferred to be outdoors than anywhere else, and whatever sports he could conceivably play on the sandy beaches of the California coast held an immediate preference. He took to surfing rapidly, experimented with others like beach rugby and beach soccer and beach tennis and, most hilariously, beach volleyball but quickly got banned from that team after spiking a ball hard enough to concuss an opponent unconscious.
By his senior year, Asher was practically living at the beach. That summer, he took a job as a lifeguard (with only barely passable swimming skills, despite Devin's best attempts--manatee flashbacks dogged him at every turn) just to make some money and justify never leaving. Which had the benefit not only of keeping him in the sun, near the waves, within eyesight of a bevy of half-naked attractive people, but also giving him an excuse to avoid going home. Arguments had become more frequent with his father despite Asher's temper cooling down to tolerable levels, and Asher didn't precisely mind telling his dad where to shove it, but the effects on his mother each time they shouted in hebrew (just to spare her, mostly, because she never learned and Asher hadn't been given the choice) were not entirely unnoticeable. And Asher couldn't bear to make his mother unhappy, not at all, so he stayed on the beach. The beach, or Devin's house, which he'd visited enough to become something of a staple at his family dinners.
After graduation, though, things sort of... fell apart. Devin was long gone, his pseudo-sibling Kellan was long gone, and Ash was left with no fucking idea about what he wanted to do. For no other reason than to appease his parents he attended the local community college, figuring on majoring in something related to childhood development, maybe, because his lifeguarding job had also put him around scads of kids and hanging out with them hadn't been... awful. No, he liked kids. Their similar maturity levels instilled a certain bond of kinship between Ash and anyone under the age of twelve, and by the end of that job, he'd found himself spending more time judging sand castle contests or letting himself be buried alive than eying some pretty thing #24533 in a bikini. So 'something kid-related' it was, and he survived an entire semester before coming to the conclusion that academia was most definitely not for him.
But what could he do? After that disastrous couple months at uni, his father's control issues became nigh intolerable and Ash decided it was best if he just left home for good. Packed up his belongings, bid his parents a fond farewell in the form of a text message, swapped phones, emptied his personal bank account and hopped a random bus to a random somewhere. He lived in Memphis for six months, Seattle for eight, Miami for three, and came to a grinding halt in Boston. Boston, of all places, where his cousin lived, and his uncle lived, and conveniently, where Devin had ended up. Where his one semester of college courses, his year of lifeguarding and earnest statements about 'really loving kids, man, like so much--but not MJ much, I swear, dude, I swear' was enough to land him a gig as a nanny for a couple of great kids, a studio apartment that was a bit shit but livable, and a shot at starting over.
locked in au/cv