Setptember 1988. Washington, DC. Erin Ashby was spending her week at a pharmaceutical conference, learning about the new fast-tracking regulations and other boring new powers of the FDA that were sure to make her job more difficult. Washington was cold. Why the hell wasn't she back in California? Why hadn't these assholes sprung for somewhere tropical to enjoy their week?
Still, the entire thing wasn't all bad, and at the end of it she did find herself a fling. Tall, blond to match her own, and, two months later and in a dingy hotel room in Los Angeles, she also found the extra present he'd given her as a goodbye.
June 22, 1989. Black Bay Beach, California. Michelle Grace Ashby came into the world with all the humor her mother expected of a child that was a surprise - with a surprise c-section. The girl had turned in the womb, and no one had thought to check that what they assumed was a head was actually an ass. "You came in mooning the world, Michelly," Erin once told her, and Michelle took that to heart - never really taking anything too seriously, and always enjoying the opportunities laid out for her. Her mother traveled. That was never unexpected. She had two grandparents who loved her and let her hang out in their smoothie shop while she stuck her toes in the sand and pretended to do her math homework.
March 2004. Fort Benning, Georgia. Colonel Richard Steele, on a visiting professor semester at the Army War College, had decided to take a day trip to Philadelphia. Enter Erin Ashby, fresh off a meeting at Glaxo for a regional sales rep interview. A dropped wallet led to drinks led to dinner led to numbers exchanged and Erin wondering if this could be a reality for her. A few months later, Rick proposed and Erin informed her parents and Michelle that they'd be moving to the Army base where Rick was stationed. Far be it for Michelle to stay behind with her grandparents, she said goodbye to Seaside and moved on with her life. Michelle Ashby became Michelle Steele, and that was the end of that.
September 2007. Malibu, California. Having attended what was arguably the best public high school in Georgia (at least on paper), coupled with this "best" still feeling painfully worse than what she'd experienced in California, Michelle floated to the top of what she called "a scum pond". A top-ten ranking and halfway decent SAT scores gave her the flexibility to essentially choose her own university. While she considered staying on the East Coast, she knew that she could never be as happy there. She missed surfing something fierce. Pepperdine it was. It was close enough to her old home where she could have come to visit, but far enough where she would have had to make an effort, and at least an overnight - she found she really didn't want to. She was enjoying her life in Malibu.
January 2009. Washington, DC. Rick accepted a new position at the DoD with the incoming administration, and Michelle spent her entire winter break packing her bedroom in Georgia to have it moved to a house in Tysons Corner, Virginia.
May 2011. Malibu, California/Washington, DC. Armed with a degree in Public Relations (because hell, she loved people) and a minor in English, Michelle wasn't sure where she wanted to go. The loan money was running out fast, though, and Michelle ended up moving home for a year, though at least she scored an internship working with the Washington Capitals' social media team. It wasn't paid, but it gave her some great experience. And she got to learn a lot about a sport she had experienced briefly in Atlanta and actually thought was cool.
August 2012. Los Angeles, California. She wanted to move on from the Caps. She wanted money, and she wanted to move back somewhere where there was less winter and more surfing. To the Kings she went, and what a year to go to the Kings. She got her feet wet in group sales, then finally moved onto the marketing team where she was first the assistant and eventually promoted to manager of Game Presentation and Events. In other words, she kept everyone entertained during period breaks. She loved her job, even if it took her a while to get the hang of the hockey. (It's still to this day the only sport she "gets".)
March 2017. Black Bay Beach, California. Called back home with her mother (now living in Tampa since January, as Rick's position at the Pentagon had been terminated and he had been reassigned to JSOC), Michelle and Erin came at the behest of Erin's father, as Michelle's "Gran" (as she affectionately called her) had suffered a stroke. Erin had another life; funny, so did Michelle, but she was the one to formally resign her position after taking advantage of FMLA to move back to the town in which she grew up and help take up the helm at the smoothie shop. She's found, after a few months, that her life was not ending as she initially expected. She's settling back in, she's straightened out care for her Gran, and while she doesn't want to work at the shop forever (and has finally admitted as such to her grandparents, much to their dismay), she's still covering shifts there while also tying to contemplate the thought of driving 50+ miles per day to try and score a job with the Sharks (though logically she knows that's never going to happen).
And, of course, she's trying to get over the fact that she's probably burned a bunch of bridges in the half-lifetime she's been away and chose not to keep in touch with anyone.