Yesterday Aurilion and I had a long talk about that night, discussing how ze had felt in that situation. Ze had felt such a desire to reach out to me, to show me compassion and understanding, but had felt that ze couldn't do it, felt as if ze could not speak against Ashley (partly because of not yet knowing how to set boundaries and define zir own will). I had already felt the truth of this -- in fact, I remember seeing that compassion in Aurilion's eyes and feeling insane because I felt zir spirit saying one thing while zir words said another. I remember feeling such desperation at having zir RIGHT THERE and yet as distant as fog. We talked about this for a long while and I assured zir that it does not color zir for me, that I do not see that experience when I look at zir, that I understand, that it is completely forgiven, that I know that was not the actions of zir trueself.
Barely five minutes after Aurilion and I finish talking, there's a loud knock on the door and I dart into the other room (since I was naked as usual). Ben looks out and tells me that it's Ashley! At first I thought ze was joking, because what timing! but it was true! So I put on some clothes and went to talk to zir. Ze's in a very hard situation financially... I wish I could do more to help because I know how dreadful it is to be in that place, but we're in a tight spot right now too. Anyway, I ended up taking zir out for dinner and we had a long talk, which was pretty enlightening.
During the breakup Ashley was very angry with me, and I really had no idea why. I looked at my actions over and over trying to find where I had made a mistake or been unkind, and I could not find fault. Today ze explained that ze had thought I was faking the pain in order to manipulate zir and keep zir from being with Aurilion -- keep zir to myself. (Ashley added that it was even more upsetting when put in the context of our relationship: for over a year I had been helping zir learn how to keep people from manipulating zir) Looking at it from that point of view, I can understand why ze was so angry! I would have been fucking furious myself if I thought someone was manipulating me in that way. It had never even occurred to me that ze could think that because 1) it was so obvious to me that I had good reason for that pain, and 2) I'm really incapable of it. Emotional dishonesty is the deepest level of lies; you have to be really, really good at lying to manufacture fake emotion. And the level of emotion I experienced was so extreme I don't know if anyone could fake it even if they were good at faking it.
Anyway, I finally understand why ze did what ze did, and all the pieces click into place. I had already forgiven zir but it helps to understand the reasons why. There's still some unresolved pain between Aurilion and Ashley, so I'm not comfortable being close with Ashley now, but I think that now it is just a matter of time and we will be friends again eventually.
Today I've felt very odd, thinking about all this and also worrying about Ashley's current situation. :-/ I really hope ze is okay.
ETA: just to clarify, we aren't currently friends and that feels right to me. We're not really in communication (that day was a fluke) and I'm not looking to change that. This didn't really change my feelings about Ashley, it just solved a mystery for me.