Angels and Guardians Pt. 04byphotodad©
This is part four of a story about a group of very close and special friends. Character development was done primarily in the first three parts, so it is best to read those first.
All characters are 18 and are the subject of this FICTIONAL story. Thanks for reading and please VOTE! (5's are awesome, but only if deserved.)
They had walked a short distance when Ashley broke into their thoughts. "A lot of what you told me molded around or even seemed to happen because of your parents' business. Can you tell me more about it?"
Joe nodded. "I'll tell you what I can, but some I cannot because of security," he said flatly.
She raised her eyebrows at that. "security? I don't understand."
Joe looked at her. "That's ok, because you don't need to understand. Yet." She let the afterthought go, and Joe went on to tell her the history of the company. He led into his involvement with it as an errand runner and later, how he helped develop the phone they were most known for. Ashley instinctively pulled the lightweight device from a concealed fold in her dress and brushed the sand off it. "That's the one," Joe said.
"I love this phone," Ashley exclaimed. "When I see it, I KNOW that it's mine. The extra faceplates, case, everything really fits and doesn't work loose or fall off. The things I use it most for are launched from a quick-button. You came up with this?"
"Yup," Joe answered proudly. "Do you text much?"
"Yes, that's how Jasmine, Jill, and I talk most of the time."
"Well, next time they send you a message, just start typing back, it will automatically go into text message mode. When you hit send, it'll bring up a list of numbers, or names if you've programmed them in, that you last received messages from. The top will be the number or name the most recent message came from."
"I didn't know that. I always went to menu and such first. I'll have to try that." Even as Ashley said this, she started typing on the keyboard, amazed the text app instantly appeared. "Oh wow. That is so cool!"
"Who are you texting?"
"Jill. Just letting her know what you just told me about my phone and seeing what she's up to."
"Ashley, she knows. Her constant griping about texting is what gave me the idea. We gave her the prototype to test. Anyway, it's Homecoming. Aren't you interrupting her, or maybe at least her sleep?"
She ignored the last two sentences. "Wow! She got to try it out first? Did she get the first model, too?"
Joe laughed. "Yes, she got the first model...the prototype. That's what she's using still today. The prototype worked so well, the company just threw the design on the production line. Kim got the first production model, and Jasmine got the second."
Ashley didn't believe it. "But, that was like three years ago when they came out, and the slide out keyboard model didn't come out until last year. Their phones look brand new."
Joe smiled proudly. "Thanks."
"Well, my idea was to make a phone that would change as a normal teenager's needs change. Their shell's and keys look new, because they just got new personalization parts a few months ago. The keyboard was an easy upgrade, because the battery cover is the whole back of the phone. The upgrade popped into where the battery was and the battery and sim card are now on the back of the keyboard unit. As new features come up, they can download the upgrade from the tower. I made sure that minor updates were free and major software upgrades were only $2." He explained further the resistance some had in the company about building a durable, upgradeable phone. That's when he pitched the idea that the company should make all the add-ons: the design shells and skins, keyboards, cases, etc. The management reluctantly ok'd the trial batch, and the phone caught on. He told her that the phones hold 30% of his parents' business income.
Ashley was shocked again. "Only 30%? These are like police cruisers are Crown Victorias...nearly every teenager has one. Where's the other 70% come from?"
Joe answered cryptically on purpose, "this and that. TV parts here, routers there."
Their arrival at the lot kept Ashley from pressing more. "Maybe all the better," she thought to herself. Joe helped Ashley up into the van like a faithful escort. Ashley grinned to herself, thinking that maybe the gentleman dream thing wouldn't be a stretch for Joe to fill. He had done a marvelous job tonight being everything she had hoped to find in a guy.
As they headed back, Joe asked if Ashley ever got a response from Jill. It dawned on Ashley that she didn't even listen for the small beep. She checked her phone and said slowly, "uuhhh, yeah. Four messages, and the first one so far is long." Joe waited patiently while driving back to the house. Ashley typed out a reply, noting mentally how she loved the phone even more now, and put it in her lap. She related Jill's short version of the night. "She said the group went bowling, then split up. Her boyfriend took her to a motel, and they had sex. Right after, she got dressed, told the guy she was breaking up with him, as he didn't seem interested enough in holding her attention. She called one of your drivers and he took her back to her house.
"Apparently, a very similar thing happened with Jasmine, because Jill got a text from her right after she got home. It said that she made it a short night with her date, and was waiting for one of Joe's drivers. They are both home safe, now. Well, actually, Jasmine is at your parents. I asked if Jill needed anything."
Joe nodded. While this wasn't great news of his friends, he expected it. Both girls had been unhappy in their relationship since summer. Any time they were off "doing the bf thing," they used that time to try to work through the differences in their heads. Recently, though, each had confided in Joe that they didn't think things would work out, and that they might say goodbye to their partners after Homecoming. He turned up the radio during one ad. A canned speech announced that the station would be doing a live remote at a quasi-popular bar and grill tomorrow night. The theme would be amateur night. Karaoke would be free, and CDs and tapes that had been sent in would be played and a vote would decide the winner of $500. Joe asked Ashley if she wanted to go, as he thought she might enjoy the Karaoke. She readily said yes when the late-night DJ came back on air.
"All you listeners should be there tomorrow night. Excuse me, tonight. It's a lot of fun, lots of door prizes, and the pre-recorded stuff that's been sent in ranges from God-awful, I mean 'humorous', to VERY well done. I just received a CD that I listened to during the commercial break. Some of you have been requesting this song since last week but no one has a decent recording for. That song was just given to me, and let me say, it lives up to the hype. Every bit. We'll feature that song tonight at Seymor's during our amateur night. So, it'll definitely be worth it to be there. All right, next up..."
Joe turned the radio back down to background level, and Ashley's phone gave a chime and lit up. She looked at it and said it was from Jill. Ashley scrolled through the message and asked Joe if Jill should pick them up for Mass in the morning. He said yes, if it was the 11 o'clock one. She set about typing her reply and sent it. Her phone chimed again, sparking a quick texting battle between Ashley and Jill. Ashley giggled softly at some of the responses. Joe finally asked why she didn't just call her. Ashley's face got one of those "why didn't I think of that" looks, and she asked in her next message. At Joe's gate, the phone chimed again and Ashley smirked at Joe saying, "Cuz she doesn't want to wake her mom! Anyway, she said she'd join us for the thingy at Seymor's."
He rolled his eyes at her dig, but said it was fine for Jill to come, too. Another blazing typing string sent Ashley's reply and good night to Jill's phone. After Joe parked the van in the spacious garage, her phone chimed once more, almost as if to have the last word. Joe rolled his eyes, being pleasantly annoyed. He had always preferred talking instead of typing. He got out and walked around to let Ashley out of her side. As she stepped out, still barefoot, she told him that Jill sent her congratulations on them making King and Queen.
They entered the house, half surprised to find it dark, save the lights that were usually left on overnight. Jasmine was supposed to be there, but they assumed she had gone to bed. Joe asked Ashley if she wanted a snack. She declined after seeing the time on the microwave reading 3:43. "Damn, it's late, I better get to bed." Joe agreed and walked her up to her door. He kissed her goodnight, then disappeared into his room.
To Ashley, his kiss completed the vision in her head of a perfect Homecoming tradition. She stepped into her room, and saw Jasmine sleeping in her bed. She took off her dress and entered the bathroom for a quick shower to get the sand off. Ashley pondered joining Joe, but decided on sleeping next to Jasmine. When she slipped under the covers, Jasmine stirred. Ashley embraced her from behind and whispered to her, "I heard what happened, and I'm sorry."
Jasmine said sleepily, "sorry for being in your bed...old habit. I'll go to the other guest room."
Ashley stopped her from getting up. "No, sweetie. Stay here. Again, I'm sorry about you and your boyfriend."
Jasmine looked over her shoulder at Ashley's face. "Don't be. It was my idea, so I'm ok. How was your night with Joe?"
"Incredible is the only word I can say about it right now. But I'm beat. I'll tell you more tomorrow."
Jasmine nodded and said, "good night, then."
"Good night." Ashley pecked Jasmine's cheek and fell asleep with her arm around her friend's waist.
Later that morning, Jasmine started waking Ashley by planting soft kisses in strategic places on her face. She finally stirred and smiled at Jasmine. "Good morning," Ashley greeted her.
Jasmine returned the smile and said softly, "morning, Little Bit. Time to get up. It's nine already. Jill will be here any time now. She just texted me she's on her way."
Ashley sat up to find her legs really sore from lack of sleep and the activities last night. "Oh my God, can't I just join y'all for brunch?" She flopped back down on the bed, her arms stretched out behind her head.
Jasmine leaned over her and kissed her stomach. "My, you are tempting, being displayed like that. But, no, let's go!" She grabbed Ashley's hand and helped her up.
They took turns using the toilet and then showered together, keeping playtime at a minimum. They went back to the room, each choosing a close-fitting t-shirt and jeans to wear. After getting dressed, Jasmine walked to the far bathroom door that lead into Joe's room. She pounded on it with her fist and yelled, "Hey Butthead! Get up! Bus leaves the station in 20 minutes!" She returned to find Ashley pouting.
"Hey, you be nice to my boyfriend!" Ashley pouted more, but couldn't keep it up for long and burst into a giggle fit, which Jasmine joined. "Nevermind, someone's gotta keep him in line." And another giggle round ensued.
Jasmine started brushing Ashley's hair while she applied her makeup. "Boyfriend, huh? The thrown-together date must have gone well, then?"
Ashley finished her sparse but effective coloring and allowed herself the enjoyment of someone else brushing her hair. She closed her eyes and said, "better than if I had dreamed it. Joe is just amazing, I've never been treated so well on any date before."
Jasmine finished doing Ashley's hair, and they traded places. She was happy for Ashley, Joe is a great guy to have caring for you. But as she applied her makeup and Ashley brushed her hair, she couldn't help but wonder how that would change Joe's relationship with her, or more so, Jill.
Ashley read the thought on Jasmine's face. "Oh, Sweetheart, I may be claiming him as my boyfriend, but I'm not gonna take him away from you, Jill, or the others. That would be so unfair to y'all for me to come in and suddenly bar him from any contact with any of you."
Just then, Joe mumbled a "good morning" and closed their side of the bathroom door. Ashley froze mid-stroke, embarrassed. Jasmine looked at her in the mirror and said, "don't worry, Little Bit. He didn't hear you. At this point, he's barely aware there's someone in this room." She paused, waiting for Ashley to relax and resume her brushing, then said, "contact, huh?"
Ashley heard the bumps and thumps associated with a male readying himself for the day and then heard the shower run. "Yeah, I don't want you to lose Joe completely. I just want his heart and affection." Even though with the shower running it wasn't necessary, Ashley leaned in and whispered, "just promise me that you'll let me know when you do any physical stuff with him."
Jasmine spun in her seat and stared at her friend. The word "what" started to form on her lips.
Ashley placed her finger on Jasmine's open lips. "Like I said, I'm not going to take him away from you. Just tell me when something happens, and we'll be good."
"Why on earth would you want to know every time I, Jill, Sally or Allison have sex with Joe? It'll make you crazy jealous the first time it might happen. I don't think I want to risk my life like that, or your friendship. If you want him, fantastic! We'll be happy for you both. And, I know that we all would respect your relationship with Joe. Joe would never cheat on you. I know that as an absolute truth. That would mean for something to happen, we would have to start it. I know another absolute truth is that none of us would do that to your relationship." Then, as an afterthought, "Jill or I might make some moves on you, but that's it." She winked.
Ashley blushed at the thought, but set her jaw firmly. She was gonna win, damnit. "Thank you. But, seriously, I know y'all are attracted to him, and I feel that Joe could handle some trysts with you guys without taking his heart back from me. If it makes you feel better, then ask my permission any time you want to do him." She blushed harder, "Besides, the thought of my friends flirting with and teasing him kinda gets me excited. Call me Slut, Dirty Girl, or whatever. Everyone has a strange fetish of some sort. That's mine, I guess....and I cannot believe I just told you that." She stood there dumbfounded at her openness.
Jasmine got up and gave Ashley a deep, open-mouthed kiss, which was returned eagerly. She said when she broke it, "wow, I think that does have you turned on. But don't worry, you're right. You had Joe's heart the moment you walked into our school. As far as the extracurricular stuff, we'll see...I might just take you up on the offer."
They were still holding each other tightly when Jill walked in. "Hey, hey, don't be screwing up your makeup, we don't have time for you to reapply!"
The two squealed in delight and took turns hugging Jill. "I'm sorry about your boyfriend," offered Ashley.
"Meh," she answered. "He didn't want it enough to hold my attention. Where's Joe?"
Joe appeared through their bathroom door fully dressed in jeans and a dress shirt and answered, "right here." Then he said a "good morning," quite more chipper than earlier. He greeted Jill and Jasmine with a hug and kiss. He turned to Ashley, picked her up and kissed her deeply. She responded to the kiss, and wrapped her strong legs around him, taking some of her weight off his arms.
Jill looked at Jasmine and mouthed, "congratulations?"
Jasmine bobbed her head and whispered, "It's official, they're a couple. I'll tell you more later."
Jill nodded and then cleared her throat, "ahem. Let's get going, so we don't have to sit in the front row...again."
Joe and Ashley broke their kiss and smiled at Jill. Ashley jumped down and said to Joe, "thanks! I loved last night."
"Me too," he answered and they all headed to Jill's SUV.
Jasmine rode next to Jill up front, and Ashley sat close to Joe in the middle bench. Jasmine quietly talked to Jill while she drove to the church, filling her in on what Ashley had told her. Ashley laid her head on the side of Joe's shoulder, her body still protesting in exhaustion from the late night. She saw Jill flick her eyes in the mirror towards her on occasion and she had no doubt as to what the conversation was about. When she saw Jasmine stop talking, she asked if they were meeting Allison, Marybeth and Sally at Mass.
Jill responded with a grin, "no, I asked, but they each texted back that they were going to sleep in and spend the day with their dates. I guess they really hit it off with their guys. Speaking of, did you want me to drop you two off after Mass?"
Ashley picked up her head. "Why?"
"So you two can spend the day together."
"We ARE spending the day together!" Ashley argued, confused.
Jill smiled at her friend's sometimes-thick head. "Dork! I meant alone!"
"Oh." Ashley didn't think of that. She looked at Joe, but he looked back with an expression that tossed the ball back into her court. "No, it's okay. I want us all having fun today." She seemed to read Jasmine's mind, twisting the meaning of the last sentence. "Not like that, Jasmine!"
Jasmine turned to grin at Ashley. "Okay! I know! A girl can fantasize, can't she?" She gave a false pout then broke into laughter, infecting the group with giddiness.
They entered the church all smiles. As the group walked toward the only empty pew, the front one, of course, Jill noticed they were being watched. "You see? This is why I wanted to get here earlier! I hate the front row. Everyone stares at us walking up to it, and while they walk by for Communion. And, it feels like Jesus's finger is pointing at me saying, 'you're an evil girl,'" she hissed in a low whisper.
When they knelt in the pew, Jasmine leaned over and hissed back, "oh stuff it Jill. The old farts just think you gotta dress up for the Prom any time you face God. At least we're here, we love God, and He sees and knows that. What does it matter what anyone else thinks, I say?" Jill turned to meet what she expected to be a grin from Jasmine. Instead, she saw that Jasmine was seriously pissed with her complaining. She was about to say something when Jasmine continued, "besides, it's not like I'm dressed to go fishing on the street. I'm dressed in a nice t-shirt without holes or stains and jeans. I didn't tie my shirt just below the twins like the bitches in the fourth row. If I wanted to desecrate the Mass, I'd have come in wearing my floss bikini. They can just get over themselves. You too, for that matter!"
Jill was about to respond when she saw Jasmine make her Sign of the Cross, opening her personal prayer. Jill let it go, and settled into her own prayer. Ashley and Joe missed the exchange, they were occupied with thanking Those Above for being blessed enough to find each other.
The Mass ended and unlike ¾ of the congregation who bolts for the door as soon as they utter the last "Thanks be to God," the group stayed to sing the entire closing hymn. Not because they felt they had to, but because they genuinely enjoyed it. The song ended and Jill and Jasmine were ahead, filing out of the church. Jasmine for some reason picked up her argument again. "I'm sorry Jill, but I wish you wouldn't complain every time we walked into church."
"And, I wish we could be early for once, so I don't have to feel like a leper during the entire Mass!" retorted Jill.
Outside, they faced each other, bowing up. "We can't help it if we're pretty! God, don't be so offended if people noticed you!" Jasmine lashed out.
"Well, well, if it isn't Miss High and Mighty! You're no saint!" Jill spat.
"Pots shouldn't call out Kettles, Jill!" shouted Jasmine.