Angels and Guardians Pt. 02byphotodad©
Author's Note: Second set of chapters, best if read after Part I
Jill drove around to drop off Sally, Allison, and Marybeth. The car was silent, save Ashley's occasional sniffle. She had tried at first to stoically hide her pain, emotional and physical. But, her damaged face started to smart and welt up and the embarrassment of her poor judgment of the asshole won out. Tears spilled off her face. At each house, the departing girl would give Ashley a sad, loving embrace and a kiss on her good cheek. Jasmine sat next to her, holding Ashley and gently wiping her tears the whole way to Joe's house. Ashley looked up as they entered Joe's gate. "You're not taking me home?" No one answered. So, she asked another question, "What are we going to tell your parents, Joe?"
He answered this time. "They're in Denver tonight, finalizing something."
The four entered the house. Jill went straight for the kitchen to grab an ice pack, while Jasmine led Ashley to the den. Joe went to the living room, and when the others were out of earshot, he used his cell phone to place a call.
When he entered the den, Ashley was sitting on a couch with Jill and Jasmine fussing over her swollen cheek. When Jill was satisfied the ice pack was being held correctly by Jasmine, she sat back and started speaking softly. "Ashley, I've seen this before with my mom, so I knew something was up with you." Ashley looked over at her questioningly. Jill went on, "You started to talk about Bill less and less. Anytime we'd all talk at lunch about dates and boyfriends, you wouldn't say much. I know I said earlier that we could talk about it later alone. But, I think we need to talk about it. Here. Now."
Ashley looked around at the three concerned friends and blew out a relieved sob. She was in better hands now, and she somehow knew it. "I am so so so sorry guys."
"For what?" asked Joe. "You did nothing wrong."
Ashley looked at him, pleading with her eyes to just let her talk. Jill placed her hand on Joe's knee as he sat next to her on the other couch, making eye contact. He understood Jill's nonverbal command to him and he decided to just keep quiet, for now.
She sighed heavily, steeling herself to continue. "I'm so sorry. For ruining your plans tonight. For yelling at you at the mall. For... ow... setting off that jerk." She turned to Jasmine. "For being that way in the club." Jasmine flushed but said nothing. "None, absolutely NONE of that is normally me. At all! I can't explain why any of it happened. I don't know what's gotten into me, and it scares me shitless!" She began to sob in earnest now, and Jasmine held her tighter. Joe got up and fixed a glass of water from the bar in the next room. She gave a slight smile when he handed it to her.
Jill took advantage of the pause while Ashley drank, painfully, from the glass. "Look, Ashley like I said, I've seen this before my mom finally divorced my dad. That relationship between them is what brought me to Joe in the first place."
Ashley said, "Yeah, I've been piecing that together from what Joe and Jasmine have told me so far."
Jill nodded. "Good, so you can understand why I am saying this: What the hell were you doing with him, anyway? An abusive relationship will get you no where but the ground faster than God intended."
Ashley flinched from the sharpness of Jill's tone, but correctly took it as tough love. She took a breath and related her failed love story.
Ashley's dad got transferred to the area last fall. He had begged his C.O. to find a way to put off the move until Ashley graduated in two years. The C.O. put in the required paperwork and his personal recommendation for her dad to stay in California two more years. But, the military's "needs" come first and as such, they rejected the request. The length of time for the request decision made for a very short notice on the final move. Her parents wanted her to attend the Catholic high school she now attended, as they had bad experiences with the public schools in California. But, they did not have time to enroll her that year. So, she went to the school near her house last year. She excelled at gymnastics and was just as good at cheering stunts, so of course she tried for and was accepted on their cheer team. As things naturally and seemingly cliché go, the football players would hang around and flirt with the cheerleaders. That's where she met Bill, their star linebacker. She didn't know anyone else locally, and they hit it off reasonably well, so she accepted a date with him. He was well mannered on the date, and charming enough for her to agree to a second date. Before long, they were going "steady." Early on, only one thing bugged her about his personality, and that was he would talk incessantly about his on-field performance. She had dismissed it as it was football season, and that he was excited about playing.
She transferred to her current school after Christmas break. Ashley didn't see him every day, all day anymore and so got a chance to kind of look at him from far away, so to speak. She noticed that he was a bit controlling, and still related every situation to football. But, hearts tend to overrule the mind and she held an emotional attachment to him. One night during spring break, they were fooling around and he started talking about sex. The talking led to asking, which led to him begging for it. She was randy enough at that point to agree. She was and still is on "the pill," but smartly required that he wore a rubber. That was pretty much the end of the conversation at that point. He ram rodded through the act. When he was done, they got dressed, and he took her home.
Ashley shivered at the thought, but continued. Bill began to request sex more and more until it was nearly every time she saw him. She never said no, but it had crossed her mind. Her time spent with him even without sex was declining in happiness. He never had anything new to say without mentioning his team or football in general. One night he asked to get physical and came at her with his member being naked. She declined, saying she wouldn't until he put a condom on. Bill replied that he didn't have one, but that it would be okay "just this once" to go without and proceeded to pull at her panties. She pushed him away, saying no and just like that he slapped her. Hard. He of course called her a tease and generally made her feel like scum before pulling up his pants and taking her straight home. After that episode, starting with the beginning of summer, they would spend the day together. At night, he would just reach to her and start either pulling up her top or pulling at her pants. She'd let him do it, because she justified things as at least he has protection on. Before the end of summer, he would start their dates going for a quickie. They would go do whatever, then before going home, he'd want another and would just take it from her. No asking, no foreplay, would just pull her clothes off, put one on, and proceed to get himself off in her.
She approached him once about him trying to give her some pleasure, too. It touched off an argument that ended with him using her body as a punching bag, so it wouldn't show. Jasmine asked if that was why Ashley didn't show at her birthday party at the end of the summer. Ashley nodded and told her she barely moved the next two days. She went through considerable effort to hide the bruising from her parents by wearing long sleeves and pants. She brushed off their questions about her strange behavior by saying it was a summer cold. Jill asked why she hid what Bill did. Ashley responded that she was deeply embarrassed for being involved with him. Part of Ashley told herself that she was at fault for setting off the argument by being selfish.
However, something inside made her start trying to avoid contact with him. He would catch up to her by showing up at the house, or seeing her at the mall with her friends. Jill and Jasmine winced at this, remembering the times he came up to their group at the mall and would pull Ashley to the side to talk to her. They instantly felt bad that by taking Ashley out to the mall later in the summer, he saw her when she didn't want to be seen. Ashley read their look and waved her hand at them, dismissing their guilt and said that he would have found her at home later anyway.
Things continued to slide when she told Bill that she made the cheer team after the tryouts at the beginning of the school year. He yelled at her off and on all night for being a cheer whore supporting his bitter rival. He ended that night by bending her over his car, stripping her underwear down and laying into her. It was unprotected that time, but she let him just so he would stop yelling. That was the last she saw him until tonight.
Jasmine was nearly sobbing at this point. She told herself that she didn't know, but couldn't help but feel bad that she actively seduced Ashley earlier. Jill looked about 80 shades beyond pissed, though not at Bill or even Ashley for staying with him that long. She was enraged at herself for not seeing the situation until the last week or so. Putting the story together with the parts she witnessed first hand, Jill figured that she should have been able to help Ashley before half the summer went by. But, she couldn't change what she missed in the past, so she had another thought that slipped out loud. "I'm gonna fucking kill him," she hissed through clenched teeth.
Joe cut in, "no. No you're not. He's not worth the effort to kill him. Or even hurt him."
A sudden realization hit Ashley. "Oh my god, he's gonna kill me! I embarrassed him in front of all of you. He's gonna want some repayment."
Joe shook his head. "He's not gonna come near you. When Jasmine was bringing you to this room, I called the security office at my parents' company. They are gonna take you home tonight. They are also hiring a trusted off-duty police officer to stay on your street to watch your house any time you are home."
"But Joe, you can't do that."
"I can and I did. Off-duty officers are always looking for supplemental gigs for extra pay, and this is an easy one for them. I get to help two at once. Don't make me cancel it, then I would have to sit on your lawn all night. I would really feel better if you just accepted the extra security until he cools off."
Ashley rolled her eyes and said fine. Inwardly, she did feel better that Joe arranged this. Her dad is a military guy and could easily handle Bill. But, Bill also knows what window is hers, and that's what scared her the most. The knowledge of having an armed guard nearby calmed her.
Jasmine finally found some words. "Ashley, you said earlier that you weren't yourself tonight. And that you didn't know why. Well, it's no wonder. All this weight has been looming on your shoulders, and you finally snapped. I just wish we'd known earlier so we could have protected you. Or at least convinced you to stop seeing him."
Ashley replied, "It wouldn't have mattered. I know I probably wouldn't have listened. I cared for him...at least I thought for a time he was worth caring for." She looked at Jasmine with a degree of shame. "Still doesn't explain why I went as far as I did with you. In public, no less. I just wish you all hadn't seen me like that. Now, you'll forever remember 'that night' at the club."
Jill interjected. "Little One, you'll always be that in our heads: Little One. We all love you like a sister. Well, at the club, I can't deny that little show was HOT. So maybe I love you more like a....step sister." She gave a slight grin. "Don't worry. We don't expect anything like that about you. Just you be yourself around us, and that's who you are to us. So you let off some steam and had a bit of naughty fun. So what? No harm done. To us or our view of you."
Jasmine and Joe both nodded. Jasmine remarked that was what she was thinking, but couldn't put into words.
Joe noticed Ashley checking her watch. He asked her if she wanted anything else. She shook her head no. Then he asked if she felt even a little better.
Ashley said if she admitted the truth, she felt she could breathe easier. "I'll take that as a start," Joe said.
The doorbell rang and Joe got up and led in Ashley's escort home. After he introduced the two to each other, Joe, Jill and Jasmine gave Ashley a tight hug and kiss goodnight. Jill and Jasmine said their goodbyes to Joe and headed home themselves.
When Ashley went in the front entrance at her house, her parents were waiting for her. They started spraying accusatory questions regarding her missed curfew. The questions were fired off one after another, not allowing for an answer. Ashley turned slightly and her mom suddenly noticed her bruised cheek. She grabbed her husband's arm in a move to shut him up. At the same time, he noticed the injury and asked, "What happened? Were you in a fight?"
Ashley looked at him with tears in her eyes and said, "Bill. Bill is what happened." With that, she turned and ran up to bed.
Joe woke the next morning to his cell phone ringing. It was the officer who was hired to watch Ashley's street. The report was that all had been quiet and one of Ashley's parents drove her to school this morning. Joe thanked the officer and asked if he would be willing to cover tonight as well. He said he would, but his three days off were ending tonight. Tomorrow night would have to be someone else. Joe thanked him again and told him that he could pick up his check from the security office after noon.
When he made himself breakfast, Joe noticed his books and assignments were stacked neatly on the breakfast table. He surmised that Ashley must have put it there while he was still in the shower yesterday afternoon. So, after his meal, Joe went through the books and started his assignments. Ashley had to have been bored, as he found the chapters he needed bookmarked with sticky notes adorned with her pretty handwriting. Her clues made the homework a breeze and he was finished in an hour and a half. He then made a call to his bank and they agreed to have someone deliver a cashier's check from his account to the security office. The tellers at that branch saw him often and thought of him as a looker. He was also very sweet to them, and they had the advantage of knowing what was in his account. And so, a near mini-catfight would break out over who would run his occasional errand request and gain credit for it. They didn't realize that he would ignore their flirting and was all business whenever he dealt with his account.
With the school and banking tasks complete, Joe turned his thoughts to football. He now had extra motivation to return to play by next week. Joe didn't want Bill to come within 50 yards of Ashley, and he had to be on the field to ensure Bill wouldn't get that chance. He changed into his running shorts and shirt and pushed himself through his three mile route. Joe knew he wouldn't see any of his angels today, as they would be in Newport for the game tonight. He wanted to go, but his car was totaled, and Jill would be driving half the cheerleading team straight from school to the game. He took a shower, got dressed, and had lunch. While he was eating, he decided he would drive his other car. It was an away game, so only his schoolmates from football and cheerleading would see it, maybe. He worried about image almost as much as his parents, only in the opposite direction. He wanted to hide his relationship with wealth, while his parents wanted to reasonably show it off. It made for good recruiting. "Screw it, I'm going," he thought. "If Ashley was brave enough to stand up for herself and to her abusive boyfriend, I can take some ribbing from my teammates."
He left a note for his parents on the kitchen counter, saying he was going to the away game. He grabbed the keys from the board in the pantry and went to the three car garage. "It is a beautiful machine," he thought as he pulled the dust cover off his "spare" car. It indeed was beautiful. A BMW Z3 hard-top convertible. The odometer had only 12 miles on it, the tire dressing still shone from the detailing done for his birthday. The cherry red paint so flawless, it looked to be still dripping wet. His parents and the Angels both begged him to drive it, it seemed such a shame to keep it penned in the garage. But Joe didn't feel the car was him, and he preferred to drive "the beater" as they called it. He eased into the low leather seat and a thought dawned on him. What if it won't start? The car had been sitting for months, after all. He put the key in the ignition and said out loud, "well, only one way to cross that bridge." The engine cranked for about two seconds and his heart went in his mouth. But the worry was short lived, as the fuel pump primed the line and the car fired to life. He smiled to himself as he drove through the gate. "Mom and Dad are gonna pee themselves when they see I'd finally used their present."
Joe stopped by the security office to make sure Ashley's guard transaction went smoothly. He was told all went as he planned and he requested they find another officer to cover for tomorrow night. The receptionist told him it was already taken care of. However, she said the effort was probably a waste of time, as they took it on themselves to look into Bill's background. She told Joe that from what they found, Bill seldom sees trouble, other than speeding tickets. The profile they built of him suggested that like many bullies, he'd back down after a show. Especially if called on his bluff. His abuse of Ashley seemed out of place for his character, until they found out about his drinking habit. "As you know, alcohol tends to alter personalities," she said to Joe. "He may be violent to those who happen to be around him when he's drunk, but we don't think he'd seek her out just to harm her." Joe nodded and thanked her for going to the trouble. But, he told her that he would feel better and Ashley would feel safer to keep up the security on her house until at least next week's game. "Well understood, Joe."
After the office, Joe stopped for a quick bite to eat, and then drove for the hour and a half to get to Newport.
Ashley's day was a bit different. Jill pulled up and honked her horn at six in the morning. Ashley was ready and quickly shouted her goodbyes to her parents as she closed the door. When she agreed to this plan yesterday afternoon, she was dreading the early start. But, after last night, seeing her parent's faces when she broke curfew, and then discovering her bruise, she was glad she did. It wouldn't give her parents time to "sit down and talk" before taking her to school. Ashley got in the SUV and was greeted by loving hellos and very concerned looks from her five friends. After nothing happened for a bit except the stares from her friends, Ashley said, "What? I'm fine, let's go!" Jill put the car in gear and they headed off for school. Whether it was so early, or the girls were lost in thought over Ashley, not another word was said the whole ride there.
Jill stopped the SUV at the track "gate." Really, it was just an opening between the baseball outfield fence and the fence that lined the back of the student parking lot. The girls got out, minus their bags, and Jill led them in a slow warm-up jog around the track. At one point, the track was the pride of the area. It was the first rubberized high school track outside the major cities in the state. Life was infused into their school's track program by volunteer seniors passionate for their sport, and financially helped by a trust set up by the parents of a student 10 years back. He was killed as a sophomore in a tragic boating accident. The previous track was notorious for stress injuries, as it was built in a rough oval shape of simple road asphalt. Before the renovation it had earned the undesirable nickname "The Brick." However, the density of The Brick provided an excellent foundation for the recycled tire rubber coating. The lanes were surveyed and striped to conform to Olympic standards. The result was numerous certified state high school records fell the next two years. However, the coach of the baseball team (who, by the way, was also the athletic director of the school) was jealous that his prized state-class field was getting overshadowed by the track facilities, and even more so that the energy of the school's sports following was fueled by the rag-tag track coach. Coach Drew left the school two years after inspiring it's renovation for a more lucrative career at a private college in Tennessee. And so, funds for upkeep were diverted back to baseball and softball. The track had been stripped of it's rubberized surface six years ago, and last year it regained it's long forgotten The Brick nickname.