An Angel's Fix Pt. 05byphotodad©
Maneuvering her truck toward the airport, Ashley looked over at Kim for about the hundredth time. Kim insisted on taking Ashley there for her trip to meet with the record company, however, Ashley wanted to drive her truck one last time before parting with it for a week. Part of the record contract was that Ashley would work with them while she was out of school, and unfortunately that meant working on holiday weeks. Ashley had said goodbye to Joe the night before when he left for home with the other girls. Kim was to join them later in the day when she drove Ashley's truck to his house. She opened her mouth to say something, but changed her mind...again.
"Well, out with it," Ashley said with an amused grin. "You're starting to look like a fish out of water."
"I don't know what you mean," Kim answered as she looked out the passenger window.
"Oh come on. Something is up. You act like you want to say something. You wanted to take me to the airport for a reason. Well...here we are, alone."
Kim just sighed and Ashley shook her head. She asked if she should park, or if Kim was just dropping her off. Kim said that she wanted to see Ashley off, so Ashley parked in the further long-term parking.
"If you're coming inside, you're gonna walk the long way with me," she said. Giving one of her bags to Kim, she continued, "While I have you here, you can help."
Kim still didn't talk while they waited in line. Ashley decided to deal with this once and for all when her turn came up to the counter. Kim put the bag next to the one Ashley deposited on the luggage pass-through.
"Is the seat next to me taken?" Ashley asked the clerk.
It was not, and Ashley said she wanted to buy that one, too. Kim raised her eyebrows, but figured Ashley wanted the extra seat to give her a buffer of space. When the agent asked who it was for, Ashley said to Kim, "Well, give her your license."
"Why? I'm not going."
"Yes, you are. If you won't talk to me now, you'll have a week of opportunities."
"But I didn't bring anything," Kim said but handed over her ID anyway.
"I'll take care of that when we get there. You could use an updated wardrobe, anyway," Ashley chided.
They stepped over to the TSA screening area where Ashley's bags were checked thoroughly. As stoic as the officer tried to keep his face, it reddened considerably. The partition hid what he was looking at from Kim, but his coloring got her curious. Ashley received her claim check and they headed up to the gates. As luck would have it, Ashley was the random body screen. Kim thought it was rather funny that Ashley would be selected, since Ashley had picked a short summer dress with a plunging neckline to wear. Whereas Kim probably fit more security profiles, being dressed in all black with a long sweater. She had wondered why the skimpy outfit since the fall morning was quite cool. The reason became quite clear.
The guard stated that Ashley was randomly picked, and she was given a choice between the full body scan, or a pat-down by a female agent. Ashley innocently said that she was afraid of x-rays and radiation, so she picked the pat-down. She added in a coo that she didn't care if he did it right there. He wasn't amused and motioned over the female agent and Ashley was taken around the side to a partition. Kim waited with arms crossed as she watched Ashley follow the instructions with a wink to Kim. Very little was concealed, so it shouldn't have taken long. But when the lady ran her hand over Ashley's belly, she summoned a supervisor and they instructed Ashley to a booth. Ashley asked if Kim could go too for her own piece of mind. They allowed it, and Kim shook her head when she followed them in.
"I felt something just above her groin," the agent told her supervisor.
"Miss, I have to ask you to show us your underwear."
"What if I'm not wearing any?" Ashley sassed.
"Ash, just do it, I don't want to get arrested for hampering a search."
Ashley rolled her eyes and lifted her skirt, showing that she actually was wearing underwear. Her phone was tucked in the front band.
"Why would you put your phone under there?" the supervisor asked.
"Do you see any pockets?"
Kim defended, "She always tucks her phone in her pants like that...just...she's wearing a dress right now."
Ashley was ordered to remove the phone, and when she did, a folded paper fell to the ground. The guard picked it up and read it. "Ha ha, very funny," he said dryly. "Next time don't try to bait us like that."
With that, he opened the door for the girls; they picked up their handbags from the x-ray tech and headed toward their gate.
"What did the note say?" Kim asked.
Ashley was stifling a chuckle the whole time. Before she answered, she burst out laughing. "It said, 'If you are reading this, thank you for the grope, but I am married.'"
They laughed at the planned joke and arrived just when the plane was boarding. Ashley lowered her eyes when she saw it was a commuter, but expected it since she knew it would be a short flight. Kim sensed her unease when they got seated and did what she could to take Ashley's mind off it.
"So, what was in that suitcase?" she asked once they were buckled in.
Ashley had another chuckle. "I put all my let's-get-it-on undies in that one, plus a few toys on top."
"What toys?" Kim had never known Ashley to possess such things, let alone use them.
Ashley lowered her voice. "A butt plug, double-ended dildo, couple of strap-ons."
Kim gave a fearful look. "You were planning on me coming all along?" she accused. "I uh, I wasn't looking for a romp, Ash. I just wanted to talk to you in the terminal."
Ashley just smiled at Kim, letting her stew in her thoughts until after takeoff. Once in the air, Kim looked distracted, propping her chin in her hand while staring out the window. Ashley decided to let her off the hook.
"I already called Joe this morning to let him know you'd probably be coming. So, you're partially correct."
"Partially?" Kim looked into Ashley's eyes, searching for more.
"The stuff in the bag was a prank for the bag screeners. You remember what they did on our flight to Hawaii, right?"
Kim snickered. "Yeah, your unmentionables were hanging all over that cubicle while they went through your bag."
Ashley nodded. "Anyway, I know you haven't been happy with me for a while now, but you seem to keep playing to talk to me and then never get to the point, so I decided to kidnap you for a while until we get to the bottom of this."
"I'm not unhappy with you."
"What is it then? Joe?"
"Kinda. Well, maybe kinda both, in a way."
Ashley listened while Kim talked about what has been eating at her for months. Once Ashley recovered in the winter, Kim thought about her offer to donate an ovary to Ashley, and it scared her. She loved Ashley, but after deep thought, it was more of a profound friendship than romance. Through the spring, she kept waiting and wishing for Joe and Ashley to crumble and fall apart, so that she could have a second shot at Joe, or maybe Ashley, but it never happened.
"Just when I get to a point of thinking 'oh well,' something else comes up. You were gorgeous and amazing on the stage after graduation. I was so proud of you, and happy when you announced that you actually graduated. And then you passed out at the party. When you came to, you were just so happy to see Jasmine. I realized then, even being drunk, that being with either of you just wasn't in my cards. So, I've lost romances of two special people in the same year. To each other, and to one of my former best friends."
"Jasmine is still your friend. You just won't let her get close."
"Hmph." Kim turned back toward the window. "She might think we're friends, but that spiteful bitch is no friend of mine."
"Kim! She's great! Where are you coming up with this? She gets hurt every time you turn your back on her."
"She deserves it. We're starting to land."
"Kim..." Ashley pleaded, but didn't receive a response.
After getting the rental car and breakfast, Kim couldn't help but feel like she was just along for the ride. As Ashley navigated the busy streets of Atlanta by using her phone, the cramped nature of the city brought a lot of memories up for Kim. It reminded her of the place that was supposed to be home for her in the fall. The adjustment from small city and smaller private school to a large metropolis and huge school was just too much and she started failing miserably. The senior class size was twice the total enrollment of the entire school she and her friends went to in Florida. She shrank in her passenger seat much like she did last fall when her parents first pulled into the new city as the views of tall buildings and jammed streets seemed to engulf her.
"Where are we going?" she asked Ashley, who seemed quite at ease. No doubt Ashley's acclimation from living in the Bay Area in California hadn't worn off yet.
"Shopping," she said with a smile.
"Oh. Joy." The absence of any humor reflected what she thought of as she glanced around. Urban wear just was not her thing.
Ashley picked up early on the malcontent and had other plans. "Don't worry, I'm taking you to a suburban mall. Be just like home." Then after a pause, "Maybe a bit more upscale."
Perimeter Mall wasn't quite suburban, but definitely out of the claustrophobic center of the city. And, outside of parking in the "back 40" due to the start of holiday shopping, it seemed to be just what the doctor ordered for Kim. Early afternoon was a good time to go. The crowds were full enough to remind Kim that they were in a big city (although the two tiered structure was a reminder of that in itself), but weren't so crammed as to make her uncomfortable. She suggested they do a once-around, but Ashley said that she doubted Kim could hit the impromptu budget Ashley had in her head, so Kim should just stop in whatever store caught her eye first.
A mantra became present as they ducked in and out of stores, and Ashley found herself saying over and over, "if you like it, get it." When she refused to let Kim pay for the eighth time, a vague sense of deja vu washed over Ashley, and she paled. Kim noticed and suggested lunch.
"So, what happened in Victoria's Secret? You looked like you saw a ghost," Kim said after they ordered their sodas.
"I kinda did. About a year ago, I was doing exactly what you're doing now. Although I was wearing my cheerleading uniform in snow, then. Picking out undies for the week with you made it dawn on me."
"I didn't even think of that. But this is different," Kim said in an attempt of encouragement.
"Well, you're playing my part, if that's what you mean. Unexpected trip, needing to buy stuff to get you through until it's time to go home. I'm starting to feel silly again, wearing this skimpy thing. But I guess things are different, too. There's not an armed guard tailing us. We came by commercial flight..."
"Neither of our parents are dead or dying..." Kim added. "And, I'm at your side, instead of Joe."
"True. Thank God." Ashley caught Kim's surprised look. "About our parents," she added quickly. "I still wish Joe were here."
"Instead of me?"
"In addition to you, Kim." Ashley's smile was genuine and hopeful.
"You've changed, Ash," Kim mused after the waiter disappeared once he took their order.
"What brought that on?" Ashley was suddenly self-conscious.
"Well, you've gotten so much steadier. More grace, more control."
"Why is that bad?"
"No, it's good. It's all good." Kim thought about it for a moment. "I'm just surprised how things are turning out since the bitch did that to you."
Ashley's eyes grew dark. "What is it with you two? Did she dredge your canal with her nails while y'all got it on or what?"
Kim took a sip before speaking again. "So, you and Jasmine, huh?"
Ashley let out an exasperated sigh. "Yeah, pretty much."
"And Joe! What the hell, Kim? Spit it out!"
"What do you see in her?"
"I don't understand why you think she's so spiteful. She's the first girl to bring me off. I didn't expect it, but it was...WOW. When I was recovering this spring, she was the one who took care of me. If I had a bad day at practice, she'd encourage me. The mornings I was really down, she got me up, bathed me, fed me, and kept me going. So, why wouldn't I love her?"
"Because she made Joe sleep with her! Two days before your wedding, no less."
"Yeah, and I told her she could."
"I know...but...the way she did it. She smelled like you, did her hair like you usually do. I'm surprised she didn't dye it to match you. Her outfit was fuck-me hot, but she didn't act slutty, knowing that would actually put him off. I think she was using appearances to go after his heart once she had his body."
"So, why didn't you say anything that night? You and Jill both only said it wasn't really a secret that for months she wanted to try one-on-one sex with him. Nothing about she wanted him to love her."
"I didn't want to hurt you that night."
"Oh, but it's okay now?!"
Kim shook her head. "So now you see why I haven't been talking to you much."
There was a loud sigh as Ashley willed herself to beat down her old rage monster within. "Well, Kim, I have had this conversation with her, starting the morning after. Yeah, I was surprised she went so far as to use my perfume that he loves. It made me super jealous, which I totally didn't expect I would feel. But, I gave her a time frame...before the wedding, or after the honeymoon...and she didn't step outside those lines." Ashley shrugged. "I don't feel any lingering ill toward her."
"Aren't you afraid about them being together this week?"
"But you're his wife, now!"
"Yeah, Kim. And where am I during the first holiday of our marriage? Away, working on my career. I know I can't be there for him all the time, and it's nice to know that she's willing to step in, if he wants. But I don't think they'll get physical, at least right away."
"They both told me so. If something happens between them again, I'm confident that I'll be the first to know. Both are that up front with me."
Their food was brought out, and Kim sat back. Her mind was still unable to wrap around the whole deal, but she saw that Ashley felt no hurt feelings with Jasmine. Ashley's temper had evened out, but her mind still worked different from anyone else Kim knew. Well, if she was that much okay with Jasmine being that close to Joe, maybe Kim could be, too. Well, almost.
Kim fretted her eyebrows. "So why isn't Joe here instead of me?" she asked after taking a bite of her pasta.
"Someone pitched the idea of a Diocese Children's Mass for Christmas, and his name came up. He just couldn't say no. First practice is tomorrow."
"So...what? He's training the altar boys or something?"
"No, he's been asked to put together a children's choir from all the parishes." Ashley sighed.
"Wow. That sounds like a lot of kids." Kim saw Ashley's eyes drop. "Work, I mean. If anyone can do it, he can."
"Yeah. I know." Ashley affected a stoic smile. They both ate a few bites in silence before Ashley decided to put an issue to rest. "So, can you get along with Jasmine, please?"
Kim sighed this time. "You don't seem hurt by her at all."
"I'm not. I love her. I love Jill. And, I love you. I wish things could be better between you all."
"Okay, fine. I'll do my best. But, it's gonna take a while for the momentum to swing the other way. I'm liable to slip up here and there."
"As if your tongue didn't slip up everywhere before the wedding that night..." Ashley flirted with a coy smile.
Kim flipped her a bird and they laughed together.
Fell Off The Truck had a surprise for Ashley when they arrived the next morning. Ashley squealed when she saw a large number of the orchestra members waiting to greet and thank her. She introduced them to Kim, and the older, more confident males swaggered up to her to make their impression. One particularly smooth member even went so far as to pick up Kim's hand and kiss it while he gave his name. She ended up taking the offer of his arm while they toured the offices and studio of the fledgling label.
Matt appeared at the end of the tour and Ashley asked what all the fuss was about, referring to the warm welcome. It turned out that pre-sale reservations for the charity CD were more than expected, and the projected revenue appeared to be more than enough to give the ensemble's organization a permanent home and rehearsal hall. Upon that news, the youth clapped and cheered, thanking Ashley again before their director said he had to get them back to their homes.
The meeting in the conference room didn't go exactly as Ashley and Kim were expecting. A number of things were pitched, but each were getting further and further away from what Kim had in her head when she thought of Ashley as a performer.
"I thought you were looking for that one person to bring your business to the national level. Ashley said you told her you found it," Kim nearly shouted while blowing up.
Matt sat back in his chair. "I think I did. But I never said it was you. Trail Springs is doing very well for their first album. I had a feeling about that Reena."
Ashley's eyes shot up. "Reena? She's in Trail Springs? But that's a country band." She chuckled. "No way."
"That's what she said, but she sang the first piece we gave her, and now it's third on the country chart." He slid a piece of music down the table at Ashley. "Anyway, take a look at that and see what you think. We could get someone in to play it."
"No, I can play a keyboard if I have to. But I can sightread too."
Ashley read the music, humming softly to herself to get a picture of the tune. The next go around, she sang it without personality, figuring she'd do that once she was paired with some musicians. Matt had other ideas, and instructed her to sing it in a country style. Ashley laughed, but after seeing that he really wanted her to, she affected a mock drawl and twang. She disliked country and hoped her joke would put him off.
Kim sat with her eyes wide open in surprise until the end. "Amazing! I never knew you could sing country."
Matt smiled, smug with himself. "See? Reena thought it was a joke, too. Now you know how she changed her mind."
Ashley was a bit miffed. "I was fooling around. I really don't like that genre, much less sing it. Just doesn't feel natural." Her scalp itched of frustration. "Matt, if I had known that your label dealt only in country music, I would have passed."
"Well, wait. We do other things as well. I just wanted you to see that keeping your mind open can bring you things you weren't expecting."
Ashley thought about it and rolled her eyes to look at him. "What things did you want me to open my mind to?"
"Well, we have a movie studio who's looking for someone to dub some songs for their animated musical. The actress' vocal talent doesn't include carrying a tune."
Kim got agitated at that. "Ashley signed on to be a hit on her own name. How can she do that by being a stunt double for someone else's voice?"
Matt stared her down. "Well, KIM, Ashley's schedule isn't exactly wide open for tours and whatnot, is it? I figured we could bring her around slowly until school eases up."
Ashley stepped in. "Matt, I can't exactly wait for decent paychecks. If that's all you're willing to give me, fine. But I'll have to start doing clubs or weddings again."
Matt suggested breaking for lunch, to let everyone think about things.
Ashley and Kim found themselves at a small diner up the street. Kim was seething and disappointed.
"You're better than he's making out, Ash," she said. "You're a platinum artist, for pete's sake."
Ashley played with a chip, but otherwise kept a neutral emotion. "With a lot of help. Besides, maybe it was the band. They're doing really well right now, apparently."