Campus Games (chapters 1-3)
Ashley and Katelyn meet when they find they are to share the same house on the campus of the college they attend in New Mexico. Ashley has hopes of becoming an artist while Katelyn dreams of becoming a prosecutor.
Then the murders start and even Ashley herself is attacked!
As the students live in fear, Ashley and Katelyn form a special bond. Can they survive long enough to find out just how strong that bond really is?
“This way,” the student guide motioned with a smile.
Ashley followed the guide out of the administration building and into the bright sunshine. She squinted her eyes until they adjusted to the bright light. They crossed a large parking lot.
Her guide looked towards the direction of the voice. “Oh, hi, Mrs. Doyle.” She turned back to Ashley. “That’s one of the math teachers.”
“Oh,” said Ashley as she watched the teacher get into her car and start it.
“See, it’s a pretty simple layout, Ashley. It is Ashley, isn’t it?”
“The parking lot and administration building are in the center of the campus which spans a good two hundred or so acres.”
“Wow, that’s big.”
“Pretty big. Anyway, the buildings with the classrooms are towards the west side of the campus and the houses, or dorms, as some people say, are on the east side, surrounding the student parking lot. You got a car?”
“No, I don’t. Have you been here long, Dalia?” Ashley asked.
Dalia nodded. “I’m in my final year of accounting.”
“So it’s been a good experience?”
“I think so. I mean, it’s a typical college to tell you the truth. There’s really nothing bad or extraordinary about it.”
“I guess that’s a good thing.”
“As an African-American, I can personally say that they treat everyone equally. They don’t care what you are around here. It’s who you are that counts.”
Ashley smiled as they wove through a cluster of ranch-style houses.
“Fortunately, the weather here doesn’t usually get too cold. Especially since you’re going to be in one of the houses at the back edge of the campus in row J which means you’ll have quite a walk to your classes.”
“That’s okay,” said Ashley. “I don’t mind the exercise. So there are usually five girls per house?”
Dalia nodded again. “Yes. Everybody should be there by now getting unpacked and settled in.”
“Are they all newcomers, too?”
“No. They’ve all got one or two or more years to go, but I know it’s not their first year. You can see the house from here now. See it? It’s the peach colored one.”
Ashley followed Dalia’s gaze and studied the house. It was a simple, ordinary looking house.
Towards the front and right side were neighboring houses about fifty feet away. Towards the left was a road. About twenty feet away from the back of the house was a tall stucco wall with a dense stretch of oleanders just beyond it.
“What’s back there?” asked Ashley.
“Behind the house.”
“Oh, there’s a strip mall back there. There’s a pizza joint, a small Chinese restaurant, a drug store, a small grocery store and a few other stores, too. A lot of the students hang out there. So where are you from?” Dalia asked.
“Nevada, originally. I’ve been living further south in Las Cruces for the last year, though,” Ashley told her.
As they approached the short walkway towards the front door of the house, Dalia took out a silver key from her pocket and handed it to Ashley. “Here’s your house key. It works both the front and back doors.”
“Got it,” Ashley said, taking the key from her.
“Never copy it and always keep it with you.”
“I hope they don’t have the door unlocked,” said Dalia, placing her hand on the doorknob.
It turned easily.
“Shame on them,” Dalia said as she pulled the door open and stepped into the house with
Ashley close behind her. “Now, now, girls. Haven’t you been lectured enough on campus safety?”
“Yes, I suppose we have,” said one of the two casually dressed girls in the stark living room.
“Then why was the door unlocked?”
“Dalene was bringing stuff in from her car,” said one girl.
“Well, you ladies should still keep the doors locked at all times. You may be in a pretty safe
area, but still, crime can happen anywhere.”
The girls muttered their agreement, then Dalia began the introductions. “Girls, this is Ashley Severson. She’s starting her first year as an art major.”
“Hello,” Ashley said with a smile.
The others smiled and said hello as well.
“This here’s Nicolette Carey. She’s taking computer programming,” said Dalia.
Ashley smiled at the slender green-eyed redhead of about average height. She wore jeans and a T-shirt. The girl seemed to be more on the serious side, but not unfriendly in any way.
“And this is Rose Andreas. She wants to teach physically and mentally challenged children.”
“Hi,” Ashley said to the very plump, Hispanic girl. She was shorter and closer to Ashley’s height. The sweatpants and sweatshirt-clad girl struck her as the naïve type who was friendly, but shy and quiet.
Ashley and Dalia left the two girls to continue on with their chat in the living room and headed further into the house down a long hallway.
“Your room’s the first one on the left, but first I’ll introduce you to the girl in back here, okay?”
Dalia knocked on the partially open door of the back corner room. “You in here?” Dalia called out.
You couldn’t see directly into the room because of the way the wall of the closet angled outward.
“Yeah, I’m in here all right,” called out a semi-frustrated voice. “I wish they’d at least give us decent window coverings of some kind.”
They stepped into the room where Ashley found a slim blue-eyed blond girl of average height fumbling with the blinds covering one of the windows. She was dressed in short shorts and a low-cut knit top that exposed her cleavage.
“What’s wrong with what’s here?” Dalia asked her.
“The blinds are bent. Anyone can see in easily,” she said, turning to face them.
“I’ll mention it to maintenance when I leave. First, though, I’d like to introduce you to Ashley.”
“Hi,” Dalene said with a quick smile that seemed phony before she turned away and began to
load her dresser drawers with clothes with hurried, impatient movements.
“This is Dalene Wilson. She’s our queen of physical fitness, you could say,” Dalia added.
Dalene continued putting her clothes away, never changing expressions. It was then that Ashley decided she didn’t like her. She sensed the girl could be conceited and snobby. Nonetheless, she was polite and said hello.
“Remember to keep the doors locked, will you?” Dalia said.
“Yes, boss. Anything else?”
“That’s all, ma’am. Take care.”
Dalia turned to leave, and Ashley followed.
“Don’t forget to let maintenance know I need new blinds,” Dalene called out after them.
Once they were out of earshot Dalia said, “That’s Dalene for you. Always complaining. She can be a drag, but she’s okay once you get to know her.”
“Oh,” said Ashley with a smile as they entered her room.
“Yours is the smallest room in the house, but since you’re the new kid on the block, it’ll have to do.”
“It’s fine,” said Ashley. “It’s only for a year anyway.”
The small, bare-walled room which was in the middle of the front part of the house was small but sufficient.
“Well, I guess this is it then. I’ll leave you to unpack and to go over all the rules in the brochure as far as what’s allowed and what’s not.”
“Are wall decorations allowed?” Ashley asked.
“Sure. As long as they’re not explicit or offensive in any way. It’ll all be in the handbook.”
“I’ll go through it over the weekend.”
“Where is all your stuff anyway?” Dalia asked.
“My aunt Hilary’s got it in her car back at the administration building. She’s talking with the dean. He’s an old friend of hers. I’m going to head back there as soon as we’re done here.”
“Oh, I see. Well, you can show her the way here. Think you can remember it?”
“If you have a lot of stuff, it might be best if you drive around and park on the street just outside here,” Dalia said, motioning with her hand as Ashley followed her back through the house, past the kitchen and towards the living room where Rose and Nicolette were discussing decorations for the bare white walls in the living room.
“I like that idea,” they heard Nicolette say. “It’ll be different than what we had last year.”
Dalia led Ashley to a room in back at the other end of the house. Ashley thought to herself how nice it would’ve been to be assigned to this room because of the way it was set apart from the others. Dalia knocked on the door which was also partially open.
“Come in,” called a cheery voice.
Dalia pushed the door open wide enough for them to enter. “Hi there,” she said.
“Hi,” said a tall skinny brunette with straight, shoulder-length hair clad in jeans and a T-shirt.
“Hi,” said Ashley, gazing into the girl’s friendly brown eyes.
“This is Ashley Severson,” she told the girl. Then, turning to Ashley she said, “And this here is
Miss Katelyn Reed. Miss Reed’s studying law.”
Katelyn smiled. “And what are you studying?”
“Art,” said Ashley.
“Oh, you draw and paint?”
Ashley nodded. “Mostly paint.”
Katelyn smiled. “Sounds like fun.”
“Well, we’ll leave you to get settled,” Dalia told Katelyn as she and Ashley turned to leave.
“Bye,” said Katelyn.
“Bye,” said both Ashley and Dalia simultaneously.
The next month was spent falling into the routine of attending classes and doing homework. Once or twice a week Ashley would either speak with or write to her aunt and her friend Joy. She and Joy had been friends ever since she moved to New Mexico. Joy had been a great support after her recent loss, along with her aunt, the only living relative she had left. Her aunt was getting older, though, and had health problems with emphysema being one of them, so she tried not to burden her with too much and helped out around the house as much as she could. With her gone to college, since she had no husband or children to help her, she’d hired a housekeeper to make things easier on her.
Ashley let the others set up the kitchen and decorate the living room as they saw fit and concentrated just on her own room.
The rules were simple. On a dry erase board in the kitchen was a list of the household members’ chores which rotated weekly. These chores consisted of dusting and vacuuming the living room, wiping down and mopping the kitchen, and cleaning the two bathrooms. They did their own laundry. The washer and dryer were just off the kitchen in a small utility area by the back door. They bought their own food and washed their own dishes. They were also responsible for the upkeep of their own rooms. The campus had people who mowed the grass on a weekly basis.
The layout of the house, which had no cellar, was simple as well. Beige wall to wall carpet filled the house. A long hallway which ran from side to side divided the house into two halves. The front half, from left to right, was where Nicolette, Rose and Ashley’s rooms were, along with the living room. A bathroom was sandwiched between Nicolette and Dalene’s room at the left end of the house while the back half, from left to right, housed Dalene’s room, the kitchen, the other bathroom, a closet, and then Katelyn’s room.
Ashley hadn’t even been at the school a month, yet she’d already received a few propositions. She turned them all down. Not because she didn’t think she’d like them, but because Ashley was gay. One hundred percent, very happily gay. She refused to associate with any straight, hard-headed bigots, so when Joy had assured her she wasn’t the least bit homophobic, the two began their friendship, discussing both guys and gals whom they fancied.
She knew her aunt knew she was gay, be it by intuition or just by the fact that Ashley, who wasn’t exactly bad looking with her aquamarine eyes and light brown hair that fell in waves to her waist, wasn’t interested in dating. If her aunt had any qualms about it, she kept them to herself.
“Rose, you have a phone call,” she heard Nicolette call out from the living room next door to her. Then she heard Rose’s door open next to her on the other side. She wished she were in one of the corner rooms rather than in the middle of the house. She was the closest to the living room and the kitchen, so trying to sleep in on weekends wasn’t always so easy. Katelyn’s room was sort of close to the living room, but since the hallway ran between that room and hers, it didn’t seem as close as it was. Plus, her closet bordered most of the hallway wall. You passed by the side of the closet when entering that room.
Ashley closed her textbook and placed her elbows on her desk. Then she rubbed her tired eyes just before she rose to step out into the hall. After she used the bathroom that she and Katelyn mostly shared seeing that their rooms were the closest to it, she glanced into the living room where Nicolette and Rose sat watching sitcoms before going into the kitchen.
She was both surprised and not surprised that Dalene turned out to be the one who kept mostly to herself. She was surprised because Dalene didn’t seem shy, but not surprised because she was pretty sure that Dalene felt herself to be too good for the others.
What did surprise her was Rose’s obvious desire to mingle with others as she seemed one of the more shy and insecure girls she’d met. She was sitting in the living room chatting one evening with her and Nicolette and noticed Rose’s discomfort whenever she’d ask her questions about her life. Yet she didn’t seem to want to hang out by herself in her room. It was as if she believed that that’d make her feel lonely, alienated and unwanted, so she put up with the discomfort of being around others.
Katelyn was more in the middle. She wasn’t a loner, nor was she overly sociable. The girl seemed confident and cheerful around others, and based on her tomboyish appearance and overall mannerisms, Ashley had the fleeting impression every now and then that she might be gay.
She made herself a cup of salted caramel tea, then took it into the living room and sat down on the couch next to Rose. Nicolette sat in a matching plush chair closer to the TV.
“Hi,” Ashley said to Rose.
“Hi,” she said so softly that Ashley wondered if she’d really spoken at all.
The trio sat in silence for a while, then Ashley stood up to bring her mug into the kitchen. She passed Katelyn exiting the kitchen just as she entered it.
“Hi,” said Katelyn in her usual cheery voice.
“Hello,” Ashley said, turning to smile back at Katelyn who had also turned back for a second or so with a smile of her own.
The days passed by and finally, it was nearing Halloween. The weather was cooling down, making sweaters and light jackets a necessity at night. After her last class of the day let out one sunny Friday afternoon, she decided to head over to the strip mall after dropping her books off in her room. She really enjoyed the small Chinese fast food restaurant and she treated herself to one of their scrumptious combos once a week.
The eatery was deserted when she entered it.
“Hello there,” said the Chinese man behind the counter. “It’s Ashley, correct?”
Ashley nodded, aware that the young man desired to serve her with more than just food as she scanned the combos. “I’ll take the number nine this time,” she said after a moment.
“Number nine, coming right up, pretty lady” said the man, scurrying to fill her plate. “So how are you doing?” he asked as he worked.
“Been studying hard?”
“Too hard,” Ashley said with a roll of the eyes.
“Then why not come to my place tonight? Some friends of mine are going to hang out with me and party the night away. Think you’d be interested?”
“No, thanks. I really have a lot to do, though I appreciate the offer.”
“Perhaps some other time,” the man said with disappointment dripping from his voice as he handed Ashley her plate.
She took it with a brief smile and sat down to eat. Though she was constantly being undressed by the man’s eyes while she ate and wished other customers would arrive to take the attention from her, she enjoyed the food just the same. When she was done, she snatched up her purse and went in to use the bathroom before heading back to the house. No sooner had she entered one of the bathroom stalls did she hear someone finally enter the store.
Now you come! she thought to herself as she peed. It occurred to her then that the feminine voice she was hearing sounded familiar, though she couldn’t put a name to it. They spoke very briefly even though she could never make out what was being said through the wall that separated the restaurant from the bathroom.
Just as she flushed the toilet and pulled up her panties, someone entered the bathroom and the stall next to hers. Oddly enough, when she peered underneath the wall between the stalls, she noticed that the small feet clad in brown loafers stood just inside the stall, feet facing the toilet, deathly still and quiet.
Well, aren’t you going to pee? Ashley wondered.
The person continued to stand completely motionless.
Odd, Ashley thought. Who would enter a bathroom stall and simply stand there?
Unless they were waiting.
But waiting for what?
Ashley’s heart rate sped up. She was about to pull the door to the booth open when the person suddenly turned, exited their stall, and proceeded to head towards the door as if they’d decided at the last minute that they didn’t have to use the bathroom after all.
Next thing Ashley knew, the room was plunged in total darkness. Because there were no windows in the room, she was rendered completely blind.
Panic seized her as she flung open the door to the stall. Relief then washed over her when she saw the strip of light coming from underneath the door to where the restaurant was. Now she could hear another customer enter the place and begin giving his order.
Ashley began to move towards the door, assuming the bathroom’s fluorescent light bulb had simply blown out and that she was alone in the bathroom when a sudden movement blocked out the strip of light.
“What the… Who’s there?” Ashley demanded, knees turning to butter.
Suddenly, whoever was in the bathroom with her grabbed her and tried to shove her back further into the room.
“Let go of me!” Ashley cried before a hand quickly cut off her cries.
The person now had her back against them with Ashley facing the door and desperately struggling to break free of the psycho that held her and run towards the life-saving strip of light. She couldn’t tell the person’s gender or height, but she could tell that they were rather heavy. She struggled to hang onto her purse, assuming that that was what her silent attacker was after.
Her attacker then removed one of their hands to fumble with something metallic which they dropped. The instant it clanked to the tile floor, Ashley lifted her right leg and kicked her attacker in the knee. This momentarily stunned them, and Ashley wasted no time. She flew to the door, flung it open and ran through the brightly lit restaurant and out the door, leaving the counterman and the few customers that were now present gaping in wonder at her.
She hadn’t wanted to stop to tell the counterman that a nut was in his bathroom for fear of them coming out and shooting at them. Instead, she ran to the pizza place three doors down and headed straight towards the pay phone. She called the police and, as quickly as she could, relayed what had happened to the dispatcher. She watched for the police from the pizza place’s window. When they arrived, she ran out and explained to them in more detail what happened.
“Stay put right here while we go check it out,” one of the officers told her.
She waited, pacing nervously along the walkway, peering into the Chinese restaurant. She could see the look of surprise and concern on the counterman’s face. After a few minutes, they came back out of the restaurant.
“Well,” said one of the officers, “he doesn’t seem to know who could’ve attacked you. He did say, though, that he witnessed a plump woman enter the bathroom around the same time you did and that she left a good five minutes or so after you, but that’s all he seems to remember. He couldn’t say what hair color she had because she had a bandana on her head.”
“All I could tell was that the person was on the chubby side. It was simply too dark to see anything else,” said Ashley.
“Yeah, but I’m afraid all we can do for now is make out a report. Hopefully, there’ll be no more incidents like it.”
“I sure hope not,” said Ashley. “Meanwhile, I think I’ll refrain from using public bathrooms for a while.”
With that Ashley turned and headed back towards the house. She walked with quick strides, nervously looking around her as she made her way. She was still a little shook up when she opened the front door where Rose, Nicolette, and even Dalene sat. Rose and Nicolette were watching TV while Dalene was gabbing on the phone. She talked and laughed so loud that she couldn’t imagine how Rose and Nicolette could even hear the TV.
“What happened?” asked Nicolette, taking note of her nerve-wracked appearance.
She began to tell them when Dalene interrupted her. “Hey, will you be quiet? I’m trying to have a conversation here that’s long distance and you’re being rude.”
“Come on,” said Nicolette turning to face her, “ease up. The poor girl was attacked.”
Ashley continued, not caring about being quiet enough for Dalene. Rose and Nicolette listened attentively while Dalene, who was now talking a bit more softly, half-listened, though if she had any empathy for Ashley or concern for her own safety, she didn’t show it.
After a few more minutes, Ashley headed into her room. She heard Katelyn enter a moment later and the murmur of voices at the same time she heard heavy footsteps tread down the hallway, past her door, then what sounded like Dalene’s door closing.
Ashley opened her sketchbook and began sketching a calming, serene scene depicting an ocean with romantic cottages and relaxed people.
Time passed as she sketched. Dalene and Rose took off as they usually did on Friday night, but Nicolette and Katelyn stayed behind.
Eventually, she realized that her pencils had gone blunt and that she had forgotten to take her electric pencil sharpener which she planned to get when she went home for Thanksgiving. She opened the top drawer in her desk. The little sharpener she’d purchased at the university’s shop was not there. She realized she probably left it in her last art class but checked the other drawers as well just in case.
Still no sharpener.
She looked at the digital alarm clock that sat on the small nightstand by her bed. Its red numbers said it was just a few minutes before nine. Still early enough to see if she could use someone else’s. She rose and stepped out into the hall. She could go left to Nicolette’s room or right to Katelyn’s.
She decided on Katelyn’s and headed right. Light shining underneath the door suggested she was still awake. She knocked softly on the door in case Katelyn had fallen asleep.
A second later she heard movement behind the door and then the door opened. “Yeah?” Katelyn asked with a smile, shaking her bangs from her eyes.
“I’m sorry to bother you,” Ashley began.
“You’re no bother.”
“I lost my pencil sharpener somewhere and was wondering if you had one I could borrow.”
“Sure, come on in,” said Katelyn.
Ashley followed her into her room. The neat, organized and comfortable looking room was more rectangular shaped than square like her own room was, Ashley noted as Katelyn began rummaging through one of her desk drawers.
“Wow,” said Ashley. “You definitely have the nicest room, Katelyn. It’s nearly twice the size of mine and has more of a secluded feeling to it.”
“Yeah, it does,” agreed Katelyn, momentarily glancing at her. “I’m glad I got this room.” She then stood upright.
Standing as close as she was to her, Ashley was rather impressed with her height. Katelyn was no doubt a good eight or nine inches taller than her.
“I hope this will do,” Katelyn said, handing her the sharpener.
“It will, and thanks a lot. I really appreciate it.”
“Oh, it’s no problem.” Katelyn had a pleasant smile which showed dazzling white teeth. Then she casually placed her hands in the pockets of her jeans, looked down at the floor, then back up again and said, “Hey, I heard about what happened over at the strip mall. That must’ve been pretty scary.”
“It was,” said Ashley. “I doubt I’ll be using public bathrooms for a while.”
“Yeah,” said Katelyn with a smile of understanding as Ashley turned and headed for the door.
“Well, I won’t keep you much longer,” Ashley told her.
Katelyn shrugged as if to say it was no big deal.
“I’ll get this back to you in a little while.”
“Oh, no, keep it. I have another one.”
“Really? You sure?”
“Thanks so much, Katelyn,” Ashley said with a smile. “You really saved me tonight.”
“Glad to be of help,” she said, following Ashley to the door. “So you don’t do much on weekends?”
“No, not really,” said Ashley, turning to face Katelyn just as she got to the door. “I’m not really the partying type. Besides, I don’t know anyone around here yet.”
“Yeah, me neither,” said Katelyn, leaning against the side of the closet wall. “I mean, I have acquaintances here, but no real friends. You from here?”
Ashley shook her head. “I’m originally from Reno.”
“Oh, yeah? And how do you like Albuquerque?”
“It’s nice. Where are you from?” asked Ashley.
“I’m from Belen. It’s a small town about an hour south of here.”
“I know where it is. When my parents died last year in a car accident, I went to live with my aunt Hilary in Las Cruces.”
“Oh, so you’re way down there,” said Katelyn. Then her face turned serious. “I’m sorry to hear you lost your parents and so young, too. I’ll bet that was hard.”
“It was,” Ashley admitted. “Sometimes I still can’t believe they’re gone.”
Katelyn studied Ashley a moment, then asked, “So how old are you, Ashley?”
“Nineteen, and you?”
She and Katelyn were silent a moment as she studied Katelyn’s attractive dark features, then suddenly, an overwhelming feeling of self-consciousness came over her, although it didn’t exactly make her uncomfortable. She smiled, afraid she was blushing.
Katelyn smiled, too.
“Well,” Ashley said, “I guess I’ll be on my way now.”
“Okay,” said Katelyn. “Don’t hesitate to knock if you need anything else.”
“Have a good night.”
“You too,” said Ashley, flashing a smile, then turning to head down the long hallway towards her room. Her small, tight, cramped little room that had barely any walking space around the sides of the bed. What little was around the foot of it was where the desk and dresser were. It was no wonder the closet didn’t stick out inside the room as well as in Rose’s room, seeing how small those two rooms were. Their closets were actually side by side, wedged in between their rooms. The only rooms without something between them were Rose and Nicolette’s rooms. She was glad that if she had to be stuck being the closest to the living room and the kitchen that at least there were a couple of closets between her room and Rose’s. Still, she’d swap with Nicolette, Dalene or Katelyn if she could.
Oh well. It’s just a room, she told herself. Besides, it won’t be forever.
She sat down at her desk with her newly sharpened pencil and continued with her seashore sketch. She stretched her arms straight up overhead and yawned nearly two hours later, stood up, and prepared for bed.
Once snuggled down under the covers, she replayed the day’s events in her mind.
Suddenly, an image of Katelyn popped into mind and she wondered why she hadn’t noticed just how attractive she was before that night.
Ashley awoke the next morning excited. Now she had more to look forward to than just an associate degree in art. She had Katelyn to look forward to as well. Yes, she was on a mission. Never had she felt quite like this before, she realized, as she smiled to herself. She couldn’t wait to see Katelyn and was rather glad to know it was the weekend. If it weren’t, she’d have to wait until the end of the day and that would be hard.
Hold your horses, girl, she told herself. Maybe she’s not even interested in you or maybe she’s going to be busy all day. She may not even be home today. For all you know she could be spending the day with friends, or, for that matter, a lover.
She ground the sleep from her eyes and tossed her blanket aside. When she stepped into the hallway she saw that everyone’s doors were closed except for Rose’s. She headed into the bathroom and washed up. When she was done she went into the kitchen to fix herself a toasted bagel with cream cheese. She periodically glanced towards the doorway in the hopes of Katelyn entering the room.
She noticed the hum of the dryer and then Dalene came through the kitchen to fetch her clothes from the dryer.
“Good morning,” said Ashley.
“Mmm,” Dalene muttered.
Have a shitty day, bitch, she thought, taking a seat at the table.
Dalene gathered her clothes into her laundry bag and carried them back to her room without a word or even a glance in Ashley’s direction.
Ashley ate at the table with her back towards the door when suddenly, she heard rustling sounds behind her.
She spun around, then felt her shoulders slump slightly at the sight of Nicolette.
“Hi,” said Nicolette.
“Hello,” said Ashley as she finished her bagel and headed back to her room. There she plopped herself down on her bed, still in the sleep shirt that fell nearly to her knees, where she planned to listen for Katelyn.
But what will I say to her when I see her? she wondered to herself. That I’d like to spend the day with her if she really is gay and single because I think she’s hot?
Her door was suddenly thrown open, startling her into an upright position.
“Where is it?” demanded Dalene.
“Where is what?” Ashley asked with confusion.
“My big baggy green T-shirt with the blue flowers. I know you have it.”
“I don’t have anything of yours, Dalene,” Ashley said rising from her bed, “and I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t come barging in here…”
“Bullshit!” she screamed. “I know you have it and you better give it back or else I’ll go through your things myself.”
“The hell you will!” Ashley yelled, becoming angry.
“Yeah?” challenged Dalene. “I ought to just slap the truth right out of you.”
“I don’t think so.”
Just then, Katelyn stepped out of her room and came down the hall towards where Ashley and Dalene stood. “What’s going on, folks?” she asked.
“None of your business,” snapped Dalene as she stepped into the hall to face Katelyn.
“It most certainly is my business if you intend to slap this poor girl around,” Katelyn told her. “I mean, really, Dalene. Don’t you think you should be picking on someone your own size?”
Katelyn was now right up in Dalene’s face in a challenging way that dared her to raise a hand to strike one of them. Although Katelyn was skinnier than the busty and slightly curvy Dalene, Katelyn was a good four inches or so taller.
Dalene stared at her with defiance. “I got ten bucks that says I can whip your ass.”
“I got more that says you can’t,” retorted Katelyn.
Dalene’s face turned crimson with fury as she roughly shoved Katelyn. Dalene appeared to be surprised that she hadn’t knocked Katelyn off her feet. Katelyn quietly held her ground as
Dalene once again attempted to push her to the hallway floor. When that failed to work, she threw a punch that Katelyn abruptly caught in her fist as if she wore a catcher’s mitt and had caught a baseball instead.
Now Dalene’s anger was turning to sheer frustration and embarrassment. “Let go of me, you bitch, let go!”
“I’ll let go when you promise to leave Ashley alone,” Katelyn told her in a matter-of-fact tone of voice.
“Okay, fine! I’ll never say another goddamn word to her again,” Dalene insisted desperately.
Katelyn released her hold on Dalene.
Dalene looked angrily from her to Ashley, then spun on her heel and into her room, slamming her door loudly behind her.
Katelyn then turned to Ashley. “You okay?”
Ashley nodded as her heartbeat returned to normal. “Yeah. You saved me again. Thanks.”
“No prob,” Katelyn said with a smile. She was both proud and pleased to be able to rescue
Ashley, though she’d rather not have to do so in the first place.
“She’s losing it,” they heard Nicolette say.
Ashley and Katelyn turned to see Nicolette standing beside the kitchen doorway.
“Especially since her shirt’s right here.” Nicolette held it up. “It was on the floor wedged in between the washer and the dryer where she must have dropped it. I’ll go give it to her and tell her where I found it.”
“Okay,” said Katelyn who then turned back to Ashley and peered down at her. “Want to come hang out with me for a while?”
Ashley smiled, nodded and followed Katelyn to her room, admiring her long, well-muscled legs which were mostly exposed. Her sleep shirt only fell to her upper thighs.
They entered the room where Katelyn walked over to her bed, propped her pillow up against the wall and sat down on the bed leaning against it with her knees drawn up. She told Ashley to sit wherever she’d like.
Ashley sat on the edge of the rather wide twin-size bed. Even the bed was larger than her narrow strip of a bed.
Katelyn folded her forearms across her thighs and asked, “Feeling better now?”
Katelyn smiled gently. “So, Ashley?”
“You got a boyfriend or something?”
Ashley shook her head. She hesitated a moment, then said, “I’ve never actually been with a woman before, but I don’t have to have been to know that I’m gay.”
“Really?” Katelyn said, still smiling.
“Really. That okay?”
Katelyn chuckled. “Yeah, I think so. Especially since my ex had the same parts we do.”
Ashley smiled. So Katelyn really was gay.
“They say the first breakup hurts the worst, but I’m rather glad to be rid of her, to tell you the truth.”
“Was it that bad?”
Katelyn looked thoughtful. “Well, I wouldn’t say it was necessarily bad, but it wasn’t going anywhere either. You ever been with a guy?”
“Yeah, I dated a guy,” Ashley said, “though we didn’t do much. You been with any?”
Katelyn shook her head. “No, I pretty much always knew what I wanted, so that’s what I focused on.”
“Is your family okay with it?”
“Yeah, they are. I think they knew I was gay long before I did. Parents sense these things, I guess. So, are you sure it’s what you want?”
Ashley looked at Katelyn, admiring her eyes of warm chocolate and dared to say, “If I met a girl as nice and as good looking as you are I’d be sure for sure.”
Katelyn smiled. “Aw, how sweet.”
“Do you not like guys?” Ashley asked. “I mean, I know you’re attracted to women, but what do you think of guys in general?”
Katelyn shrugged. “I don’t know. Guys are just guys, I guess. How ’bout you?”
The two laughed heartily.
“At least most of them are, anyway,” Ashley added.
They laughed some more, then went on to talk about things in general such as their hobbies and goals in life, along with what teachers they liked and disliked. Ashley learned that Katelyn hoped to become a prosecutor around the same time Ashley went home to paint all kinds of paintings that would hopefully sell at local galleries, and maybe, if all went really well, she’d branch out from there.
“I considered international law at first,” said Katelyn, “then I said, nah.”
“What about being a defense attorney?”
“No way. Defend people who are more than likely guilty as charged? I don’t think so. I don’t think I could live with myself if I helped to secure a killer’s freedom.”
Not long afterward, Katelyn asked to see any sketches Ashley had, so they headed for her room.
“Wow, you’re good!” said Katelyn with a smile of amazement and delight.
“Thanks,” Ashley said, filled with her own amazement and delight over the fact that this sexy, friendly, intelligent girl seemed to like her.
“I like this one with the little girl and boy playing with the kittens,” Katelyn said before placing the sketchbook down to study a framed photograph. “That’s one very beautiful girl in this picture.”
“That’s me, silly,” Ashley giggled.
“I know. I’m just teasing, though it’s the truth. Who are the people with you, your parents?”
Ashley nodded just as there was a knock on the door. She stepped over to the door and opened it.
It was Nicolette. “Did you hear the news?” she asked.
“No, what’s up?” asked Ashley.
“I still can’t believe it,” Nicolette said with shock. “A girl was murdered in one of the houses here on campus.”
“Oh, my God!” exclaimed Ashley.
“You’re kidding?” said Katelyn at almost the same time.
But they could see just how serious Nicolette truly was.
“So what happened and who was it?” Katelyn asked.
“I don’t know who it was. All they would tell me was that she was a freshman and that she was alone when it happened. She was strangled, I guess, from what I heard, but it didn’t appear like anyone had broken into her house.”
“She must’ve known her attacker,” said Katelyn, “or at least trusted whoever it was enough to let them in.”
“Where did this happen?” asked Ashley.
“On the other side,” said Nicolette.
“The other side?” asked Ashley, confused.
“You know how our house is on the southeast side of the campus?”
“It happened on the northeast side. There are ten rows of houses with ten houses to each row. Ours is in the tenth row, row J, and the murdered girl lived in the first, row A.”
“And they don’t have a clue as to who could’ve done it?” Katelyn asked.
“That’s pretty scary,” Ashley said with dismay written all over her face. “When they talk about crime in the big city, you don’t think of a college campus. You think of rundown neighborhoods filled with gangs and hood rats.”
“Crime isn’t only an inner-city thing, that’s for sure,” said Katelyn.
The trio heard the sound of a door being opened further down the hall, and Nicolette, who was in the doorway, glanced in that direction.
“Did you say someone was killed?” asked Dalene.
Nicolette nodded. “I’ll tell you about it in a sec.” Then she turned back to Ashley and Katelyn.
“I’ll see you both later. Sorry I had to ruin your day and it’s not even lunchtime yet.”
“Yeah, well, just be careful,” Katelyn told her before she went off to talk to Dalene.
Ashley closed her door and glanced at Katelyn. The jovial atmosphere that had filled the room not so long ago was now replaced with anxiety.
“This really sucks, huh?” said Katelyn.
Ashley nodded. “I wonder if my being attacked at the Chinese restaurant has any connection to this.”
“I was wondering the same thing.”
“I do not want to have to tell my aunt about this, Katelyn. All she’ll do is worry.”
“But hun, she’s bound to find out. Murder’s big news, I’m afraid, especially on a college campus.”
“I suppose you’re right. I guess I better call to let her know I’m okay just in case she knows about it already.”
“Okay,” said Katelyn, following Ashley out of her room. “I’ll be in my room if you need me. Just please promise you’ll be careful if you go out, Ashley.”
“Oh, I will. You can rest assured on that one.”
Ashley phoned her aunt who was understandably concerned and promised to be extra careful and not go out after dark, especially alone.