A Series of Unwitting Conspirators: Chapter 3


Chapter Three

‘A Dead Girl’

“Hey Ash, I just wanted to call and tell you I love you. I know I haven’t been a part of your life lately…” The voice spilling over Ashley’s speakerphone cut out unnaturally. She paused at the fridge, holding on to the door but paying more attention to the tone of her friends’ voice. It didn’t even sound like Bree.

Her normal little miss sunshine chirp was nowhere to be found. Bree cleared her throat through the message as if she could hear Ashley’s thoughts.

“I hate myself for that, I wish I was there to celebrate your big day, it wasn’t until I got home…” Bree’s voice quite once more.

Ashley had begun to nod her head through the second part of the message as Bree confirmed her previous assumption. She’d been out all night partying… Ashley opened the fridge door and pulled out the milk, she went to reach for a glass and paused through a sly grin before she opened the jug and took a deep drink straight from the mouth of it.

“Ah, Gaw, I wish you would have answered, I really wanted to hear your voice,” The voice spilling from Ashley’s Bluetooth speaker left a chill at the base of her spine. She’d stopped moving with the jug still in her hand and waited for the punchline with baited breath.

This didn’t sound like the Bree she knew…

“Ash, I am so sorry I won’t be there for your big day and when I checked your Facebook to see what everyone else and their dog had posted something about it…”

Ashley walked slowly toward the counter housing her speaker.

“I am just so proud of you and I don’t think I ever told you enough, I can’t imagine doing what you’ve done. Seriously, I look at what you’ve accomplished…” 

She placed the jug on the surface beside the speaker and rested both hands on either side, leaning in. Ashley could have sworn she’d heard a tear shutter. That’s what they had named the deep involuntary shivering breath sucked in after a good cry.

“And what I haven’t… I don’t know why you ever chose me for your best friend.” Ashley’s eyes bulged, She’d always felt like the lucky one… Bree was such a free spirit, she followed the winds, trusting fate to lead her where she needed to be.

Where are you, Bree? Where is this coming from? Ashley leaned in and cocked her head to hear it better, a pit was growing in the center of her stomach.

I should just call her… Ashley thought but the voice cut through the sentiment, demanding a moment more.

“I am just, so, tired.” The voice shifted in tone with a wispy halfhearted laugh. There was movement in the background.

“I just want you to know I am sorry, and I am proud, and none of this, not even a single piece of it is your fault.” Bree’s voice shuttered obviously, “I love you, Ashley.”

The line went dead. “End of message, would you like to replay this message?”

Ashley swept up her phone and hit the call button as fast as she could. She paced her way over the wood floor surrounding the island at its center.

The empty space was filled with the sound of a ring, Ashley pulled the device violently from her ear and switched the Bluetooth off before replacing it against her head.

The phone rang again… and again…

“Hey! I am not around to take your call but leave a message, five points if you make me laugh!” The chipper recording sounded nothing like the voice she’d just finished listening too.

Ashley hung up the phone quickly and tried again. She looked at the clock while she waited for an answer. 6:15 PM, what would Bree be doing right now?

A pang of sadness punched her in the heart as she realized she had no idea what her friend was doing anymore. Ashley sifted through the recent memories of their conversations. it had always been about Ashley’s schooling, something funny a professor had said, a role-playing courtroom event that had taken a twist in her favor…

“Hey! I am not around to take your call but leave a message, five points if you make me laugh!”

“Damn it!” Ashley yelled out, smacking the end button before immediately tapping the call symbol once again.

She’s probably just out being fabulous somewhere, totally forgot she’d called me last night… She must have been drunk. Even as the thoughts and excuses reached her mind Ashley knew they couldn’t be true.

“Hey! I am not around to take your call but leave a message, five points if you make me laugh!”

“DAMN IT!” Ashley threw her phone on the counter and rushed to her bedroom. She thrust open her laptop half expecting to see some new post from this morning or afternoon. nothing. 

Her heart sunk just in time for it to come rushing into her throat at the sound of her phone ringing from the kitchen.

“Oh, thank God!” She almost fell over herself in an effort to make it back before the third ring. Only to see the wrong name, which sent her hopeful heart back into her stomach.

“Hey, Minnie.” She answered dejectedly.

“Well, that doesn’t sound like someone who just aced their BAR.” Minnie sounded disappointed.

“No, sorry, what’s up?” Ashley did her best to sound perkier. Since it sounded like a constipated effort in her mind, she was sure it wouldn’t convince Minnie either.

“Woah, hey, what’s up with you?” Minnie countered.

“Sorry,” Ashley cringed at her second unnecessary apology. “I can’t get a hold of Bree, I am a little worried.”

Minnie’s laugh sounded relieved. “Oh Ash, I am sure she is fine, probably out partying or doing something crazy, don’t worry, just bring your phone, come out and celebrate with your other friends.” She paused until Ashley didn’t answer back right away before continuing.

“I am sure she will call you back she’s probably just out or left her phone at home while running to the grocery store, or a coffee shop? Seriously, don’t beat yourself up! YOU should be partying right now!”

Ashley smiled, still not convinced completely, but she appreciated the effort. “Thanks, Minnie, yeah, you are probably right but I’m going to make one more call just in case.”

“Ooookay, your call, but we are all starting at Barfies at 9:30.” She seemed so excited about it and all Ashley could think about was how ridiculous the name was, ridiculous enough that she couldn’t resist the urge to check it out.

“Barfies, huh? Probably smart to start there since most peoples first instinct would be to hit that one last.” Ashley joked. She felt better already, It was probably nothing after all. 

“Oh yeah? Well, we aren’t ordinary people anymore my friend. We are lawyers.” Minnie said in a professional tone.

“Alright Min, you win, I will see you there, but I won’t stay out late, I’m thinking about taking a trip to celebrate, I will need to be up and figuring that shit out before too late. preferably without a hangover?”

“You say that now.”  Minnie laughed.

“I’ll see you in a few, and Ash?” Minnie’s voice turned over a new note of sincerity.

“Try not to worry okay? You are such a good friend but if she really needed you right now, she would have answered. This is your day too, okay?” She waited for Ashley to answer.

“Thank you Min, you are the best. I will text you before I leave here.” Something didn’t sit, but Minnie was right, she couldn’t do anything right now, she wasn’t even sure where her best friend was living at the moment. A pang of guilt crept into Ashley’s heart as she realized once again how little she knew of her best friends life now.

She grabbed a towel from the table on her way through the dining room resolutely.

Starting tomorrow, that would change.

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