They stopped at Ashley’s dorm first. After Katelyn helped Ashley bring her things in, Katelyn’s mother told her, “It was a delight having you, Ashley. You’re such a sweet young lady and I know your presence made Katelyn’s vacation much more enjoyable. We look very forward to having you back in a few months.”
Katelyn smiled, hands in the pockets of her overalls. She looked like a regular farm girl, though still every bit as beautiful.
Ashley smiled too, and thanked her mother who gave her a warm hug before getting back in the car to head over to Katelyn’s dorm.
“See you, sweets,” Katelyn said, getting behind the wheel once again.
“I’ll be waiting for your call,” Ashley told her.
When Katelyn’s call came, she waited by the back door with her duffel bag in hand. “Say hello to Tina and Margot for me when they get in,” she called out to Lacretta and Amy.
“We will,” Lacretta called back. “Have fun with your girl.”
“Count on it,” said Ashley as Katelyn came into view, “and lock up after me.”
The days turned into weeks. Ashley and Katelyn grew more and more excited the closer they got to graduation day. The only thing that concerned Ashley was the constant nagging feeling she had of being watched. At first, she hesitated to tell Katelyn of these feelings because she knew it would only worry her. One day, though, when they were having lunch, Ashley couldn’t seem to hide her anxieties.
“What’s wrong, babe?” asked Katelyn between bites of stir-fried vegetables.
“Oh, nothing much. Just thinking.”
“Come on now. You know you can’t fool me.”
“Yeah, I know. I just didn’t want to worry you.”
“Well, you’ll worry me for sure if you don’t tell me what’s going on.”
“I’ve just been having this odd feeling,” Ashley began, biting into her egg roll.
“What kind of an odd feeling?”
“The kind you get when you feel like you’re being watched.”
“Oh,” Katelyn said, putting her fork down. “That’s not good. When did this start?”
“It seems like it’s been going on for a while now, but picking up with time.”
“Maybe you ought to tell the police.”
“I can’t tell the police about a mere feeling. You know that. This is New Mexico. Not Texas or Arizona where they take pretty much everything seriously.”
“That’s true.” Katelyn looked thoughtful a moment. “Well, like I always said, be extra careful and don’t go out alone. Don’t even stay in your house alone if you can help it. If no one else is there, get out. If they are there and then they leave, get out. If you can’t call me to come and get you, just get out, but go where there are people, okay?”
Ashley nodded. “I spend all my free time with you, so I doubt I’ll get stranded alone.”
Ashley enjoyed staying with Katelyn so much that she found herself awaiting the end of the school day with impatience.
They started meeting for lunch at Ashley’s place since it was closer to their meeting spot. Now that the mid-May heat had descended upon them, they didn’t want to walk the distance to the Chinese restaurant as often. They saved that for the weekends. It made it more special that way and saved them money as well.
Weekends were something they cherished and looked very forward to. After sleeping in late that Saturday, they decided to head over to the Chinese restaurant. It had been a while since they’d gone there.
“I miss my chow mien,” said Katelyn.
“I miss my glazed chicken,” Ashley added.
Once they got to the small restaurant, they were surprised to find that they were the only ones present.
“Awfully dead for a Saturday,” Katelyn commented.
“This place is dead a lot. Makes me wonder how they stay in business.”
“Well, it’s not quite lunchtime yet, so I suppose that’s part of why it’s so dead,” Katelyn said
after their orders were placed.
“Could be,” said Ashley, sitting down, then standing back up. “I want to use the bathroom before the food arrives.”
“Want me to go with you?”
“Nah, I’ll be okay. If you see anyone enter behind me, then you can come in to see that everything’s okay.”
“You got it,” Katelyn said with a nod.
Ashley entered the restroom and tried not to be spooked by the unpleasant memories it held. She locked herself in a stall and peed. As she was finishing up, she heard the restroom door squeak open.
Her heart began to flutter.
Whoever it was had walked into the room and locked themselves in the stall next to hers. She knew it wasn’t Katelyn because she would have said something.
She waited a minute, surprised Katelyn didn’t enter the restroom. She had been facing the restaurant’s entrance, so she’d have seen anyone coming in. Ashley then stood up and flushed the toilet. She decided not to bother with washing her hands. She would simply head straight for the door and leave.
But that wasn’t to be, for as soon as she was within inches of reaching the restroom door, the other booth’s door flung open behind her and a familiar voice spoke.
“Freeze or I’ll shoot!”
Ashley froze. Although her eyes swung toward the side, she didn’t dare turn around. “Rose?”
“Yeah, it’s me alright, you fucking moron. You can turn around now.”
Rose stood holding a small handgun.
Where was Katelyn?
“What have you done to Katelyn and why are you doing this?”
“I used the service entrance. That bitch that’s been courting you never even saw me,” she said, taking a step closer to Ashley who was trying her hardest to control her quivering. “As for why I’m doing this, take a guess, asshole.”
“Must be either a case of the cops having very big mouths or you overhearing me the other day in the meeting room.”
Rose nodded, eyes smoldering with hate and rage. “Oh, I heard you alright.”
“Gosh, Rose, it was just a suspicion I was voicing. I wasn’t making any accusations and I…”
“Just a suspicion!” Rose said incredulously, raising her voice.
Ashley hoped she’d raise it even louder and that Katelyn or someone would be able to hear it over the eatery’s damn music.
“You’ve ruined my life! The cops do nothing but badger me, all thanks to you, and I’ve been forced to get a restraining order against one of them in particular.”
“But if you didn’t do it, then you’ve got nothing to worry about!” Ashley screamed at the top of her lungs.
“Shut up!” Rose hissed, glancing nervously at the door. “Yell that loud again and I’ll pop you one and be gone forever.”
“Why risk getting caught over me? What, do you want to go to jail, Rose? And why did you kill the others?”
“I killed them for the same reason I’m going to kill you. Because it’s been fun playing games with you stupid people, and the world doesn’t need your kind in it anyway!”
“And what is my kind?” Ashley dared question, now more enraged than scared.
“You figure it out.”
“I’m stumped, Rose, but look, I got a lot planned this weekend and I’d like to forget we ever had this ridiculous little chat and get on with it, okay?”
Rose shook her head with an evil sneer. “See, that’s just it. All anyone wants to do is blow me off. Just dismiss me like I’m an annoying fly or something.”
“Hey, I tried to strike up conversations with you, but you pushed me away.”
“That’s because you were nosy.”
“I was simply trying to get to know you. It’s no one’s fault if you won’t let them penetrate
the wall you obviously have built up around you.”
Rose began to sniffle as her eyes began to water. The gun lowered a few inches and she even started to look away.
Ashley’s body tensed, snapping Rose back into focus. “Don’t even think about it, bitch!” she screamed louder than she herself had screamed a moment ago.
The door opened up and Rose quickly tucked the gun into her pants pocket. “So things are going well? That’s wonderful! I’m so happy for you,” she said, suddenly becoming a whole different person, smiling brilliantly and sending chills throughout Ashley’s rigid body.
The sight of Katelyn flooded Ashley with relief, although Katelyn didn’t appear to realize she was in trouble.
“Oh, hi there, Katelyn,” Rose said with the same phony smile as she turned to face her.
“Howdy,” Katelyn said. In that same instant, she whipped a can of mace from her own pants pocket and sprayed Rose directly in the face.
Rose howled as soon as the spray made contact.
“Get out of here, Ashley!” Katelyn screamed.
Ashley dodged past a flailing Rose and out the door which Katelyn held open. Then Katelyn herself followed, holding the door shut to keep Rose trapped inside.
“Katelyn, no! She could shoot you through the door,” Ashley screamed.
“The cops are on their way!” they heard the counterman shout.
Sure enough, Rose began firing shots through the door, missing them by inches.
Ashley and Katelyn ran, followed by the counterman, his assistant, and his own gun. They ran outside, scaring a couple who saw the counterman’s gun and got the wrong idea. They wanted to get as far from the restaurant as possible, yet remain close enough to warn any potential new customers off.
“She probably got out the service entrance in the back,” said a breathless Ashley. “That’s how she said she got in.”
Just then, two squad cars came to a screeching halt in front of the restaurant, followed by the detectives in an unmarked car.
The counterman tucked his gun into his waistband and raised his hands to chest level to keep the officers from getting nervous.
Just then another shot rang out. It had clearly come from inside the restaurant.
“Oh, no!” the counterman moaned. “Not in my restaurant. I really hope she didn’t kill herself. She’s just a kid, you know?”
Ashley hoped she did, though she didn’t voice this wish. It’s just that she’d rather that than for her to escape so she could go on killing.
A check of the restaurant’s bathroom proved that Ashley’s wish had come true. Rose had indeed killed herself.
In the days ahead, the students were sad to see such a young person so miserable that they would take their own life as well as the lives of others, yet for obvious reasons, a great sense of relief washed over the campus as well.
Two weeks later, Ashley and Katelyn graduated with honors and Ashley went to live with Katelyn, whom she loved even more after she risked her own life to save hers, on her family ranch in Belen after they retrieved her belongings from Iris’s house.
Katelyn then went on to become an ADA while Ashley went on to paint beautiful paintings that would sell in their local galleries and beyond.
They never did return to the Chinese restaurant.