24 | Ashley's Asylum

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Ashley's tired eyes opened to the grey light of dawn. Despite the enormous bouts of anxiety and turbulent emotion she had been suffering this past fortnight, her heart was steady and her spirit was enveloped in a sense of resignation. The 24hour clock on the side read 4.02am in luminous green. It was day 14 and her wait was over.

Ashley remained in bed until she could hear Kate and Ben moving around. She let out a long careful breath before she went down the stairs to see them both going about their morning. She needed to get them out of the house at all costs.

Ashley wasn't sure how much time she had or whether Michael and Sam would be brazen enough to approach her home in daylight, it seemed ludicrous in her eyes but it wouldn't be the first nor the boldest act they'd committed. Michael and Sam didn't play by the rules of rationality; she wouldn't be surprised if they rang the doorbell.

Ben had work from midday which left her Aunt to take care of and she wasn't likely to leave Ashley alone which led to her main dilemma.

Ben and Kate paused their conversation upon noticing her presence and watched her walk into the kitchen with probing eyes.

Ashley smiled back at them and retrieved a cup from a cupboard for her first coffee of the day. Her hair was washed and pinned back by an Alice-band; her clothes were fresh and to some extent so was her appearance.

"You look nice" Ben offered untactfully.

Ashley nodded, "Thanks, I feel better today."

Kate's lips squirmed around her face for a few seconds before she smiled and moved to wrap Ashley in a brief squeeze.

"Good for you Ash, I'm glad" Ben exclaimed, uncertain how best to express his happiness that she was on the mend. "Takeaway on me tonight."

Kate grinned at her husband wistfully and gave Ashley another sideways squeeze. "Ooo, d'you hear that? Moth's for pockets is going to pay for something" she crooned playfully.

Ashley played along with a chuckle and went about making her drink. If this was going to be her last day of relative normality she was going to make it as easy for her guardians as possible.

It wasn't easy playing someone on the mend when Ashley experienced bouts of screaming worry that Michael and Sam were minutes away from completely breaking her. The charade paid off when Kate decided to go food shopping to pick up a nice lunch and some treats. Ashley had spent hours in bed trying to figure out how to make Kate comfortable enough to leave her alone.

"Are you sure you don't want to come, I mean will you be okay? It'll do you good to get out of the house" Kate urged as she gathered up her purse and cars keys.

Ashley leant against the hall wall and nodded. "I'm sure, I'm not ready to face the outside just yet, I'd rather let the dust settle. I promise I'll be fine."

Kate dawdled for a while longer before taking her leave. As soon as the car pulled off of the driveway Ashley darted up the stairs and leapt upon her bed pillow where a mallet hid beneath. This was it! This was the moment, the pinnacle of all the pressure she'd been feeling since Michael dumped her at the surgery; she could feel the gravity of the situation right down to her core.

Stampeding down the stairs, Ashley set upon the kitchen cutlery drawer and grabbed a few knives, a roll of masking tape and set about taping weapons beneath cabinets, coffee tables and other furniture. It was easy to feign a panicked fall to the floor and suspicions wouldn't be aroused until she embedded her hidden weapon into the closest body part. Ashley counted and memorised her hidden Easter Eggs before she lifted up her top and taped a steak knife under her cleavage. All this was for nought if they brought a gun to a sword fight which was highly likely, but Ashley was relying on Michael's twisted fondness for her to cancel out the use of guns.

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