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It's Never Too Late                                                                                                                         Chapter 5

"Ash? Ash, girlie, are you alright?" A weird voice bounced around in her head. She slowly forced her eyes to open, the weird figures slowly taking their real shapes there in front of her. The nearest thing took a form of Mickie James.

"What happened?" she asked whispering, seeing a relief on Mickie's face growing as she heard her friend finally answering to her calls.

"I don't know girl. You just ran out from the music class and then Jeff found you from outside the school, passed out," Mickie explained as much as she knew. Sighing Ashley pulled herself up in a sitting position, starting to check her surroundings. After a while she recognized the place as a school nurse's room.

"Jeff brought you here. We thought you could use some rest," Mickie said sitting down to a chair near the bed Ashley was sitting at. "And there is no worries about the karaoke competition - we called you and Randy off so you don't have to stress yourself about that. Just get some rest now."

Without answering Ashley looked her friend. What had happened just now? All she remembered was running away from the classroom after seeing…

"Phil," Ashley gasped, confusion and panic forming on her face as she turned to look back Mickie, "Have you seen Phil?"

"Phil? Ash, darling, did you hit your head while passing out?" Mickie questioned tilting her head worriedly. Groaning Ashley threw her legs over the edge of the bed, staring Mickie from eye to eye. "I'm serious here, Micks. I saw him, I touched him, I even kiss--"

"How are you doing here?" Jeff's voice asked from the doorway. Ashley snapped her mouth shut, before giving a smile to her rainbow haired friend, "Not bad, just waked up."

"I'm going to leave you to here together," Mickie quickly muttered, getting up from the chair. "I need to catch up with Trish." And with just that, she stormed out from the room, leaving Ashley and Jeff looking after her confused.

"Anyway," Jeff cut the silence between the two, taking over the chair where Mickie had sat just now, "Are you alright?"

"Could be better, but I'm just fine," Ashley smirked. Nodding Jeff handed her schoolbag to her. "The nurse said that you don't have a concussion or anything, you are just okay. And I informed the teachers about what happened and they said that you can go home to rest if you feel like it."

"I better not be alone now," Ashley shrugged, placing the bag on her side on the bed. "He will come back to me… I can feel it."

"You mean that weird stalker that you keep seeing and who sends you text messages like yesterday?" Jeff asked with raised eyebrow. Ashley answered with only a nod. "Well then, I think I have to come with you."

"Missing even more classes than you already do?"

"Hey, for you, anything," Jeff grinned, offering his hand to Ashley, the punk girl grabbing it as he pulled her on her feet.

"And remember," Jeff continued as the two made their way out from the nurses room and slowly continued to make their way on the hallway toward the front doors. "If there is anything you want to talk about, I'm right here ready to listen." Without replying anything Ashley looked the boy on her side, nodding to him with a little smile wondering on her lips.

Not long after that they arrived back to Ashley's home, where they had left earlier that morning. Sighing Ashley dug through her school bag before finding her keys, opening the door and letting Jeff inside. With a smile and quick nod he passed the punk girl, dropping his shoes off to the hall near the door, walking to the living room waiting for Ashley, who quickly caught up with him and sat heavily on the couch next to Jeff, who looked her with amused grin.

"What?" Ashley asked, her eyes wondering on Jeff's. He left out a soft chuckle without turning his eyes away from her. "I was just thinking… We have the whole house to ourselves for the next four or five hours."

"Wow, you seem to know more about my parents schedule than I do," Ashley smirked, receiving another soft chuckle from her friend. "Well, I found out everything this morning, while I was waiting for you. Your mom told me."

"Well then I think it's less weird," she shrugged, getting up from the couch, finally releasing her eyes from Jeff. "You hungry?"

"Nope, not really," Jeff shrugged, pulling himself up from the couch as well before following Ashley to the kitchen, sitting around the table, observing her every move she made through the kitchen, trying to find all the items she needed in order to make some hot chocolate for the two of them. "I just ate like fifteen minutes ago in the canteen."

"Oh? You were eating while I had passed out? You were not worried about me?"

"Your point?" Jeff questioned while Ashley started to heat up a kettle full of milk. She chuckled to him over her shoulder.

"Well, I mean if it was you who got hurt, I would have been so sick of worry that I couldn't have eaten anything and would just have been sitting there next to you until you woke up. But what do I know, you are not me," she stated while picking two mugs from a cabin nearby. Jeff's eyes were still following her movement, while his brain started to go through the information they had just gathered. Couple of wrinkles appeared on his forehead, like he was thinking seriously through the whole thing. Ashley couldn't help herself from seeing this, giving a friendly, amused smile to Jeff.

"That hard to think about it, huh?" she giggled, Jeff only giving her a small nod.

"No, that's actually not what I'm wondering," Jeff stated slowly, Ashley raising an eyebrow toward him. "Could this whole passing out thing be related to your… So called 'Halloween depression'?"

Sighing Ashley turned back toward the kettle, looking how the milk slowly started to warm up. She didn't answer anything. What she could even tell him? That it was definitely all about it, but would he buy a reason like Phil? Some random guy who happened to be her friend, disappearing and now she was hallucinating about him. Well, not really hallucinating, she had been touching him and Jeff could hear him too…

"Ash?" Jeff asked carefully, standing up and walked around the table to Ashley, gently placing his hand on her shoulder. Ashley was so deep in her thoughts that she jumped when she felt the touch and pushed the kettle down to the floor, warm milk spreading all over the kitchen floor. Both youngsters turned their eyes to the floor, before looking each other, both with huge, scared eyes.

"Whoops?" Jeff asked carefully, Ashley shaking her head and jumping over the puddle of milk and made her way straight to the closet on the back of the kitchen, pulling two towels out from it, throwing one to Jeff as they started to clean the milk from the floor.

"Sorry, this wasn't my plan at all," Jeff exclaimed feeling guilty about startling his friend, but Ashley just kept shaking her head, "It wasn't your fault, I was in my thoughts."

After couple of minutes of cleaning, there was only two wet and milky towels left on the floor. Carefully Jeff lifted the kettle to the sink, shutting of the cooking plate. Ashley sat on the floor looking at the towel on her feet, her mind once again racing in Phil. Could she pull enough courage together to tell Jeff about the whole, stupid Phil thing? And what if he didn't understand? Or what if he did but she didn't tell him?

"Oh gosh it's so hard," Ashley sighed to herself, Jeff's eyes quickly turning toward her. "What is hard?"

"Oh, nothing," Ashley muttered jumping up and picking the two towels with her and directed her steps back to the closet where she had picked the towels, opening it and placing the towels into a laundry basket that was hiding in the same closet as the towels. She threw the towels to the basket, closing the double doors sighing before turning around - getting face to face with Jeff. Ashley jumped back until she pressed her back against he closet doors, Jeff's hands placed on both sides of her so she didn't have anywhere to run.

"Talk to me," Jeff demanded, his dark eyes having a weird, kind of scary shine in them. Ashley shivered, turning her eyes away from her friend to the floor.

"There is nothing to talk about," she muttered, hearing Jeff sighing heavily.

"You expect me to believe that?" he asked, sounding really tired of this act they were going through once again. "I can see that there is something wrong. Tell me."

"It's none of your business," Ashley spat lifting her eyes up once again, glaring at Jeff and tried to push him away from her, without success.

"It's all my business," Jeff stated back, slowly leaning closer to Ashley, until their foreheads were pressed against each other. Ashley had no choice but to look him into the eyes, seeing how hurt he was inside - she keeping a secret like this from him, only letting him see how hurt she was but not letting him help. There was nobody to help her in this. Not even Jeff.

"I can see there is something wrong. What is it?" Ashley kept her mouth shut, her lips forming a straight, tight line. Jeff sighed once again to her stubbornness, biting his lower lip trying to think some other way to get her react than the one that was wondering inside his head… He didn't want to pull that card out of his sleeve yet, but it seemed it was all he could do now. If he didn't do it, if he didn't bring it up now, he could never find out about the truth.

"It's about that guy you and Mickie were talking about, right?" His words pierced through Ashley harder than he thought, the girls eyes widening, still staring at him. "What was his name? Phil?"

"How the hell you know about him?" Ashley asked, this time it was her turn to bite her lip, doing everything the tears would not take over her eyes. Jeff let out a smile sigh, before trying to put on a smile. "I heard you and Mickie talking about that in the nurses room."

"You were listening?!" she spat to him, almost immediately regretting it. She was suppose to keep Phil a secret from him, but after this… He will be thinking everything he said so far was correct. Like it was. "It was a private conversation!"

"I was just behind the door, coming inside when I heard you girls talking," he tried, trying to keep his voice as calm and easygoing as possible. Ashley groaned loudly, pushing Jeff's forehead away from hers, cutting some ear between them. Jeff could help seeing her eyes having a wet shine on them.

"So who is he?"

"An old friend, nothing you should be worried about."

"But something you should be worried?"

"Just stop getting involved in my life!" Ashley almost screamed to him, still trying to keep her voice calm yet loud, pulling all her power together and pushed Jeff away from her. He was pretty confused about the sudden exploding, as far as he knew, Ashley was always such a sweetheart, never yelling or getting mad at anybody… But this was the side he had never seen of her.

Jeff stumbled couple of steps away from Ashley, opening his mouth in, but before any words popped out from it, Ashley pulled her hand back, getting ready to slap Jeff across the face. Jeff stood there stunning looking at the tears that kept pouring out of Ashley's eyes while the girl screamed at him to leave her alone. And just when she was ready to give Jeff the beating she thought he deserved, her actions were stopped - somebody grabbed her wrist and there was a gentle touch on her shoulder, before a soft voice whispered in her ear, making Ashley's eyes widen and the tears stopped the pouring for a second as she looked toward the voice, meeting a smiling face of a young guy, his hazel eyes looking straight in hers.

Quickly Ashley pulled her wrist away from his grip, jumping couple of feet away from him. Jeff's eyes were locked on the spot the boy was standing as well… Was he able to see him this time? Was the only thought that crossed Ashley's mind, before her eyes met those hazel ones again. He was tall, just a little bit taller than Jeff was, his black little bit curvy hair covering most of his facial details, only showing the hazel eyes and a smiling, narrow lips with a small piercing on the left corner of the upper lip and one on the left eyebrow. He was dressed just like a normal teenager - a black button up t-shirt with two or three top buttons open, dark tight jeans and black converses. The only thing bothering in his perfect appearance was the fact, that he looked more pale than anyone else they had ever seen.

"P-Philly?" Ashley asked carefully whispering, Jeff's ears registering that she knew this person. Trying to hide his confusion toward how this guy suddenly appeared behind her out of nowhere, Jeff kept staring at him, trying to get something smart out of his mouth.

"Ashley Marie Massaro," the guy chuckled slowly and quietly, making chills jump up and down on Ashley's spine. It was Phil, nobody else would ever have enough courage to call her by her full name. "How long it has been now? Four years?"

"Almost five," Ashley answered still whispering, taking a trembling breath without releasing her eyes from Phil's. The guy chuckled again, turning toward Jeff this time, who changed his weight from feet to feet, trying to hide his nervousness by trying to keep his impression as normal as possible. "And I don't think I have ever met you."

Jeff didn't answer anything. Phil looked him up and down, giving out another chuckle before turning back toward Ashley, giving her the best smile he could put up to. "Why did you go?" Ashley asked before Phil could say anything to her. She wanted her answers and she wanted them now. For almost five years now she had been wondering the same thing and this was the only way to found out. It was now or never. Phil continued to chuckle, shaking his head a bit, "You wouldn't believe me."

"You don't know that until you try," Ashley stated, her voice slowly getting louder and she didn't whisper anymore. Jeff looked both of them still confused, not saying even a word. The whole situation was too weird for him.

"Believe me, you don't want to know. And you wouldn't understand."

"Why do you think I ask if I don't want to know? Or can take the consequences?" Phil sighed, she was as stubborn as he remembered. "For the past five years it has been the only thing I could think about - where did you go, why did you leave me like that." Ashley's voice had been returning to the whispering level as she tried to swallow down her tears. Phil's hazel eyes traveled around the kitchen, before laying on Jeff.

"I would come back earlier if I could have," he slowly started, his eyes still laying on Jeff whose eyes were locked to Ashley, trying to see her reaction to the spoken words. "But I knew you wasn't ready to see me like this. And I wouldn't be ready either. I couldn't control myself."

"Control what?" This time it was Jeff's voice which asked the question. Ashley was so concentrated on listening, that she couldn't even open her mouth to ask him the same thing Jeff was wondering. Again, a chuckle from Phil, this time with a little bit of amusement in it.

"My thirst," he answered with a small shrug, until a playful smile reappeared on his lips. Ashley's eyes wondered to Jeff, who had turned his attention totally to Phil. "I wasn't going to risk your life. It was enough that I had become like this."