Black Lingerie Chronicles, Part Nine

“Is that the Black Lingerie Chronicle?”

Ashley glanced up from what she had been writing and saw Erin sitting up in bed. The girl had just woke up, and she was a disheveled mess. Her hair was mussed and she had pillow lines on the left side of her face but Ashley still thought she looked cute. She gave her friend a smile and nodded. Yawning, Erin got out of bed and came over to where Ashley sat at her desk. She only wore a pair of panties and a t-shirt, her long legs bare. Ashley took a moment to admire them, as the girl walked toward her. Erin surprised her by sitting on her lap. Grinning, she wrapped her arms around the girl’s waist.

“How did you get this out?” Erin asked, picking up the notebook.

Grinning, Ashley said, “I’ve seen you open the hiding spot enough times to learn the pressure points.”

“Ah,” Erin said, nodding.

“Is it okay? I guess I should have asked before doing it,” Ashley said, with a sheepish grin.

“No, it’s cool,” Erin said, reading what Ashley had been working on, “how long have you been up?”

“About an hour. I grabbed a shower then started working on that list,” Ashley said.

“There are a lot of questions here,” Erin said, glancing at her.

Shrugging, Ashley said, “It is just little things that I’ve wondered about the Place of Locked Doors. Like why do we always materialize in Natty’s old bedroom?”

Erin said, “I might have a theory about that. A couple, actually.”

“Really?”

“I figure Natty’s old bedroom is the genesis of the Place of Locked Doors. It is where she… Where she killed herself. I think the Place of Locked Doors was created when she died as a sort of… Punishment? Maybe not a punishment but a waiting room. Do you know what I mean?” Erin asked, meeting Ashley’s eyes.

Ashley nodded, “I always figured it was a place like purgatory, neither Heaven nor Hell but somewhere in between.”

“Exactly,” Erin said, smiling at her, “anyway, I think Natty’s room is the closest to our world. I think there is a connection between here and there in that room because it is where Natty first entered the Place of Locked Doors. She went from one plane to the next of existence and, maybe, it left a… Thin spot?”

“Huh,” Ashley said, mulling it over. It made sense… Well, as much sense as anything involving the Place of Locked Doors ever did.

“Plus,” Erin said, going on, “it was where Natty was. We were drawn to the girl by the connection created by wearing the lingerie. She used to always be in that room. Maybe we just go there as… I don’t know. Force of habit?

“That makes sense,” Ashley said, then frowned, “but I wonder if we decided to materialize in, say… The living room, instead. Do you think we could?”

“I don’t know,” Erin said, shrugging, “I never thought to try.”

“I’m going to try next time I visit,” Ashley said, grinning excitedly, “I only have to figure out how to do it.”

Laughing, Erin said, “Yeah. The Place of Locked Doors needs a user manual.”

“Tell me about it,” Ashley said, shaking her head.

Erin read the first question on the list out loud, “Is it always dark at the Place of Locked Doors? Well, it is usually night when we visit Natty.”

“I know,” Ashley said, glancing at the window, “It’s sunny out today. Would it be sunny there if we visited her now?”

“Um, maybe,” Erin said, shrugging.

“That’s another question that bothers me,” Ashley said, excitement creeping into her voice, “do we have to be asleep to flip over?”

Erin got off Ashley’s lap, laughing, “I’m going to grab a shower. This conversation is getting too deep, and I need to wake up first.”

Ashley watched her go to her dresser, admiring her long legs and her backside in the cute little panties she wore, again. She wished she could join her in the shower, but Erin’s parents might be a bit suspicious if they caught them coming out of the bathroom together. Keeping Mr. and Mrs. Brolin clueless was the only way they could keep having their fun. With a heavy sigh and a rueful smile, she watched Erin leave the room for her shower.

Glancing at the bed, she saw Mindy still sound asleep. Grinning, she went to the bed and crawled under the covers. Mindy shifted but didn’t wake up as Ashley’s weight settled onto the bed. Ashley moved against her, spooning with her. Mindy stirred but didn’t wake up. Grinning, Ashley thought the girl was a heavy sleeper.

She put her hand on the girl’s hip, then eased it around and down, between the girl’s thighs. Through the thin cotton of her panties, Ashley teased the girl’s bud. Mindy finally woke up, sighing. She glanced over her shoulder to see who was touching her and smiled. Her beautiful blue eyes flashed at Ashley, and she bit her lip. She moaned as Ashley’s fingers continued their lazy circles.

“Should you really be doing that?” Mindy sighed, opening her legs a little, so Ashley had easier access.

“Do you want me to stop?” Ashley asked, grinning.

“No,” Mindy said, her hips beginning to move on their own.

Her backside was rubbing against Ashley’s lower abdomen deliciously.
Ashley rolled her hips into the girl, sighing at the wonderful sensation it sent through her young body. Hearing her sigh, Mindy looked at Ashley over her shoulder and put a hand on the redhead’s buttock. She urged Ashley to keep moving against her.

Ashley slipped her hand into Mindy’s panties and the girl’s breath caught in her throat. She bit her knuckle to stifle the moans that wanted to escape her. Ashley’s able fingers were making it hard for her to keep quiet.

“That feels so good,” Mindy breathed.

“Best way to wake up, right?” Ashley asked, grinning. She kissed Mindy’s shoulder at the base of her neck.

“Yeah,” the brunette moaned. She buried her face in her pillow as little noises of enjoyment started getting louder.

Ashley rolled her eyes to the door, her heart beating faster in her breast. She knew it wasn’t likely that Erin’s mom would check on them, but it was still a possibility. Would they be able to untangle themselves in time, if she did decide to look in on her daughter and her friends? Would the woman know what they had been up to by the guilty looks on their faces?

She shook her head at how much the danger turned her on. As she became more and more turned on, Mindy’s body moving against her own had her in a state. The girl’s buttocks were nestled against her lower abdomen and the pressure on her clit was delicious. She buried her face in Mindy’s neck to muffle her own sounds of enjoyment.

She wondered if Mindy was thinking about the risk they were taking or was she lost in the wonderful sensations washing through her body. She thought it was at least in the back of her mind, which is why she had her face buried in the pillow.

Grinning, Ashley let her fingers move faster and faster until the girl was writhing against her. Even the pillow wasn’t doing much to muffle her cries, anymore. It did even less as Ashley’s fingers moved lower and eased inside of her ready core.

Ashley bit the girl’s shoulder to keep her own cries in check. She had climbed into bed to give Mindy a nice wake-up, but she hadn’t anticipated how turned on she’d end up making herself. She loved the feel of Mindy’s body rubbing against her own.

The brunette’s fingers tightened on the pillow in a death grip, and it looked like the girl was trying to smother herself. Ashley didn’t let up, kept pushing Mindy closer and closer to her climax.

And her own in the process.

It didn’t take long for tension to gather in Mindy. Ashley had her tiptoeing right on the edge of ecstasy, leaning and leaning and… Mindy suddenly stiffened against Ashley, one last cry ripping from her. Ashley wrapped her arms around the Mindy as she trembled with her orgasm, still rubbing her girlhood against the girl’s backside. Mindy gasped each time their bodies met, her body sensitive still.

Ashley stiffened against her, gasping as she came. Her orgasm had its way with her, her nerve endings singing. She squeezed Mindy tightly, kissed her neck. Light as a feather on a breeze, she floated down from the heights of her climax.

Eventually, Mindy turned in her arms to face her, grinning. She kissed Ashley, didn’t let up until the redhead’s toes were curled.

“Wow,” Ashley said, her voice husky.

The door opened, and Mindy pulled away in a hurry, but it was Erin back from her shower. Erin took one look at Mindy’s face and just shook her head.

“I can’t leave you two alone for five minutes,” she said, grinning as she flopped on the bed, “you are just lucky it was me and not my mom. You two look guilty as hell.”

“Sleepyhead wasn’t waking up,” Ashley said.

“You could have just shaken her shoulder,” Erin said, laughing.

“Where’s the fun in that?” Ashley asked, winking at Mindy. The girl smiled at her.

“I got to thinking about what you said while I was in the shower,” Erin said, and then for Mindy’s benefit, “Ashley has been up a while and making a list of questions about the Place of Locked Doors.”

“What kind of questions?” Mindy asked, glancing at Ashley.

“Well,” Ashley said, getting off the bed and grabbing the Chronicle. She passed it to Mindy, then turned to Erin, “what are you thinking?”

“I’m thinking we can answer a few of your questions,” Erin said, grinning at her, “I think we should visit Natty. I think we should do it now, and I think we should do it while we are awake. Or, at least, try. I think we should also try to materialize somewhere other than Natty’s old room. While we are there, we can find what Natty knows about the dolphin.”

“The dolphin!” Ashley said, her eyes widening, “I had forgotten about the dolphin.”

“So, what do you all think? Want to try it?” Erin asked, looking from Mindy to Ashley.

“I’m cool with it,” Mindy said, then asked, “but why is going now significant?”

“We’ve never visited Natty in the daytime,” Ashley said.

“Oh,” Mindy said, frowning, “I never thought about that before. It makes sense, though. We are usually asleep when we visit her. Now I get what Erin was saying about being awake. And we always appear in her old bedroom. You know, I’ve never thought about any of this.”

“Yeah,” Erin said, grinning at Ashley, “that’s why we keep her around.”

“Hey,” Ashley said, pretending to be hurt.

“You know we love you,” Mindy said, hugging her.

“Jokes aside,” Erin said, smiling at Ashley, “I’m glad you are mixed up in this with us.”

Grinning, Ashley asked, “How do you think we should do this?”

“It is still fairly early,” Erin said, glancing at the alarm clock on her bedside table, “I think we should get back under the covers and pretend we are still asleep.”

“Why?” Mindy asked, raising her eyebrows.

“When you flip over to the Place of Locked Doors,” Erin said, shivering, “you are basically in a coma. It’s like…your mind leaves your body. I figure we might fool my parents if they want to check on us.”

Laughing, Ashley said, “Yeah. It probably wouldn’t be good if they saw us passed out on the floor.”

“Exactly,” Erin said.

“Okay,” Mindy said, then asked, “But how do we flip if we are awake?”

“I don’t have a clue,” Erin said, shaking her head and laughing.

“Right,” Ashley said, holding up the comforter. Grinning, Erin joined them under the covers.

Ashley closed her eyes and pictured Natty’s living room in her mind, down to the little details. She tried to will herself to go there, to flip over to the Place of Locked Doors but nothing happened. She didn’t have a clue how to do it. It just sort of happened when she was asleep. Now, she was at a loss.

She heard one of the girls inhale deeply, then let it out in slow, drawn out exhale. When it went on for an impossibly long time, she opened her eyes and saw Erin staring blankly up at the ceiling. She was a still as a rock, unblinking. Ashley waved her hand in front of the girl’s face but got no reaction. She saw Mindy looking at her wide eyed.

“Holy shit,” Ashley said, the excitement creeping into her voice, “she did it!”

“Jesus,” Mindy said, laughing, “that was creepy!”

“She’s just gone,” Ashley said, gently shaking the girl. Erin didn’t respond, showed no sign of being aware that she was being touched. Ashley pinched her arm but got no pain reflex. She glanced at Mindy, who shrugged.

“Wonder how she did it,” Ashley asked, looking at Erin’s glassed over eyes. They were dilated, the pupils impossibly wide.

“I tried picturing the living room,” Mindy said, rubbing her arms, “then imagined myself sitting on the couch but it didn’t work.”

“I tried pretty much the same thing,” Ashley said.

Suddenly, Erin inhaled deeply, and it lasted almost twenty seconds. Her pupils contracted as Ashley watched and suddenly Erin was back. She jerked, startled to see Ashley’s face so close to hers. Then she laughed and said, “Jesus, Ashley. You scared the hell out of me.”

“Me?” Ashley said, laughing incredulously, “you were gone! I pinched your arm, and you didn’t even flinch.”

“I flipped over,” Erin said, grinning, “I ended up in Natty’s old bedroom, but I was definitely awake when I flipped.”

“How did you do it?” Ashley asked, an excited shiver working up her spine.

“I held this,” Erin said, holding up the necklace Natty have given her as a birthday present, “and focused on it and its twin in the Place of Locked Doors. I imagined a line between them then let my mind wander. It was really weird, but I felt my mind leaving my body. Have you ever stepped in deep mud and it sucks at your foot. It was kind of like that except it was my conscious I pulled free of the mud instead of my shoe.”

Ashley glanced at Mindy and saw the girl staring at Erin, dumbfounded. Ashley knew how she felt. She turned to look at Erin and asked, “What the hell? How did you know to do that?”

Erin laughed and said, “I might have read a few articles on the internet.”

“And you weren’t going to share?” Ashley asked, giving her a dirty look.

“Hey,” Erin said, holding up her hands, “I didn’t know if it would work or not. The author was never successful.”

“You sure as hell were,” Mindy said.

Grinning, Erin asked, “Do you want me to tell you the answers to your questions?”

“Hell no,” Ashley said, crawling over her and getting off the bed, “if you can do it, then so can I.”

Erin laughed as Ashley went to Erin’s desk. When she turned around, she had Erin’s digital camera in her hand. She held it up and asked, “This should work, right?”

Nodding, Erin said, “Probably. It exists both here and there.”

Ashley came back to the bed. She urged Erin to scoot into the middle, then crawled under the covers. Her hand was shaking with nervous excitement as she closed her eyes and tried to picture the digital camera’s twin in the Place of Locked Doors. She had too many chaotic thoughts running around in her brain, and her heart was knocking around her chest like a crazed animal. Taking several long, slow breaths, she forced herself to relax. She pushed all of the random thoughts aside, focused on the digital camera in her hand.

She just about had it when she heard Mindy say, “Wait. What about me?”

“Here, take the necklace,” Erin said, her weight shifting on the bed, “I don’t think I need it anymore.”

Opening her eyes, Ashley asked, “What do you mean?”

“That first time,” Erin said, grinning, “I think I just needed the necklace to show me the way.”

“And you think you can find your way without it?” Ashley asked, frowning.

“Yeah, I do,” Erin said.

“Really?” Ashley asked, dubious.

“Once you do it, you’ll understand,” Erin said, closing her eyes.

Ashley watched as her face went completely slack as she relaxed. There was a faint twitch of her lip as she concentrated. Then Ashley felt… Something. It was like the heaviness of the air right before a thunderstorm. The air itself seemed full of potential, like something was just waiting to happen. She held her breath, her emerald eyes never leaving Erin’s face. Then the girl took in a shallow breath and breathed it out in an impossibly long breath. Ashley couldn’t see the change in her pupils with her eyes closed but she knew the girl was gone. She had flipped over to the Place of Locked Doors.

Glancing at Mindy, she saw the girl looking wide-eyed at her. Ashley grinned at her excitedly, said, “Holy shit.”

Mindy ran her hand through her air and said, “I guess it is our turn.”

“Yeah,” Ashley said.

She closed her eyes again, forced herself to relax. When she felt calm enough, she pictured the digital camera in the Place of Locked Doors. With it fixed in her mind, she connected an imaginary line between the one in her hand and its twin on the other side. That was the easy part. Now, all she had to do was cast her consciousness out of her body and use that line as a guide to reach Natty’s plane of existence.

The problem was, she had no idea how to do that. Erin had said it so matter-of-factly, like it was something everyone knew how to do. Ashley had been so stunned that Erin had actually done it, that she forgot to get some more details on how she had done it. Her description had been vague at best and more about what it had been like than how to do it.

Ashley thought about it for a second, then about her imaginary line between the two cameras. Frowning, she wondered if that could be the key. She visualized a light switch with an engraved plate above it that read: My Body. Flipping this switch would sever her connection with her body, setting her consciousness free. She really focused on the concept, then imagined herself throwing the switch.

She felt herself stretched, tugged in opposite directions. It was like two fingers stuck together with honey slowly pulled apart. She recognized it from Erin’s description and knew she was flipping. Her body clung to her, tried to draw her back in, but its grip was weakening. Then like a cork finally worked loose of a champagne bottle, she was free. She floated weightlessly in the unbroken darkness, all of her senses working but there was nothing to sense. It wasn’t just darkness but a nothingness.

Well, almost nothing. The imaginary line she had pictured in her head glowed a pale blue in the darkness. She saw it stretching out into the distance, and she had no way of knowing how far it went. Feet or miles, judging distance was impossible in the nothingness.

Curiously, she realized she was in motion. At first, she hadn’t noticed because she had no visual reference- no passing trees or objects getting closer or further away. Even now she couldn’t really say how she knew she was moving. Still, she knew she was being propelled forward.

How far or how long she traveled, she didn’t know, but she sensed she was gathering speed. Again, she just knew somehow.

Suddenly, there was a flash, and she gasped as she stumbled into being in Natty’s bedroom. Erin was there to keep her on her feet. Ashley stared at her wide eyed, then hugged her back. Over the girl’s shoulder, she saw Natty grinning at her. Then past her, Ashley saw the sun shining through the big window that looked out onto the backyard.

She let go of the girl and went to the window. Staring in wide-eyed amazement, she thought the Place of Locked Doors was beautiful in the daylight. Some of the creepiness of the place was dispelled by the light, and she had to smile.

The air felt heavy, and she glanced away from the window in time to see Mindy materialize out of thin air. Her sapphire blue eyes were impossibly wide as she looked around the room. Finally, she grinned and said, “That was nuts!”

“I know,” Ashley said, laughing. She hugged the brunette, and the girl squeezed her tightly.

“What are you so excited about?” Natty asked, looking from girl to girl.

“We figured out we don’t have to be asleep to come here,” Erin said.

“You don’t?” Natty asked, her eyes wide, “so you are… Awake, right now?”

“Well,” Ashley said, releasing Mindy to give Natty a hug, “I guess technically not, but we were when we flipped over. I think Erin is right; we are probably in a coma-like state right now.”

Natty hugged her back and said, “I thought you had to be asleep.”

“So did we,” Erin said, grinning at her, “then Ashley got us thinking. We had to try it.”

“Erin was the one who figured out how to do it,” Ashley said, then gave the girl a dirty look, “but didn’t tell us how she did it. I had to figure it out for myself. I imagined I had a switch that let me sever the connection between my body and mind.”

“Huh,” Mindy said, nodding, “I imagined my consciousness was a cork in a bottle, then popped it loose. It worked, too.”

“Interesting,” Ashley said, lost in thought, “maybe we just needed a way to visualize the separation.”

“Probably,” Mindy said, going to the window as Ashley had. She was grinning when she turned back, “It is so beautiful out.”

“Yeah,” Erin said, grinning.

“Can we go for a walk?” Mindy asked, grinning at Natty.

The girl smiled back and nodded, “I’d like that.”

“Um,” Mindy said, looking down at herself, “I don’t suppose I could borrow some pants?”

Laughing, Natty said, “If you think you’ll be cold, sure, but there is no one around to see your panties. Well, save for us three and we’ve already seen them.”

“You want me to go out like this?” Mindy asked, incredulously.

“I did,” Erin said, laughing when Mindy looked at her funny, “wearing less than that, actually.”

“Our trip to the library?” Natty asked, grinning playfully at her.

Erin nodded. Giggling, she started stripping out of her clothes. Mindy was looking at her dubiously as Erin stripped out of her panties. The brunette glanced at Ashley, who shrugged and started undressing, too. Laughing and shaking her head, Mindy gave into peer pressure and slipped out of her panties and sleep shirt.

“Let’s go before I lose my nerve,” Mindy said, rubbing her arms.

The four girls headed downstairs and out the front door, not a stitch of clothing between them. The temperature was in the upper sixties and with the sun shining on their skin, they were warm enough not to need clothes. They looked at each other, grinning and giggling about being naked on Natty’s front lawn. The giggles only got worse as they turned onto the street and started walking.

“God, this is so weird,” Mindy said, looking around at the empty houses, “being naked in the middle of the street.”

“Too bad we can’t go to the mall,” Ashley said, making everyone laugh.

“That’s a bit of walk,” Erin said, still giggling, “It’s like a half hour car ride.”

“It’s a shame none of us can drive,” Mindy said, pointing at the cars lining the street, “we could take one of these cars.”

Laughing, Ashley said, “Grand Theft Auto Afterlife. Make a helluva video game.”

Erin went to one of the cars, putting her face to the glass, “How hard do you think it’d be to drive one of these things?”

“Why? You thinking about going for a joy ride?” Ashley asked, laughing. Her eyes widened when she realized Erin was seriously thinking about it. Her heart racing, she went to her friend’s side, looking into the car. She reached out and tried the door, gasping as it opened in her hand.

“What are you two doing?” Natty asked, coming up beside them.

“We are thinking about borrowing your neighbor’s car,” Erin said, grinning at her.

“The keys are in the center console,” Ashley said, picking them up.

“Do you think that is a good idea?” Natty asked, frowning.

“Probably not,” Ashley said, slipping behind the wheel. She had seen her father start the car enough times to know sort of how to do it. She pumped the gas pedal a few times, then inserted the key. Glancing at the girls standing outside the car, she turned the key until the motor grumbled. A few seconds of nothing, then the car turned over. She could feel the vibrations through the seat on her bare backside.

“Do you know what you are doing?” Erin asked, interested.

“Sort of,” Ashley said, pointing at the pedals, “that one is the gas and that’s the brake. Gear shift on the column.”

“Good enough for me,” Erin said, circling the car and getting in the passenger seat, “you are driving.”

“I am?” Ashley said, looking wide-eyed at her.

“Yeah,” Mindy said, closing the door. She grinned at Ashley as she got into the back.

Shrugging, Natty climbed in the back, “I’m already dead. What’s the worse that could happen?”

Laughing, Ashley said, “That’s not helping my confidence any.”

“Take us to the mall,” Erin said, winking at her.

“God, this is a bad idea,” she said, sliding the seat as far forward as it would go. Her chest was almost touching the steering column, she was so far forward. She could just reach the pedals and still see out the windshield.

“Seat belts, ladies,” Ashley said, laughing, “you might need them.”

As they buckled up, she thought about all the times she had watched her father put the car in gear and drive away from the curb. She had been studying the sequence, trying to learn how to do it. After all, it was only two years and change before she could get her learner’s permit. Now, she pressed the brake down and pulled the gear shift in and down until the needle on the dashboard dial was over the D.

Glancing sideways at Erin, hoping the girl would change her mind and tell her to put it back in park, Ashley saw her friend smiling reassuringly at her. She turned her eyes back on the road and took a deep breath to bolster her courage. Her heart was racing her breast as she eased up on the brake. It only beat faster as the car began to move.

She put her foot on the gas pedal, gave the car some gas. She had pressed too hard, and the sudden forward lurch of the car scared her. Pulling her foot off the gas, she slammed it on the brake, making everyone in the car laugh as they jerked to a stop. Her face was red as she looked around at them but they smiled at her. Shaking her head, she eased off the brake and tried again. Just a feather touch on the gas pedal this time and she cut the wheel away from the curb. The girls cheered as they were underway.

Not bothering with trying to stay in just one lane, Ashley drove right down the middle of the road. The adrenaline was flowing, and she was jittery with excitement. She was driving! Never mind that she never let the car get above twenty-five miles per hour. She was driving, navigating the empty streets with ease and a blatant disregard for stop signs.

“Um,” Mindy said, looking over her shoulder, “that was a stop sign.”

“No other traffic,” Ashley said, making Mindy laugh.

“How does it feel? Driving?” Erin asked.

She risked a look away from the road, grinning at the girl, “Awesome!”

It took a little longer to drive to the mall than usual but a lot less than if they had walked. Ashley pulled to the curb right in front of the main entrance and put it in park. Her hands were shaking as she turned the car off and removed the keys. She glanced around the car, saw all of her friends grinning at her. Mindy started clapping and then they were all applauding and cheering.

“Piece of cake,” she said, giggling.

“Let’s go inside,” Erin said, getting out of her car.

“I can’t believe we are going to the mall naked,” Mindy said, opening her car door.

“I know, right. A dream come true,” Ashley said.

“You have weird dreams,” Mindy said, getting out of the car.

Laughing, Ashley dumped the keys in the center console and followed her friends to the mall entrance. She saw Erin pick up a brick and held up her hand. Erin looked at her, and Ashley pulled on the handle. She grinned when the door opened, and she held it for her friends.

As she passed, Erin asked, “How did you know it was unlocked?”

“I didn’t,” Ashley said, smiling, “I just didn’t want to walk on broken glass barefoot if I didn’t need to.”

“Fair enough,” Erin said, laughing.

Inside, Ashley looked around wide-eyed. It was like stepping into a sixties movie, only less grainy. The advertising, the store fronts… She didn’t recognize a single store. Even familiar establishments like McDonald’s and Sears were completely different looking. Then there were the clothing stores with their mannequins, the sixties fashions on display. She had to laugh, picturing Natty wearing any of the outfits.

“I wish I had my camera,” Ashley said, grinning.

“So think it here,” Mindy said, closing her eyes. There was the now familiar displacement of air, and her digital camera appeared in her hands. She held it up and grinned at Ashley.

“Oh yeah,” she said, grinning sheepishly, “I forgot.”

Closing her eyes, she thought her camera into her hands. She glanced at the nearest clothing store, and her eyes widened when she saw it was a Macy’s. Shaking her head at how different the current store looked from this one, she walked over to the door. It turned out to be locked. She closed her eyes and pictured her dad’s aluminum baseball bat. It clanked to the floor at her feet, and she picked it up. She waved the girls back and smashed it into the little pane of glass above the lock. Reaching in, she turned the knob, unlocking the door. She pulled it open and cringed, waiting for the alarm to begin blaring, but it didn’t.

Grinning, she stepped inside, careful of the glass on the floor. The others followed her, and they started browsing the clothes. Everyone but Natty was giggling and pointing out the outfits that looked strange to them.

Natty could only shrug and say, “I guess I understand. It took me a minute to get used to clothing from your time.”

“Let’s try some of this on,” Mindy said, holding up a pair of burnt orange bell bottoms.

“Oh god,” Erin said, laughing.

“I’m trying this on,” Mindy said, then grabbed an orange and white tie-died shirt with long flowing sleeves.

“Dressing rooms are in the back,” Natty said, grinning.

“We are walking around naked,” Ashley said, laughing, “little late for dressing rooms, now.”

“Come on, Natty,” Mindy said, taking the girl’s hand, “you can help me with my hair.”

Ashley glanced at Erin and the girl shrugged and grabbed a dress she had been looking at off the rack. Laughing, Ashley took some flowery bell bottoms and a matching top and followed Erin to the dressing rooms. In one of the curtained rooms, Ashley slipped into the outfit. She grinned, amused that she didn’t have to remove anything before changing.

Glancing at herself in the mirror, she started laughing. She looked like a hippy. With her taste in music, she was lucky she didn’t burst into flames wearing such an outfit. Still, she thought she’d have made a cute hippie.

Still, the outfit was missing something, so she closed her eyes and imagined her hair in braids and a flower tucked behind her ear. She added some sandals and a peace sign necklace, as an afterthought.

“God, its the YMCA, all over again,” Ashley laughed, turning in a circle to admire the complete costume, “groovy.”

Leaving the changing room, Ashley saw Erin and started laughing. The girl was wearing white go-go boots; the dress that belted high on the waist but was short in the skirt; pearls around her neck; gloves on her hands; and big clunky sunglasses. Still, that wasn’t what made her laugh. Erin had her hair up in a beehive and looked curiously right at home in it. She could have just stepped out of a fashion ad for the sixties.

“Wow,” Ashley said, turning on her camera, “I’m digging the boots. I need a picture of this.”

“I never thought I’d see the day,” Erin said, grinning at her, “it’s Hippie Ashley.”

“I know,” she said, looking down at herself, “it’s making the metal head in me itch. I’m going to need a mega dose of Slayer to get all this peace and love out of my system.”

Powering on her camera, Ashley had Erin pose next to an ad for the very boots she was wearing. She looked from the ad to her friend and back again, then had to ask, “Did you model your look after the ad?”

“No, but I know why you are asking? I look just like the model in the ad, right?” Erin said, looking at it.

“Pretty close,” Ashley said, then when her camera was ready, “Say cheese.”

Erin smiled, and Ashley snapped a picture. She went to the blonde’s side, showing her the image.

“You look like your mom would have looked like,” Ashley said.

“My mom was born in the eighties,” Erin said, laughing, “we have pictures of her from the nineties wearing baggy pants and a flannel shirt.”

“Wait,” Ashley said, her eyes wide, “your mom was a grunge head?”

“She still listens to her Nirvana CDs now and then,” Erin said, then grinned, “even pulls out her old Soundgarden t-shirt when she is working around the house.”

“Huh,” Ashley said, then added, “I knew I liked Mrs. B for a reason.”

The curtain opened on one of the changing rooms and Mindy and Natty stepped out. Ashley blinked at the loud clothing Mindy was wearing. She was used to seeing the girl in her school uniform, which was gray and bland, or in dark colors. Her outfit looked like she was a survivor of an unfortunate orange creamsicle manufacturing plant accident.

Still, she looked good. The orange bell bottoms were snug across her hips and backside, rode low to reveal a sliver of belly. Ashley actually liked the voluminous orange and white top with its long, draping sleeves and puffy bust area, even if she couldn’t for the life of her figure out why.

Like the rest of them, Mindy had her hair up in a sixties style, wearing it close to the way Natty used to wear hers. Her outfit was the median of Erin’s and Ashley’s and looked less like a costume and more like something someone might actually wear.

Ashley looked at Natty and saw the girl was still naked. Frowning, she asked, “Where’s your outfit?”

Grinning sheepishly, she said, “You three are playing dress up, but these are just clothes to me.”

“I guess they are,” Erin said, looking around. Finally, she grinned and said, “Well, we can’t let you not participate.”

Ashley watched as the girl closed her eyes, then felt the disturbance in the air. Suddenly, clothes began to appear out of thin air and fall to the floor at Natty’s feet. Natty picked up the clothing, looking through them. Grinning, she disappeared into one of the changing rooms, then emerged a few minutes later wearing skinny jeans and a long sleeved t-shirt.

“Now, we can take a picture,” Erin said, winking at her.

——————————–

“Is this really a good idea?” Ashley asked, looking at the burger patties sizzling on the grill.

“They look okay,” Mindy said, flipping one of the burgers, “in fact they look amazing considering they are as old as my grandparents.”

“It’s weird that they are still in such good shape,” Ashley said, frowning.

“Kind of supports Erin’s theory about this place,” she said, flipping the other burgers, “that the Place of Locked Doors was formed when Natty killed herself. It is still stuck in that moment.”

“Huh,” Ashley said, nodding as she walked away.

Mindy put four buns down on the grill, then added cheese to the burgers. She made short work of assembling the burgers, adding them to the trays she had laid out. The fries looked done, so she pulled those, as well. Hitting them with some salt, she divvied them up.

“Order up,” she called, grinning as the girl came to grab their food.

“This smells amazing,” Erin said, frowning at her, “how do you know how to make McDonald’s cheeseburgers?”

“I don’t,” Mindy said, laughing when Erin held up the burger and gave her a funny look, “I can make cheeseburgers and other grill food. I don’t know if it qualifies as a McDonald’s cheeseburger, though.”

“Ah,” Erin said, taking a bite of the burger. She sighed happily and gave Mindy a thumbs up, said, “That’s even better than McDonald’s. Where did you learn to cook like this?”

“My Uncle Travis has a bar, and I helped him out when his cook quit,” Mindy said, shrugging.

“Wait,” Ashley said, laughing, “you worked in a bar?”

“The kitchen part, yeah,” she said, grinning, “just for a month, though.”

“Still counts as the coolest thing ever,” the redhead said, then tasted her burger, “you weren’t kidding, Erin. This is incredible.”

“Let’s grab a seat,” Erin said, taking her tray.

They gathered around a table, happily munching on crispy fries and greasy burgers. Mindy was grinning as the girls fussed over her cooking. She really hadn’t thought it was a big deal, but they were impressed. Basking in the attention, she couldn’t remember being happier.

Pushing her tray away, Mindy said, “That hit the spot.”

“What should we do next?” Erin asked, looking around the table.

Ashley sat back in her chair and patted her belly, “I could use a nap after that. I think I overdid it.”

Laughing, Mindy said, “You did eat most of the fries.”

The redhead started to protest, then just grinned sheepishly, “They were delicious.”

“Huh,” Mindy said, thinking about what Ashley had said, “I wonder what would happen if you fell asleep here.”

“What do you mean?” Ashley asked, putting the last couple of fries into her mouth.

“Think about it,” Mindy said, taking a sip of her drink, “we already separated our consciousness from our bodies when we flipped here, right?”

“Right,” Erin said, her gray eyes shining with interest.

“And when you sleep your conscious mind rests, and your subconscious takes over,” she said, drumming her fingers on the table as she tried to work it out in her head, “which is why we dream. If we fell asleep here, would it be a dream inside of a dream?”

Ashley blinked at her a couple of times, then said, “I think you’ve seen Inception too many times.”

“I guess we could squeeze one more experiment in,” Erin said, looking from Mindy to Ashley and finally to Natty, “Anybody else up for a nap?”

“Um… Yeah,” Mindy said, her heart beating a little faster. She wondered what would happen.

“I could definitely use a nap,” Ashley said, patting her stomach.

“So, it’s back to Natty’s then?”

“Sears sells mattresses,” Natty said.

“They do?” Mindy asked, trying to remember if Sears still sold them in their time.

“But I think we could find something better to do than take a nap on them,” the girl said, a slow smile spreading on her lips.

“Oh?” Erin asked, amused.

“Never done it at a mall before,” Natty said, excitedly.

“Me, either,” Erin said.

Mindy glanced at Ashley, and the redhead started laughing. She lost it, too. Erin and Natty were staring at them, which only made Mindy laugh harder. She was wiping tears from her eyes by the time she had the giggles under control.

“What’s so funny?” Natty asked, looking back and forth from Mindy to Ashley.

“Um,” she said, grinning sheepishly, “Ashley and I might have made out in the changing room of Target.”

“Really?” Natty asked, her eyes wide.

“Um, yeah,” Mindy said, rubbing the back of her neck, “we found a dress for Erin’s birthday. Since we are all about the same size, we figured if it fit Ashley, it’d fit Erin. Things kind of got weird…”

“Oh yeah,” Erin said, laughing, “I remember you telling me about that, now.”

“I’ve never been to a Target,” Natty said, looking at her with a playful smile tugging at her lips, “but Sears has some nice changing rooms.”

Laughing, Mindy said, “Do they now?”

“Come on,” Natty said, grabbing her hand. She tugged a giggling Mindy after her, heading towards Sears at the other end of the mall.

Mindy glanced over her shoulder, saw Erin and Ashley following them. Turning back around, she shook her head and said, “This is getting to be a routine. We visit and end up having crazy sex.”

Grinning at her, Natty asked, “What’s wrong with that routine?”

She put her arm around the girl’s waist and pulled her close, said, “Not a thing. I was just pointing it out.”

“Well, today was a little different,” Natty said, leaning her head on Mindy’s shoulder, “we had lunch, for one thing. I usually don’t eat since I don’t need to, but I think I might start cooking. Your delicious burgers inspired me to try.”

“Okay,” Mindy said, thinking about the girl being locked in her room for fifty years. A good burger after all that time might just be as good as sex, she thought.

“I also learned some more about my little slice of the afterlife,” Natty said.

“What did you learn?” Mindy asked, glancing at her.

“That it’s boundaries are still undefined,” Natty said, the smile in her voice, “who knows how big this place is.”

“True,” Mindy said, nodding.

“And now I’m going to have sex in a department store,” Natty said, her hand slipping from the small of Mindy’s back to cup her buttock.

Laughing, Mindy said, “Check that one off your bucket list, huh?”

“Bucket list?”

“You know, the list of things to do before…” Mindy said, her face turning red as she thought about what she was about to say, “um… Nevermind.”

“It was never on any list, but…” Natty said, giving her a kiss, “when an opportunity presents itself, you have to go for it.”

“YOLO,” Mindy said, grinning.

“YOLO?”

“You only live once,” Mindy said, tucking an errant lock of hair behind her ear, “it means don’t have any regrets about not trying something.”

“You only live once, huh?” Natty asked, amused.

Mindy groaned, realized she had done it, again. She gave the girl a sheepish grin and said, “You know what I mean.”

“I do,” Natty said, laughing, “I might be dead, but that doesn’t mean I’m done living it up.”

“That would make a helluva bumper sticker,” Mindy said, grinning at her, “maybe have a skeleton in the corner with a tropical drink in one hand and a lei around his neck. A sunset in the background and a girl in a bikini on his arm.”

Natty looked at her quizzically, and Mindy started laughing

“I’m just saying,” Mindy said, still laughing.

They made it to Sears, then weaved their way through the store to the section featuring mattresses on display. Mindy laughed as Natty toppled them onto a king-sized bed. Natty ended up on top of her somehow, and the girl grinned down at her. Smiling back, Mindy kissed her, let her tongue into her mouth. She caressed it with her own, drawing Natty into a much deeper kiss.

“Hey,” Ashley said, flopping onto the bed beside them, “wait for us.”

Mindy broke the kiss to smile at the girl. She saw Erin crawl onto the bed, grinning as she kissed Ashley’s bare shoulder. Ashley craned her neck and Erin pressed her lips to the redhead’s. As Ashley rolled onto her back and Erin moved atop her, Mindy remembered Natty.

She grinned up at her and said, “I guess it is you and me.”

“Let’s get you out of these clothes,” Natty said, getting off Mindy. She pulled the shoes off Mindy’s feet, tossing them aside. Mindy unbuttoned the orange bell bottoms and lifted her backside off the bed so Natty could work them off her hips and down her legs. They joined the shoes on the floor, and then Natty was pulling her into a sitting position so she could remove the top.

Naked, she propped up on her elbows to watch Natty as she undressed. She grinned at the girl wearing clothes from five decades in the future, her version of playing dress up. Natty unbuttoned the skinny jeans and wriggled out of them. She tossed them aside, then pulled the long sleeve shirt up and over her head.

Natty crawled back onto the bed. On her hands and knees, she kissed Mindy passionately. Mindy’s toes were curled by the time the blonde pulled back to smile at her. Mindy put a hand on the back of her neck, pulled Natty back into the kiss. When she went to her back, Natty settled atop her, again, never breaking the kiss.

She was a little surprised when Natty got off her and to her knees. The girl turned around, facing away from Mindy. Frowning, Mindy wondered what she was doing. Natty grinned at her over her shoulder, then nudged Mindy’s legs open. She urged Mindy to raise her knees up, then lowered onto her. Mindy’s eyes widened as their bodies nested together, Natty’s soft sex pressed against her own. She sighed as the girl started rocking her hips back and forth, rubbing deliciously against Mindy.

“What are you two doing?” Ashley asked, her emerald eyes wide.

“Trying something a little different,” Natty said, her voice a little breathy in her excitement.

“Huh,” the redhead said, turning back to Erin, “want to try something a little different?”

Mindy watched as Erin stretched out on her back, her knees pulled up. Ashley looked at what Natty was doing, then mimicked her movements. The grin that spread on her face told Mindy that she liked ‘something a little different’.

She liked it, too. The flex of Natty’s hips, the pressure on her clitoris as Natty rubbed her body against Mindy had her moaning. Her hands found Natty’s hips and she encouraged the girl to go faster. Natty’s own sounds of enjoyment mingled with hers.

Glancing to her side, she saw Erin had her eyes closed, her pretty face screw up in pleasure. Her eyes drifted down to where Ashley was seated in the basket of Erin’s spread legs. She was leaning forward, most of her weight on her arms. It was exciting to watch her pneumatic body as it ground against Erin, to see the slacked mouth look on her face. Their cries joined hers and Natty’s, the only sounds in the deserted furniture section of Sears.

Natty had her hands on Mindy’s thighs, and her fingers dug into her flesh as her body became almost a blur. Mindy didn’t mind the pain. The roll of Natty’s hips was driving her body wild, sending wonderful sensations through her body. Judging by the sounds the girl was making, Natty was feeling good, too.

“Oh God,” Ashley said, drawing Mindy’s attention.

She saw Erin’s eye widen, heard the urgency in her cries. She grinned, realizing her friend was coming. Then she heard Ashley gasping, and the grin widened. Erin cried out as her body went crazy, jerking like she was being shocked. Only heartbeats behind her, Ashley climaxed atop the blonde. She lifted off Erin like she had been burned, collapsed onto her stomach.

Seeing her friends come stirred her own orgasm to life. She turned back to Natty, wondered if the girl was close. She couldn’t see her face, could only listen to her cries. There was an urgency in Natty’s movements, and she thought the blonde was right on the edge of ecstasy with her. Still, Mindy held out until she felt Natty stiffen atop her, only let her own orgasm loose when Natty let out one last cry and shook herself apart. Mindy came hard, her body spasming out of control.

Natty crawled next to her, then stretched out on her back. Moving against her, Mindy sighed contentedly.

—————————————–

Erin felt her eyes grow heavy. Maybe it was the warm body pressed against her side or the all the rich food she had eaten, but she felt herself nodding off. She knew she should get up, that they really needed to be going but she just couldn’t bring herself to. Her breathing slowed, slowed…

Just before sleep took her completely, she made herself open her eyes and sit up. She glanced to the side, gasping. Her eyes widened as she realized she was looking down at herself, Ashley still snuggled against her side. Startled, she stood up in a hurry, her heart racing in her breast. Her hand came to her mouth as she gaped at her sleeping self.

Hesitantly, she reached out and touched her leg… Or tried to. Her hand passed right through her thigh like she was completely insubstantial. A ghost or specter.

“What the hell?” She said, running her hand through her hair. The silky strands felt real enough as they passed through her fingers.

She glanced at Natty and Mindy, saw them kissing on the bed next to her body and Ashley. She should be in Natty’s line of sight, but the girl was looking right through her. She waved at the girl, but nothing registered on her face. Erin was invisible to her.

Glancing away from them, Erin gasped as she saw the people milling around the store. Dozens of them, all browsing the wares. Erin covered her naked body, but they didn’t seem any more aware of her than her friends were. After a moment, she dropped her hands and moved away from the bed.

She reached out and tried to touch one of the shoppers, a balding man in a fringed jacket. Like it had when she tried to touch her own body, her hand passed right through him. She stood there a moment, staring at her hand, the one that had passed through the man.

“Well, that’s weird,” she said, frowning.

“What’s weird?” The balding man said, then turned in a circle when he realized he was standing alone.

Her eyes wide, Erin asked, “Did you hear me?”

“Whose there? Quit playing games,” he said, looking around. Still not seeing anyone, he grew agitated. His eyes were wide in fear as he hurried away.

So I’m invisible, but they can still hear me, Erin thought, frowning.

She glanced at her friends, but they were still oblivious of her separation from her body. Blinking, she realized that was what this was- she was twice removed from her real body. Dreaming inside of a dream? Was this a dream or something else?

Turning back around, she decided to explore this alternate Sears. Erin started walking amongst the throng of people, or through them in some cases. She learned walls or other solid objects posed no obstacle, and she passed through them with ease.

Frowning, she was glad at least the floor seemed solid. She looked down and gasped, realizing her feet weren’t actually touching the tiles. She was floating.

When that shock wore off, she turned her attention back to the milling people. Who were they, she wondered.

Something about the crowd bothered her but she couldn’t put her finger on it. She came to a stop and spun in a circle. The more time she took looking at them, the more she felt she should know them. All of their faces seemed familiar, even the balding man she had frightened. It was strange because she had never met any of them, before. She was sure of that, yet she recognized them.

It made her brain hurt, thinking about that paradox. She shook it, trying to dislodge that thought which was like a thorn in her mind. She turned to go back to her friends. This trip was losing its appeal, and she was ready to get back in her body. Or whatever she had left sleeping on a mattress in the furniture section.

She took only one step, then came to a stop. Her eyes locked on a man standing alone in the flow of people. He was with them yet seemed apart from them, like he was something… More. He had his back to her, and she wanted to cross the space between them. She couldn’t explain it, but she felt pulled toward him, as sure as the moon pulled the waves ashore. Again, she thought she knew him even though she didn’t know anyone who cut that silhouette.

He started to turn toward her, moving in a maddeningly slow way that stretched her nerves taut. His ear… then a cheek bone and the bridge of his nose… So close to seeing his face but the shadows still hid much of it.

“Erin!”

The voice boomed as if God had spoken to her, and she cried out in surprise. As if her name were a hand on her back, she felt herself propelled away from the man. She took a few dozen steps before the presence relented. No longer pushed, she lost her balance and went to her knees. She glanced back at the man, but he had turned around, again.

She got to her feet, shakily. Like a fawn learning to walk, she stumbled in the direction of the mysterious man. She didn’t make it very far.

“Wake up, sleepyhead!”

This time, she recognized Ashley’s voice and it pulled at her. She found herself flying through the air at breakneck speed. As she rocketed toward the back of Sears, she realized what was happening. It didn’t make it any less frightening, knowing. She closed her eyes tightly.

Then opened them and sat up on the bed, gasping for air. She looked wide-eyed at her friend. Some of her panic left her as Ashley gave her a partly amused, partly concerned look. The girl was looking at her and not through her.

She was back.

Running her hand through her hair, she said, “Jesus!”

“You okay?” Ashley asked, putting a hand on her shoulder, “were you having a nightmare?”

“Something like that,” Erin said, shaking her head.

She noticed Mindy and Natty looking at her, managed a halfhearted smile for their benefit. Their smiles were hesitant, their eyes full of concern.

“Want to talk about it?” Ashley asked, her eyes locking on Erin’s.

Laughing, Erin said, “No, but I’ll tell you about it in the car. We really need to get back. We’ve been here too long as it is.”

They left Sears, heading for the car. As they walked, Mindy fell in at her side. Erin glanced at her and saw the questions in her eyes. She took a deep breath, hoping she had the answers to them.

“You really were asleep, weren’t you?” Mindy asked.

“Yeah, I think I was,” Erin said.

“And judging by how freaked out you were when you woke up,” Mindy said, her blue eyes boring into Erin’s, “it must have been bad. Whatever you saw?”

Grinning, Erin said, “Not really. A little strange, but not bad.”

“But you were freaking out when you came awake?” Mindy said.

“Well, that part was terrifying,” Erin said, remembering the feeling of being pulled back into her body. She hoped she never experienced anything like that, again.

“That part?”

“I had left my body… Or whatever this is. A construct of my consciousness?” Erin asked, then shrugged, “Anyway, when Ashley woke me up, I was jerked back into my body. That’s what I was freaking out about.”

“Oh,” Mindy said.

Erin wondered who the man had been, the one who had pulled at her like a moth to a flame. He had been different than the rest, his presence somehow more vibrant than the others. Of all the weirdness of her little out of body experience, he was what stuck in her mind.

They made it to the car, and Natty started to get in the back seat. Erin caught her arm and shook her head. Natty looked at her questioningly. Grinning, Erin steered her toward the driver side door. She opened it for her, then motioned for her to get it. Natty looked at her for a long second, then at the driver’s seat.

“This is a big world,” Erin said, winking at her, “it’s about time you learned how to get around in it better.”

“You want me to drive?” Natty asked, looking into the car, again.

“Ashley,” Erin said, getting the girl’s attention, “show Natty how to drive.”

“Love to,” Ashley said, climbing into the passenger seat and closing her door.

“I hope I don’t kill us all,” Natty said as she got into the driver’s seat.

“You are already dead,” Erin said, closing her door for her, “and we are only figments of our imagination. What’s the worst that could happen?”

That line made Natty laugh. Erin winked at her, then got in the car.

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