A/N: While Night Dreams is winding down to its conclusion I thought I would ask you all to take a look at the new story I've been working on. I would greatly appreciate it if you would let me know your thoughts. Please R&R, and thank you in advance ^_^

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Ashlyn couldn't stop grinning as she pulled her soaking wet and muddy keeper's jersey over her short cropped blonde hair and threw it into the laundry cart in the corner of the girls' locker room. All around her girls were high fiving each other or hugging while simultaneously screaming in joy, surprise, or shock at the 3-1 upset win over arch-rival Fairview High School in the District final. Up until the previous year Heritage High School's Girls' Varsity Soccer program had been lucky to post a winning season in their district. That was before the arrival of brand new freshmen Taylor Caldwell at forward, Susan Blake at center-midfield, Jennifer Hughes in defense, and Ashlyn Conner in goal.

All four girls had been playing soccer together on the same teams since they were seven years old. They were all recruited for one of the top travel teams in the area at the age of eleven and had traveled up and down the eastern seaboard together as they played games and attended various soccer tournaments. They were the best of friends, the four musketeers, and, if you believed some, psychic in the way they could read each other's minds on a soccer pitch.

Ashlyn stripped off her keeper pants and threw them in with the growing pile of soaking wet uniforms. At 5' 11" she was the tallest girl on the team and, if you compared her to the others, also the most fit. She had obtained her broad shoulders, strong arms, and sleek abs from almost daily workouts in the weight room. Her muscled but slender legs came from hours of practice and training as she sprinted, jumped, and dove all over her eighteen yard box. While she certainly wasn't the prettiest girl on the team she had a beauty that most guys admired as she walked the halls of her school.

She shivered as the cool air in the locker room blew across her damp skin leaving goose bumps in its wake. The field had been nice and dry at the beginning of the game. About half-way through the second half it had begun to drizzle. The last ten minutes had been an almost torrential downpour, but since there was no lightening and there was so little time left the referees allowed them to finish out the game.

Ashlyn peeled off her wet, nearly transparent white soccer shorts and threw them in with the rest of the dirty clothes along with her socks before removing her shin guards and dropping them in her bag. Now that the cold was settling into the rest of the team the jubilant noise in the locker room had begun to fade. Instead of laughter and squeals she could hear a lot more chattering teeth; hers among them. Some of the team had already rushed into the showers, towels wrapped around them in an attempt to fend off the late November chill. Ashlyn wrapped a towel around herself before pulling off her damp panties and sports bra. Unlike the others she had no desire to go jumping into the shower so she just grabbed another towel out of the stack and started drying herself off as best she could. She'd take a shower when she got home.

She was bending over, drying her right leg when a body pounced on her back, almost knocking her over.

"Ashlyyyyynnn, you were absolutely awesome today!" Taylor squealed, tendrils of her dripping long blonde hair falling to either side of Ash's face. Ashlyn stiffened her knees and abs to keep from being crushed to the floor by the weight of her overly exuberant friend. Taylor was Heritage High's "It" girl – perfect looks, perfect height, perfect body, perfect grades, perfect athlete, perfectly rich family – but you would never know it if you met her alone on the street. When surrounded by her group of hanger's-on she was the consummate actress, seeming to always be happy and enjoying life to the fullest. Only with her three best friends could she really be herself, and even then she spent most of her time playing the "ditsy blonde" role she had developed for herself. If only her confidence and self-esteem were as high as her popularity ratings, and if her parents actually cared one whit about her, she really would be "perfect."

"I let one in," the goalkeeper griped under her breath as the forward finally got off of her, allowing her to expel the breath she had been holding and finish drying her legs.

"Totally not your fault, Ash, and you know it," the blue-eyed beauty replied with a slap to her friend's arm. "It's almost impossible to defend against an own goal, especially just outside the six."

"I should have gone after it myself rather than letting Brittany try to clear it out," the green-eyed keeper said as she started in on drying her arms.

"What do you always tell us, Ash? 'Trust your defenders!' You had no way to know that she'd slip on the wet grass and only get a toe to it and deflect it into the opposite corner. You nearly got to it anyway."

"Yeah, but 'nearly' doesn't cut it," Ashlyn grumped. Her friend was right and she knew it, but it still irked her to no end, rapidly deflating her happiness from the win over last year's state champions.

"What, seven shut-outs in the regular season not enough for you?" Jenny teased her with a laugh as she came out the showers towel drying her long brown hair. The grinning flash of pearly whites sparkled almost as much as the mirth in her dark chocolate colored eyes. She walked over and took a seat on the bench behind Ashlyn. Realizing that she was the last to enter the showers, Taylor gave a little "yeep" and scurried quickly to go clean up before it got too late.

"You already know the answer to that, Jenny," Ashlyn quipped to her best friend in the world as she grabbed a clean pair of panties from her bag along with another white sports bra. "The only good game for a keeper is a shut-out."

"And I distinctly remember our coach – actually, both of our coaches – telling you that you are only expected to make two impossible saves per game," the other girl grinned as she continued drying off. "You had four today."

"Nah, two of them were only improbable, not impossible," Ashlyn replied with a smirk as she pulled the clean underwear on over and under the towel still wrapped around her until she felt that she was properly covered. "Upper nineties are always a bitch to reach, and you absolutely have to land completely stretched out if you do it correctly, which is painful, but they're not impossible."

"Tell that to the Fairview goalie," Jenny laughed as her friend pulled on her black warm-ups and a dry pair of socks. "I swear Taylor does it just to piss them off." She opened her own locker to start grabbing her street clothes of skinny blue jeans and a black t-shirt with a Giger print on it and began pulling them on.

"Yeah," Ashlyn chuckled as she tied her Sambas, "that's why she practices upper ninety shots for a half hour after every practice.

"And you practice saving them," her friend grinned.

"It works out well for both of us," the keeper smiled again. She turned when she was done dressing and looked around the locker room for the fourth member of their little gang.

"If you're looking for Suzy she's probably still talking shop with the coach about today's game and next week's region game," Jenny giggled.

"You mean she's still flirting with him," Ashlyn sighed. She leaned down to grab her bag and set it on the bench next to her sweeper. She took a seat next to her bag to wait for her friend to finish getting dressed. "I still don't see why she's so interested in him. I mean, besides the fact that he's got to be at least ten years older than she is, he's a teacher!"

"Actually, he's only seven years older than we are. He's only twenty-three. As for why she's interested, have you seen him with his shirt off? I mean we're talking serious hotness!" she giggled.

"If you say so. I'll have to take your word for it," the goalie scoffed with a roll of her eyes. "I just don't see why she bothers since she knows she doesn't have a chance with the guy. I mean really, teacher-student relationships only work out in cheap romance novels. More often you hear about them on the news when someone gets caught. I don't see Coach Preston being anywhere near that stupid."

"Maybe not now, but in just a little under two years Suzy's going to be eighteen and nearing graduation. If she can keep him interested for that long I know for a fact she'd jump at the chance to date him. She's even planning on going to the local university just so she can stay near him on the chance that they can get together eventually."

"She has it all planned out," Ashlyn grinned. Taylor had come out of the showers a few minutes prior and was quickly getting herself ready to leave. "You riding with me tonight or are you going home with your parents?" she asked the blonde forward as the girl started pulling on her clothes.

"Believe it or not, Mom and Dad are waiting for me," Taylor replied with a fake smile as she started to quickly tie her shoes. "For once they're not only in town, but actually came to the game. They're hanging around long enough to take me out for a quick dinner before we head home."

"'Kay," Ashlyn waved, surprised but not willing to show it and get her friend even more depressed than she normally was. "How about you, Jenny?"

"I'll ride with you if it's alright. My dad had to work tonight," the brunette said.

"How's he doing these days," Taylor asked with a touch of concern in her voice.

"Alright I guess," Jenny replied somewhat somberly, looking more at her shoes than at her friends. "Still hurting a bit. That bitch of a mom of mine really did a number on him when she took off. I tried to warn him that she was cheating on him, but he just didn't want to hear it," she said, shaking her head a bit.

"How about you?" Ashlyn asked gently as she reached out and put a hand on her friend's shoulder.

"I'm actually better now that she's gone," the other girl sighed and tried to give them a small smile while simultaneously biting her lower lip. "I hated having to deal with that bastard she was banging."

"Sorry," the short haired blonde told her, giving her shoulder a squeeze before standing up and grabbing her bag. She was the only one of the group that knew that "that bastard" had copped a feel of his lover's daughter on more than one occasion and had even tried to rape Jenny once. The girl had just barely gotten away from him with her virginity still intact by kneeing him in the balls. Given Jenny's leg strength, he had never tried again. If he had Ashlyn would have surely murdered the scuzbag. "Let's get you gone then. Suzy told me she'd catch a ride home with Coach after they finished analyzing the game with Coach Warren."

"The iron maiden herself? Suzy's not going to get anywhere with their chaperone hanging over her shoulder," Taylor laughed before she reached over the bench and first gave the goalie a hug and then gave one to the defender as they left her behind to finish getting dressed.

The two girls chatted and laughed on their way out to the student parking lot. They climbed into Ashlyn's Jeep Wrangler and she started it up. Jenny lived just around the block from Ashlyn so they almost always carpooled to school and travel team practices. It would take less time to drive home than for the heater to warm up so Ashlyn didn't even bother turning it on; she just reached behind her and threw the blanket she always kept in the back over her friend's legs before pulling out of the parking lot. Less than ten minutes later the keeper was pulling into Jenny's driveway. She waited until the dark haired girl had unlocked her home's front door and turned on the hall light before waving and backing out into the street for the short drive to her own home.

Ashlyn walked in the door to her house, called out to her mother, told her that they'd won, and accepted her congratulatory hug and kiss along with a bowl of hot soup. After quickly eating she then looked in on her baby brother, smiling softly at the sleeping form stretched out across his crib, before heading to her room and taking a hot shower. Once finished and dry she did her homework, printed off her book report that was due the next day for AP English, and then lay on her bed with her face buried in her pillow . . . and cried herself to sleep.

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A/N: Yes, the chapters are going to be a bit shorter for this story. Again, please let me know what you think.

Take care,

CX