Amber sat impatiently on her friends bed, watching as Mia carefully pinned each curl perfectly in place. She thumped her fingers on her thigh, annoyance threatening to surface.
"Can we please get going? We're going to be late to school again."
"We've been late before, what's the problem?" Mia replied,
The problem was the only times they weren't late was when a boy was involved. She should just tell her it's because she wanted to make a good impression on the boys rather than because she wanted to be on time for her first day at that wretched Academy.
Amber thought better of the thought as she spoke, "That's my point. Why don't we be on time for once? Have you ever heard of punctuality?"
"I get it. You want to make a good impression on the boys at the Academy." Mia smirked in the mirror as if she'd just read Amber's mind,
"No!" Amber exclaimed, annoyance flaring at Mia's accuracy. "It just so happens that I would like to be on time for my first day at the Academy." But Mia ignored her comment,
"You probably want to know about all the boys before you meet them then. Well, Lesson #One: Jason's mine. Lesson #Two: Avoid all guys like Carter. Lesson #Three: Guys like Roy are NOT your type. Lesson-"
"I don't want to know about the guys, Mia. I want to go to school." Amber said interrupting her friends stream of lessons,
"Ok. Don't get angst with me, I was just trying to help." She said defensively as she smoothed her skirt. "There. That will have to do."
Amber glanced over Mia's floral blouse, skirt, and flawless curls, before assessing her own reflection. She wore a button up, dark pants, and her long brown hair was thrown into a ponytail. Her glasses and freckles adding character to her round face. Great. She thought sarcasm leaking into her thoughts, they're going to love me.
Mia sighed, "You're right." She spun in a twirl of colorful material to face Amber. "They're going to love you."
Frustration saturated her reply, how did she do that? "I was being sarcastic when I thought that."
"Ah, so I did it again?" Mia asked, a playful smirk tugging at the corner of her delicate lips.
"No Mia, you did NOT read my mind. It was a lucky guess that's all." Amber said hoping to deflect her friends annoying fantasies.
Mia clucked her tongue, "You really should try mentally screaming. You're bound to see that mind reading isn't just a fantasy, just watch their facial expressions when you do." She supposed it was alright for her friend to have her fantasies and opinions, but Amber merely chose to ignore such things.
“Uh Huh, and when I find a mind reader. I'll just make a picture come to life." Amber retorted, snatching her friends hand and dragging her out the front door.
Her stomach seemed to tie itself in knots as she followed Mia into the classroom. Amber braced herself as she entered her first class of the day, math. Weaving through the desks she sat down next to Mia near the back of the class.
She looked around at the other students, several sat on top the desks chatting, two boys were discussing the latest football scores, a group of girls were giggling at something they were looking at on a phone, one particular boy caught her attention though. A boy with glossy brown hair and a face full of freckles sat working on what looked like math homework. He periodically glanced up at her, his eyes were a gentle brown, and he looked at her in friendly curiosity.
Amber turned to Mia and pointed at the preoccupied boy, "Who's that?"
Mia rolled her eyes, "That's Roy. He's kind of a weirdo and like I said, not your type."
"I'm in eighth grade. What do I care about type?" She asked exasperated,
"Just don't talk to him." Mia said, pulling out her math notebook.
Sighing Amber pulled out her empty math notebook,
"Good morning! This is General Green speaking, welcome back to your favorite class." The teacher addressed the class, she wore her greying blonde hair in a choppy cut, and spoke like she actually had authority over the class.
Amber's groan drowned in the sound of the rest of the classes' groans. This was going to be an adventure.
When the bell rang Amber heaved a relieved sigh, gathering her stuff she stood to leave. But a voice interrupted her,
She recognized that voice because it had graced their math lesson the whole class, constantly trying to correct the teacher's method or technique in her lesson.
"Oh, hi Roy." She didn't bother to look at him as she said it, grabbing her stuff she exiting the room hoping to avoid those brown eyes.
She clutched her abdomen in an attempt to calm the frantic butterfly that fluttered in her stomach, she rolled her eyes at herself. She was pathetic. How could she let a boy make her feel this way? She relaxed when she remembered that Mia had said Roy didn't have any other classes with Amber. So with new renowned confidence she stepped into her next class, but as she did her heart stuck in her throat and those annoying butterflies started again. Because there sat Roy Hadlock
I'm dead. She thought, mentally groaning. Plastering a calm smile on her face she sat down at her assigned table across the room from Roy. He smiled and waved at her,
Oh, why does he have to be so nice? Couldn't he at least be a jerk so I'd have an excuse to ignore him?
Smiling, she gave him a half wave.
As they started the lesson it was obvious it would be a repeat of Math,
"Ok. Today in order to better help you better understand Photosynthesis let me first start by telling you a story." Mrs. Carpenter began only to be interrupted by Roy's eager hand that sliced through the air,
"Yes Roy?" Mrs. Carpenter inquired with obvious annoyance,
"Isn't storytelling a inappropriate behavior for communicating science?" Roy asked glancing at Amber as if asking if she was impressed by his question, she snorted and before she could stop herself or Mrs. Carpenter could answer, her hand flew into the air.
Everyone's eyes immediately shot to her as Mrs. Carpenter spoke,
"Actually the answer is no, Roy." Amber glanced nervously around at the other students her gaze falling on Roy's curious expression,
"Well," she began, her throat dry and her stomach flipping. "Although storytelling often has negative connotations within science, narrative formats of communication should not be disregarded when communicating science to non expert audiences. Narratives offer increased comprehension, interest, and engagement." Amber glanced at Mrs. Carpenter, who nodded. She gulped before continuing,
"Storytelling often has a bad reputation within science. Viewed as baseless or even manipulative, stories are often denigrated with statements such as, “the plural of anecdote is not data.” Such a perspective is valuable within the context of scientific data collection to underscore the important difference between making informed generalizations from systematically sampled populations versus overgeneralizations from small and often biased samples. Thus, making storytelling quite appropriate for scientific communication."
"Very good, Amber. Thank you for that. Now, back to my story…”
A hesitant hand touched Amber’s shoulder as she bent down to retrieve her belongings from her locker.
“Hi again.” Roy said softly,
This time Amber felt compelled to respond, “Hi.” When she looked up she met the gentle gaze of nebulous brown eyes that quickly shifted to the drawings that littered the interior of her locker.
“Did you draw those?” His face was alight with curiosity and awe, but panic swelled like a wave in her chest and she slammed the locker door shut. Slinging her backpack over her shoulder Amber abruptly stood.
Roy groaned, “Don’t tell me you’re going to hide those to!”
Contempt swept over Amber’s thoughts, “Yup.” She replied, briskly walking down the hall.
“So you like to draw?” Roy was determined to keep in pace with her,
“I like to draw as well. Do you like to paint?”
Amber contemplated this in silence, he frowned. “You don’t paint? That’s too bad.”
“I never said I didn’t paint.” She regretted the words as soon as she said them,
“So you like to paint then? Cool! We should exchange artwork sometime. Because if you paint like you draw then it would be amazing!”
Why won’t this boy leave me alone?!
“Ok. So maybe I like to do art,” she relented, but paused when his face lit up. “But that doesn’t mean I’m good at it.” She pointed out,
Roy’s face blanched at this, “You’re art is amazing! Why not let people know?”
“Because there are things about myself that maybe I don’t want people to know.”
“I just don’t understand. If you have a talent you should share it.”
Amber thought back on the things her friend Mia had said about Roy, “And blurt it off to the universe like you?” She inquired,
He thought about this carefully before responding, “You say that like it’s a bad thing.”
“Maybe it is.” Amber offered, and with that he exited through the wide glass doors.
Amber lay on her bed, a sea of floral. She was reading the latest article on Biotechnology, which she considered highly entertaining. A green notification interrupted her sense of calm and panic erupted when she read the name, Roy Hadlock.
His greeting was an odd one, “Hello, how goes it?”
Amber’s response was impulsive, “What makes you think you can just text me? You could’ve asked you know. But I’m fine why?” The words were sharp, but it was sent.
“Why not?” He inquired in response, “What’s wrong with me texting you?”
She searched for a reason, “I don’t get texted very often.”
“Well, now you do.” Amber didn’t know how to reply due to the nervous butterflies that danced around in her chest.
Roy’s follow up message came as a relief, but quickly changed to annoyance when he said, “You didn’t answer my question, how are you doing?”
“Yes I did, I said: Fine. Other then the fact that someone I’m not quite sure what to think about keeps texting me.”
That seemed to be the majority of their conversations together from there on out, Amber saw it as slightly childish, but still reserved some annoyance for Roy to make up for the way he was slowly squeezing his way into her heart.
The school year passed in a blur of assignments and haste, and Amber soon found herself facing the monotonous idea of summer. Every day seemed to crawl at an unbearable repetitious speed that she swore would eventually drive her insane. Wake up. Talk to Roy. Go to Marching Band practice. Go home. Talk to Roy. Go to bed. The same duplication over and over. She would’ve been grateful for some sort of break in the program, but when that relief came she may have jumped too quickly.
Mrs. Gaddison, Amber’s mother was not keen to liking the boys Amber chose to associate with. Thus the amount of time she could spend with them was very limited, but for good reasons Amber was forced to admit to herself. Yet the idea of spending three months without seeing Roy was a torment she would never forget.
“Would you like to hang out today?” The question was straight forward in their conversation that morning and Amber’s heart leapt at the idea of seeing him, but her excitement quickly faded when she realized that her mother would never even consider letting her go. And just like that an idea struck her, slipping into her consciousness, shifting her outlook on the situation.
She didn’t necessarily have to know she wan’t at band practice, did she? All Amber would have to do was tell her mom that practice didn’t get over until later that day, and spend that extra time hanging out with Roy. The idea thrilled her, yet a part of her ached with guilt. She tried to stuff those doubts in a place where their effect was dulled. It wouldn’t hurt to just do it once, would it? Besides the idea of seeing Roy was to enthralling to possibly ignore. And with that, Amber made up her mind.
Amber sat across the table from Roy in his family’s dining area, smacking down a card a grin splitting her face.
“Ahah! Take that.” Roy’s face was a look of resignation,
Amber shrugged, “Beginner’s luck I guess.” She tried to focus on the game as Roy dealt another round, but her thoughts kept wandering. She twitched under the table, fidgeting her hands. The clock on the wall seemed to stare down at Amber, glaring at her as if daring her to go past her time limit. Each second that passed was excruciating, and finally she couldn’t take it anymore.
Plastering a smile on her face that probably looked more nervous than anything else, she apologized. “Sorry Roy, I should probably be going, my Mom will be getting back from her CNA class and wants me to help her with a humanitarian project when I get back. But thanks for letting me come over.” She inwardly cringed. There it was again. The lying. It wasn’t necessarily the fact that she was blatantly lying that bothered her, it was the fact that she did so in a sense that she both had to and that it was natural. Each one seemed to just leak out, slipping from her lips like water streaming down a hill. But all rivers caused erosion, and in a sense so would Amber’s lies. And that frightened her.
Amber lay in the dark serenity of her bedroom, curled in not only her blankets, but her thoughts as well. She groaned at her racing guilty thoughts, over viewing the day. Her mother didn’t comment on Amber’s little “excursion”, suggesting that she was still unaware. But somehow that fact proved to be no comfort. Curling up tighter in her covers as if to hide from the terrible reality, she took comfort in trying to paint Roy’s smile in her mind. And eventually the sound of his laughter, the very little joy she could find in that day, lulled her to sleep.
Amber curled up in her bed, phone out, eagerly responding to Roy as was their morning routine. She was girlishly involved, and found herself responding with a question. “If I had to answer one question honestly what would you ask me?”
His answer was quick, “Who do you like?” There was a pause before he added, “Oh, and I’m fairly certain you know who I like if you put a little thought into it.”
“Well I’m pretty sure you can figure out who I like, you are one of the smartest people I know.” She grinned as she sent it,
“I am completely clueless. And who do you think I like?” Was he playing dumb? Wasn’t it painfully obvious to him? Amber knitted her eyebrows as she typed,
“This is the part where I either ignore you or accuse you of ignoring the obvious!”
“I know what I hope, but I have no real clue.” Those stupid butterflies started again and she found herself stuck on one word, hope.
“You are so frustrating! Can you not figure it out on your own? Stop hoping and open your eyes.” Amber groaned, the gutteral sound echoing in the silence that was pressing in on her. Part of her wanted to run away and never return, yet another part of her kept her glued where she was, curious as to what he would say next. Moments of no response crawled by, dragging on what she wanted so badly to know. And when the notification finally came, she jumped.
“My family keeps saying it’s me...but I doubt it….are they right?” Amber was perturbed by his response, but brought herself to respond anyway.
“I’m not answering unless you do.”
“I like Amber Gaddison, now will you say?”
She could feel her nerves spike and take a new level bringing out her need to tease, “I like that one boy who is way too confident in his responses right now. Amber Gaddison? She’s nice, but I’ll leave it at that.”
“Fine Amber. Yes, I like you...a lot.”
Amber jumped up at this, pumping her fist. “Yes! I knew it!” She suddenly sunk back down as the realization sunk in, “He likes me.” She said barely a whisper, she picked up her phone and slowly typed her response. “You got me, fine. Yes, I like you too. Way more than I want to admit.”
“Are you going to the dance tomorrow?” The question was sudden, and Amber had to admit that it had completely slipped her mind.
“I don’t really do dances, to many people.”
“Will you go for me?” The question sent her thoughts reeling,
“How would you react if I didn’t show up?”
“I would be sad.”
“Well, no one wants to see you sad now do they?” Amber grinned at this,
“I hope so.”
Their conversation seemed to come to an awkward conclusion at that, but still it left Amber in dream-like surrealism.
That evening Amber sat at the dinner table, distracted but still there. Staring at nothing all to interesting just over her mother’s shoulder. And it took her parents several tries to snap Amber out of her haze,
“Amber. Do you have something you want to tell us?” The question was innocent enough and could’ve been aroused by anything, including her rather odd behavior. But her mind still jumped to her daily excursions, panic welling up inside.
“No.” She replied coolly,
“Are you sure?” Her mother replied just as coolly, providing an intensity to the air that Amber couldn’t deny.
But still she replied, “Yes.”
This time her father intervened, “It’s better to just tell us, Honey.”
“There’s nothing to tell though.” Amber insisted, cringing as she tried to look directly at her parents when she said it.
“We already know the truth, so you might as well tell us.” Her mother added,
“You do?” She could feel the question penetrate the thickness that surrounded her, hanging there as time seemed to slow.
“Yes. Mrs. Hadlock made us aware of the situation, so you might as well tell us.” Her mom made eye contact with her before continuing, “So is there anything you would like to tell us?”
Amber tried to resist the rising urge to lie, to run, to hide from the situation that was slowly dawning on her. Weighing her down. She found herself trying to claw her way out of the hole she’d dug for herself, grasping for that ray of light as faint as it may be, she found herself telling the story. All the times she’d snuck out, the times she’d skipped practice or lied about when it was, and the constant stream of lies that she couldn’t seem to resist emitting as well as the concern that she had about it all.
She almost felt free, relaxed in way, but as quickly as that feeling came it was ripped away.
“You’re not aloud to talk to Roy, your phone will be taken away as well as other privileges, and you will be escorted everywhere due to the fact that we seem unable to trust where you are.”
Amber could handle that because she still held onto one hope of seeing Roy again before the school year started, the dance.
Her mom must’ve read her mind because she added, “And although this really pains me, and I know you like Roy, and don’t get me wrong. He’s a good kid and if you had to like any boy I’m glad you chose him because he really is a good kid. But I’m going to have to say the dance is a no.”
She could feel those words drag her down, anything but that. All she cared about was seeing him again, she could take anything else. Just not that. Amber found herself facing one of the most painful summers yet, and possibly a very angry and hurt friend when she returned to school in the fall. Frowning she finished her meal and her parents left her in silence to contemplate where she was at. And she supposed this was life’s way of eroding at her bad characteristics, it would look bad at first, but eventually those characteristics would be gone leaving a more smoothed out version of herself. Just as a river did to the surrounding land.
The summer passed at an excruciating pace, and when the school year slowly crept into the near future she couldn’t help but get excited. In fact not only did just plain school loom in her future, Highschool did. And that dampened some of Amber’s excitement, but only some. Hauling her backpack, Amber stepped into the crowded halls of the Academy. She was a rather short, unintimidating, and friendly girl treading across the new territory of “Highschool”. Amber grimaced at that thought, squeezing past the all too large bodies barricading the hallways.
Stepping into her first class Amber found herself facing a rather familiar face, two in fact, but one caught her attention.
She put on her best smile, “Hey Roy.” Whether he didn’t hear her or was just ignoring her, she couldn’t tell. Because he walked right past her. Amber’s excitement at seeing him quickly dropped to irretrievable depths,
Great. Now he hates me. What a beautiful way to start off the school year. She thought with obvious vehemence, Amber turned to face the second familiar face.
“Good morning Mrs. Green.”
“You said he ignored you and walked right past you?” Mia checked,
Amber nodded, “Like I said, it was almost like I wasn’t even in the room!”
Mia contemplated this, “Do you suppose he simply didn’t hear you?”
“No. I said it directly to him, and there were no other students in the classroom.”
“Maybe he didn’t recognize you?” Mia offered,
“I look the exact same as when I last saw him! Stop trying to make excuses,” Amber collapsed onto the bed, “he hates me!”
“He doesn’t hate you.” Mia consoled sitting by her, as Amber shamefully covered her eyes.
“Why wouldn’t he? I lied to him, snuck out for him, I haven’t even made contact with him since I got grounded. Besides, can you imagine how much I hurt him?” She mumbled miserably,
There was a moment of silence before Mia spoke, “Because…” She said, “You are amazing and beautiful. You have talents I could only dream of, not to mention you have a way with the gentlemen.” Mia playfully elbowed Amber’s ribs forcing her to grin,
“But I’m not kidding. You’re smart and determined. You always try to do what’s best despite other’s opinions and you think of others first. I mean look at it this way, you could be wallowing about how hard your life is and how your parents are the meanest people ever, yet whenever we talk it’s always: I wonder if Roy’s doing ok? Do you think I hurt him? I don’t ever want to hurt anyone again like the way I must’ve hurt Roy. So, he doesn’t have a reason to hate you. And if he does he’s not worth it. Just give him some time to get used to having you around again and then everything will go back to being the way it was before.”
Amber gulped, sitting up. She sincerely hoped that was true.
Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months. And Amber faced the day with a conviction that she couldn’t deny. Roy hated her and that was a fact. There hadn’t been a day where she hadn’t tried to contact him in some way. Yet ignored text messages and vocal greeting began to wear down on Amber. So it was decided that if he hated her then she had every right to return those feelings, in fact she figured the more she changed the better.
Amber sat in front of her mom, “Are you sure you want to do this?”
She nodded her head with shaky determination. She had already traded out her glasses and this was something she had to do, so her mom resigned. Unfortunately though Amber couldn’t help but cringe as she heard the unmistakable sound of scissors cutting, slow and deliberate her long brown locks fell to floor. When she faced her reflection her waist length hair had been chopped to her chin, leaving her neck exposed and giving more of a free look about her. She had sworn never to cut her hair, yet she felt it was time for a change.
Kalmia and Kendra marched alongside Amber as they talked at lunch. Kalmia was a rather tall girl with a thick brown ponytail and an odd personality that she couldn’t deny. She would often talk in decibels that resulted in the judgement of their peers, yet this course of action would lead to the rising in both Amber and Kendra’s voices as well.
Kendra was a shorter, less talkative girl, with curly hair that framed her rounder features. And often their conversations would result in her rolling her eyes and expressing the sisterly tolerance they somehow managed to dredge up for one another. Overall they made to be an odd, but amusing friend group. And if not for Amber’s sudden desire for change she doubted the possibility of their friendship would have come to her attention.
“So are you ever going to talk to Roy again?” The question came from Kendra’s direction,
“No.” The reply was brisk and stabbed at Amber’s consciensence,
“Why not?” Kalmia inquired,
“Because.” Amber shot back,
“Because isn’t an answer.” Kalmia countered,
Before Amber could formulate a response, Kendra intervened. “Oh, look. There he is now.” They were approaching the cafeteria doors and the statement had a sense of faked innocence,
“No. This is not happening.” She muttered as she spotted the steady figure of Roy standing near the cafeteria entrance, she swiftly turned before he could see her. But it was too late Kalmia had already rushed forward and brought Amber to his attention and Kendra pushed her towards that all too friendly face when she tried her hand at an escape.
She resorted to looking at her shoes, anything was better than those eyes. This resulted in an elbow to her ribs, as Kalmia hissed. “Talk to him!”
Slowly and reluctantly she looked up past her eyelashes, her heart did a skip. His eyes seemed to demand her attention, melting pools of umber. Amber seemed to choke on her words and the only thing she could think to say was, “Hi.”
“Hi.” Roy said, there was a moment of silence and Amber seemed to get lost in her thoughts, unsure of what to say.
That was pathetic! Was that really all you could think of Amber? That sounded stupid. Be bold. Show him who’s boss. Hey Roy! *Nervous laughing* I haven’t talked to you in four months, have anything to say? Anything?
“You cut your hair.” The sudden comment stabbed at Amber, and she couldn’t help jumping to conclusions.
“You cut your hair.”
That’s it?! That’s all?! Nothing significant? No ‘good to see you’ or ‘I like your haircut, it’s very attractive’? Yup. He hates my guts. The thoughts were bitter ones voicing the offended and hurt feelings she was experiencing as she dwelled on his comment.
Amber fingered her hair as these thoughts raced through her head, “Yeah.” She confirmed hanging onto the hope that he’d say something else, anything else.
“Ok...well, see ya.” He offered her a small wave before leaving her standing there, and that was it. She slipped from that hope, and what should’ve been a feeling of hopelessness that overwhelmed her instead was replaced by rising mixture of hurt and anger.
Amber sat in her hotel room, folding her uniform from their performance that night. The marching band had taken second at their competition that night and she couldn’t help feeling some satisfaction. She had managed to tuck away any distracting thoughts of Roy and focused on one thing: Taking her team to State. They had performed admirably and had joined the crowd in cheering when they were awarded. Lights flashed and their joy was drowned in the cacophony of noise that exploded around them, the moment passing in a surprised haze. But when their drum major had stood there on the field presenting to them proof of their succession, a sense of pride and accomplishment surged through them and they carried that with them even back to the hotel.
Her phone vibrated as she sat on her bed, shaking her from her thoughts. “I’m so glad you’re ungrounded now, we should hang out at my place sometime.” The statement came from her room mate, Hannah. She was a pretty blonde haired flute player, whom Amber forced herself to harmonize with, but she nodded in agreement still. It had been a long time coming, but she had finally been freed of the bonds that had tied her hands behind her back.
Though unfortunately someone still thinks he’s too good to talk to me, She thought bitterly, Just because I did something wrong doesn’t mean he can act like this. Amber picked up her phone, quickly glancing out her window at the vast array of oranges and yellows that painted the sky as the sun ducked behind the distant hills. Amber liked the color orange, it reminded her of Roy. The gentle, soothing color brought a pleasant sensation that aroused memories of times she had been with Roy before she got grounded. Before he had these negative feelings for her. Before everything went wrong. Besides in her opinion, he happened to look very good in orange. Amber blushed at the thought, and Hannah must’ve spotted the evident fire in her cheeks because she asked,
“What are you thinking about?” A sly grin split her face that only served to intensify the heat that intruded Amber’s features.
“Nothing.” She muttered before quickly turning her attention to the message that filled her screen.
“Hi, I don’t know if you can talk yet, but this is Roy.” The words were pasted clearly across her screen, her heart stopping when her eyes fell on that last word.
“Roy.” Amber breathed, barely audible, hinting at her shock.
“Girl, I thought you were like so over him, like how long ago?” Hannah was speaking, but Amber was lost in thought. Not even really thinking, just staring at that name. After all this time what had caused him to talk her again? What happened to hating her? Why was he being nice?
She shook herself from her daze, forcing herself to type a response. Her fingers moved at an aching pace, like trying to trudge through something thick and repulsive. But somehow after what must’ve been the longest minute of her life, Amber managed to write her response.
“Hi Roy.” She sat back against the headboard of her bed, why was he talking to her? She could’ve sworn moments ago that she had been utterly convinced of his opinion of the situation, but now she wasn’t so sure. Could’ve it been that she had refused to acknowledge his side of the story, and instead jumped to the most obvious-and in her eyes-the most reasonable conclusion. That he hated her. It was almost easier to think he hated her rather then focus on any of the more complicated reasons behind his recent behavior that had graced the school year thus far.
“Are you going to the dance tonight?” Amber racked her brain trying to remember what dance he could possibly be referring to, but she couldn’t think of one.
“The Day of The Dead dance the Academy is putting on to celebrate Halloween.” Roy informed her and suddenly she remembered. Excitement welled up at the thought of dancing with Roy, but as quickly as the feeling came it was smothered by another realization. She was in St. George, eight hours away from the town and the dance was in an hour.
Well so much for that idea. Amber thought sourly, Checklist of things I can’t do: Number 1. Go to the dance and have the time of my life with probably(In my opinion) the best guy planet Earth has to offer. CHECK! Out of the way, none of the “doing” for that item.
She groaned turning her attention back to her phone,
“So are you?” Roy inquired,
Sighing she typed a quick explanation, “No. I’m in St. George on a Band trip. I would love to, but I’m also not allowed to go to school dances until I’m sixteen.” Another fact she hated to admit, but she was only fourteen and that seemed to be a constant restriction for her.
“That’s too bad. Well, nice talking to you again.” His response was short, but signaled the end of their conversation.
Amber strode down the halls at the Academy, confidence speaking in her steps. She wore a blue plaid shirt tucked into simple pants, her shoulder length hair gently curled and pulled back accentuated her soft features, and knee high boots climbed the extent of her legs.
She arrived home with the rest of the energetic band members the night before, but she had been so wrapped up in her thoughts that even the idea of school hadn’t grabbed at her attention. Amber found herself in daze, caught up in her last conversation with Roy. She found herself analyzing it, picking it apart, trying to find a reason for why it happened. But she was lost.
Drowned in her thoughts she dug around in her locker, the last thing she needed was to find herself victim to the ruthless grip of her own musings.
“Hi, Amber.” Amber jumped at the sound of that voice for she had memorized every hidden tone in it, and remembered it well. She slowly lifted her gaze, and her heart stopped, clement brown eyes met hers.
“Hi.” She mumbled,
Oh, we’re talking now? Ok, whatever. I’ll take the good looking weirdo as my friend. She thought ruefully, mentally shaking her head at herself, she searched for something else to say.
“How are you doing?” Roy spoke with an ease that made her want to grind her teeth.
Can he really put what happened between us behind him so easily?
He seemed to be searching her steady gaze for something, but she refused to relent.
“Good. And you?” Amber replied simply, keeping an answer simple and short was the easiest way to avoid an actually significant conversation.
“I’m…” He paused looking at her, she waited expectantly. “I’m good.” He finished opening his mouth to say more, but before he could say whatever it was Amber abruptly left. She could no longer take the absurdity of his sudden ease in making conversation, as if they’d been friends all along and that Amber hadn’t spent the last three months as well as the majority of the summer being not only ignored, but avoided as well.
“Hey Amber.” Roy said, but she couldn't bring herself to look at him. She was pretending to be too interested in her assignment to respond,
“Could I sit here?” He gestured to the seat next to her, but she continued to stare at her paper. She wasn't trying to be rude, but an odd feeling of discomfort had clung to her almost as incistantly as her own shadow, making it hard to match his conversational ease.
Great. Now we have study hall together. Amber thought sourly as they sat in silence. As the class period slowly eased by, so did her general feeling of discomfort.
So when Roy poked her arm to get her attention, she found herself resisting the urge to release a surprised laugh when she gave it to him.
Roy was balancing a pencil on his nose, and amusing facial expressions were flickering on and off his features.
It’s as if he’s trying to communicate with the aliens through his facial expression. She thought before realizing he was probably expecting a response.
“Really Roy?” Was her initial response once she was able to form words, but her inquiry quickly transformed into odd curiosity. Amber grabbed her pencil and cautiously placed it on the tip of her nose. She struggled to balance the piece of wood and it slipped. Clanging against the table.
Roy laughed as Amber pathetically attempted to reposition it, picking up his pencil, Roy placed it at a point of perfect balance. A smug grin split his face.
“Show off.” She muttered, her gaze fixed on her pencil as she tried to avoid Roy’s teasing stare.
Once again wrapped in her thoughts Amber jumped when he asked,
“Can I try something?”
“What?” She inquired suspiciously,
Roy grinned, “Just trust me.”
Yeah right! Trust you?! She thought warily,
Every instinct in her body screamed to run away, to refuse, to get as far away as possible. Though Amber still found herself saying, “Fine”.
But Roy had already taken her hand, suspended and aligned. His hand easily dwarfed hers in the most comical way.
Amber´s mind seemed to freeze while her body went ecstatic. Warm tingles shot through her hand and up her arm, and her other hand started to twitch uncertainly in her lap. The feeling of having his hand pressed against her own was almost pleasant, but once she managed to lasso her conciensense that pleasure was torn apart by reasoning.
Boy! Are you touching my hand! Now that’s just crossing a line! Contentment turned to panic and she wanted to rip the guy to shreds, but she calmly removed her hand, plastering an all but authentic smile on her pretty features.
Awkward silence followed and she’d never been so grateful to hear the bell ring.
“If you are planning on participating in Science Olympiad this year, please make your way to the High School commons.” The voice announced over the intercom catching Amber’s attention, and before she could even decide if she wanted to sign up she found herself in the High School commons. All she had heard was science and it was decided, her mind fixating on the word. It was her specialty after all.
Amber sat as one of the informationist explained to her exactly what the program was. The woman was a perfect image of the term beanpole, she towered over Amber even sitting, her hair was a greying blond, and when she spoke the woman’s voice made her grind her teeth. But she listened intently and with a bit of excitement at the whole idea.
Finally! An opportunity to compete in something I’m good at! Amber was practically ready to just skip the explanation, grab the paper from the woman’s hand, and pledge her loyalty. At least she was until the woman said in her sing-song voice,
“But you’ll need to have a partner in order to participate.” Amber’s excitement, like a balloon, slowly deflated. A partner? The word echoed sadly in her head. She couldn’t do that! Besides, who would want to be her partner?
Amber desperately wracked her brain, searching through the faces and names in her mind, hoping to find someone who might at least consider being her partner. She drew a blank.
“You do have a partner don’t you?” The woman inquired,
She opened her mouth to say that she didn’t when a familiar face crossed her mind. Roy. They held a lot of similarities, one of which was a love for science. Would he be her partner? But she remembered that he wasn’t at school today, so she couldn’t very well ask him.
Unless...Amber forced herself to abruptly stop that train of thought there,
But if...The thought tried to creep into her consiensence, tempting her with an all too tempting possibility.
What if I just sign Roy up as my partner and let him know later? Amber was fighting a tug-o-war situation here, and the woman was waiting.
So before she could stop herself she answered, “Yes. Yes I do.”
“Name?” The woman simply asked not lifting her eyes from her paper,
Amber gulped, “Roy Hadlock. Yup, that’s my partner.”
The woman nodded scribbling what Amber could only assume was Roy’s name next to her own,
“Thanks.” Was all she said before speeding away to text Roy, her fingers typing at breakneck speed once she had her phone out.
“Hey Roy, are you doing Science Olympiad?”
His response was quick, “Umm, what is it?”
“Basically you choose a couple of topics you might interested in, then you find a partner who wants do the same thing, you study as an individual team, and then compete. In fact the first competition is coming up soon. So, yeah pretty simple. And I thought it sounded fun.” Amber was shocked he even had to ask, she had figured this would be something he’d be interested in.
“I agree!...Partner…” This response sent her mind reeling, she was barely able to contain the thrill coursing through her until she collapsed on her bed at home.
Amber threw her hands in the air, “Roy Hadlock is my partner!” She squealed.
Amber sat on her bed, cross-legged, facing Mia.
“So how are you and your boyfriend doing?” Mia emphasized the last word just to get her point across as if she wouldn’t know who her friend was referring to. It would seem that was all they talk about lately. Roy this. Roy that.
“I’m sure he’s fine. And he’s not my boyfriend. How many times do I have to tell you that?” Amber offered slowly,
“Ready to spend several hours in close proximity with him?” Her friend asked ignoring her question,
To be honest, Amber hadn’t really considered that side of things. She had been so focused on competing that she hadn’t even considered the fact that she’d have to spend an over excessive amount of time travelling with Roy.
But is that such a bad thing? She swiftly brushed the thought aside before she could dwell on it too much, Mia was staring at her expectantly.
“You don’t think anything’s going to happen?” She asked,
“Mia! Nothing’s going to happen!” Amber cried exasperated, “Besides we’re just friends.” She added, she refused to meet Mia’s gaze and when she finally relented Mia had her eyebrow raised.
“Uhuh. And that’s why you guys admitted that you liked each other, are practically glued to each other’s side, constantly talk and text each other, and he seems to be your favorite topic. Because you’re just friends.” Mia teased, a sly grin painted in a way that made Amber snatch a pillow and make it her very target.
“Nothing’s going to happen, Mia. Just you wait.” Amber insisted,
Mia ignored the soft projectile, “Yeah, right. Just give it time. But if anything does happen, just let it happen. Don’t you dare panic and try to dissect the situation, that never works out well.”
Amber merely rolled her eyes.
The ride to their destination the weekend of their competition was uneventful, and Amber sighed in relief. She had at least removed one thing to worry about from her list and for that she was grateful.
So much for something happening, Mia. Amber thought smugly,
“Hey, good job at the competition.” Roy said interrupting her thoughts as they got back in their team’s van to make the long and rather boring journey home.
“Thanks.” She whispered, the competition had blurred by in a smeared memory of testing, talking, constant clamor, nervous anticipation, and activity. She didn’t have a clear memory of the event, but she was still exhausted by the time it had passed her by. A headache ripped through her forehead, fire seemed to crawl across it, stabbing in agonizing jolts at any noise. Amber closed her eyes as she sat down in the back of the van, feeling nauseous she took a deep breath. Two. Three.
When Amber finally opened her eyes, her gaze landed on the brown haired, freckle covered, friendly image of Roy sitting beside her.
“Oh, you’re sitting here then?” She asked resisting the urge to panic, but remembering Mia’s advice.
“I am.” He said simply,
Amber merely nodded as they fell into an all but comfortable state of repose. The days events had beat down on them, leaving them all battered and exhausted. So the time passed in silence on the outside, but on the inside Amber was combatting a very verbal war.
Maybe Mia’s right! Something’s happening!
I’ve got to get away!
Make an excuse! Switch seats with someone!
He so close.Too close!
Remember what Mia said, just roll with it, let it happen.
But our legs are touching!
Oh, he’s so going to die for this later.
Nah. Why kill him? He’s too cute. Besides the one to blame is Mia, she foresaw this.
Why didn’t she give me any advice?
Maybe I was to busy denying that it would come to this?
*Mentally slaps forehead* Denying is never the solution, I should know this.
She stared out at the window, uncertain of exactly how much time had passed before Roy slowly adjusted how he was sitting. His shoulder steadily slipping over hers to rest in a close position, his legs moving into what she would suppose was commonly known as “personal leg space”, and his arm pressed up gently against her own.
Amber fought the rising need to punch him, push him, do anything but stay in that position. But she sat still, maybe even allowed herself to lean into him, enjoying their closeness. All the while mentally chanting to herself,
Remember what Mia said. Remember what Mia said.
Amber was steadily growing more comfortable, the inner war coming to a pleasant calm. It was strangely satisfying to be sitting so close to Roy, comforting in a way. She didn’t know what compelled her to do it, but she reached up and ran her fingers through his hair. Reveling in the silken texture of it and enjoying his grin as she continued to toy with the soft strands that appeared sepia in the fading light. The sun was setting, the world around them settling into a tranquil tenebrosity.
Amber dropped her hand, letting it rest on his. And that same warm tingly sensation ignited as she let him play with her hands. It was almost congenial, really. They just sat there enjoying each other's presence in a sense of surrealism. As the car around them finally settled into the darkness that was falling all around them Roy leaned his head on hers. She turned her head so that he was leaning on her forehead, mostly so she could get a good look at his fading outline.
Amber sighed, content. She no longer felt the need to resist what was happening, it was comfortable and didn’t cross the line she had set for herself. She felt as if she were floating, like this was the place she was meant to be. And she never wanted it to end.
More than a month passed and Amber got her wish, at least temporarily, that is. She passed her time talking to Roy and allowing her thoughts to drift to him and what they had shared. She was reluctant to share the weekends events with Mia though, but as always her friend was able to squeeze it out of her.
“So nothing happened? Not one thing?” Mia checked, studying Amber’s anxious face. Her friend could see there was something she had been avoiding telling her. One of Amber’s many flaws in life was her inability to hide something,
Not that that’s always a bad thing. She had to remind herself,
“So?” Her friend urged and Amber sighed letting the story slip from her mouth, conveying every part to Mia’s all too willing ear.
By the conclusion of the account Mia merely had a triumphant grin on her face,
“So what have you guys been doing since that happened?”
Amber opened her mouth to tell her all about the last few weeks when a notification stopped her words mid throat. Checking her phone she couldn’t help but smile. It was Roy.
“What?” Amber asked innocently as she looked up at Mia’s beaming face,
“Nothing.” She said grinning wider, “You just answer that, don’t mind me. I’ll be as quiet as a mouse.”
Amber just rolled her eyes, before focusing on his message.
“Umm...Would you say that you are too emotionally invested in this relationship?
My mom believes that I am.” Her smiled dropped immediately,
“What did he say?” Mia asked concern lining her voice,
Amber ignored her and attempted to lighten the mood,
“Yes. To tell you the truth, I very much am. But how can I help it? ;).”
She waited for his response with agonizing forbearance. One minute passed. Two. Three. Finally she resigned to asking, “You said your mom believes you are, but what do you think?”
“I'm sorry, was that not the answer you had been hoping for?”
Amber waited drumming her fingers on her thigh, ignoring Mia’s stream of concerned inquiry, her eyes never left the screen.
When his answer finally came, she was able to release the breath she didn’t even realize she’d been holding.
“Yes, I've known that I am for a good two months now, but I enjoy our interactions too much to simply stop. And I know that it's not fair to you or me to be so emotionally invested at our current time in life. This is not a pleasant thing to say, so please take it seriously. I don't want you to hate me. I would still like to be friends, but I don't know how to keep my emotions from running wild.”
Her heart had dropped, her mouth a distanful dry, as she allowed herself to mull his words over in her mind.
Friends? Wasn’t that what we were before? Though, I have to admit, very close friends.
Two months? And he hasn’t said a word?
Hate him? I would absolutely never hate him!
Was that really how he felt?
Can I even do this?
I suppose it makes sense, I am only fifteen afterall, my birthday has come and gone without event. Leaving me older, but no more prepared for any of this.
“So are you going to stop staring at your phone with your mouth hanging open like a murtlap and tell me what he said?” Mia interrupted,
“He…” Amber’s mouth was dry and she couldn’t seem to form words, “He just wants to be friends.” She muttered,
“Oh.” Was all her friend said as her face fell farther than Amber knew possible,
“I’m sorry.” Was all Mia had to say into the dense silence,
Amber lifted her gaze, a glare pointed at her friend. “Don’t be sorry. You have nothing to be sorry for!” She spat,
Her friends looked shocked and taken aback. “Amber-” She started,
“No, Mia. Don’t even try to make this any better. If he wants to be friends, then that’s exactly what we will be.” Amber interrupted, indignation bubbling up.
Mia didn’t say anything to that, but gave her a sad look laced with worry, they both knew all too well that as soon as the anger took place in Amber’s thoughts there would be no friendship towards Roy. Amber would erect a wall between the two of them, further damaging the connection between them.
But Amber was too morose and hurt to consider the consequences of her choler.
Amber’s anger was still smoldering well into the following school day, she had spent the previous night resisting the urge to dwell on Roy’s words, and trying to figure out how she was going to respond to seeing Roy once again. But all that planning abruptly got thrown out the window when Roy passed her in the hallway.
Amber was dressed in knee high boots, a jean vest that overlapped her intricate lace shirt, and her hair was done simple and down. She had her glasses pushed over the top of her head. So when Roy passed her, offering a calm greeting, she pulled her glasses off her head letting her hair flip as she blatantly ignored his comment, striding confidently passed him.
Behind the hardened wall of a grudge, she cringed, guilt panged in a way that bothered her. But she brushed it aside refusing to let her act down, Amber had to follow through. She couldn’t give into the doubt and guilt threatening to tear down every brick of her wall. No. She wouldn’t. She had to be brave.
Days passed in limited interaction between Amber and Roy, restricted to either temporary eye contact and short comments or messages conveyed through her friends, Kalmia and Kendra. Her state of vexation slowly ebbed away as the days dragged on, though her feelings were still abstruse.
“You stuck here too?” The question came from Liam, a well disposed boy with flaxen hair, who towered over Amber.
She sighed, “Yeah.” Her Dad had been unable to pick her up from school immediately, but promised to pick her up in a couple of hours.
“Great. Because we’re stuck here as well.” Amber’s attention riveted to the speaker, she hadn’t noticed Roy standing off to Liam’s side,
Maybe that’s because you’ve been so used to ignoring him for the last few days. She mentally noted,
“We?” Amber asked before her eyes landed on Michael. He was a shorter, browned haired boy, and the way he hesitantly held himself prominent. “Oh.” Was all she had to say, before the trio sat down at a table. They glanced at her as if expecting her to join them, so she slowly lowered herself into the seat beside Michael.
Amber felt uncomfortable and out of place as the conversation began to flow. And meeting Roy’s gaze was agonizing, but she still brought herself to do it.
“Hey! I know this song.” Roy commented, their group had been listening to a variety of songs while casually chatting. The song he’d pointed out was a disney song that Amber couldn’t quite place,
“I love disney songs.” The pronouncement slipped from her lips before she could even think it through, but both Roy and Liam’s faces lit up at the comment. This led into a wide range of disney songs being played, and Amber found herself joining the boys in their off key attempts at singing along. But she still managed to enjoy it, there was something about singing with them that she couldn’t resist. And as her gaze momentarily met Roy’s she smiled, really smiled.
Friends. Was her only thought, and she was fine with that.