a/n: i had this up under another penname but took it down. so, i'm gonna put it here, because... well, just because :) i'm still editing/posting winged so don't worry. just my other stories bog me down, so i'm starting a fresh one to clear the air. if you want more, review, otherwise this will disappear again -grins- i'm not manipulative, at all. heh.
That afternoon, like every afternoon, I turned the radio on. In the kitchen, as I went about making a sandwich, Amber sat at the table picking at her nails. With her head bowed and her long golden hair folding around her face, the old jealously hit me, but I bit it back. Slapping ham and cheese together between the bread, I took a large mouthful, turning to slip up onto the bench only to jump back down when a good song came through the speakers. I turned the radio up, plucking a pencil from my hair and a slip of paper from a book by the phone.
'We spent some time, together walking, spent some time just talking about who we were…'
I scrawled down the lyrics quickly on a piece of paper, while behind me, Amber asked suspiciously, "What are you doing?"
"Writing down the lyrics," I said distractedly.
"So I can search them later, to find out the name of the song and the band…" She was silent for a long minute, and when the song finished, I glanced over my shoulder to find her staring at the table top with a deep line in her forehead. Frowning, I asked, "What's wrong?"
Amber's head snapped up and the eyes she got from our mother, a dark royal blue, widened, giving her the look of someone much younger than her near-eighteen years. "Nothing," she said quickly. She stood up, brushing her hands down the front of her white and red knee-length dress. "I'm going upstairs for a minute."
And then she was gone. I stared after her, frowning. For the last month or two, my sister had been acting weird. Distracted, almost like she was hiding something. I knew it had something to do with her boyfriend, who I hadn't met and only seen once, which was strange considering they had been together since November; and it was now mid- January. Amber wasn't usually one for secrets. Despite her being my older sister, we had always been close, sharing thoughts and moments and memories. But since she had been with this…what's-his-name…she had been acting weird. Not necessarily a bad weird, but just a weird weird, if that made any sense at all.
There was someone at the door; I heard them knocking, two long and three short knocks, the same type I used. I made my way out of the kitchen and through the hall, calling up the stairs to Amber, "I'll get it!" But just as I reached for the handle, my sister came flying down from the second floor. I only had time to glance at her before she had shoved me aside.
"It's for me," she said breathlessly, taking a possessive hold of the doorknob.
My eyebrows shot up. "O-K…" I waited for her to open the door, but she merely stared at me in wait. "What? I can't even see who it is?"
"I just told you," snapped Amber. "It's for me."
I took a step back in surprise. "But—"
"Tell mum and dad I've gone out." She adjusted her dress and hair, smoothing a hand over her face to check for imperfections. She opened the door quickly, just a foot or so to squeeze through. I heard a voice murmur something, probably a greeting, and I stood on my tiptoes to see who it was. But all I got was the top of a black, beanie-clad head. Amber shot me an almost frightened look, catching me trying to peek. She said a short and quick, "Bye!"
I opened my mouth, "But—", and the door clicked shut.
Like I said…weird.
Someone was at the door.
From beneath my pile of blankets and sheets, I peeked out at the neon green numbers on my alarm clock. 8.02. I groaned, burrowing back down in my bed, waiting for the knocking to stop. After a while, when no one else in the house had gotten up to answer the door, I swore and swung myself from the mattress. I walked down the hall, glancing at my sister's closed door and scowling.
Still asleep, like I should be.
Through the murky glass in the middle of the door, I could just see the blurry shape of a person. They knocked again. Scratching my head, I unlocked the door and watched as the person I recognised vaguely as Amber's boyfriend step back in surprise. He was taller than me by at least a few inches, with a black knitted beanie clamped over the top of mid- neck length tawny hair that seemed to be mixed with auburn. Eyes a strange blend of blue and green stared at me, glancing down once and then snapping back to my face.
He made a weird sound in the back of his throat and scratched his cheek in a nervous gesture. When he continued to stare at me, I snapped, "Can I help you?"
"Oh." He took another short glance downwards, before locking our gazes. "Is Amber here?"
Grunting in response, I turned on my heel and went inside, leaving the door open for him to find his own way. Don't get me wrong; I wasn't a rude person. I just wasn't a morning person. When I heard his steps on the stairs, I walked in the kitchen and busied myself making breakfast. Pouring cereal and milk in a bowl, I slipped up onto the bench and took a mouthful. I was still eating when Amber's boyfriend reappeared cautiously in the doorway, hands shoved in the pockets of his baggy light denim jeans.
"She's not there," he said.
I blinked in confusion. "Who?"
"Amber. She's not there."
"What do you mean?" His words, to my sluggishly slow morning mind, just didn't make sense.
He gave me an odd look. "Upstairs. Her rooms empty. She's not there."
"Oh." I frowned, gazing at him carefully. "Are you sure?"
"Yes. I'm sure. Her bed's made but she's not in it."
"Oh," I said again. I scratched my head, pushing away the honey-coloured hair that skittered across my face. "Well…she should be. It's the holidays, so there's no school and it's too early for shopping, so that's out." I took another mouthful of cereal, chewing thoughtfully while he watched me. When I finished eating, I asked him, "Did you two have something planned?"
"No." He shrugged a single shoulder beneath a dark blue tee-shirt. "I just thought I'd drop in."
My mouth opened and I gaped. "At eight in the morning?" He nodded slowly. I shook my head and repeated, "At eight in the morning? You just thought you'd 'drop in' at eight in the morning?"
"Yeah…" He stared at me. "What of it?"
"Who in their right mind 'drops in' at eight in the freaking-morning?" Like I said: I was not a morning person.
He lifted his shoulders and dropped them down, giving me a half-smile. "I do?"
"Then obviously you're not in your right mind," I scoffed, still shaking my head in disbelief. He had woken me up at eight o'clock on a weekday in the holidays just because he wanted to 'drop in'?
"Look." He started, taking a hand out of his pocket to rub along his jaw. He glanced at me, eyes slipping down once before shooting to the ceiling, where they rested as he spoke slowly. "I just thought I'd come in and see Amber, and since you don't know where she is, I'll just go, OK?" And he added in a low voice, "And let you get back to whatever you were doing before…"
Annoyance flared its ugly head. "And what is that supposed to mean? 'Whatever I was doing before'?"
"Well, obviously I interrupted something!" He motioned to me sitting on the kitchen bench, looking down towards my waist before groaning and looking away. I stared at him in confusion.
"What do you mean?"
"Look what you're wearing!" Confused, I glanced down, and immediately realised the dilemma. As well as a thin-strapped grey singlet which I had worn to bed last night, the only other thing I was wearing was a pair of underwear. Black underwear, with little white hearts.
I flushed. "Oh."
"Yes, oh," he said, less angry now but his voice was still tense.
And then the implications of what he had said rushed back to me and I said a louder, more shocked, "Oh!" I stared at him. "Oh, no no no! I was just sleeping! You woke me up!"
He locked his eyes with me. "Sleeping," he stated, "Right."
"What-the hell-else would I be doing at eight o'-freaking-clock on a Tuesday morning!" His eyebrows slowly moved up and I scowled, awfully aware at the way my body was burning in humiliation. In an attempt at belated modesty, I crossed my legs and tugged my singlet down, trying to hide as much as I could. "Get your mind out of the gutter," I growled. "I was sleeping and you woke me up—just because you decided to 'drop in'! Who the hell just drops in at eight o'clock in the morning?"
"Like I said before," he retorted. "Me."
"And like I said." I glared at him. "You're obviously not in your right mind!"
We stared at each other; me embarrassed and angry, and him just plain irritated. After a while, he sighed and looked away, taking off his beanie and running a hand quickly through his wavy hair. He pulled it back on and shoved his hands in his pockets. "Look. I'm sorry, alright? I was just coming to see Amber and I'm sorry I woke you up and said…that, you know…"
I relaxed my shoulders and went to slide off the bench, but I remembered at the last minute my clothes—or, lack there of—and shifted back, re-crossing my legs and giving him a sheepish grin. He returned it shyly. "I'm sorry too. Do you want me to tell Amber you came?"
"Yeah, but I'll probably see her before then, anyway." He shifted back a few steps. "Thanks," he said, giving me a lopsided smile.
"Bye," I echoed, watching as he left the room. I heard the front door close quietly and I released a shaky breath, half-laughing in embarrassment. "Way to make a good first impression," I muttered. I was still sitting there with my bowl of soggy cereal about half-an-hour later, when my mother and Amber got home. My sister came into the kitchen, saw me, and raised her eyebrows. "Don't ask," I waved my hand around. As she started unpacking groceries, I remembered what I was meant to tell her and said, "Oh, your boyfriend came by, as well."
She fumbled a bottle of juice and it dropped to the ground. Luckily, it didn't break, and she stooped quickly to pick it up. "E-Emery?" she said, and I was confused as to the hesitation in her voice.
"Oh, is that his name? And who else would it be?" I raised my eyebrows, wiggling them as I said with a laugh, "How many boyfriends have you got?"
She was silent a moment before asking slowly, "What did he want?"
"He just said he dropped in to see you, but you weren't here."
"You talked to him?" asked Amber quickly.
"Ah, yeah." I shot her a puzzled look. "How else was I meant to communicate with him? Sign-language? Mind-reading?" But she had gone slightly pale. "Ambs?" I asked slowly. "Are you alright?"
"You talked to him," she said softly. And then looking at me fully, her eyes widened and she stuttered, "You t-talked to him like that?"
Laughing, I said, "Yeah, I hadn't realised I was still in my pyjamas until he said." I scratched my nose, blushing as I said sarcastically, "That wasn't awkward at all."
Amber stared at me a long moment, the strangest look on her face. I was just about to ask her if there was something wrong, when she smiled tightly and declared, "I'm going to go ring Emery!"
"O-K…" I stared as she practically flew from the room.
Again, I'll say it: weird…