The Amber Series‎ > ‎

4. Over Again

I run through the long grass the sun pounding on my face. I hear Ben gaining on me and I scream as he grabs me from behind, pulling me down onto the grass. Laughing we lie on the grass, staring up at the sky. Stroking the hair back from my face he whispers,
“I love you, Amber,”
“I love you too, Ben,” I reply moving closer.
The grass is so long, we’re hidden from the world. Moving closer still, Ben kisses me softly…

I wish! I’m brought back to reality with a thud. Ben’s gone. He’s left my life forever and all because of his father’s stupid job. Now he’s miles away, probably holding some other girl close, telling her he loves her, kissing her… NO! I have to get over this. I know as well as he does that long distance relationships don’t work. This would all be so much easier if Lara was still here. It’s not fair, why do I have to loose my best friend and my boyfriend both at the same time? I knew dating my best friend’s brother was a bad idea! I could really use a heart-to-heart girly chat with Lara right now. Picking up the phone, I dial Lara’s new number which I can already dial with my eyes closed. On the third ring, someone picks up… Ben.
“Hello?”
“Hi Ben? It’s Amber...”
“Oh, Hi Amber, ummm, how are you?
“Fine, you?”
“Fine.”
I can’t believe things are so awkward between us. We used to be so close.
“Is Lara there?” I ask, breaking the uncomfortable silence, something that has never occurred between us before.
“No, she’s out.”
“Oh, OK, well I, um, I’ll see you...” I trail off.
“Yeah, bye.”
“Bye.”
I replace the receiver carefully, as if it were made of glass, my eyes filling with tears. The guy I love is a stranger. We seem to have nothing in common anymore... even after we shared so much...

The doorbell rings and I drag myself off of my bed to answer it. I open the door and am confronted with Matt Wallace, my ex-boyfriend.
“Matt! Hey, how are you?”
“Hey Amber, I’m great. You?”
“Yeah, great,” I say with only a trace of sarcasm.
I hold the door open and he slips by me, into the house. I follow him into the living room and we both sit down on separate sofas.
“So, how you doing?” Matt says awkwardly.
“Umm, yeah fine… so what brings you here?”
“Well, I, um, I know you’re probably missing Lara… and Ben… so I thought I’d come by and cheer you up by inviting you to see the new movie at the multiplex. As friends of course.”
“Yeah, sure, I really want to see that movie.”
“Lets go then” he says standing up, “I’ve got my car outside.”

The movie is hilarious and I get on really well with Matt. It’s just like old times... except we’re not dating and that’s how I want it to be. After the movie, we go down to the coffee shop where everyone from school hangs out. We order our coffees and then find a table in the corner where we can watch who comes in and out. As we sit and talk, the bell over the door rings and we both look up. Nikki Samson, one of the ‘in-crowd’ at school walks through the door with two of her friends. I look back at Matt but his eyes are on Nikki. I watch as the three of them head over to an already full table, occupied by, Tim Richards, captain of the football team and a few of his teammates. I wave my hand in front of Matt’s face and eventually he forces himself to pay attention.
“Earth to Matt!” I tease, “You didn’t happen to notice if Nikki was in here did you?” I ask innocently, as he blushes bright red. I look back over at Nikki and notice that she is alone at the counter ordering coffees for her and her friends.
“Go on Matt!” I whisper, elbowing him, “Ask her to the Valentine’s Dance.”
“I can’t, besides she probably already has a date.”
“I bet she doesn’t, go on...”
I give him a shove and he gets up and walks over to her. I watch him as he talks to her noticing the smile on her face as he helps her carry the coffees over to her friends. He says something else to her then starts walking back towards me. A picture of Ben flashes through my mind and I remember that I don’t have a date either, not that I really want one. I push all thoughts of Ben to the back of my mind as Matt slides back into his seat, grinning from ear to ear.
“So it went well then?” I laugh as he fails to wipe the ecstatic smile off of his face.
“You could say that…” he says coyly.
“Come on, tell me! What did you say? What did she say?” I ask bouncing up and down in my seat!
“Well…” he continues to draw it out, “I just asked her to the dance and she said yes. No big deal…”
“NO BIG DEAL!” I yell, then, glancing around embarrassed I say softly “What do you mean no big deal?”
“OK it’s a huge deal!” he says laughing.
Eventually we get up and leave. He drives me home and at the door I turn and wave just before he drives off.

When I get inside I realise it’s a lot later than I expected and the rest of my family is in bed. I go upstairs to my room still elated from the time I spent with Matt. I turn on the light and my room is filled with a warm glow. It looks so cosy and I go straight over to my bed and curl up in my duvet. My eyes go from wall to wall, each covered in photographs of my friends. I try not to think about the hundreds of empty spaces left from when I took down all of Ben’s pictures. I slide my hand under my pillow and pull out the photo of Ben and me, on his birthday, the day I found out he was leaving. As a tear drops onto my hand, I realise I’m crying. Hugging the teddy Ben gave me to remember him by I let myself go. I cry and cry for what seems like hours, then pulling the covers over my head, I fall asleep.

Sunday morning, I’m woken by the telephone. Looking at my clock, I realise I’ve slept in and I quickly pick up the phone.
“Hello?”
“Hi Amber, It’s Lara! How are you?” Lara’s voice echoes down the line.
“Lara! I’m great, you?” I say, my spirits rising.
“Yeah, fine… guess what?”
“Go on…”
“I’m coming to the Valentine’s Dance! Chris asked me and I could hardly say no!” she laughs.
“That’s great, is Ben…” I let my voice trail off.
“Amber, I’m sorry, he has to work. They won’t let him have the time off.”
“Oh, I see…” I whisper.
“Hey, he would if he could. You know that don’t you. He really misses you. He hasn’t been this miserable since you two broke up.”
“I guess… Hey, guess who Matt’s taking to the dance…” I say, pushing thoughts of Ben to the back of my mind.
“Who? You?”
“No, course not silly, in case you haven’t noticed I’m still hung up on your brother! He’s taking Nikki Samson!”
“Really, that’s great. Does that mean you guys are friends again?” She asks, a trace of hope in her voice.
“Yeah, we went to the cinema yesterday and then the coffee shop. I’m the one who convinced him to ask Nikki to the dance!”
“Cool. Well, anyway, I’ve got to go so I’ll see you next weekend!”
“Yeah, bye.”
“Bye.”
I hang up the phone. Maybe she’s telling the truth about Ben, but what if he just doesn’t want to see me? Maybe I just won’t go to the dance. I mean, without Ben? What’s the point? I spend all Sunday doing my homework and before long its Monday morning.

The week flies by, as if it were a train hurtling downhill with only one destination… the dance. I bought my dress weeks ago in the January sales. A long, red velvet dress with a halter top and a slit on each side. On Friday evening, when I return home from school, I pull it out of the cupboard, along with my silk embroidered shawl and impossibly high heeled sandals. I could do with some accessories though. Maybe Lara and I can go shopping tomorrow afternoon before we get ready. I mean I have to go right? I can’t back out now just because I don’t have a date. Besides, it’ll be great spending time with Lara again. I’ll talk to her tonight when she comes round for dinner. Even though she’s staying with Chris, we decided to meet up for dinner tonight and get ready together tomorrow. Before long, it’s 6 o’clock and I’m eagerly awaiting Lara’s arrival.

At half past six, the doorbell rings and I rush downstairs to open it.
“Lara!” I yell, throwing the door open and cringing when it hits the wall with a bang.
“Amber!” She yells laughing, hugging me hello.
Glancing over her shoulder, my heart skips a beat. Ben is standing at the end of my drive, leaning against his car. Sensing a change in my mood, Lara pulls away and turns to see what I’m looking at.
“Amber, he wants to see you…”
Without saying a word, I walk out the door over to Ben.
“Hi,” I whisper, my voice barely audible.
“Hi…” The sound of his voice cuts straight to my heart. “I-I just wanted to see you. I’ve missed you.”
“Yeah me too…”
Suddenly I’m in his arms and he’s kissing me with all the love and passion in the universe. For one moment the whole world stands still and all my pain vanishes. Then we realise what we’re doing and pull apart. I can see him trying to keep control of his emotions as he steps back.
“I shouldn’t have done that. I’m sorry. Maybe it’s best if I just leave.”
“Yeah…” I don’t know what else to say, or rather, I don’t know how to say it.
“Bye.” He says walking round to the driver’s side.
“Bye.” I whisper as he gets in the car and drives away, “I love you Ben.”
When the car turns the corner, I walk slowly back to the house, a solitary tear gliding down my face, under Lara’s sympathetic gaze.

Lara and I spend most of the evening up in my room catching up on everything that’s happened since she left. I know she’s trying hard not to mention Ben, but I still can’t get him out of my head. There’s just so much I wanted to say to him, and so much I wanted to hear. Eventually, Lara has to go back to Chris’s, but she promises to come back tomorrow afternoon so we can get ready. Chris will pick us up and take us both to the dance. Saturday morning I wake up and get dressed. Remembering the accessories, I pick up the phone and dial Chris’s number.

* * * *


Lying on Chris’s bed, Lara stares at the ceiling, her new discoveries whirling around in her head. Trying to organise her thoughts she thinks everything through… Amber, her own best mate used to be completely in love with Chris. The thought of Chris brings a smile to her face. Chris had been a new student at her school. He had been shy and no one had been able to get close to him, though all the girls had wanted to! Then, out of all the girls he had picked her, Lara. They had been inseparable ever since. Remembering Amber her smile disappears. When Chris had arrived, Amber had been going out with Matt. When they’d broken up, the day her and Chris got together, she assumed they had just had a big argument. Never in a million years would she have realised it was over Chris. Her Chris. And what about Ben? Last winter, when she, Chris, Amber and Ben, her older brother, went away skiing, Ben and Amber had gotten together. Had Amber just been settling for second best in Ben? If so, no one gets away with messing with her brothers feelings like that, even her best friend, if in fact they are still best friends. Besides, did Amber still want Chris or had she gotten over it? Lara had too many questions… and no answers. The phone breaks into her thoughts and without thinking; she picks up the phone on Chris’s nightstand and answers it.

* * * *

 

Finally, someone picks up the phone.
“Hello?” Lara’s voice echoes down the line
“Hey Lara, it’s Amber, wassup?” I say, a trace of excitement in my voice.
“Amber… hi.” Lara says evenly
“You up for shopping for accessories before we get ready? I figured if we go now, we’ll still have loads of time to get ready before Chris… Lara, are you still there?”
“Yeah, I’m here.”
“Great, so do you wanna go?”
“I think I’ll pass. I’ve got everything I need.” Lara says coldly.
“Are you OK? Has something happened between you and Chris?” I ask concerned.
“No! So don’t even think about it!” Lara yells, slamming down the phone, making me jump.
Replacing the receiver as if it’s made of glass I feel the tears stinging my eyes. I sit slowly down on my bed, running the conversation back through my head, trying to figure out what I said, what I did, to suddenly turn my best friend against me. Shopping for accessories seems out of the question now. I resolve to watch trashy television until it’s time to get ready and Chris gives me a lift. If he gives me a lift.

Two hours before Chris is due, I wash my hair and get ready. I go down to the living room to wait for Chris and Lara. Seven o’clock comes and goes, by seven thirty, I know they’re not coming. Chris is never late. Now there really is no point in going. I go upstairs, intent on going to bed and never getting up again. My mother stops me.
I thought you were going to the dance.” She says worried.
“I changed my mind.” I mumble, hoping to squeeze past her up the stairs.
“Why on earth would you do that? You look so lovely and grown-up. Go on, you’ll enjoy it once you get there.”
“ I guess…” I reply uncommitted.
“You’ve been looking forward to this for months, now go, enjoy yourself.”
“Fine.” I say caving.
Walking back down the stairs I grab my car keys off the hall table and leave.

When I arrive at the dance, I’m not surprised to see Chris’s car already parked outside. I pull into a space as far away from him as possible and then walk in… alone. I immediately head straight for the bathroom but change my mind when I notice Lara outside laughing and joking with a few of the girls in my class. I walk into the hall, and straight into Matt. I’m so relieved to see him and spend the next fifteen minutes quizzing him about how it’s going with Nikki. Even without him saying a word I can tell it’s going well, just from the huge smile on his face! When Nikki comes back I say hello then wander over to the refreshments. As usual, I know the best thing is to drown my sorrows in chocolate. Ten minutes later, I turn around, with the idea of refreshing my make-up. However, standing right behind me is Lara. She looks at me her eyes cold. Without a word, she turns around and is about to walk away.
“Lara, what’s wrong with you?” I ask, trying to control my emotions.
“What’s wrong with ME? I’m not the one who… forget it. Just make sure you stay well away from my brother.”
Before I have a chance to respond, she storms off. What did she mean about Ben? I haven’t done anything wrong. My eyes filling with tears, I rush out of the hall into the cold night, and straight into Ben. He looks absolutely amazing in his tuxedo. I would do anything, just for him to take me in his arms one more time and kiss me like I’m the only girl in the world for him. Then Lara’s words come back to me and not trusting myself to speak, I push past him and start to run. I hear his voice calling my name, but I just keep going. Eventually I have to stop. Collapsing onto the grass I cry and cry until it feels like I have no tears left. My make-up is smudged, my face tearstained and I’m freezing, sitting with no coat in the middle of the grass. It doesn’t matter. I don’t care anymore. What’s the point in anything without Ben? He’s my world, my everything. I’ve already lost him once. Now, seeing him again, knowing I can’t have him… it’s killing me I think as the tears flow again.

* * * *


Inside, Lara is on her way to the bathroom when she runs into Ben.
“Ben, you made it!” she says hugging him.
“Yeah,” he says absentmindedly, “Lara, what’s wrong with Amber? I just saw her and she was crying. She refused to talk to me and ran off.”
“I couldn’t care less, besides, you’re better off without her.”
“What? But I thought she was your best friend!”
“Was…” Lara says evenly, “Until I found out she’s got a crush on MY boyfriend.”
“What?” Ben whispers, reeling back as if he’d been slapped.
“So I told her to stay away from you.”
“I thought she was over that,” he says ignoring her.
Looking at her brother, her eyes full of confusion, Lara asks incredulously, “You knew… and you didn’t tell me?”
“Yes I knew. She fell for him the moment she saw him. She broke up with Matt so as not to hurt him. When she found out you were going out with Chris, she was devastated but she would never do anything to hurt you.”
“I know.” Lara says, beginning to realise the full extent of her mistake.
“But what about you?”
“When we were on the ferry, going to France, she told me everything. We got really close and I fell in love with her. Then to my complete amazement, she chose me, not Chris. We still talk about it now and I know she’s sure she made the right decision.” Ben finishes, smiling slightly.
“Oh no, Ben, I’m sorry. I just thought… well Matt told me why they broke up and I just figured…”
“Help me find her, Lara. She looked crushed when I saw her.”
“Alright. Where was she when you last saw her?
“This way.” Ben says sprinting away with Lara following close behind.

* * * *


Finally, the tears subside and I get to my feet, walking in the vague direction of the dance. All I want to do is go home. As I walk towards the hall, I hear the music getting louder. Then I hear voices on the other side of the hedge.
“I can’t find Amber anywhere Ben. It’s all my fault.” I recognize Lara’s voice immediately.
“She must be here, her car is in the car park. Try for a bit longer. I’ll meet you back here in five minutes.”
Ben. He still cares. Maybe we can make it work this time. After the way he kissed me yesterday… surely it must have meant something. Except he’s leaving at the end of the night. I may as well go home. It’ll be better for everyone if they don’t find me. Quietly, I walk back to my car, tears gliding down my cheeks as I wish I had just one more night with Ben. I know I still could, but it would kill me, knowing he has to leave.
“AMBER!” I’m jerked out of my reverie by Ben and Lara calling my name and running towards me. Throwing her arms around me Lara says,
“Amber, I’m so sorry. I found out you used to like Chris and I jumped to conclusions. I thought you were messing Ben around and well… he told me the truth.”
“It’s OK.” I say hugging her back. “Thanks Ben…” I say looking up at him. Suddenly his face lights up.
“I completely forgot, with everything that happened. Lara, we’re moving back! Dad found out this morning. We’ll be back by the end of the week!” he says without taking a breath.
“That’s fantastic!” I yell, throwing my arms around him, then realising what I’ve done, I pull away blushing.
“Amber…” Ben starts, “I… never mind.”
I look up at him. All I want is for him to take me in his arms and kiss me. Just one kiss will make all the hurt from the last few months to melt away in an instant.
“I’ll leave you two alone.” Lara says quietly, slipping away.
“Amber, I…”
“Ben!” He is interrupted by Grace Turner “I didn’t know you were here!”
“Well I am.” He says awkwardly, glancing at me.
“Well I need a dance partner, what do you say?”
“Um, I, well, I…” Ben mutters looking from Grace, to me, to the floor.
“Go on, I’ll catch up with you later.” I say as my world crashes down around me all over again.

Looking regretfully back at me, Ben allows Grace to take his hand and lead him back towards the hall. Hearing a rustle in the trees behind me, I turn to see Lara standing behind me.
“Go after him Amber.” she says walking towards me.
“What’s the point? We can never have what we used to.”
“Don’t give up, Amber. I know, though I don’t know why, that you really like him… and I know for a fact that he really likes you. Go after him. Don’t let him leave when he only just came back.”
“But what can I do about it?”
“You can come with me and show him what he’s missing.” Lara says dragging me towards the hall.
After a quick trip to the bathroom to fix my make-up, we go into the hall. I immediately see Ben slow dancing with Grace at the edge of the dance floor. Grace has her head on his shoulder, her eyes closed as they sway back and forth to the music. I choke back a sob and Lara squeezes my hand sympathetically. I look back up at Ben and his eyes lock on mine. As the song continues my eyes don’t leave his. He’s dancing with Grace on the other side of the dance floor, but through the power of his gaze, it almost feels like he’s dancing with me.

As the song comes to an end, Ben moves away from Grace and drags his eyes away from me. Suddenly he’s gone. I search the room with my eyes but he’s nowhere to be seen. Just as I think my life can’t get any worse, I hear the introduction to “How Do I Live”, ‘our’ song. I turn to tell Lara I’m leaving but before I can speak, she glances over my shoulder and then walks away. I turn slowly, knowing, yet not daring even to hope, that the person Lara was looking at was Ben. I turn to find Ben standing just behind me, his gaze fixed on me. Without a word, he pulls me into his arms. I drape my arms around his neck, resting my head on his shoulder as he puts his arms around me, holding me close. Our bodies seem to fit together. It all seems so right for us to be together, dancing to this song. I can’t even imagine my future without him. I don’t want to. It’s too painful to contemplate. I thought I’d lost him forever and now he’s back in my life. Can I do anything but try and work things out with him? Lifting my head so I can look up at him, I catch his eye and his face breaks into a heart-warming smile.
“I really missed you when I was away.” Ben says softly, stroking my cheek.
“I really missed you too, Ben. It almost killed me when you left.” I whisper, my voice breaking and my eyes filling with tears.
“Hey,” he says hugging me tightly. “I’m back now. I’m here with you. No-one else.”
“Are you?” I ask, a single tear rolling down my face.
“Yes. Let’s start over again, alright?” He whispers, brushing away my tears.
I reply with a half smile, which is as much as I can manage. I gaze into his eyes as LeAnn Rimes launches into the final verse of the song.
“I love you, Amber.” Ben says, his emotions showing in his eyes.
“I love you, Ben.” I reply my eyes shining with unshed tears.
Without saying another word he pulls me close and covers my mouth with his own, kissing me passionately, releasing all the pain and longing of the past months. Eventually we have to pull apart.
“I’m never going to leave you again, Amber. I need you.” Ben says huskily.
“I need you more than it seems possible.” I respond breathlessly.
“Come here,” he says, pulling me close as he kisses me again.


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