Amber Who?

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Summary

Being an illegitimate child, Beth never had it easy. Shunned by most of the town, her father's family, she developed anxiety issues. Even with all the love, she receives from her mother, her father, and her step-brother, she felt alone. Until Amber came along. Amber is everything Beth is not. She is confident. She is brave. She is unapologetic. She is determined. Amber is trouble. Beth is troubled. Knowing how different Amber is, Beth can't help but find comfort in her friendship. Two completely different young girls get comfortable in each other's friendship - until Amber gets a little too comfortable. With Amber obsessing over Beth's elder and engaged step-brother, with her stalking him, and with her doing everything possible to get what she wants - everything gets messed up. But the question remains unanswered, Amber who? Amber, the best friend? Amber, the seductress? Amber, the insistent teen? Amber, the crazy teen? or Amber, Beth's worst nightmare?

Genre:
Mystery / Thriller
Author:
Yumna_Mahmood
Status:
Ongoing
Chapters:
7
Rating:
5.0 1 review
Age Rating:
16+

Respect The Dead

Warm water streams down her pale skin. She slides her hands from front to the back of her head – sweeping her soaked hair behind as she pushed her head back, letting the water shower on her face. Her pale white skin turns pink as the warm water thumps her skin. She held her breath. Her eyes closed. She stood under the shower – her lungs slightly burning, letting the water hit her face up for a minute – maybe two or maybe it was just mere seconds. She couldn’t tell. She stayed still until she couldn’t hold her breath anymore. The burn and the urge to breathe forced her to gasp – inhaling as much as her lungs could hold, diminishing the burn she felt from holding her breath for so long up until it completely vanished. She opened her eyes. They had gone red. Maybe because of the lack of oxygen, or maybe due to her lack of sleep last night, or perhaps because she cried herself to sleep, so close to the sunrise. Beth had multiple reasons, all completely justified.

Beth decided to step out of the shower when the water starts to lose its warmth. She turns the knobs off, letting the water drip off her body before she skips out, closing the damped shower curtains on her way out. The closed space of her bathroom fills with steam. She stands on the shower mat, letting it absorb the moisture off her feet. She heaves a sigh and grabs a white towel hanging so neatly on the towel ring. She wipes the water off her skin, patting it dry before she wraps her hair in it. She stands before a foggy mirror. She stares at it for some clock ticks before she brings her hand to the mirror and with one sweep of her palm – she wipes the fog off the mirror, leaving tiny beads of moisture in place. She meets her red eyes. The rest of the mirror was still fogged but she doesn’t make any effort to wipe it off. The irritation in her eyes indicated that she was not well-rested. She stares at herself in the mirror – her pale skin was bringing out the redness in her eyes. Her eyes avert to her pallid body, she couldn’t see it clearly through the fogged mirror, but again – it wasn’t something she wanted to look at.

With a towel wrapped around her head and her body completely naked – she steps into her room, not expecting a single soul to be present in her room. As soon as she paces out of the bathroom, her nipples erect from stepping into the sharper air. She wraps her arm around them and lets out a shriek as her eyes fell on the red-headed beauty, smirking at Beth while she sloppily rests on her bed. “Amber, what the hell?!” Beth tried to cover her body with her mere hands. Her one arm wraps around her breasts while the other tries to cover her pubes.

Amber let out a titter, “What? I didn’t think you would walk out naked,” she shrugs – unbothered by her best friend’s nudity. Beth groans and walks back into the bathroom, slamming the door shut. She agitatedly wraps another – and a bigger towel around her body before she steps out again, to see Amber still on her bed.

“What are you doing here, Amber? Did my mother let you in?” Beth asks her friend suspiciously. She hardly doubts that her mother would let Amber in – especially when she is the one that advised her to stop being friends with her in the first place. Amber snorts and leans her body on her palms as she stretches out her limbs. “Do you believe that your mother would let me in? That woman hates me. I climbed the window.” Amber answers with an eye roll and points her thumb at the closed window. Beth let out a sigh and takes a blue blouse and jeans out of her cupboard. She slides into the blue faded jeans before she turns her back to Amber and puts on her bra following the blue plain blouse. She drops the towel on the chair in the corner and looks back at Amber, “She doesn’t hate you,” Beth corrects her friend before she continues, “She just dislikes your inferior habits. Maybe you should stop giving her a chance to dislike you,” Beth tells her friend, still indignant from all the trouble Amber has caused her recently.

Amber huffs, “And how do you think I should do that?” She asks as she sits straight.

Beth looks at Amber solemnly, “For starters, you should stop bringing weed into my room and stop forcing me to try it.” She advises – earning a mischievous chuckle from Amber. “You know I forgot it here and you didn’t have to tell her that I asked you to try,” Amber rolls her eyes.

“I didn’t! But my mother is not stupid. She found it and figured it out on her own. She thought I was the one who was smoking. You know she doesn’t want me to get into drugs and alcohol,” Beth answers she tidies up her room in the course of the conversation.

Amber rubs her temples, “God, your mother has completely isolated you.” She speaks.

Beth stops picking up her clothes from the floor and heaves a sigh before she turns around to look at Amber sitting on her bed. Beth gulps, “Amber, now is not the time, okay? I don’t think I can deal with this right now. You should leave. I will talk to you after school on Monday,” Beth suggests.

The scowl on Amber’s face flattened. She smashes her lips together before standing on her feet. “What do you think I am here for, stupid?” She draws closer to Beth and places her hands on both her shoulders, “I don’t care what your mother thinks of me. I am here for you. I know you are going through a hard time and knowing you, you would never talk about how you truly feel to anyone.” Amber speaks softly. Beth feels a lump in her throat and looks down. Her eyes glossed with tears. “I knew you would need me and your mother wouldn’t let you meet me, so I climbed the window – just to be here for you.” She mumbles. Beth’s lower lip wobbles before she burst into tears once again – but this time she had Amber’s shoulder to cry on. Amber embraces Beth in a hug while Beth cries on her shoulder. She rubs Beth’s arm, “It is okay to cry, Beth. You are allowed to grieve your father’s death. You don’t have to bottle up for your feelings,” Amber solicitudes.

Margot scrubs the already clean teacup with a sponge soaked in dishwashing liquid. Jonathan, who sits by the small table for three in the corner of the small kitchen looks at his stepmother and heaves a sigh but didn’t ask Margot to stop. He sips the hot tea from his cup as his eyes avert from Margot to the old wall-clock with fading black frame. It was already ten in the morning; he wonders when will Beth come down. He doesn’t want to wake her up in case she is still resting, knowing their father’s death must have kept her up all night. It did keep him up. It has been a day since their father passed away after battling an aggressive form of colon cancer. Everyone in his family knew that he was going to die soon, but yet his death hit him hard.

“Did you see, they are finally repairing the road in front of the church?” Margot asks him. Jon, who has returned to his hometown after three years, nods his head and smiles, “It is good that they finally decided to repair it.” He replies. Margot hums, “We have been sending applications after applications for years.” She informs him. “The new mayor was expecting a thank you letter from us, but we didn’t send one. Why should we thank him for the job he is being paid for from our tax money?” She huffs.

Jonathan chuckles and places the teacup on the table while resting his elbows on the surface, he didn’t reply nor did she expect him to. He looks out of the window. It was a gloomy morning, the sky was covered with grey clouds, but it hasn’t started to rain yet. He wasn’t sure of what the afternoon held, he wishes for a clearer day. If it rains, the funeral will be ruined.

Margot turns around to look at Jonathan. She wipes her hands dry with a hand towel and walks to him. His eyes were still out of the window. She exhales, “Are you done?” She asks him. Jonathan looks at Margot before his eyes go on her finger pointing at the half-empty teacup. He nods his head. He usually finishes his morning tea, but today he doesn’t feel like drinking it more. “I will wash it. You don’t have to worry,” Jon offers but Margot quickly shakes her head. “No, I will do it.” She replies and picks the cup from the table.

Margot likes things to be done in a certain way and Jon knows about her eccentricity, so he doesn’t bother to offer again. He sees her take her cup to the sink and disposes of the remaining tea into the drain before she squeezes a large amount of dishwashing soap on the sponge and starts to scrub the cup. The cup was small and usually, it doesn’t need to be scrubbed too abrasively but knowing Margot’s quirks Jon doesn’t say a word. After a small pause, Margot speaks while her back faces Jon. “Is your mother coming today?” Her voice is not grating but it doesn’t hold amiability either.

Jonathan and Beth share the same father but different mothers. Seth, their father met Jonathan’s mother, Lucy, when he was still young. They met in high school and married soon after. After trying for kids for years, Lucy and Seth gave up on the idea of ever having children of their own. This affected their relationship – while no one cheated on one another at the beginning, but they drew apart from each other to the point that they started to sleep in different rooms. It went on for a couple of years until Seth met Margot, a young devoted catholic woman. She had started teaching at the school in the town after her family was shifted there. Seth met her when he went for a plumbing job at the school, one of the pipes was leaking in the wall. They met that day and established a friendship with her. Seth knew he was married and didn’t want to cheat – that’s what he told his son before he died.

He started to feel more and more attracted to Margot than Lucy and it scared him, so started to give more and more time to his wife. They tried every night for a child and after months of praying and treatment – Lucy got pregnant with Jonathan. For the couple, those nine months were contented. Lucy was happy and so was Seth, but it was all because of the child they both desperately wanted. They believed that once Jonathan will be born, things will get better between them. He hoped that the spark he felt for a young teacher will fade with time, but it didn’t happen. Even when Seth was with his wife, all he could think about was the Burnette beauty teaching the second graders. Jonathan was born in March. And soon after he was born, Lucy got occupied with him – sidelining her husband. What Seth believed would end in a couple of months stretched to six years.

With each passing day, Seth and Lucy only drew apart. They started to argue. Jonathan remembers the day his mother threw a pickle jar on his father’s head – causing him to rush for the emergency room. Seth received six stitches that day. Even after twenty years, Jon remembers that day like it was yesterday, that fight his parents had made him realize that it was better if they were separated. At the age of six, Jon couldn’t make much sense of what was happening around him but he was sure that he didn’t want his parents to stay in the same room. Each night after that was mayhem at his house, her mother would yell and so would his father. They would call each other nasty things, blame each other for their failed marriage, call each other for being irresponsible.

At the age of six, Jon started to question the situation. His friends had normal families – why couldn’t he? This affected his performance at school – the same school where Margot still taught. Over the year, Margot and Seth had developed a deeper friendship. Margot was madly in love with Seth and – Seth, he doesn’t know what he wanted. All he knew was he was still attracted to her. Seth and Lucy were called at school and it was Margot, who had to talk to them about Jon’s anxieties. Lucy was unaware that the woman who sat in front of her was interested in her husband. Seth never talked about his failing marriage to Margot. For him, she was never a woman to whom he could complain about his day but she was someone when with whom, he could forget about his worries.

That day, when Margot came back home after work. She kneed in front of her God and prayed for Seth to be hers. She had rejected men after men for the past seven years – in the hope to get with Seth. She never slept with another man, saving herself for someone else’s husband. She knew she was wrong, but her mind was fogged. She couldn’t see right or wrong – all she was processing was Seth. At Seth’s house, the things went quiet – disturbingly quiet. Seth and Lucy had stopped talking to one another. While living in the same house, they wouldn’t see each other or talk. For months, it went like this. Jon was okay with this – at least his parents weren’t screaming at each other. While at school, Margot started to take a special interest in Jonathan. She would occasionally ask him if things were okay at his house and him being a naïve child would tell her everything.

What Margot was hoping for soon came true when after months of silence, Lucy and Seth got into an argument. It was Jonathan’s seventh birthday and they fought in front of their entire family. Jon’s friends saw how messy his family was. Seth got angry and stormed out in the middle of a celebration turned disaster. Jon was not angry at his father was leaving that day, he was relieved. With one of them gone, the other one wouldn’t have anyone to shout at.

According to Seth, that night he drank a little too much after engaging in an argument with Lucy and drove outside Margot’s house. Seth told his son that it was the one mistake he couldn’t forgive himself for. That night he slept with a virgin Margot in the back of his truck. Seth was too drunk to care about contraceptives and Margot was too naïve and in love to think that far. After that night, Margot got pregnant with Beth. A catholic, unmarried woman was pregnant. Margot had brought shame to her family. Her religious father rushed her to marry the father before their relatives and the rest of the people of the town knows about her foul deed. She couldn’t abort the child, she considered it murder. She told Seth, who wasn’t prepared to get the news. Margot hoped that Seth would come to her. He would leave his wife and marry her and raise the child together, but that never happened. Seth decided to stay with his wife, trying to improve his relationship with Lucy while Margot was left alone – banished by her religious family for getting pregnant before marriage, Margot moved out of her parent’s house and rented a portion of another house. She has been living alone with Beth for the past seventeen years. During those years, not once did Margot’s father try to approach her. Since they both lived in the same small town, their paths would meet – but her parents would always choose to ignore her. The only time she talked to him was three years ago when he got extremely ill and later died. Margot had a tough life – she had her ups and downs but she never treated her daughter differently. Beth has always been a priority for her.

Seth knew that Beth was his child, he never denied that. He promised Margot to always be in her life and he did – until he died. He always made sure that he was with Beth as much as he was there for Jonathan. He always taught Jon to love his sister and he does. Lucy doesn’t approve of Beth or Margot and much to her disapproval Seth and Jonathan never stopped caring for them. As they grew older, Jon more and more sympathized with Margot. She was tossed aside by his father, no matter how much Seth says he loved Margot and Beth – the truth is that Margot always came second for Seth. Margot never married. She never dated or been with another man – she was always faithful to Seth, what Jon believed was brutal. Everything was too complicated between Margot, Seth, and Lucy the entire time – and Jonathan and Beth have always been in between the mess created by their parents.

Jonathan heaves a sigh and nods his head, “Yes, she will be here for the service.” He answers to Margot who only nods her head in acknowledgment – still scrubbing the poor cup. Jonathan bites the dead skin off his lips as he sees Margot work around the kitchen.

Over these seventeen years, Margot had worked hard and saved enough to buy the house she once rented. The house was not in perfect condition, Jonathan could see how so much work had to be done – this was probably the reason why the owner sold the house at such a low price. The paint was peeling off the wall from certain spots. There was leakage from the roof – while some parts of the wall seemed damp as well. The porch’s wooden flooring was rotting and decaying, probably due to the weather. It is usually moist and gloomy most of the time. The winters can be extreme while the summers can sometimes be pleasant while other times, they can be short and damp. Luckily the winter was coming to an end – in a couple of days, the month of March will be bringing the spring along with it. Jonathan gets on his feet and strolls around the house, he was last here three years ago but then the condition of the house wasn’t as bad as it was now. Maybe after the service, he can offer his help for the repair while he was still in town.

He returned to the kitchen to see Margot wiping the counter. She looks at the clock and breathes deeply, “We have a service in less than three hours. I told Beth to get up by nine, but look at this – it is already fifteen past ten and she still hasn’t come down.” She continues, “I wonder when will this girl will stop being so troublesome,” She mumbles.

Jon lifts his lips, “Let her be, Margot. I know how upset she must be. You need to give her some time and space,” he replies.

Margot glances at him but doesn’t speak a word in return – instead, she starts to rub the counter more forcefully. Jon could see the aggression piling up in her. She flares her nostril and threw the kitchen towel on the counter before she huffs, “Jon, I know you mean well but please don’t try to teach me how to take care of my daughter,” She decides to speak defensively. Jon heaved a sigh and nods his head. He doesn’t have to use words there. Margot was upset, he understands it – or maybe he doesn’t but he wasn’t in any position to question her parenting.

Uncomfortable silence fills the kitchen. Margot keeps herself busy with cleaning the already tidy kitchen, while Jon leans against the wall while folding his arms over his chest. He twists his mouth and decides to break the silence, “How is Beth doing?” He asks. He is upset that he wasn’t there to comfort her when Margot must have broken the news about Seth to her. Jon tried to come and bring Beth with him to see their father take his last few breaths but everything happened so quickly, he didn’t get the time to act on it.

Margot breaths and puts the kitchen towel back on the towel rack before she wordless washes her hands, while Jon patiently waits for her to reply. She wipes her hand to another clean hand towel, that rests best the kitchen towel and nods her head. “She is well,” she replies short before she places both her hands on the counter and hunches. Jon reads through her quarrel. “It’s just –” she halts and shakes her head. “Maybe some other time,” she mumbles.

“No, please – tell me. What is it?” Jon presses.

Margot looks away for a mere second before she looks back at him. “She is fine, but – well, recently when I was cleaning her room I found weed under her bed, and –” She tells him to which Jon brings his eyebrows together, “Wait – what? Weed?” he was surprised to hear that. Margot pushes back her short brown hair and nods, “Yes.” She replies. “Well, she promised that it was not hers and she did not smoke it. She said that it was her friend – Amber. But, still – Jonathan, I am so worried for her.” Margot speaks concerningly. Jon could read her eyes at that moment – he could see the fear in them. “That girl, Amber – I don’t know how Beth became friends with her but, she sounds like trouble to me. Where did an underaged girl get weed from? And why would she bring it to Beth?” Margot speaks her mind. Jon was troubled by the news as well.

Jon walks to Margot and puts his hand on her shoulder, “I get that you are worried, Margot. But if Beth says that she didn’t smoke it, I choose to believe her. Nevertheless, it is troubling. Maybe I should talk to her about it?” Jon chooses to ask here first – just in case Margot has any problem with it. Margot snuffle and nods her head, “Yes, maybe you should – but after the service. Right now, we need to say goodbye to Seth first.” She replies with tears in her eyes. Jon only nods his head in agreement before he embraces Margot with one arm around her shoulder, while the woman cries. Jon knows that she has been holding it in since he arrived. She has every right to cry and show her grief just as much as he, Beth, and his mother do. Margot might not be Seth’s life but there was no doubt in Jon’s mind that she never loved another man after Seth.

Beth did tell Jon about her friend Amber a couple of months ago. But she didn’t share much information about her – thinking she must have met her at school, he didn’t ask either. Now that Margot informed him about the weed, maybe the time has come to talk in length to Beth about it, but all this needs to wait. For now, they grieve.

About half an hour later, Beth decides to come down to see her brother in the kitchen. She was seeing him after a year. She met him when she went to see him – they only get to spend a week together before she returns as her school was starting soon and her mother needed her as well. She didn’t feel comfortable leaving Margot on her own for long, especially since Margot once developed a drinking problem. Jon looks more mature to Beth than the last time she sees him in person. He has gotten rid of his beard. She was happy to see that. His hair was grown – his curls bounce as he chuckles at something her mother just said to him. Beth rubs her palms together and walks into the kitchen. Jon heard the wooden floor squeak. He lifts his head to look at Beth. His hazel eyes met hers and instead, her heart drops. He resembles so much to their father that it hurt Beth to look at him. Her lower lip wobbles and her eyes fill with tears. Jon realizes that Beth was about to cry. He heaves a sigh and walks to her. He gently embraces her in his arm and lets her grieve her father’s passing. Margot feels heaviness in her chest – where she was troubled to see her daughter so distressed, she was also relieved that Jon was here to help her with Beth. It was indeed a hard time for the family.

The three of them sit in the living room. They laugh, cry, and remember the old times. They recall the time they spend with their father. Beth lives with her mother, but yet she has many moments to remember as her father has always been there for her. She had stories to tell, so did he – while Margot sits quietly watching the siblings reliving their father’s memories. This was a nice change for Jon. Jon hasn’t come to his hometown in the last three years but Beth did go to meet him. She likes the place where he now lives better than her town. She doesn’t even think that many people know about the town they live in. It was a small place with a very limited population and narrower opportunities. Beth has decided and after she completes her school, she will apply for universities outside this small town and just leave. She doesn’t feel like there is anything for her here. According to Beth, this town belongs to old people or someone unambitious. There isn’t much to do around here. People around are uninteresting and very conservative and the weather is always cold. The town holds everything she doesn’t like.

“Maybe we should be getting ready for the service now. Your mother and everyone else must be waiting for us,” Margot announces as she puts her thigh and stands on her feet. Jon nods while Beth heaves a sigh. Maybe engaging in this conversation was a short but sweet escape from reality for them, but it can’t be ignored forever. Reality holds firm – Seth was gone. He was never coming back. The sooner they all accept it the better. Margot looks at Jon and asks, “Is Amora coming as well?” She glanced at Beth before she looks back at Jon, who shakes his head. “Not for the service, no. She will visit in a couple of days. For now, she is out of the country for work purposes.” Jon informs. Beth twists her mouth, “I wish she was here. It would have been nice to have her around during this time,” Beth comments. Jon puts his arm around his sister and pats her shoulder, “I know,” he replies with a sigh.

Jon met Amora five years ago when he first moved to Vermont. They both were students at the University of Vermont. After a year of friendship, they got into a relationship and after four years long a strong and fruitful relationship they got engaged a couple of months ago. Jon’s initial plan was to get married in front of his father, but his health went from bad to worse in a little time. Amora was born and raised in Vermont. When she first visited Jon’s hometown, about which she never even heard before – he wasn’t sure how her stay will go, but to his relief, she loved it here. Since his hometown is a small and quiet place and Amora thrives for peace – she liked it here. She only came to this town twice with Jon and during those visits, she won everyone’s heart with her affable nature. For Beth, Amora was like an elder sister. For Lucy, she was like a daughter and for Margot – she was a kind and lovable young woman.

Since it is a small town, everyone who lives here knows each other. Amora came from a family, where troubles are very common – it was unusual for her to see everyone getting along so well in the town where even her immediate family couldn’t get along well. In the beginning, she couldn’t differentiate between his family, friends, and neighbors. The only tension she ever felt was between Margot and Lucy – that too was endorsed by silence and ignorance of each other’s presence.

When Amora came to know about Seth’s death, she was already thousands of miles away in London due to work. She wanted to be there for Jon and his family but the soonest she can make is after two days of Seth’s funeral. She has decided to come directly to see Jon from London and skip her stop in Vermont. She knows how much their father meant to Jon and Beth. She was gutted to be so far away when they needed her.

Jon walks out of the house and waits for Beth and Margot to come out so he could take them where the service was being held. He decides to call his mother. He was supposed to be there for her as well – she lost a husband after all. He was not sure if she would pick up after the heated argument, they had this morning, but Lucy picked up after a couple of rings. “Yes, Jon?” She spoke. Her voice was soft. She has lost the stringent in her voice that she had in the morning. Jon heaves a sigh, “I am sorry, mom. I should have yelled at you this morning.” Jon speaks softly. There is a small pause before Lucy replies, “You were right. I am sorry too. I shouldn’t have said those things. I was upset and –” she halts mid-sentence and exhales, “I am sorry,” she concludes.

This morning before coming to see Margot and Beth, Lucy got into a heated argument with her son about his preferences. Lucy was upset that Jon had decided to go to see the woman she always stays away from. Lucy had never gotten in a fight with Margot or behaved badly with Beth, but that doesn’t eliminants the fact that she doesn’t like them. She used to cry alone when Seth used to take Margot and Beth out for dinners and lunches. Her heart used to break when her husband would bring his illegitimate daughter to their family picnics. And she hated when her only child chooses to stand for Margot and her daughter. She might sound unfair to foreign ears but for her – she was absolutely in a position for hating them. How could she even bring herself to like the woman her husband slept with and their daughter that came from the affair? It was too hard for Lucy to be that kind. She wasn’t the person her son and now dead husband expects her to be. No one understands her nor does she expect anyone to do so, so she stays silent – slowly bottling up, afraid to explode.

“Can I come to pick you up in twenty minutes?” Jon asks his mother – hoping for a positive response. Lucy was silent. Jon could hear her sigh from the other side before she chose to speak, “You don’t have to. I am perfectly capable of driving. I will see you at the service,” Lucy spoke dismissively. Jon bit his lower lip. This is what his mother does. She hardly ever argues and that’s what frustrates Jon the most. The silent treatment – cuts deeper than the words. This morning when they argued, Jon saw an unfamiliar person. Lucy didn’t seem like the same mother that Jon had growing up and at some point, Jon was indulged with his mother’s display of emotions but now it was back to square one. She had gone to her usual dismissive self.

“Mom, please?” Jon asked softly. “I want to be there for you, mom. I do. I love you so much and I hate the fact that you are upset with me,” He adds. Jon hears her chuckle, “I am not upset with you, Jon. You are all I have now.” She replies softly. “I just need some time alone,” she adds. “Don’t worry. We will have dinner together – just the two of us.” Lucy felt the need to add it. She doesn’t want their plans to be spoiled by any unwanted company. Jon smiles and nods his head, “Of course, mom. I will see you in a bit. I love you,” He says before the two ends the call.


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