Before I Fall

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V

“You can’t do that to someone Luca! What if someone had seen them like that? Do you know how embarrassed they would’ve been?”

Luca’s eyes were screwed shut from laughing to the point of tears before he replied, “For chucking a rude customer out of my own house because I refused to pay them for my services? Please love, they were lucky I threw them out with their clothes. I could have left their clothes inside and told them to walk home naked. I do pray for the poor soul that saw her without her clothes on. She must have been covered in all kinds of colours.”

Luca had been in the middle of telling Ambra of the time when one of his one night stands had wanted him to paint a nude painting of her. In the moment, Luca had found it weird but had nonetheless agreed. What he didn’t know was that the woman would demand to be paid for sitting there and letting him paint her. He’d thrown her out. Simple. But not before a string of colourful curses had flown from his mouth and she’d thrown his paints around.

Ambra giggled along with Luca. “Still, you could have been nic—”

She’d did a double-take once she looked at her phone buzzing on the coffee table beside them.

“Shit, I have to go. I’m really sorry, I’ll come by soon okay? It’s been so nice talking to you!”

“Wait, I’ll walk you out.”

Luca pulled Ambra close to him and pecked her on the cheek. His lips lingered longer than either of them expected before he let a now blushing Ambra run home.

And that’s how she got here. Heart pounding. Hands shaking.

Athena stood at the front door of her home sweating like she’d just run a marathon. The usual fifteen-minute walk had taken her five. She’d sprinted like a madwoman chasing a dog without a leash. She was immune to the disapproving looks that people gave her. Her mother’s eyes squinting at her in disappointment and her father’s voice cut through her thoughts only pushing her to run quicker.

The door opened before Ambra could knock. Her mother’s nails dug into her upper arm as she was dragged inside.

“WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN AMBRA?!”

“I-I was a-at the bookstore in town. I didn’t r-realize it’d gotten s-so late, I’m sorry.”

“Does it look like either of us care Ambra?” Her father piped up from his position on the couch where he was smoking an expensive cigar. “We don’t want to hear from you for the rest of the night. We’ve got some people coming round for dinner tomorrow and I want you on your best behaviour. None of this rebellious coming home late am I understood?”

Ambra stared at them with a gaping mouth. She’d been dealing with this ever since she chose to shatter her parent’s dreams of her going to uni and marrying some guy they thought could provide her with the perfect white picket fence life. There was always a sense of shock that went through her, however, after listening to her parents talk. She knew she’d upset them but sometimes their sadness morphed into anger that they took out on her.

Not realizing she hadn’t replied quick enough her mother shook her. “Is he understood, Ambra?” Her mother’s voice was filled with a venom she’d only heard a few times when she spoke of the criminals she had to defend.

“Those disgusting piles of scum. I can’t believe earning a couple thousand bucks means that I have to go through this bullshit.”

“Yes, I do.” She whispered with tears brimming her eyes. Her mother let her go and she sprinted up the stairs before shutting her door.

Her parents had been fine this morning. What had changed? She could hear the faint voices of her parents talking and decided to open the door and listen.

“I’m sick and tired of this Richard. We give her everything and this is what she does with her life? A fucking bookstore? This is what we pay for to have in our house? An illiterate slag who can’t get up and doing anything with her life except read?”

“I know honey, just give it some time.”

“TIME?! We’ve given her two years what more does she want? It’s 10pm, Richard. Who the hell spends that long at a bookstore. That girl is playing us, I’m telling you. There’s no way anyone spends that long outdoors and at a bookstore nonetheless. I am getting her a job at the local diner. Maybe being around scum like that will give her a sense of what we have to go through every day. It’ll keep her from her precious books too, the ungrateful brat.”

It was only a bookstore, Ambra thought as she shut her door quietly and climbed into bed. Tears began to stream down her face and gathered on the pillow below her. Was choosing a life that she enjoyed that much of a burden to her parents? Her decision hadn’t affected them that much had it?

She shook her head of the thoughts plaguing her mind. Maybe they’d had a bad day at work and were taking it out on her. They’d be better in the morning.

Instead, Ambra chose to focus on a certain emerald-eyed man. His smile; the way there were two dimples on each side of his cheek—she’d counted while he was laughing with his eyes closed. His eyes and crinkles that formed at the corners when he smiled at her. His lips. The way they’d felt on her cheek. Warm and soft. Ambra couldn’t help but wonder how his lips would on other places.

For the first time in her nineteen years of living, Ambra felt alive. Her mind and soul felt like someone had lit a match instead of them. A burning fire that had just begun. In that moment, she realized she was beginning to like Luca. He’s just a friend, she thought but couldn’t help the hurt in her heart at the thought of them being just friends. Did she want something more?

Cut it out, we’ve only just met for God sakes! Ambra chastised her subconscious before falling asleep.

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