Chapter Twenty-OneMature

Chapter Twenty-One

We decided not to bother with eating and headed into the ice cream bar instead. We grabbed a booth and made our orders the moment the waitress turned up.
“Please don't wear that hat to school,” Amber said for the third time. Pointing at the beret hat on Zack's head.
“You keep saying that, and it just makes me want to even more,” Zack replied with a shrug. Amber sighed and shook her head, though she had a smile on her face. Our orders arrived and I saw Amber hesitate. I wrapped an arm round her and propped my head on her shoulder.
“Do you care that I'm not horribly skinny?” I asked, aware the others were watching and feeling a little embarrassed. I didn't have a flat stomach, but then most people didn't.
“Of course not,” she murmured back.

“Likewise,” I replied. I saw my message click and she flushed, looking away.
“Right,” she said. She started eating her ice cream and I smiled. I'd help her deal with this as much as I could before I had to leave. The door to the café opened again. Of all the people I expected to walk in together, There two weren't ever on the maybe, possibly list. Though based on their expressions they were having a pretty big fight. I poked Amber and pointed. She hushed Zack mid-sentence and he and Michael joined us in spying from the booth.
“Why don't you just go bother someone else?” Lewis yelled, looking just about ready to punch anything.
“Trust me, I'd love to. But Bethany told me to-” Nick started, the tired tone telling me this was a fight they had many times.
“I don't need someone watching me. Now fuck off,” Lewis interrupted hotly. Someone else entered, a boy of about thirteen. He looked between them before walking forward and holding both hands up.

“Don't start fighting, Bethany will have all our heads,” he joked, though it sounded forced. Lewis grumbled to himself and sat down at the counter while Nick got the other kid an ice cream. They left the moment they'd got their change.
“That was odd,” Zack murmured.
“Nick did say he lived close to Lewis,” Michael pointed out.
“Wonder who Bethany is,” I said, frowning as I thought over the exchange. I'd never actually seen them talk in school before, I just figured Nick was taking our advice and avoiding the bully.
“Who cares? Lewis is heading to jail one day and if Nick chooses to hang out with him it's his own stupid fault. I mean, I'm assuming he hasn't told Lewis that he's gay,” Amber said with a contemplative voice. I blinked and slowly shook my head, remembering the conversation Nick and I had after the bowling.

“No way,” I whispered to myself. Was Lewis the difficult guy? No wonder he'd said who you liked was screwed up.
“What?” Amber asked, overhearing what I'd said to myself. I shook my head.
“Nothing.” I wasn't about to say anything until I was sure. We finished our ice cream and headed back out, piling into Zack's limo and heading back to his. We wasted the evening watching silly tv shows and laughing on the sofa. Eventually my dad came to pick me up, his expression still as guilty as it was the day before.
“You'll still turn up for rehearsal tomorrow, right?” Amber asked just before I left. She was trying to sound casual, but based on her controlled expression and the way Zack and Michael were concealing grins behind her I knew they had something planned.
“Wouldn't dream of missing it,” I grinned back.

The first thing I saw when I walked in was the cardboard boxes, the packing had already begun. My parents watched me carefully as they saw me lock gazes with them. I gripped my hand into a fist before grabbing some of the empty ones.
“I'll start on my room,” I said stiffly. I waited until my door closed before letting the tears fall. They're weren't as violent as last night, but the feel of them burned me all the same. You'd think after so many moves I'd be immune to the hurt of it all. I dumped the boxes on my bed and grabbed one. I began by packing my books, pausing to glance through my photo album. I paused on an old picture of me and Amber. We were around eight and laughing, in the middle of a snow fight. Zack was somewhere off-camera. He'd just thrown a snowball and got Amber in the side of the head. Snow stuck to her hair and was falling onto her coat as she laughed. I was hiding behind the tree with her and laughing as hard. I flicked forward, seeing so many memories. I moved to the most recent photos. My phone beeped next to me and I saw it was Amber calling.

“Hey,” she said plainly.
“Hi, I found old pictures of us,” I replied.
“What? I hope there aren't any embarrassing one,” she muttered. I laughed at her, shaking my head.
“Got loads of the snowfight that one winter when it fell really heavily,” I said. I heard him thinking back before she let out a gasp of recollection.
“We totally owned Zack,” she said proudly.
“Yeah, we did. We need to take a recent photo of the two of us so I can put it in here,” I said. I didn't add the silent 'so I can remember you', but we both knew it was there.
“I'll bring in the camera. We can try to get a nice group picture during the rehearsal too,” she suggested.
“Good plan,” I agreed. She kept talking to me as I continued to pack. We discussed past memories, the holiday to Europe. She complained about Zack and Michael making out for ages after I'd left, making me burst into uncontrollable laughter. I really didn't want to end that call, but I failed to suppress a yawn.

“That better be because you're sleepy. Because I'm not boring,” Amber commented, her voice sounding as equally worn out.
“Amber, you're the biggest drama queen in the world. The word boring and you will never be in the same sentence,” I replied.
“Damn straight,” she muttered, then yawned herself. We said goodnight and I went to bed. Both looking forward to and dreading tomorrow. The days left with Amber were ticking away too fast.

The End

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