Beau here! This is a new piece, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on it! Why? Because it's my first real foray into young adult fiction, and feedback will mean any future pieces will be better. Thanks for even considering it!
The finger of God never leaves identical fingerprints. And for that, Amber curses His name.
She knows she shouldn't, knows it's sacrilege and more the fault of free will at any rate. But glancing into the mirror at the muddy brown hair and dull skin, she feels as though she got the short end of the deal. What else described the leaps and bounds between the two Defoe twins, who ought to be carved from the same stone?
On one hand, you had Amber. Plain, indescribably bland Amber, with lips that naturally pursed themselves into a frown. The odd one, her parents said affectionately as they handed off an obscurity to join the neatly ordered collection in their elder daughter's room. No worse than her sister, just introverted, without the same dazzling smile and personality. So her family left her to her books and her antiques, letting her fade into the background as much as she wanted.
They hadn't the time to pay attention to her anyways; Amber thought bitterly, brushing her short hair until it fell straight. Jade needed them more. As a baby, Amber would fall, frown and get right back up. Jade would sit there and whimper until she was soothed. From day one, the nearly identical twins were clearly distinguished by that desire, that lack of independence.
Of course, over the years, people had begun to notice Jade from different reasons. Growing her hair long and unruly compared to her sister, the younger of the Defoe girls was known by name throughout the community of Mapleborough. Not difficult with the town's population barely over ten thousand, but it was the radiance she emitted people remembered. A good word for everyone and a hand on every school event, Jade was the golden girl of the town.
Worse, she barely knew it, wandering into the washroom behind her sister, toothbrush hanging from her mouth. "Ru un?" she asked around it as Amber clipped the stray pieces of her bangs back.
"Almost," the short haired one answered, wondering just how the town would react to seeing their star in a half buttoned shirt, toothpaste foaming at the edges of her lips. They'd probably love her more, she realized with a sigh. A little flaw to her seemingly perfect sister.
That's probably the part she was most jealous of. Outside of a lackadaisical appearance, she was perfect and still modest. It was impossible not to love her, but Amber kept hoping and praying it was possible. After yesterday, it had to be.
Yesterday had been the day Amber had met the New Boy. For six months, the kitschy antique store at the corner of Main Street and Maple Lane had been closed. Having crossed over the winter, the store's clientele of tourists had been largely undisturbed. The other demographic who shopped there, Amber, had been devastated. Not only because Mrs. Smith had been taken south to her daughter's home, but that her sanctuary was closed. Jade had been barred from the store when they were children after an incident with a porcelain pig and the quite retreat from her bubbly sister had been bliss.
And for one hundred and eighty-four days, she had suffered without, taking to barricading her door while she read, so no-one bounced through, eager to talk. Now though, the new management had finally arrived, and she had so energetically flew there on Sunday it was as though she'd grown wings.
Entering the shop's battered cherry door had been like walking into black hole to the past. The dark veneer of the wood glowed under the store's artificial lighting. As had been the case when she'd last been inside, the moth eaten velvet curtains hung from the windows blocking out the early Spring sun. Somewhere in the back, a radio played one of the two stations the area received, a country song the only thing to punctuate the silence other than the ringing of the bell above the door.
"Hi!" a muffled voice came from behind the counter in response, followed by the sound of shuffling boxes, "I'll be with you in just a moment!"
"I'll be fine," she called back, picking through the chaos that changing owners had caused. She'd heard rumours about the new owners. They were a couple with a teenage son. They'd left the city and moved three hours north for a change of pace. They'd owned their own antique store down there. Judging by the masses of cardboard boxes strewn across the floor, they'd managed to bring most of the store with them.
"Nothing's changed," she spoke aloud after a moment, attempting to engage the voice in conversation. Anything to break the eerie quiet that came from Dean Martin not being played at ear shattering levels.
"Yeah," the voice came again only a foot behind her, causing her to nearly collide with a shelf of rings, "my folks bought the store and the contents, so nothing new's been set up yet."
Glancing over her shoulder, Amber took in the previously disembodied voice's owner. A good six inches above her own five foot four, his face gave him away as being her own age at most. He must have been the son from the rumours. Dark blond hair tussled about and clothes covered with dust, it was clear she'd interrupted him while he was cleaning up. Still, his dark eyes were lit with amusement, as though she'd been a welcome distraction.
For a guy who looked like that, Amber certainly didn't mind being a distraction. In fact, she relished the possibility. Feeling the awkwardness of their little staring contest, she broke the eye contact, sweeping over the store in hopes of finding something to talk about. Hazel eyes falling on the barren Pembroke table along the side, she finally found one. "The jade lion is gone," she murmured in slight surprise. The lion, lazing around on the table, had been there for as long as she could remember. The large carving was too heavy for the tourists to haul home, and Mrs. Smith's pride and joy.
"Yeah," the boy answered, taking a step closer and leaning over her head to see where she was looking, "my parents collect jade figures."
There was something in his tone that suggested the collection was against his personal taste. Strange really, that a guy her own age would have any interest in antiques, let alone a preference. Still, if his family owned the store, it made sense that he might be surrounded enough that it was a natural hobby. "You don't like them?"
"Well, it's not that," he answered, taking a step back and turning back towards the counter. The second he moved, Amber missed the warmth of his body only a few inches away. Stumbling for the words as he picked through the piles of boxes and displays, he shrugged off his opinion even as he said it. "It's just, jade's usually so bright no matter the colour, but it's missing some sort of warmth to it."
He paused as he slipped back around the counter, Amber following slowly behind him. Despite spending most of her life picking through the displays, her movement lacked the grace of his fluid movements, hopping the boxes like he'd been born to. Turning back to look at her, he blushed slightly. "I sound like an idiot, don't I?"
"Not really," she clarified, trying to suppress the urge to mention how cute he was with flushed cheeks, the colour lighting up his bronzed skin, "I just have no idea what you mean by warmth." Great. Maybe she was the one who sounded like an idiot.
"Maybe we're both the idiot then," he suggested with a grin before realizing the harsh sound of his words, and turning an even more vibrant crimson. "I mean, sound like it. Not that you do."
Turning to a cardboard box on the oak desk that served as a counter, the blond busied himself with sifting through it, mouthing something angrily to himself as he did. Clasping a hand over her mouth, Amber giggled quietly. He had no idea how much a delightful change he was compared to the stoic old woman who had last run the store. In a way, his bumbling manner reminded her of Jade, flying through life without a thought to the consequences. At the thought of her twin, she sobered up just as the boy turned back around.
"Were you just laughing at me?" he asked, quirking an amused eyebrow in her direction. Taking her shrug and next smothered laugh as a yes, his smile burst into a grin as he leaned over the counter until he was eye level with her. Amber felt like she was drowning in the dark ocean of his irises. Still with an easy going expression on his face he continued on. "I was going to find you an example of what I meant, but it's gotta be in another box."
"Oh," she answered, disappointed. It seemed as though their conversation had come to an end. Until her summer job started up, she didn't have the spare change to spend on antiques. Without another excuse to stay, Amber was simply in the way. "I should probably get going then."
Tugging the sleeves of her grey shirt down to protect against the cool March wind, Amber moved to leave, only to be stopped by a hand dropping to her wrist. "Wait." Glancing up to the new store owners' son, she did as she was told, freezing in place. His face was a torrent of unreadable emotion before clearing to a banal smile. "I'll find it by tomorrow. Come by then."
"Okay," she managed to choke up, wanting to stay forever if it meant being in his company. It was the longest she'd spoken to a guy without him asking about Jade in years, and she'd never been this interested in any of Mapleborough's residents. Not even Glen McKenna, who'd kissed her cheek once when they were eight.
"You promise?" he asked, smile fading to a more serious expression. His hand had lifted from hers, ruffling his hair into some semblance of order as he looked at her. Amber slowly nodded and smiled a touch; the expression had nothing on her sister's usual grins, but was magical on her own neutral lips.
Today though, was Monday. It was a far cry from the magical atmosphere of the antique store, where she was unlikely to run into anyone under the age of twenty, other than perhaps the boy from yesterday. Mondays involved taking the bus into school to avoid the long walk there at seven in the morning. Mondays involved classes and lunch breaks and worst of all, this Monday would bring the New Boy into direct contact with Jade. Sure, they might not end up in any of the same classes, but Jade would want the friend. And then he would want Jade.
Sloping out of the washroom down to breakfast, Amber resisted the urge to cry. Even if it wasn't her intention, Jade would get his affection. She always did, whether she knew it or not.
By the time lunch rolled around, her worst fears had already come true. She had wandered into the school's cafeteria, book in hand only to find Jade tossing her head back and laughing at something the New Boy had said. Three hours and they were eating lunch at a table side by side, sharing jokes that didn't involve the rest of their table.
Curious as to the subject of the conversation, even as her stomach clenched, Amber walked in their direction, head down to cover her face as much as possible. By themselves, Amber and Jade rarely caused anyone to notice their similarities. Side by side, most of the town swore they were doppelgangers.
"So your sister and you have matching names?" she caught him asking, indigo eyes trained on the girl beside him. Look at me, a part of Amber cried out. Don't let him see you, another piece chastised. Staying in hearing range as she grabbed a seat, her ears pricked up for her sister's reply.
"Yeah," it came with the same sweet, benevolent tone it always did. "Amber's the best."
"Even better than you?" he was teasing Jade, ruffling her long tresses as he spoke. From the corner of her eye, the older of the two sisters could see that much clearly. Could see it and hate it with a passion.
Amber didn't want to watch yet another guy fall for her sister. Especially not the one who only yesterday had made her heart race with his smile and his words. She didn't want to see the New Boy fall for her sister. There was no reason he wouldn't- this was Jade after all- but at least, out of sight and out of hearing she could pretend there was still a chance. A chance that she could have a friend who didn't want to be Jade's best friend. It had happened once, years ago and she'd driven that girl off.
If the antique store's blond haired, blue eyed gem showed any interest in her, Amber wouldn't make that same mistake again.
Making it through the rest of the day in a haze, Amber went through the usual motions. Classes with people she'd known since infancy. Books she'd already read at home amongst her trinkets. Experiments that simply turned things blue. Mapleborough never really changed much. At least, not in Amber's world.
Tumbling into the sunshine in front of the school's two buses, she paused, considering taking one of them home. Crowded as it would be, walking three kilometres home wasn't all that more appealing. Weighing her two options, Amber nearly smacked her head as she remembered a third. The antique shop! Sure, now he'd met Jade, he might not want her there, but she hadn't promised to go. Could he really begrudge her following through on that promise?
Bag strapped firmly to her back, Amber followed the students who lived in the center of town. There was only a hundred or so of them, but with their homes on plots smaller than ten acres, they seemed to live nearly on top of each other. It meant though, that Amber could take her time heading to the antique shop on the other side of Main Street, stopping at the town library to drop off a book, popping in the clothing store to see if the local fashion had finally caught up with the rest of the country. Grabbing a cup of hot chocolate to ward off the March winds.
Eventually though, she ran out of distractions on the way, standing in front of the velvet curtained window with a decidedly uncomfortable expression. What if he wasn't inside? What if, instead, he and Jade had managed to fall in love already and elope back down to the city? If he was in love with her sister, Amber could handle it, but the idea of them having mutual feelings traumatized her. If they ran off together, she'd lose her crush and her best friend at the same time.
Steeling herself against the thoughts and the cool breeze, Amber, for the second time in two days, opened the door to the store, uncertain of what she'd find behind its magical portal.
Inside looked much the same as it had the day before. The boxes that had been strewn across the floor the day previous were now torn open, the contents glittering in their cases or simply sitting being old. It looked as though someone had flung everything open in order to formulate a plan and then entirely forgotten. Someone who was blond and bobbing around behind the counter with more energy than purpose. Reinforced by the fact her sister was clearly nowhere in sight, Amber took a few steps tentatively forward as the bell above the door chimed out.
"Hi, how can I- you came back!" his delight was nearly overpowering, the megawatted grin making Amber wish she was wearing sunglasses. Was clearing out an antique shop that boring that her arrival could elicit such a response. Blandly, she shrugged it off; flushing a bit under the red glow the wind had given her face.
"I promised, didn't I?"
"Yeah, I guess so," he managed, nodding. The grin dimmed slightly, dropping down to goofy smile as he went back to the boxes in front of him.
Walking around the boxes gingerly, Amber considered what to say. Clearly, this time he wasn't about to lead the conversation. Slightly discouraged at the thought, Amber remembered the official reason she'd come back a second time. "So, did you find it?"
"It?" he voice was muffled in a cardboard box, though still perplexed. Was she the only one who remembered their conversation just hours before?
"Your explanation," she tossed out, annoyed tone just barely suppressed as she picked through the chaos.
"Right, right!" his smile grew back as he dug around in the smallest of the boxes. Pausing as she grew closer to the counter, the blond raised his head slightly. "I'm Darius by the way. Darius Hawthorne."
Thrown by the change in subject, Amber simply stared at him for a moment. So they hadn't gotten to introductions before, when it would still have been a logical progression of events. That was fine. Still, it seemed a rather odd point to do so, as though he'd only just thought of it.
"I'm A-" She started, only to cut herself off midsentence. What if the reason he'd only just thought of it was remembering her sister? What if introducing herself immediately turned to questions about Jade- the kind of guy she liked, her favourite colour? Thinking on her feet, Amber responded, only a few beats too late. "Jennifer."
"Just Jennifer?" he asked, cryptic look in his eyes. Had she not been fast enough?
"Jennifer... Smith," she managed, nearly choking on the words. At least Jennifer Smith was a real person. Had been at least, before she left Mapleborough a few years ago. It might hold up, if the locals weren't too candid with any questions about it.
"Alright Jennifer Smith," he answered, clearly buying the ruse to some degree. "Ready to behold, hands down, the best thing in the shop?"
"Sure," she managed, remembering to reply to the name. It was going to be hard, but she'd do fine. Somehow. Besides, it wasn't as though they were going to be spending much time around one another. He'd show her whatever he'd described yesterday, and then Amber would leave, letting him daydream about Jade all he wanted.
"Right," he answered, pulling out a single package with a flourish as she drew closer. "Ta-da."
The single stringed necklace inside remained as dim as the box itself, even pulled into the light. Round golden beads were placed gently against the oak counter as Amber leaned forward, unsure of what to say. Her namesake glowed slightly in the artificial light of the shop, while the guy she'd just met but already kind of, sort of liked referred to it as the best thing. Responding to all this was far out of her grasp at the moment.
After a minute of silence, Darius spoke again. "It's a Baltic Amber teething necklace," he informed her, only to be met with another moment a silent regard. "I mean, it's not the oldest thing in the shop or anything, but I like it."
Immediately, Amber regretted lying about her name. Just hearing the word roll off his tongue had her senses peaked and heart thumping. Add to it the closeness between them as they both admired the necklace, and it was no wonder she could barely speak. Anything she did manage was more likely to come out as a squeak.
Still, pushing her short bob back to look closer, Amber's lips formed a single word. "Pretty," she murmured, touching the warm stones.
"Isn't it?" he asked, eyes lifted away from the necklace, smile drifting away to a more serious, contemplative look. "I'm going to put it right...somewhere."
"Somewhere?" Glancing up and away from the beads, Amber immediately regretted doing so. His eyes were so distant, like a painting in a museum. How anyone could avoid being fascinated with these brief moments of serious expression was beyond her. Given a choice, Amber would watch his face shift forever. Her words had broken the spell though, Darius breaking off to shrug and laugh self-deprecatingly.
"Yeah. Organizing the store's my job and you can see," he gestured widely at the expense of items set haphazardly in place. "It's going to take a while."
The decision was impulsive, Amber's eyes taking in the room and the tall, stressed looking boy. This was a chance, an opportunity to get close to him before Jade accidentally took him away forever. "I could help," she volunteered gently. Perhaps he wouldn't want the help, but she could try.
"Could you?" he eyes lit up, the bright smile re-emerging as he looked down at her, "You'd be saving my life if you did."
He so needed to stop smiling like that. Short hair was practical, but it didn't come anywhere near covering the reddening of her cheeks under his beatific expression. "Tomorrow," she managed to stutter out.
"Okay," he agreed, still just as pleased as she nearly stumbled away from the counter to the door, "See you Jennifer."
A beat too late again, she nodded. "See you."
Tuesday, Amber attempted to organize the boxes into a semblance of order to no avail. Wednesday she convinced Darius to help pile everything that could be piled up. Thursday they took a break from cleaning to make a fort out of the cardboard boxes and eat cup noodles. By Friday, Amber was getting used to replying to her fake name.
Saturday her family finally started to notice the changes she was making. With Jade, going out every day was expected- between projects and her friends, their parents had long since assumed their more outgoing daughter would always be too busy. With Amber though, it was odd for her not to be locked in her room, book in hand.
And like all parents who try not to interfere with their children's lives, they chose the least obtrusive answer- Jade.
It wasn't as though, pushing the door open while sipping her hot chocolate, Jade was particularly undercover. The routine was long established. Jade would bring two drinks as a bribe, entering the beige room while trying not to knock anything off the shelves encircling the four walls. Amber, as she did this night, would take the second drink away, keep the book she was reading- a comic oddly enough that Darius had lent her- in her lap and wait.
After a few minutes of quiet punctuated by the flipping of glossy pages, Jade shoved her mass of hair back to examine her sister. "Mom and dad are worried about you," she started, waiting for the grunt emitted by her sister before continuing, "They think you're up to something."
Well, she was in a way, Amber thought blithely. Skulking about afterschool and returning just barely in time for a late dinner. Of course, her parents probably assumed she spent the time in the middle selling drugs to eight year olds, not organizing boxes with a cute, but so far harmless boy.
"What do you think?" she managed after a moment, flicking through the action scene with little care. Of course comic books needed action, but it paled in comparison to the rest of the character driven story.
Jade shrugged, uncertain of how to continue. After a moment and a sip of her drink, she cocked her head thoughtfully. "Did you meet someone new?"
"None of your business," Amber bit out, uncomfortable with how quickly she'd been figured out. Maybe it was some sort of twin connection they'd never exhibited before. Unless Jade had always been able to read her mind.
"I'm your sister," the argument came, as both an answer and a demand. They'd been close their whole lives, and having to force a conversation seemed unreasonable. Today though, Amber was in no mood to play nicely. A ten minute discussion of Darius's classmate he was getting shown around by tomorrow, named Jade had shortened her fuse.
"Yeah, and as my sister, you'll want to go check them out," Amber shoved the mug she'd been holding in her free hand between a shepardess statue and a second edition of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, irritation rising as she did. "And as my perfect sister, when you do, they'll want to be around you instead!"
The younger girl reeled back, her once white shirt blending into the teal comforter. "I'm not perfect," she mumbled.
"No, and that's even worse," Amber grumbled unhappily, arms crossed against her chest, "If you were perfect, then you'd be a robot."
"Amber..." the affectionate tone came, pleading for a respite. Can't we pretend everything is alright, the look begged, hazel eyes locking on each other. While she could only see her sister, Amber figured their eyes must match perfectly in this moment, swirling with browns, blue and greens in a gentle combatance.
"No," she finally managed to respond, breaking the eye contact. "You're my sister, and I love you, but sometimes I'd be happier living as far away as possible." Perhaps New York would be far enough, or Vancouver. Maybe she'd have to go to Istanbul to escape the pressure of her sister's glittering presence. Maybe she'd have to go to the moon.
"I'll tell them you're doing a project," her sister managed a moment later, clearly recovering from the momentary outburst. They'd had this argument a thousand times if they'd had it once. While it had started out years ago with shoving and tears, it somehow hurt more to resolve their differences like civilised adults.
Slinging an arm around her sister, Jade looked at her in slight concern. "You know, not everyone you meet is going to want to be around me more," she pointed out before letting go and reaching for the door again, empty cup in hand, "Maybe you should give your friend the benefit of the doubt."
As the door shut again with a quiet click, Amber considered her sister's words. Maybe she should give Darius that amount of trust, but if it failed...
It wasn't until later she'd realized that the initial lies had already pushed her past the point of just a little hope.
Thanks to the little white lie about a project- technically not a lie, as neither girl had said it was for school- Amber was left free to roam. Every afternoon was spent working on dusting, organizing, breaking only to grab a far more unhealthy dinner than her parents would ever allow. By the end of the third week, most everything was in place, a handful of items left to be slotted away.
Instead of working on them though, Amber sat on top of the oak counter, legs swinging as she listened to Darius talk. "And that's why Green Lantern is the weakest of all superheroes," he finished with a flourish, elbows propped beside her.
"What about that aglet guy?" she asked curiously. The past few days had brought her up to date on most of the basics of the comic universe. As best as any crash course could, at any rate.
"The Question?" he asked cheerfully, flicking his hair away from his face as he contemplated her. The intensity of the look caused shivers to go shooting down her spine. Sure, he wasn't absorbing what his face was pointed at, but her face heat up all the same. "Nah, he's not weak to them," the blond answered after a moment, "He's just crazy. Totally different."
That was fair enough, she figured, shrugging and smiling at him easily. It was strange. Over the past few weeks, her smile had become nearly as fast and easy as Jade's. A confusing point for many of her teachers and friends, all of whom had assumed it was due to Jade getting a haircut. Maybe it was the comfort of being around someone who was friends with her purely for her own sake, rather than an interest in Jade. The change was stunning at any rate.
Enjoying the lull in conversation, Amber let it hang on a bit more before glancing at the grandfather clock they'd lugged from the back corner to the front. The late hour was apparently only on the clock; the heavy curtains had remained securely fastened through the changes. Had she not looked, Amber might never have known how much time had passed.
"We should probably get something done today," she mentioned lightly, descending slowly from the counter. Anything to drag the time on more.
"Not much left to do." Darius stood just as slowly, stretching as he did. T-shirt riding up, he reached lazily into the last box. "The books are just staying on the counter. About the only thing left to put up is this."
Lifting up the ceramic figurine, he walked around, handing it to her. It was kitschy, but the shimmering horn on top of the horse's head glittered regardless. Turning it between her palms, Amber looked up sadly. "It's the last one then? Why didn't you get it before?"
"Right. There's one other, but that can wait," he sped along, coughing slightly. "And I didn't get it because the ladder got taken down to an auction."
"And you want me to do what?" she asked curiously, glancing around. If there was no ladder, she could hardly climb the shelves any more safely than Darius himself could.
Averting his eyes a moment, Darius scratched at his head. "I figured I could give you a boost and you could get it on the shelf."
Amber was quickly glad for a few things. One, that Darius wasn't looking at her as she turned tomato red at the prospect of him lifting her up. Two, that her unhealthy diet since their meeting had been counteracted with the workload. And three, perhaps most importantly, that she was so used to people assuming a Defoe girl in a skirt was Jade that her jeans were most firmly in place.
Nodding her head in determination, she looked up. "Okay," she murmured in agreeance, "just show me which shelf."
Following behind, Amber nearly growled at her pounding heart. It wasn't as though he'd had any ulterior motives. Had he actually been interested in her, surely he would have made some sort of move on her beforehand. Instead, Darius simply lifted her in his arms, hands on her hips as she struggled to stretch to the upper shelf.
"Are you done yet?" the chuckle came from somewhere around her abdominals, nearly causing a shriek of surprise. She'd forgotten that the arms she was wrapped in were actually connected to someone. Especially someone warm and protective, even as he trembled from the exertion. Having Darius even nearby had taken days to adjust to. Having him hold her was almost too much to bear.
Gently placing the porcelain unicorn on the shelf while she trembled, she shifted slightly, the arms holding her twisting with her motions. "Now I am."
"I guess you are," he answered back, slowly lowering her back to her feet. His tone was odd, Amber realized just as it had been the day they'd meet and mentioned the jade statue.
Eyes locking on his, Amber took him in, pressed close as she was. It wasn't just her imagination; he was certainly less than happy. "What's wrong?"
"I don't want you stop coming here," he murmured, head dropped nearly against her own.
"I used to come in all the time before too," she pointed out, "It's not like I'm going to stop."
"I doubt the old lady was happy for the same reasons though."
"What kind of rea-oh!" she gasped as he dropped his face the rest of the way, lips touching her just a moment before moving away.
Watching her reaction a moment, eyes a swirling mass of thought, Darius smiled a touch before leaning down again. This time though she was ready for the soft touch of his mouth against hers. Amber stood as high as she could, fingers slipping slowly into the short strands of his hair.
Minutes later they still stood there, staring at each other awkwardly. Had there been anything left to say, Amber would have, but in that moment all she could do was stare and stare. Frozen in place, neither of them thawed until the clock chimed out the time as eight o'clock.
"Jenn," Darius started, brushing her short hair back. Silently, Amber watched his lips move, hardly hearing the words he said.
"Jennifer?" he tried again.
"Yes?" she responded, looking up at him in near delight. How strange to hear him say her name. It was nice though, to hear the syllables off his tongue to get her attention. Maybe he would kiss her again, she thought blissfully.
And suddenly she realized why the name seemed so wrong. "Oh, the necklace?" she managed, trying to cover up her mistake. "It's by the counter."
"Amber," he tried again, letting go off her hips to look down at her sadly.
"It's so pretty right?" She was panicking now, looking for something, anything, to distract Darius away from what he'd learnt. In the back of her mind, a part considered that it would be a great time to discover she knew how to breathe fire or disappear into the floor. Instead, she was simply blathering on. "You could probably sell it to a collector or something, not that we get any of those up here. Though maybe if you stuck it online, it would work. And it would definitely be worth more to them than it would up he-"
"Amber!" he nearly shouted, effectively cutting her off.
Around her, Amber's fairy-tale shattered, falling to the floor like shards of glass. For a moment she stared up at him, wide eyed as Darius looked back down, hurt clear in his face as she stared, watching in his face the reflection of everything she'd wanted being forever destroyed.
Perhaps there was a sensible response. Maybe there was some way to salvage the moment, to turn the clock back five minutes to when they'd kissed and everything had been perfect. Instead, Amber turned and fled, dashing down the moonlit Main Street as though her lies were chasing her home.
Three days later, Amber had yet to leave the relative safety of her room. She was exhausted from the project; she'd heard Jade explain to her parents. The best sister on the planet, who simply left food on her dresser and left without a word. After the third day of silence from both her sister and Darius, Amber was ready to dramatically toss herself from a cliff.
And somehow, in her special way, Jade arrived at that time, hot chocolate in one hand, Earl Grey in the other and sat down on the bed. "This is about Darius, isn't it?" she asked softly, handing over the tea. Watching the nod reflected on the dresser mirror, she lapsed into silence before starting again.
"He's not mad at you, you know," Jade clarified between sips of her drink. "He's mad at himself."
"Why? He's not the one who lied, I am," Amber pointed out, voice scratchy from lack of use. Had it been so long since she'd made the mistake of answering to her name?
"You both lied," the younger girl said, patience clearly wearing, "Darius is just a better liar."
"What?" An unexpected revelation indeed.
"He knew you were lying from the beginning," Jade said slowly, as though speaking to a small child, "the first day at school, he asked who you were and I told him."
"You told him?" Amber thought back to that conversation she'd overheard and stared aghast at her airheaded sister. "Jade!"
"I didn't know you'd met already then!" Jade cried her defense. "And I definitely didn't know you were going to lie about your name!"
Amber could hardly argue that point. It had been a stupid idea, and clearly hadn't been worth it. Darius had liked her anyways, and she'd ruined it with lies, when she'd thought the truth would be the killer.
What do I do now?" as the responsible one, Amber wasn't used to asking her sister for advice. Assistance maybe, but the mastermind had always been clear. This time though, the subject matter was beyond her. "It's not like I can just go over there and apologise. I lied to him."
"And it's not like he can come apologise to you, because he lied too." Stating the point calmly, a moment later Jade's laughter bubbled forth, coming out in peals of giggles.
"What's so funny?"
"I bet you Darius is doing the exact same thing as you right now," Jade managed between giggles.
"He can't be, he doesn't have a bratty sister to laugh at him."
"No, not that," the reply was instantaneous, followed by a brief, insulted glance. "I meant just waiting around for you to do something because he can't."
Amber laughed. It was impossible not to, considering the possibility that on opposite sides of town, they were doing the exact same thing. How had she not thought of it? Living on top of the problem had clearly ruined her perspective. Standing up and nearly dumping her drink, she quickly rushed to dress properly, eyes hunting for her shoes.
"Amber?" Jade's voice rose up tentatively.
"Yeah?" she answered, unfolding her jeans from the hangar as fast as she could. For once, she didn't replace it when the metal wire fell to the floor.
Half an hour later, Amber was flying down the cobblestone that made up Main Street, flinging the door to the antique shop open so fast the bell shook too much to chime. Barging up to the counter, she looked at the familiar shocked figure on the other side with utter seriousness. "Hi."
"Je- I mean..." He trailed off, uncertain and confused.
"Hi," she tried again, extending a hand with a serious expression. "I'm Amber Defoe."
"Darius Hawthorne," he responded, trademark grin sliding up his face, "Nice to meet you."
The handshake lingered. The electricity between them jumped about from one to the other, both red cheeked as they stood there. It passed from a handshake to simply a touch of their hands, eyes locked on each other. Behind Amber, she could hear the grandfather clock ticking away the time as Darius reached out and brushed the tangled mess of her hair away from her face.
"I should probably ask you out now, huh?" he asked, breaking the silence while he stroked her cheek.
"Or you could just kiss me again," she said daringly, only to have her face flare up. What had possessed her? A minute before, she would have been happy just to be friends again. Now she was demanding a kiss? Darius didn't seem quite as perturbed though as his blue eyes twinkled in delight.
"That works too," he tossed out with a grin, moving to outdo all the other kisses Mapleborough's antique store had seen in its years.
And that, my friends, is exactly what he did.