Sarah smiled as she listened to the female beside her speak, her dark eyes losing focus slightly as the girl’s voice simply filled the air around her. “Sarah … are you listening to me? Sarah!” her shoulder was shaken roughly, bringing her out of the silent reverie she’d put herself into. “I’m sorry, Amber,” Sarah smiled apologetically, her brown eyes shining as she pouted at the other female. “Of course you are,” the sarcastic remark was made with a smile that made Sarah’s insides feel like the centre of a freshly baked bun; warm and molten.
“I was kidding, Sarah,” she was shoved again as Amber’s statement was met with an uncharacteristic silence. “I know,” the shorter girl gave the caramel-haired girl a warm smile that made her eyes crinkle into nothingness as they walked down the street, the slight breeze filtering through their hair.
The faint sound of jeers and mockingly real cat-calls from the opposite end of the street made Sarah cower slightly, her usually bubbly countenance fading as she ducked her head, allowing her hair to fall over her eyes and cheeks as they coloured, and the slightest hint of tears reaching her eyes. “Ignore them, Sarah,” Amber’s voice was drenched in restrained anger as she put an arm around the other girl, ignoring the sneers that were sent their way.
“I told you no one likes me,”
Amber’s mind was sent reeling almost ten years back with that single statement. And even as she turned slightly to look at the teary-eyed girl beside her, she could see the reflection of the child she’d befriended almost a decade ago.
Amber had to admit it; it was the sound of insults that had drawn her to the group of boys who’d huddled in a corner of the playground, their laughter cynical and boisterous as they poked and plucked at the small thing they’d cornered against a tree.
“P-p-please leave me alone,” the sound of the voice was enough to make Amber scream at them, her blue eyes fiery as she pushed her way through the boys that were only slightly shorter than her. “She asked you to leave her alone,” the sound of any child’s voice that furious would have made any adult shudder. “You shouldn’t be friends with her … she’s a loser! She just sits here and reads her stupid books!” the person she’d taken to be the ring-master of the rag-tag group they’d formed spoke up, easily recognising Amber with her pale hair and sky-coloured eyes.
“You called her a loser! That means that you’re the loser!” Amber yelled, being the child that she was. Her eyes were scrunched together in fury as she stood in front of the whimpering figure, her stance perfectly confident and filled with a firmness that would have put any well-groomed adult to shame. “Tch … Let’s go guys, I don’t want to get any cooties on me,” Amber noticed that the laughter that filled the air made the girl behind wince and cry out soundlessly as they tossed an abused book into the soil.
Moving quickly, Amber darted for the book as the trio turned their backs to the pair of them. She grimaced as she brushed the dirt of it, trying her best not to stain the fading pages with her clumsy fingers as she fanned through the pages quickly, her sharp eyes catching sight of the pages that had been torn clean from the binding.
“Here … I’m sorry I couldn’t clean your book,” Amber apologised as she handed the book to the shivering figure. “I … it’s okay …” the words were barely audible as the girl mumbled out her thanks, taking the book with fingers that resembled match-sticks before clutching the over-sized book in arms that made even Amber wince. Amber continued to stare at the girl, her mouth falling open slightly as she watched the tiny girl pick herself up. She continued watching even as the girl brushed a hand over the over-sized skirt that had been tied at the waist with a stained yellow ribbon that clashed with her old blue dress in a way that made Amber wince and run a hand over the well-pressed green velvet that had been sewn into the dress she was wearing.
“Why do they bully you?” the words left Amber’s mouth as curiosity filled her eyes, seeming to radiate from her as she leaned closer to the girl who instinctively reared away from her. “I … I’m n-not all-allowed to t-t-talk to st-strangers,” Amber could only watch as the girl scampered away, her book clutched in her arms as she ran towards a man who scooped her slight frame easily into his arms before Amber watched as the girl hid her face in his shoulder; the thick book wedged between her dress and the man’s pea-coat.
The very next day, Amber crept beside the girl who was reading the book under a tree, her dark hair falling into her eyes in a manner that made her push it away every few minutes as she flipped the pages. “What’re you reading?” a yelp left the girl’s lips as she tumbled over herself, landing in an ungraceful heap before she straightened herself. “W-who’re you?” her stammering voice made Amber frown slightly before reaching a hand out to the smaller girl. “I’m Amber, who’re you?” Amber watched as the girl stared at her hand apprehensively, before taking it gingerly in her own.
Amber stepped onto the train, smiling at the memory as she watched Sarah pull a sheaf of notes from her binder, flipping through the pages that had been coloured in a variety of pens that would have confused anyone but the female that was standing beside her. “Stop it, Sarah … I’m bored,” the fake whine that Amber let out of her mouth caught the younger girl’s attention as she looked up at Amber. “Well … you could always study for the test we’re having next week,” Sarah said softly as she motioned to her notes again.
“But Sarah … you’ll pass higher than the rest of us even if you don’t study at all the entire weekend, and start half-an-hour late,” Amber whined as she nudged Sarah, her elbow bumping into the girl’s shoulder. “Alright, alright,” Sarah finally conceded, putting her notes away before she was pushed aside by a man who simply grabbed at her arm, shoving her into a corner of the train before walking past her, snorting as he did so. “Hey!” it was Amber that came to her rescue, yet again. Even as the man ignored the teenagers, Amber approached Sarah; her eyes filled with a concern that made Sarah feel guilty for being as weak as she was.
“I’m sorry,” Sarah mumbled, curling against the metal bar and away from Amber as the train rattled again. “What’re you being sorry for?” Amber scoffed as she huddled beside Sarah, her arm reaching over the girl’s head as she gripped the bar, her knuckles turning white as she clenched her fist around the cold metal. “I’m sorry that I’m like this,” Sarah clarified as she turned away from Amber slightly, her eyes damp as she tried to shield herself from Amber’s wrath.
Surprisingly, Amber opted not the reply, but the subtle stiffening of her figure beside Sarah told her all she needed to know.
“You’re still coming over to help me out with my work, right?” It was a simply sentence, Sarah wanted to say, but it held so many memories.
The first time she’d been to the other girl’s home was an experience like no other.
“Come on, Sarah … you’re not going to a party dressed like that,” Amber dragged the whining female into her bedroom. “But you never complain about what I normally wear,” Sarah pointed out, crossing her arms as she glared at the taller female stubbornly. “That’s when we’re studying, Sarah … you’re supposed to be comfortable when you do that.” Amber retorted as she began rifling through her wardrobe, muttering to herself as she tossed piles and piles of cloth aside, searching for something that would have hung on the other girl’s frame.
“This is it,” Sarah was yawning on Amber’s bed when the other female finally revealed a knee-length, cream-coloured dress that was tight until the waist, where it flared out beautifully until an inch above her knees. Periwinkle-blue roses were scattered over the silky material, sitting on the cloth in a way that made Sarah gasp. “I … I can’t, Amber … w-what if I get it dirty?” Amber didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry at the girl’s lack of knowledge.
“Dresses can be cleaned, Sarah …” she pointed out after tossing the garment to the girl, hitting her in the stomach with the plastic hanger before ordering her to change into it.
“I want people to see the real you, Sarah … I don’t want to see the wall anymore …”
Fifteen minutes later, when Amber was lining her eyes with the thick liquid that made Sarah cry, Sarah stared at herself in the mirror. She was unrecognisable, she realised. Her hair had been yanked and pulled and heated until it hung in delicate-looking waves from her shoulder-blades to her waist, and her eyes had been lined and darkened with the things Amber called ‘eye-liner’ and ‘mascara’. “I hope you’re ready Sarah,” she snapped out of her thoughts to look at Amber.
“Amber … I hope you realise that I’ll still stand out like a sore thumb, right?” Sarah said, her voice turning dejected when she caught sight of Amber’s perfectly curled hair, her rose-coloured lips and her kohl-lined eyes that somehow made her look all-natural, but still made-up at the same time.
Five hours later, Sarah was clutching on to a not-so-sober Amber who teetered from side to side on the pavement that led to her house. “Come on, Amber, I can’t do this by myself, you know,” Sarah tried to talk to the giggling female yet again. “You’re so cute, Sarah,” Amber patted Sarah’s cheek sloppily, before giggling again, her pink cheeks darkening into red as she leaned even further onto Sarah.
“It makes me want to kiss you, sometimes,” Sarah blushed at the breathy sound of Amber’s voice in her ear, but wrinkled her nose at the strong smell of alcohol that entered her nose as Amber leaned closer to her. “Stop it Amber … we’ve got to get you home,” Sarah attempted to bring the girl back as she hurried her pace, quickening her footsteps on the pavement as she heaved the majority of Amber’s weight onto her back.
It had been more than awkward the next day, when Sarah and Amber met up in the cafeteria for lunch, Amber grumpily nursing a hangover that had her head pounding louder than the bass from the music that was playing from headphones of the boy in front of her.
“Thanks … for last night,” Amber began awkwardly, once they’d both gotten seats at the plastic tables that littered the large area. “No … problem,” Sarah said, not even looking up to meet Amber’s eyes as she spoke. “Look, Sarah … I wasn’t myself last night, but I wouldn’t lie about anything I said … if I said anything at all …” the last part was muttered to herself, but Sarah caught it anyway.
Sarah greeted Amber’s mother as the pair entered the large house. The woman simply waving them aside before returning her attention to her phone, nodding subconsciously as she spoke quietly into the device. It wasn’t really hard to see where Amber got her strongest attributes from. “Let’s start with the test material, shall we?” Sarah asked, shaking her head slightly to clear it before she pulled her notes out of her binder, scanning through them quickly before she pushed them towards the honey-haired girl.
“You’ve gotten the idea now, right?” Sarah said, tapping her foot nervously as she looked from her watch to the darkening sky through the still-open window. “Well, we’ve covered most of it, I guess,” Sarah muttered, skimming through the pages of notes and explanations she’d scribbled over the last two hours before nodding to herself and slipping all the sheets back into her folder.
“I’ll see you on Monday, then?” Sarah gave Amber a small smile as she asked. “Nope, I’m seeing you tomorrow for coffee,” Amber said, her voice hiding a smile as she put her things neatly into her bag. “You are?” Amber laughed at the way Sarah’s eyes seemed to resemble saucers. “Yep, and don’t be late, alright? We’re meeting up at the small café down the street from the mall,”
An uncharacteristic nervousness filled Sarah as she stepped into the café, pulling the hood off her head and pushing her sleeves over her forearms and to her elbows as she peered around the small café discreetly for Amber. “Sarah!” she sidled through the tables to sit across from Amber who was already sipping at a steaming mug, both her hands wrapped fully around the glass, leeching off the warmth that still escaped the cup in swirls.
“You could’ve asked me to come earlier,” Sarah forced herself not to stammer as she spoke to the girl who simply tilted her head, her blue eyes darkening with an emotion Sarah had yet to see. “W-what’s wrong, Amber?” her voice shook slightly as Amber leaned across the table.
The familiar scent of roses and peppermints that Sarah had learnt to associate with Amber filled her senses as she steeled herself. However, upon closer inspection of the usually flawless female, Sarah noticed the hint of eye-bags that were threatening to form, and the slight redness in her eyes that made it apparent that she hadn’t slept well the night before.
“Amber … what’s wrong?” Sarah’s voice was desperately concerned as she took the older girl’s hand in her own, tightening her fingers around the warm ones as she tried to meet her eyes. “Sarah … I know what I said the night I got drunk …” her words made Sarah freeze slightly, her dark eyes glassing over as her breathing hitched at the memory of what had happened that day.
“And I also meant what I said the next day … I don’t lie about what I say,” alarms exploded in Sarah’s head as she realised where her words were leading. “We could be happy …” her words weren’t what Sarah had expected, but they still managed to make her heart turn into goo. “I … I’d do my best to make you happy, Sarah …” Amber was tearing up now, choking on her words as she spoke to the girl in front of her.
“Amber … please don’t … please don’t say things like this,” Sarah had her arms around the older female, shivering slightly when her skin met the other female’s equally cold skin, but forcing herself to remain steadily beside her.
“You always make me happy, Amber …”
“Of course … even when all I could do was watch you play from under a tree,”