two hundred lettersSummary:
They're all connected, whether they like it or not. Nine against the world. // Life moved on, with or without her.Warning/Spoiler:
Post-"House of Pursuits"Rating
Amber, Jerome ( all my pride and shameCollapse )
two hundred letters
Her stomach ached and her mascara coated her cheeks, creating a mask of hurt and betrayal. Tears wouldn’t stop falling, rivers of black on her face and in her heart. She hated crying; her makeup messed up, her voice sounded horse, and she looked like something out of a trashy tabloid.
She wasn’t sure what was worse – her desire to curl under the sheets and never come out or her “friends’” abandonment in her time of need. They had laughed. She understood Alfie laughing – he hung onto Jerome like a lost puppy, rarely having moments of independent genius. But Patricia and Fabian had laughed. They laughed and ignored her cries of embarrassment.
She had been too busy tearing down the incriminating evidence to notice how Nina reacted.
Sniffles tickled her nose, the edges of her eyelids watering. Amber was supposed to be perfect; acne, chubby cheeks, and imperfection were not allowed. But the tangible proof of her flawed self, tacked and pasted for public viewing, caused her stomach to clench in dread. She wanted to run away, let her tiny feet carry her far away from laughter and elections and so-called friends.
Her friends hadn’t supported her with her campaign, ditching her for the Sibuna club she created. Her friends were carrying on with their regularly scheduled lives, the memory of her absolutely horror fraying away as they traveled hallways and solved mysteries. Life moved on, with or without her.
Meanwhile, shivers ran up her shine, the water that filled her eyes slowly drying, but hiccups rising within her throat. I hate this. I really hate this. I really hate him.
It was funny – she blamed Jerome for everything, of course. She hated him and his cocky attitude and his I’m-cooler-and-funnier-and-perfecter-than-you way of life. But at the moment, she wasn’t upset with him. She just hated him in a rage so quiet; it simmered smoothly yet harshly, waiting. And waiting.
He knocked on her door that night, after Nina had disappeared with Fabian and Patricia, sympathy and pity in her eyes. (Amber ignored her. She wasn’t a fan of pity.) The sharp raps against the door didn’t phase her. Her knees tucked into her chest and her eyes awake but struggling not to water again, Amber softly answered, “come in, Jerome.”
If he was surprised that she knew who visited her that night, his face betrayed no such thought. His normally bright eyes seemed solemn to Amber, and instantly she knew – he’d talked to Mara. Or been talked to, since it doesn’t seem like he’d go looking for her. Unlike every other person she knew, Jerome didn’t bother studying the floor, his feet, anywhere other than her face. He stared at her, his eyes boring into hers. Blue and hazel battled, neither lips’ moving, only the sound of their breathing filling the heavy silence.
“I’m sorry,” he finally said. The silence broke, and Amber blinked. “I’m sorry I put up those pictures of you. I’m sorry I was jealous of Mick and took it out on you, trying to impress Mara.” His words tumbled out of his mouth, a few moments lag between his brain and his speech. “I’m just – sorry.”
Amber looked at him, considering the eyes that never left hers, the lip bitten in nervousness, the twitching hands. She tilted her head to the side thoughtfully, but kept silent for a good while. She wasn’t sure if she meant to toy with him, leave him in some suspense, or if she was – for once – deliberating her words before she spoke them. After fifteen breaths, she finally responded.
“You like Mara?”
Jerome frowned. “I never said that.”
“You didn’t need to,” she said. Her tone remained serious, although she wanted to burst out laughing at his stupidity. “The ‘I was jealous of Mick’ and ‘trying to impress Mara’ parts make it pretty obvious.”
Jerome shrugged, choosing not to respond.
“Funny how that works. How the ones you love, will always love, have other people. And so you hate them for it.” Amber sighed. “Apology accepted, Jerome.”
When she decided to forgive Jerome, she hadn’t anticipated him to be overwhelmed with joy or gratitude. At his wide eyes and raised eyebrows, his surprise greeted her instead, as expected.
“That’s it? Forgiven, just like that?” he asked.
“Just like that,” she repeated, laying back down on her bed, head on the pillow and legs still curled in front of her. “But if you don’t mind, I want to be alone right now.”
“Uh – yeah – right,” Jerome said as he stepped towards the door. His feet teased the line between room and hallway before he stepped back onto the carpet for a moment. “Amber – why?”
She didn’t need him to explain. “Because you’re exercising passion over restraint. Because you’re a goofball; pranks and scheming are in your nature and you’ll never change. But maybe you’ll be tamed and under control. Maybe you won’t go to extremes anymore. Maybe you’ll take advantage of your second chance.” Her voice sounded foreign to him, she knew, two hundred letters of a new language, unfamiliar and odd. His skeptical face just nodded once before stepping out into the hallway and disappearing, but not before speaking once more.
“Thank you for believing in me.” His voice echoed against the mysterious walls, the vibrations settling in her eardrums, a message of gratitude and respect pulsing within her.
Amber smiled into her pillow. Hope. That should be my campaign promise.