The cool autumn air blew across the front porch, carrying a song only the fallen leaves could dance to. She picked up a large, orange leaf and stood up, dislodging a disgruntled kitty. Extending her arm out in front of her, she tossed the leaf into the wind and we watched it float in the breeze. Then she turned to face me; the sunlight filtered through the tree branches, highlighting her auburn hair and bringing out the freckles playfully strewn across her cheekbones and nose bridge. She swept across the porch and fell into the seat beside me. Her eyes asked, “you okay?”
She’s like that; Amber is. People before anything else. She knows something’s off about someone, even before they realize it themselves. You can be laughing and screaming your head off with your pals and, out of nowhere, she sidles up beside you and rests her head on your shoulder. You stop and look at her, concerned and wondering what’s wrong. She pushes her wavy hair from her eyes and look at you. Looking into those crystal clear, absolutely stunning, cool blue-grey eyes is like looking into a mirror; a mirror that shows how you truly feel on the inside. Slowly, everything else fades and you hear yourself, you see yourself, you feel yourself. She gentle tugs you into the corner of the room and it’s all you can do to keep yourself from turning into a crying, blubbering mess. All the hurt and pain and stress that you were instructed by society to bury and forget come tumbling out. Your words fall over each other in the rush to escape their prison. She pulls you closer, saying nothing, just nodding. You bury your face in her sweater; you smell cookies and pumpkin and cinnamon – autumn… And when you’re done, she smiles. You smile back, rubbing at your eyes. She gets up, looks at you one more time, and leaves. You see the huge tear stain on her sweater and cringe. To her, however, that’s a badge of honor and she isn’t afraid to show it off to the world. Weird, right?
“I’m good,” I replied with a smile.
She nodded and gently blew on her steaming mug of hot chocolate. “Remember when we first met? It was so weird, but I’m glad we talked.”
I shifted in my seat and breathed the cold air.
She took a sip and continued, “you were so quiet. We were both quiet, that’s probably why we became friends.”
I chuckled. “I’m not quiet anymore… but we’re still friends, right?”
She sighed and exchanged the mug for the mewing cat. “Of course, we are… I can’t help but remember those days when we would stay in together instead of going to those noisy parties. Popcorn, ice cream, onesies, movies and just the both of us…”
It was always the both of us… Just the both of us. People had cliques, we had each other. People had hangouts, we had stay-ins. But, after a while, I met more people and got more invites to cool parties, parties I knew Amber would have zero interest in. I went once without her and I loved it. Gradually, I came out of my shell. I grew more confident, louder, and less shy. During that time, I felt terribly guilty. Of how I turned her down so many times with just a shaky, “sorry.” Of how I picked up hour long phone calls during our movie nights. Of how I was rejected countless times after inviting her to sit with us during lunch. Of how she would smile and squeeze my hand and say, “it’s okay.” It was like I was moving on and leaving her behind.
“You changed.” She looked up, a cold blue-grey gaze washed over me. “You changed, I didn’t like it. But I know I was being selfish.” She laughed and cuddled the dozing cat. “Honestly, a part of me wished you stayed the same, that everything stayed the same, that nothing will ever change.”
Amber’s been through a lot, too much. Her fragile figure bears the weight of the world; the loss and forgottenness no one deserves to feel. Every beat of her heart is a victory song; she has felt pain far beyond my imagination. But despite all that, she smiles and hums and loves like nothing’s wrong. People say quiet people are the most dangerous; they bottle up their feelings and wait to explode in someone’s face. Amber is better than that. She knows when to let go and when not to. When you’re falling apart, emptiness ripping through your soul, she holds on and will never let go. When you beat your wings and yearn to explore, she lets go with tears in her eyes and a smile on her face.
I took the cat from her. It stretched lazily. “Things change, Amber. You know that…”
“Yeah, I know. But you know what?”
I smelt cookies and cinnamon. “My love for you never will,” she mumbled before squishing me in a fluffy hug, smiling to the faint cat meows coming from between us.
That’s Amber; gentle, fuzzy, amazing Amber.