Frank is left with more questions than ever before after talking to Ronnie.
“Frank, this isn’t the way home,” Olivia says, her eyes glued to the passing cars. “You shouldn’t be driving this fast, it’s not safe.”
“Is your seat belt on?” I question as I shift lanes yet again. Why is traffic moving so slowly?
“Then you’ve got nothing to worry about,” I answer.
My younger sister rolls her eyes, continuing to focus on the cars I drive past. I hope Ronnie is home and not with his girlfriend. Those two kind of scare me, Ronnie more than his girlfriend. They are Amber’s friends; I’ve only met them about a dozen times. Amber was pretty big into drinking and she smoked. The three of them would occasionally get high on the weekends.
I turn onto Ronnie’s street. His motorcycle indicates which house belongs to his family. I wish we had enough money to afford a house in this neighborhood.
Stopping the car, I cut the engine and get out. From the street I can hear music pouring out from behind the garage door; Ronnie is having band practice. I take hold of Olivia’s hand and enter through the side door. Smoke pours out of the small space causing me to cough. I think about leaving Olivia in the car but then decide against it. My little sister is probably much safer with me.
The music stops, Ronnie’s dark, glassy eyes staring blankly at me. He’s high right now. I should have figured as much. He couldn’t even show up sober to Amber’s funeral. Ronnie is a bit of an addict.
“I wondered when you’d come around here, Frank. What can I do for you?”
I hand him the picture, “This was in the glove compartment of Amber’s old car. That’s not the weird thing though. Olivia told me that A told her to tell me to look in the glove box.”
Ronnie flips the photo over a few times before handing it back, “Your sister can communicate with spirits, it’s not a big deal. Clearly Amber wants you to figure things out.”
All this is confusing to me. I don’t believe in all this supernatural shit. If you die, you’re dead. There is no coming back as a ghost or spirit or whatever to communicate with the living. That stuff only happens in those weird science fiction movies. Ronnie’s a weird motherfucker. I’m beginning to question why I thought coming here was a good idea.
“Thanks man,” I mumble before turning around and heading back to my car. This was a waste of my time.
“I’m telling mom you hang out with people who smoke,” Olivia says as I tug at her seat belt, making sure it’s secure.
I pull my door shut, “I don’t hang out with them. Ronnie is Amber’s friend.”
“Amber didn’t smoke.”
“Yes she did,” I answer driving towards home at a reasonable speed.
Olivia just shrugs, closing her eyes. I wonder what’s going on in her head. I shouldn’t have brought her to Ronnie’s with me. I sometimes forget Olivia is so young. She acts older than she really is.
Eventually I pull into the driveway. Mom’s car is still gone, letting me know I have a few safe hours to be alone or talk to Amy. I need to figure out what is going on.
Thankfully the door is unlocked. I push it open with my foot, only to find Amy sitting on the couch talking to Amber’s little sister. I wonder what she took. There must be something of Amber’s that Tanner wanted. The two girls wave at me, their faces holding no joy. I dislike seeing two people I care very much about this upset. I’m almost happy that Amy is being forced to talk to Mr. Smith. She can’t live in this grey state for the rest of her life. She also can’t drink herself into blackness every night.
“Frank, you look like you’ve just seen a ghost,” Tanner says, waling over to me, her hand laying across my forehead.
I’m fine, just got a lot of questions,” I answer before heading downstairs.
John is sitting on the ground, blowing heads off enemy characters. Ignoring the sound of video game gun fire I study the picture. I’m there, standing behind the coffin. Amber can just be seen over the edge of the cherry wood casket. Her hair stands out against the silk, a red flame in a sea of white. The person who took this picture would have had to be standing in the isle between the seats. I can’t remember seeing anyone there. Even if there was how could they get the picture in the glove box? How did they even know I was getting the car? Then there is Olivia. How the hell did she know I needed to look in the glove compartment? The stupid picture leave me with more questions than ever before.
Groaning, I flop back on my bed, staring at the ceiling. There are pictures tapped all over it of Amber and I; Amy normally took the photos. I reach up and grab one of my favorites. It’s Amber and me standing in front of the Batman roller coaster at Six Flags. We’re both smiling, Violet’s arms wrapped around my shoulders, mine around her waist. That was the senior trip, just three days before Amber killed herself. I don’t understand how someone who looks so happy could possibly want to die. Pressing the picture back to the ceiling I look over the others; Amber and I on the first day of ninth grade, our first trip to the movies, Amy, Amber and I at the community pool, the three of us at the ice rink, Amber with her lips pressed against my cheek, Amy and Amber in homecoming dresses, the picture of Amber and I on prom night; the same night we lost our virginity to each other…all my memories plastered to the ceiling. Amber looks so happy in each and every one.
“It’s okay to miss her Frank,” John says, coming to lie next to me. “I miss her too.”
“Have you watched your movie yet?” I ask.
John shakes his head, “I’m waiting till Amber can join me. Moms buying on of those bears you can put a picture in. Amber is also coming with me to the hospital when I have to go to get chemo therapy…she’d want that.”
Ruffling my little brother’s hair I sit, “You know she would have been there John. She wanted to be.”
He nods, a few strands of honey colored hair falling in his face, “I know. Frank, I don’t really see Amber as dead.”
“Why not?” I ask. John tended to find Amber’s presence very calming. She had this magical ability to get him to stop worrying. I wonder how he’ll do without her here.
“Well, because she’s till alive in all our hearts, in all these memories you’ve got taped to your walls,” my little brother explains with a weak smile. “She always told me no matter what happens I’ll live through it.”
“She’s right John, you can get through anything.”
As I sit the on the bed, my brother’s head resting in my lap, I wonder how Amber could give out such magical words of encouragement but not be able to follow them herself. Maybe she just stopped believing in herself.
Around five o’clock mom comes into my room. She’s carrying a chocolate colored bear with a plastic sleeve on its stomach to put a picture in. Mom just smiles at me, placing the bear by a sleeping John’s head.
“Olivia said you went to the graveyard today,” she says sitting down on the floor.
I nod, “I wrote some letters to Amber…I figured I might as well put them by her grave. You don’t think that’s weird do you?”
“Of course not sweetie, you’re getting your feeling out. I have no problem with you writing to Amber. Her loss is hard on you.”
“She was my best friend, we did everything together,” I answer. “When does John start chemo?”
My mom sighs, “He starts next week on Thursday. I’m going to stay with him until it’s over then I have to go to work. Will you go by after school? Amy will come by when you have t go to work. I just don’t want John to be alone.”
“Of course, mom,” I answer as I lay a hand on her shoulder. Being a single parent puts a lot of stress on my mother, John having cancer and this thing with Amber just piles on more.
“You’re a good boy Frank,” mom says before getting up, “I’m ordering Chinese.”
Two hours later I’m sitting in front of the television with Amy, Gerard, a good friend of mine and Mikey, Gee’s kid brother. The screen flashes as Michael Myers slashes up yet another kid. I don’t know what about horror films that fascinates us.
“It’s weird not having her here,” Gerard mumbles as he reaches over Mikey to grad a handful of popcorn.
“She’s here,” his brother answers, “we just can’t see her.”
“Amber will always be here,” Amy answers. “She’s kind of like God.”
For a very long time after the movie ends the four of us sit there, watching the menu. I close my eyes. I can feel Amber’s cheek pushed up against mine, her arms wrapped tightly around my body as she tries to convince herself its all fake. That’s how it’s always been. She’s not gone…just invisible or hiding. A tear slides down my face as I think about all the times we just sat down here in my room, arms tightly around each other. Amber was my rock.
“I love you A,” I mumble.
“Stay strong sweetie,” Gerard whispers into the darkness.
I can almost feel Amber’s soft lips pressing against my cheek.
Note: Caught up on my NaNo word count so I decided to post another chapter. Hope you enjoy it. :)