"Sneaky, sneaky, Mr. Iero."
The week before I am supposed to move into my door in New York Amber and I spend every waking moment together. She is taking classes at a community college so she will be staying in Jersey. We, Gerard, Mikey, Donna, and I, are trying to convince her to go to art school like Gerard. Although she’d gotten a scholarship she’s not sure yet. I figure this has more to do with fear of a new place than anything else.
The day I am set to leave comes too quickly. Amber and I drive to my dorm in her car, my mom following behind us with the rest of my family. I am just going to be in New York but to Amber and me it feels like millions of miles. I am going to be home on weekends and holidays so it won’t be too bad. I’d bought us cell phones so that Amber can talk to me whenever she wants. It’s my surprise to her…I hope she likes it.
We spend the entire ride in near silence. Amber drives with her eyes set forward, bottom lip held between her teeth. She doesn’t want me to go. I can tell. I don’t really want to go either. Sometimes Amber will take her hand off the wheel to grab mine but then she’d drop it a few minutes later. She’s got the CD I’d made for her playing.
We meet my mom, dad and stepmom out front of the dorms. There are people everywhere but we don’t stop to say hello. Amber and I each take one of my bags and bring it up to my room. I decided not to take too much because I’m not that far from home. I even talked about staying in Belleville and taking the ferry into Manhattan everyday. Amber and I decided it was ridiculous after we discovered I’d have to get up at four and wouldn’t be home until seven. The dorm room was my best option.
My dorm is on the third floor. My roommate’s name is Patrick. The room is small and has two beds on each side. Patrick is already there. He introduces himself to us and I can tell instantly that I’m not going to like him very much. Everyone helps me get settled in and then they leave Amber and me alone. Patrick is gone so it is just the two of us.
I continue putting my stuff away and hanging up my posters as Amber sits on my bed in silence. Unable to see her like this I sit down next to Amber and wrap my arm around her. She rests her head on my shoulder.
“Hey, we talked about this,” I say.
“I know. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.”
“I’m only a short ride away. You can call me anytime you want and I’ll be home on weekends.”
“You’re out of walkie range.”
“I know. I wish that I was closer. Everything is going to be okay though. We’ll be fine. This will be good for us.”
Amber nods, “I’ve just grown so accustomed to having you around all the time.”
“I know. It’ll be tough. We’ll get through it. We’ve been through worse together, Amber. This will be cake.”
She reaches out to touch my neck and run her thumb along my chin, “I love you.”
“I love you too and I’m not going to stop. I promise.”
The door opens and Patrick comes back in, “Hey now, save that stuff for later when the parents leave.”
We separate and I pull Amber’s hair behind her ear, kissing her cheek quickly, “I have a gift for you but you have to wait for later.”
Amber smiles, “Okay.”
For the next half hour Amber helps me get unpacked while I talk to Patrick. Finally my parents come back with pizza. We all sit down to eat. I enjoy my time with Amber while I can.
When it is finally time for her to leave I feel a knot in my stomach that won’t go away. I hold Amber’s hand as I say goodbye to my family. Then I pull her into a tight hug. She wraps her arms around my neck and neither of us makes a move to let go.
“I love you, Amber,” I whisper.
“I love you too,” she says.
“We’ll get through this and then I’ll make you my wife.”
I feel her smile, “Then I can’t wait.”
“When you get home look under your bed.”
Amber nods, “Will do.”
“This isn’t forever. We’ll see each other soon.”
My girlfriend nods again, “I’ll miss you.”
“I’ll be thinking of you every moment. I’ll probably flunk out because I’ll spend all my study time thinking about you.”
Amber laughs, “Your mom would kill you.”
“Probably,” I answer.
“Alright kids. Time to go,” my mom calls.
I pull away from her neck and take Amber’s face in my hands. Then I kiss her. I don’t care that my family can see. They’d have to be stupid if they think I’m not crazy about this girl. Finally I pull away and my mom takes Amber’s hand. I hold Amber’s fingers for a moment before she finally slips away from me.
“Soon,” I say. She nods.
“Soon,” she confirms. I smile and my mom leads her to the car.
“Bye, honey,” she says.
“Bye, mom, bye, Ambo.”
Amber smiles before climbing into her car. I watch my family drive away and don’t go back inside until I can’t see them again. Instantly the feeling I’ve been dreading hits me, the emptiness, the inability to move forward, the insecurity of what is going to happen next…fear of the unknown and the fear of my inability to live without Amber.
Finally I work up the courage to go back inside. Patrick has invited a girl in for leftover pizza.
“Hey, this is my roommate Frank. Frank, this is Penny,” Patrick says introducing me. I just wave.
“Hey,” I say.
Then I go to my side of the room and ignore Patrick and Penny as they talk. I just focus on putting the rest of my stuff away. I pull out my cell phone and place it on the nightstand in anticipation of Amber’s call. I know it will be a while before she gets home but I want to make sure I hear it. Then I pull out the shirt I’d stolen from her. It is a black shirt with the Ghostbusters symbol on the front. I lift it to my face and breathe in Amber’s sweet floral scent mixed with a hint of cinnamon. I pull the shirt I am currently wearing off and put Amber’s on.
“Whoa,” Patrick says.
I glare at him, “Not anything you haven’t seen before.”
“You’re tarnishing to poor girl’s eyes.” He covers Penny’s eyes. I just ignore them, sitting down on my bed. “So how old is your girlfriend?”
“Eighteen,” I reply going through my stuff.
“Is she going to college?”
“She’s taking classes at the community college in Jersey.”
“She seems kind of shy.”
“None of your business,” I respond rather harshly.
“Yep,” I say.
I try and keep myself busy while I wait for Amber’s call. Patrick continues his conversation with Penny. I ignore them and locate my MP3 player and listen to some music. Finally, about two hours later, I feel the phone vibrate against my leg. I pull my headphones off and answer it.
“Took you long enough,” I say.
“I had to stop for gas,” Amber tells me.
“Did you just get home?”
“Yep, I’m not even in my pajamas yet.”
“Put on your Batman’s.”
“I will.” I wait a moment as I listen to the shuffling sounds, “So why the cell phone?”
“Well since we’re out of walkie range I figured a cell phone was the next best thing. The only problem is we’ll have to buy minutes. You’ve got a hundred minutes to start with. It will tell you when you start to run out.”
“How do I buy more,” Amber asks.
“You can get the cards at Wal-Mart and some gas stations. I got your card at Seven Eleven.”
“Good to know… Batman’s are on.”
“Good, good, climb into bed.”
I can hear the springs of Amber’s bed shift, “Do you have your cuddle turtle?”
“Yes, sir,” she answers.
“Are you thinking about me?”
“Do I ever think of anyone else?”
I smile, “Can you smell me on your sheets?”
“Just a little,” answers Amber with a sigh.
“Now lift your pillowcase.”
“You’ll see.” I hear her move her pillow where I’d stashed my Misfit’s hoodie.
“Your hoodie,” she sounds shocked, it's not everyday I let someone have my favorite hoodie.
“Every weekend I’ll bring you a different shirt or hoodie, that way you’ll have a piece of me with you every night.”
“Aw, that’s sweet, mm, southern Jersey in April with just a little cigarette smoke. I don’t like that you still smoke those things.”
“I know,” I admit. “I should probably confess to you that I stole your Ghostbusters shirt.”
Amber gasps, “You did?”
“I’m wearing it right now. It smells like lilacs and honeysuckles and cinnamon. I’ll give it back this weekend when it doesn’t smell like you anymore.”
She laughs, “Just don’t stretch it out.”
“It fits me like a glove.”
“That’s because it’s a man’s shirt,” Amber says.
“That’s why I grabbed it.”
“Sneaky, sneaky, Mr. Iero.”
“Do you miss me?”
“Terribly,” Amber replies with a sigh.
“I miss you too.”
“I wish I could be with you tonight.”
“I wish that too but we’ll see each other soon, I promise.”
“Will you sing me to sleep?”
“As always,” I answer.
“What song do you have planned for me today?”
“An old one, just to make us all nostalgic and to get my message across,” I answer as Patrick laughs at something Penny has just said.
“First Day of My Life by Bright Eyes,” I say.
“That’s one of my favorites.”
I lie down on my bed and throw my blanket over my head. I don’t care that Patrick and Penny can hear me sing to her. I don’t care if they hear any of the things I say to her.