Title: In the Sun Without Warning, for z3stygurl97 contest
Rating: T for language, underage drinking, and drug use
Word Count: 6,113
Spoilers: No real spoilers unless you haven't watched any of Season 2.
Author's Note:This piece was written for z3stygurl97, in response to her unconventional pairing/couples contest. She is sweet as peaches, so go check her out! Just don't tell her I said that!
The cue words I used are: Clootie, Coryphaenidae, Kilimanjaro, Anhima, Shikari, Dowitcher, Euphrasy, Hoover, Frigidness, Appendicitis, Scouting, Universal, Complicating, Inane, Grinding, Stimulation, Fatigue, and Exude. Cue words are highlighted in bold.
Title comes from the lyrics of Extraordinary, by The Great Afternoon; however, THIS IS NOT A SONG FIC!
I also through in some references of my own, so if you pick up on any and send me a review or PM with your guesses, you could win! What you could win, I don't know, but it could happen!
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, plot, etc. are the property of the creators of House of Anubis. Any original characters, settings and plots are the property of PuffleHuff. PuffleHuff is in no way associated with House of Anubis, and no copyright infringement is intended. This work is an amateur fan effort and no profit is being made.
Thank you, and please enjoy!
Eddie Miller hadn't really expected to end up here.
Not even in his wildest dreams had he ever imagined that on his 18th birthday he would find himself locked in the attic of Anubis House with the most gorgeous blonde he'd ever laid eyes on. Then again, technically, there were a whole slew of things Eddie had never imagined for himself – being held back in eighth grade, having appendicitis and emergency surgery over the summer he turned 15, getting shipped off to his dad's boarding school in his junior year – but they had all come to pass. All of them he had initially considered disastrous, but this? Never had the unexpected felt so amazing.
Amber, like the rest of the female population of Anubis House, had found Eddie exceedingly attractive upon his arrival at the boarding school. But Amber had still been in the middle of trying to make "Amfie" work, so the attraction had been fleeting. By the time Amfie was over, "Peddie" seemed to be in full swing. In a way, Amber was impressed: Eddie was the first guy to ever get Patricia to open up, and young passion really seemed to suit the surly red-head. So, Amber contented herself to maintain friendly terms with the hunky American and seek out new companionship amongst the other boarding students. Which proved unfruitful. Anubis had a reputation for being the most dramatic of the boarding houses on campus, so although Amber was the most eligible bachelorette of her year, she was unable to secure an acceptable boyfriend.
As the end of term neared, Amber had resigned herself to attempting to give Amfie another go. It was clear that neither Amber nor Alfie really had much faith in the undertaking, but they played nice for another couple of weeks anyway. By the end of term they could barely stand to be in the same room as the other, yet sacrifices must always be made for the sake of one's social standing. On the last evening before students began leaving for summer holiday, there might have been an explosive argument between the two, except that Patricia and Eddie had already beaten them to it.
While the Anubians were gathered around the living room, listening to music and dancing, and munching the treats Trudy had prepared, Peddie's private conversation had gone from adorable, to agitated, to loud. It was impossible not to hear just how much Patricia didn't want to think about Eddie for all of summer break. Alfie and Amber's wide eyes had met from across the suddenly chilly room, and the two excused themselves into the front hall.
"Let's avoid that if at all possible, okay?" Alfie indicated the door through which he'd just come.
"Agreed," Amber nodded. "We both know that it's done, right?"
"Yeah, fairly sure. I'm sorry I've been a jerk, Ambs. We're still friends, though, right?"
"Yeah, friends. I'm sorry too, Alfie." She offered him a weak smile, and Alfie surprised her with a warm hug.
"Thanks for everything." He pecked her cheek before heading back toward the party.
But the shouting had turned into a full-on scream on Patricia's part, and soon Alfie and everyone else joined Amber in the front hall where they all shared awkward glances and quiet laughter.
Amber hadn't seen Eddie or Patricia since that last night at school. She'd assumed they'd been scheduled to leave earlier in the morning than she was, and hadn't thought about it at all until now.
Today, though, back in town to stay with one of her day-student friends while her dad was away on business, Amber happened to wander into a café and spot Eddie. He was hunched over his laptop with a sour sort of look on his face, a massive cup of something dark beside him on the table. She didn't make a show of noticing him, but instead went straight to the counter to order her extremely complex drink.
"I'll have a large non-fat no-whip white mocha, one pump sugar-free, double-shot espresso. Please." The barista stared for half a second before deciding Amber was serious and rang up the transaction. While Amber waited for her ridiculous brew she hazarded a few looks in Eddie's direction, but he was too engrossed in whatever it was on his screen to notice the leggy blonde.
Sure, Eddie had a bad-boy image, a roguish American accent, and the most deliciously muscular arms, but somehow Amber hadn't ever bought his bad-ass persona. On at least one occasion, she had caught Eddie in a moment of what could almost be called sentimentality. As she watched him from across the café, she was reminded of the time she'd found him pouring over a scrapbook his mother had sent him.
It had been a quiet Saturday morning, with most of Anubis House either still asleep or already in the library (Mara, naturally). Amber had come downstairs in search of breakfast, but found Trudy had just set out muffins for everyone before heading into town on errands. Eddie had been sitting in the living room with a box on the coffee table in front of him.
"Watcha got there?" Amber had been sure Eddie would have heard her rummaging around in the kitchen, but he still jumped about a meter off the cushions at her voice.
"Jesus, Blondie! Warn a guy why doncha!"
"Sorry," Amber shrugged and rounded the arm of the sofa, flopping down next to him with a muffin in her hands. "Did someone send you a present? Is it your birthday?"
"No... You ask too many questions." Eddie took in the ditzy blonde with an appraising eye. Essentially harmless, he decided and chose to engage her instead of just brushing her off. Probably better Amber saw what he was up to than one of the guys, or worse, Patricia. But if he didn't tell her, Eddie got the feeling Amber would go snooping around until she found out. "It's a scrapbook. From my mom."
"Oh goody! Scrapbooking is my favorite! Let me see!" Amber didn't wait for permission but instead grabbed the book from Eddie's lap and began paging through. "Wow. Personally, I don't find there's nearly enough glitter, but this is really well done. Like, professional."
"Yeah... She kind of collects hobbies. She doesn't do anything half-way."
Amber flipped through pages of what she assumed were pictures of Eddie's house in the States, photos of a pet dog and some chickens, an adorable snap of toddler Eddie in a Sunday suit with a bunny-eared headband and a basket of chocolate eggs. The toddler sat in the middle of a brightly colored clootie mat with a bemused look and chocolate smudges all over his face. Someone – his mother, she assumed – had penciled in right underneath this particular photo "Look what I found!" with a tiny heart beside it. She glanced over and saw a bright red blush creeping up Eddie's neck, and he quickly reached across to flip over the next page.
"That's my mom, when she was dating a birder." She detected a note of sarcasm – or maybe bitterness? – in Eddie's tone as he pointed out his mother. "He took us on this trip to South America. To watch birds. It's probably the dumbest thing I've ever done."
A beautiful, strawberry-blonde woman stood amongst exotic flowers in a lush garden, with a brightly plumed parrot-like bird on her shoulder. She wore binoculars around her neck and had a radiant smile on her face. Surrounding the photo were other, smaller snapshots of unfamiliar birds.
"What's this one?" Amber asked, pointing to a picture of a bizarre, short beaked bird with one long feather sticking straight out of its head.
"Anhima cornuta," he replied, absently.
She stabbed a finger randomly at the page "And this one?" Amber indicated a small, dark-backed bird with a large, brightly colored beak.
"Pteroglossus viridis." Amber continued to point out strange and exotic birds while Eddie rattled off either their genus and species or their common names when the rest escaped him: dowitchers, yariguies, Leucocarbo bougainvillii, Ramphastos ambiguus, and so on.
"How can you remember all these?"
"All I had on that trip was a birding guidebook and my iPod. I practically memorized that thing."
You sure it's not because you actually enjoyed the trip?, Amber thought to herself, but decided against calling him out. Eddie rarely talked about his mother, and when he did it was generally in terse and protective tones. She didn't want to push and have him shut her down completely.
Amber flipped the next page and was met by Eddie's goofy grin and sun-burnt chest in a photograph where he and his mother held a vibrantly hued but massively hideous fish between them. "What the hell is that?"
"Coryphaenidae. Or Coryphaena hippurus, technically. That was when she was dating some Wall Street yuppy and convinced him to take us sport fishing in Costa Rica. That one was actually fun. He'd turn about as green as the fish every night, take a lot of Dramamine and pass out."
"But... why? Why would you want to vacation on a stinky boat and catch hideous fish?"
"Um, because it's fun." Eddie's tone suggested that Amber might be mentally deficient. "And they're tasty."
"You ate that?" Amber wrinkled up her nose and pushed the scrapbook slightly away from her in disgust.
"I'm sure you've eaten it, too! That's mahi-mahi."
"That is not mahi. Mahi is a food that comes aesthetically arranged on a plate when you visit fancy restaurants."
Eddie stared at the blonde in incredulity. "Yes, but... it starts out looking like this." He laughed and pointed at the picture, and rolled his eyes when Amber made another squeamish face. "I can't wait til you find out what a tuna looks like!"
That had been a nice interaction, even if Eddie had made fun of her a bit. Easy, and friendly, and revealing of the kind of son Eddie must be when his mother was around. But, even though Amber had been sworn to secrecy about the scrapbook's existence, two days later Amber had found the beautifully decorated book tucked into the rubbish bin when she took out the recycling. She didn't question Eddie about it, but she also hadn't told anyone that she had rescued the thing, and hidden it amongst her own numerous scrapbooks.
Glancing across the room, taking in Eddie's reserved and almost melancholic expression as he surfed the internet or played games, or whatever, on his computer, Amber was reminded of the two pictures that had been missing when she'd recovered the scrapbook. One had been of Eddie in his Easter suit with bunny ears, probably removed and destroyed so no one could ever use it against him. The other had been on the last, undecorated page: a weathered, black and white photograph of Eddie's mother, looking much younger than in any of the other photos, draped in white cloth, and holding an infant.
Amber assumed - or maybe just hoped - that Eddie had salvaged the second photo and kept it. She had imagined him carrying it around in his wallet, or in the inside pocket of his jacket. From where she now sat across from him, sipping her large non-fat no-whip white mocha, one pump sugar-free, double-shot espresso, Amber spotted him reaching into an interior pocket. She braced herself for glimpse of the crinkled photo paper, but it turned out to be Eddie's cell phone.
He spoke briefly with whomever was on the other end of the line, a wide smile across his face. Amber couldn't make out any of the conversation, but when Eddie's smile dropped and he hung up the call she decided to make him see her. She finished off her coffee drink and stood, sauntering across the café.
"Hey Blondie," Eddie finally looked up as Amber stood directly in front of his table, and pulled the headphones from his ears. "What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be clearing out every boutique in Paris or something?"
"Oh, wouldn't that be lovely," Amber sighed as she dropped into the seat across from him without invitation. "What are you doing here? I thought you'd be in America."
"I was supposed to be, but mom's off climbing Kilimanjaro with her new boyfriend. So, I'm stuck here with Eric until the end of the teachers' in-service, or whatever."
"That sucks. I'm stuck here, too. I'm staying with Krissy while my dad's away on business."
"Krissy?" Eddie quirked a questioning eyebrow.
"She's a day student," Amber matched his look with one of her own. "Sits across from you in French class?" Eddie's expression remained blank. "Well, anyway, daddy says it's too risky for me to stay in London on my own, so I came back out to visit Krissy."
"Too risky because you'll buy all the shoes while he's gone, probably." Eddie's face morphed into a self-satisfied smirk at his lame attempt at humor. Amber just rolled her eyes. "What about Alfie?" Eddie asked with the best of intentions.
"We broke up." Amber's tone of voice was matter-of-fact, but her gaze dropped into her lap.
"Oh." An awkward pause fell between them. "So..." Eddie stared expectantly at the blonde.
"So... So what? What were you listening to?" She gestured towards his headphones, now resting beside Eddie's laptop on the table between them.
"Enter Shikari. Ever heard of them? They're kind of like metalcore meets dubstep."
"I don't even know what that means." Amber now mirrored Eddie's former blank stare as he shook his head in disbelief. "They're British, even" he offered.
"What are you doing today?" She suddenly asked, a bit unexpectedly, but with a vague idea forming in the back of her mind.
"Nothing. It's supposed to be my 18th birthday, but Eric tried to make me go with him to church. And then he's in meetings all day. I don't think he remembers."
"Okay, that really sucks. You should come with us tonight!" Amber's face lit with her usual bubbliness as she grinned at the somewhat taciturn American.
Eddie's eyebrows lifted again. "Okay, who's 'us'? And where are they going tonight?"
"Krissy, and some of her friends, and I are going to a secret rave in the warehouse district. You should totally come. I mean, you're actually legal now, so it'd be perfect."
"A rave?" Eddie questioned. Amber nodded vigorously. "You are full of surprises, Blondie."
It was something Eddie had never really considered a possibility while stuck in stuffy UK with his stuffy, deadbeat, British dad. Going out to parties, what a novel idea. After Eric had characteristically fallen asleep after dinner, his resourceful American son had ducked back over to his summer room in Anubis House, geared up, and nipped off to meet up with Amber's pals.
At first Eddie thought he'd be able to slink away once he'd gotten Krissy's gaggle of giggling sidekicks in, and provided Amber with the necessary liquid courage. The place was packed with sweaty teens and shady characters, and the music was over-loud and not the kind of thing he particularly felt like dancing to. Krissy and company had quickly dispersed into the throng. But his vivacious blonde companion wasn't about to let him get off easy. Amber allowed him to finish his drink, then immediately tugged him along behind her into the middle of the writhing fray. She danced at him, poking her fingers into his chest and making embarrassing faces until Eddie relented and went along with it. He laughed at her stubbornness, but silently admitted to himself that he was having a good time.
Seemingly satisfied with Eddie's display of frivolity, at the next change in the music Amber slipped away in the crowd. A wisp of a teenybopper quickly filled the space left behind and attempted to seduce the muscular boy with a combination of bedroom eyes and grinding up against his leg. There was no denying that he was wildly uncomfortable with the situation, but he also had no idea how to extricate himself without being too obvious about it. Her look was studied and earnest, and Eddie almost felt sorry for her. Almost. He danced along, trying to keep the pelvis-on-leg action to a minimum until the music switched to something clearly unsuited for the type of movements the petite girl was making. Eddie hopped up and down to the rhythm and the girl followed suit, hopping and spinning in place. It was then, while she faced away mid-hop, that he made a break for it through the bouncing, manic swarm of dancers.
The music was wild, the lights pulsing, and the alcohol, now easily obtainable, quickly hit his brain. It was easy to lose himself in the noise, amongst the masses. Every now and then he'd catch a glimpse of Amber's long golden hair swirling around her in the strobe of a light, but never close enough to reach her again.
Eddie eventually found himself dancing with a vaguely devious looking girl with intense, dark blue eyes and long dark hair. Her look didn't drip with determination the way the teenybopper's had, but instead easily hypnotized the boy to the point that all he could see were here eyes flashing at him amidst the noise. He grinned widely at her, and placed his hands on her hips, to which she replied with a fierce smile of her own. She motioned him into the corner with her, swaying all the way, and offered him a chair. Eddie sat, and she perched upon his knee before conjuring a tablet from some secret place.
Eddie generally didn't partake in recreational substance use, but, damn it, it's my birthday he thought to himself. "It's my birthday," he told her, dumbly, before accepting her drug-laced fingertip between his lips. Her eyebrows quirked and another mischievous smirk painted her face. He swallowed, swigged from the bottle she handed him, and quickly succumbed to a rolling body high.
"Well, Happy Birthday, then, big boy," she hummed into his ear as Eddie's eyelashes fluttered and the room pulsed a little harder.
It wasn't unpleasant, not at all, but for some reason Eddie couldn't bring himself to re-open his eyes. When he finally did, he found not the sensual pixie who'd dosed him, but a plum-red haired girl perched on his lap. For a moment he panicked, thinking somehow Patricia had tracked him down, but quickly realized this wasn't Yacker. A whole group of kids he didn't recognize had settled into the chairs around him and were chatting together over the din of the dance floor. The girl on his lap noticed his regained composure and seemed to be addressing him.
"What?" Eddie half-shouted, unable to understand the girl's words.
"'Good, you aren't dead, then!'" She repeated back at a shout, with a hint of a lisp and precocious eyes.
"Right... Uh..." Eddie stared pointedly at her lap, but she didn't seem to understand the cue. His senses were coming back, and he picked up snippets of the inane chatter.
Instead of waiting any longer, or asking, Eddie just stood up, displacing the red-head, glanced at the gathering and, not seeing the dark-eyed girl, stalked off into the crowd.
Eddie insinuated himself back into the dancing mob, his skin prickling with drug-induced over-stimulation. Everything was far more visceral than he had ever imagined it could be, and soon his whole body thrummed with the beat as the newest DJ in the lineup let the bass drop. He fell in with the universal movement of the crowd, oscillating between a bit of panic at how much he could feel and the blissed thrill of being able to feel everything around him. He danced with anyone and everyone who approached him, including some guys if he was honest with himself later. Somewhere in the blurry line up he'd glimpsed the teenybopper, Krissy, the mysterious dark-eyed girl, and Amber, but he wasn't really sure when, or in what order.
When the fatigue of continual motion and loss of time hit him, Eddie stumbled away from the dance floor, down a dark hallway, and into the first open door he encountered. The bathroom was a mess of glowing paint, toilet paper, and discarded drug paraphernalia. Eddie stepped over a passed out drunk and lent over a sink. He tested the handles and thankfully found that the cold water still worked in one of them. He splashed the refreshing liquid-lightness over his face before staring into the mirror in an attempt to re-collect himself. His eyes were dark and dilated, and his tan complexion flushed a deep red. He took a few steadying breaths before venturing back into the hall.
And ran straight into Amber's golden hair.
Her hair was damp and matted around her face, and her face glowed with the exertion of dancing. Not that he'd really been paying attention, but it seemed to Eddie as though a significant number of bangles had disappeared from Amber's arms and been replaced instead with a layer of shimmering glitter.
Amber turned at the contact and flashed an incredibly white smile that only grew as recognition flashed across her eyes.
"Sorry Amb-" Eddie tried to acknowledge her but was interrupted by the girl's sudden movement. Without realizing how it was happening, he found himself making out with his blonde classmate. When their lips broke away Eddie's head was spinning again.
"Um... Not that I'm complaining or anything, but... What just happened?" Eddie's eyebrows knit in a way that caused Amber to bite her lip to keep from crushing their mouths together again.
"Well... It seems like we just kissed," was her obvious answer. Her eyes were bright, her pupils dilated the way Eddie's had looked in the mirror.
"It does look that way, doesn't it." Eddie observed Amber's expression and bit his lip to match hers. An unbearable grin was threatening to break from his mouth. And then he couldn't fight it anymore and let out his smile with a giggle, any semblances of his bad-boy image that remained falling away.
"You have a really cute smile, you know," Amber complimented, staring giddily into the American's eyes. Her gaze traced him up and down. "The rest of you isn't so bad, either..."
Eddie's eyes rolled and a laugh bordering a bit close to hysteria escaped him. "That so?"
Amber could only nod in affirmation while he pulled her closer. He kissed her again. Not hard, or sloppy, or anything more than sweet, really. But intense all the same under the influence of the substances in their bloodstreams. When their mouths parted his lips ghosted across her jaw and up to the tender spot beneath her ear. He nipped playfully at her earlobe before whispering "You're something else, Blondie."
"I'll take that as a compliment." Amber moved away, removing herself from Eddie's embrace, but catching his hand as she did so, pulling him along with her.
"Good. You should..."
Amber lead them down the hall and back through the chaos of the dance floor, along the edge of the bar, down the stairs, and out the side door. In the cool dark alley she turned on him, pressing her hands into his chest and catching his mouth again, pinning him against the brick wall. Eddie's hands found their way into Amber's hair and tangled themselves there.
A number of cautionary thoughts were trying to push their way to the front of Eddie's mind, but Amber's mouth quickly banished them again. His lips felt like they were made of electricity, and Amber's were watermelon pop rocks. The hell was that, he thought when he noticed the bizarre analogies his mind was making. And as amazing as it felt to kiss a girl made of candy, his mind was wandering away in the frigidness of the damp alleyway.
Amber noticed Eddie's increasingly violent shivers and pulled away. "Shall we take this somewhere warmer?" She asked with concerned eyes, though her mouth still dripped giddiness and euphoria. The blond American grabbed his British counterpart's hand this time, and lead them away from the thumping warehouse at a brisk pace.
Amber didn't realize how hard her ears were ringing until she and Eddie were dashing over the dewy grass, crossing campus toward the dark silhouette of Anubis House. All the lights were out, the school essentially abandoned for the summer holiday, but all the same Eddie silently insisted she stay on the porch while he went inside, scouting ahead for a Trudy or Mr. Sweet standing vigil in the early hours of the morning. Once he'd satisfied himself that there was no possibility of being caught, Eddie collected Amber and whisked her up to the attic-floor guest room, where he was staying until his mother came to rescue him.
In all honesty, Amber could not account for the insatiable desire to run her fingers through Eddie's short hair or kiss him drunk. Well, aside from the drugs and the sheer seduction that exuded from every muscular ripple and pore. Maybe it wasn't such a mystery what drove her to tug at his shirt until he pulled it over his head.
"My god, it's like you're photoshopped," she mused as she ran her hands over the plains of his chest.
"Did you steal that from a movie?" Eddie's eyebrows quirked in that way that made Amber's heart a little jumpy, and she was pressing him backward.
"Shut up." Her tone was insistent, and then she was inexplicably layering his neck with kisses before toppling him over onto the bed.
Their hands and mouths continued to tangle together, bringing out the intense side effects of their mutual trip, until, somewhere in the young dawn, they fell asleep.
Eddie woke to the sound of Trudy and the Hoover on the stairs. It wasn't like her to be vacuuming this early in the morning, but then he saw the time on the bedside alarm clock. I guess that was the sun coming up, he thought as he recalled the moments before sleep had finally claimed him. Amber had already passed out against his bare chest but had somehow still been tracing the curve of his bicep with her fingertips while she slept, Eddie's fingers tangled in her hair. Now the slender girl lay curled on the far edge of the bed with her back to him. He pushed himself up onto his elbows and surveyed the scene.
Their shoes were piled together by the door with Eddie's shirt close beside it. Amber's purse lay overturned in the middle of the floor. Her dress was rumpled over the top of the mirror on the dresser. A bit panicked, he glanced back at her across the bed and was relieved to see she was still covered by her silk slip. Her hair was a disheveled mess and there was glitter everywhere, and he didn't really want to be around when she discovered what she looked like. Not that he probably looked any better.
Eddie rolled off the bed and padded barefoot to the full length mirror in the corner. He still wore his pants, which was also a relief, though his bare torso was coated in body glitter and dotted with hickeys. His eyes were bloodshot with dark circles beneath, and his lips severely chapped. His mouth felt dry and his muscles heavy. He could tell he was extremely dehydrated. When he turned to peer at his reflection over his shoulder, he spotted a smudgy flourish design in what appeared to be Amber's violet eyeliner.
"What the hell did we do?" he quietly asked himself as he glanced back at Amber's slumbering contours.
Gently, Eddie pulled the tousled bed sheet over Amber's bare legs, quietly gathered some clean clothes and his towel, and slipped through the door and downstairs.
He startled Trudy on his way to a shower, and met her bewildered look with what he hoped was a calm matter-of-factness.
"Trudy, Amber is asleep up there. Would you mind finishing the vacuuming later? Nothing happened, and there's no reason to say anything to Sweetie. Okay?"
Trudy nodded, taking in the wild look of the young American. "You're the reason I'm having to sweep up sparkles all over the stairs," she scolded. Her eyes were wide, and maybe a little frightened, but Eddie really just wanted a shower and a glass of water.
"Yeah. I'm sorry," he offered impatiently before brushing past her in favor of getting clean.
After scrubbing away every last glimmer of glitter and re-hydrating somewhat, Eddie climbed back up the attic steps with an extra glass of water, only to find Amber had gone.
Amber sat in the back corner of the café where she'd found Eddie the day before. She'd gotten a cab back to Krissy's house while the American had been in the shower. Amber, too, had taken a long time standing under the hot water until every trace of the previous night had been washed away, save for a purplish splotch behind her right ear. She remembered admonishing Eddie against leaving marks multiple times, but apparently hadn't been stern enough. She had considered spending the time to carefully cover the slag tag with concealer, but was essentially too exhausted to care. She'd re-dressed in clean clothes, downed two bottles of water from the fridge, and wandered off in search of caffeine.
Now, while she sat skulking away from the bright daylight pouring through the front windows, Amber felt something like guilt niggling at the back of her mind. She hadn't waited to talk to Eddie, or left him a note, or even re-made the bed before she'd disappeared. She'd just gone, as fast as she could, and waited for the cabbie at the school gates. Though, not before pilfering a particular volume from the wardrobe in her dorm room, which was supposed to be locked until the beginning of fall term. The scrapbook she'd liberated from the garbage bin now sat heavily at the bottom of her bag. She rested her hand over the solid weight where it lay beside her and contemplated sending Eddie a text message.
Amber pulled out her phone, wiped some glitter from the screen onto her sweater sleeve, and set it in front of her on the table. She stared at it, slowly sipping more of her coffee – just black, not fancy this time – and considering possible ways of addressing the situation with Eddie. She rattled off all the details she felt were important, and that she could remember.
Fact: She'd had a few drinks, and taken some MDMA. And she was sure Eddie had also, based on the size of his pupils.
Fact: She was single. And she was fairly sure Eddie was, too.
Fact: There was nothing wrong with not having sex with someone while under the influence of a controlled substance. And she was 99.99% certain they had not had sex.
Amber sighed, pushed her still damp hair back behind her ears, too tired to care if it would create a crimp in it later, and picked up the phone. Then set it back down again. She drained the last of her coffee, ordered a smoothy to go – "No raspberries, please! I'm deathly allergic" – and slung her satchel over her shoulder before venturing out into the sun.
It was a genuinely nice day, with no threat of rain. Her tired eyes took in the small details of the world, but without the technicolor filter of the night before. She leaned forward to pluck euphrasy blooms from a window box when she heard a familiar accent calling her name. Eddie was halfway back down the block with one hand on the door of the café and the other raised above his head in salutation. He looked... like Eddie again, only more tired. Amber attempted a smile and waved her hand in acknowledgment as well, taking a few steps back the way she'd come.
"I really need some coffee," Eddie insisted as Amber approached. "Can you hang on a minute?"
Amber nodded and mumbled a "sure" before Eddie disappeared into the coffee shop. As she waited, Amber caught a glimpse of her reflection in the storefront window and realized just how thoroughly mussed she looked. She pulled out her compact and hastily powdered her face and applied some lip balm. She ran her fingers through her slightly damp hair, giving a quick tousle before Eddie re-emerged with a to-go cup in his hand. He gave her newly touched up appearance a questioning look, but said nothing, and the two just sort of stared for a moment. When Eddie raised his coffee to his lips the look was broken, and Amber started walking for lack of anything else to do.
They walked in awkward silence for a few blocks, until Amber turned them towards a small park where babysitters were running their charges on the sunny Monday afternoon. Amber sat down on a park bench, pulling pulverized fruit and vegetables through her straw, and Eddie settled a careful distance away down the bench.
"So..." Eddie mirrored their conversation from the day before.
"So," Amber agreed.
Eddie took a long drink and winced, gazing off across the grassy park. "This is a little complicating."
"It doesn't have to be," she insisted while running a nervous hand through her hair. Eddie hazarded a look in Amber's direction as she did so, and noticed the plummy dark mark behind her ear.
He reached toward her across the bench, but stopped short of touching her. "Did I do that?"
An impish grin curled the corners of Amber's lips. "Yeah, you did. But I'm rather sure I got you back."
"Yeah, you did," Eddie echoed her with a small smile of his own.
"Look, Eddie," Amber turned and tried to address the American to his face, but found herself mostly speaking to his hairline. "This doesn't have to be complicated. We went to a party, we had a good time, we got a little carried away. But nothing happened. No permanent damage, anyway. So let's just forget about it, and not worry."
Eddie attempted to match Amber's eyes, but it only made her more jumpy, and he didn't really know what he was looking to find there. "Okay," he agreed. They shared a last, uncomfortable, appraising look before returning their attention to the children playing a truncated form of cricket on the field.
They sat in silence long after each had finished off their drinks, until Amber's stomach signaled it was time to find supper. She stood and looked down at Eddie, but his eyes were clouded with intense concentration on nothing in particular. She pulled a parcel from her bag and set it on the bench beside the blond boy. "Happy Birthday, Eddie," she half-whispered before slipping away.
The sun was beginning to set before Eddie roused himself from his fatigued revery. Amber had been gone for at least an hour. He glanced at the package she'd left behind. It was book shaped and wrapped in a page from the Sunday sports section, not what he'd expect from the fastidious fashionista. He tore the paper and found the scrapbook his mother had sent him at mid-term. The one he'd thrown away in embarrassment.
Eddie turned through the pages, to the end, where he'd pulled out the photograph of his mother holding him as an infant newly arrived home from the hospital. In its place was a grainy print out of what must have been a cell phone picture: Eddie lying on his stomach, propped on his elbows, with a massive smile on his face as he attempted to look over his shoulder at the photographer.
B3st Bday 3v3r read the text that arrived as Amber and Krissy were cleaning up dishes from their supper of macaroni cheese that evening. She smiled to herself.
Amber and Eddie didn't speak again until the summer ended.