“Jess,” Frost caught up with her outside church on Sunday, “you got a minute? I wonder if you could help me with something.”
She looked him up and down, assessing. Nodded.
“I like you too much to break up with Brent for ya’,” she smiled cryptically. “But I’ve got a minute to talk, sure.”
“Cool,” Frost looked around at the traffic of people in and out of the foyer, “walk around the block?”
“Works for me,” she nodded again with a knowing smile.
Did everyone else know more about what was going on than he did? How was it Frost had gotten himself so completely outside of the loop? He had been present for all of the key events; how did he have the least information? He held the door open for his friend. If the sudden gust of cold outside air bothered her, she didn’t show it. They started walking.
“Wait. I’m gonna guess,” Jess looked to the sky, “you want to ask about…” she drummed fingers on forehead, “Amber.”
Frost snorted, “you don’t have to be that smug about it.”
“Course I do. So,” she grinned, “Tell you up front some things I know, I won’t say.”
He wasn’t happy about it. Frost had hoped to get straight answers from someone. He wasn’t surprised either.
“Part of why I thought of you Jess. I expect no less.”
“Good. Fire at will.”
Frost mulled over his thoughts a bit. He bet she wouldn’t have any input about the tattoo, or it’s cause. He did not want to risk causing himself or Amber trouble bringing it up. Direct questions about Amber’s feelings would be passed. But if he came at it sideways…
“Okay. Death glare at the game,” Frost was relieved she’d caught that, so he didn’t have to explain further. “Why?”
“Not obvious?” Jess’ expression acknowledged it wasn’t actually simple. “You made her trip. That does not happen to Amber.”
“Why,” he paused. Adjusted his phrasing and started over, “how was it my fault?”
“Nerves? Because of… me?”
Jess stopped walking to look him in the eyes. Turned and started down the street again.
“You are one of those rare cases,” she gave him a side-eye, “of an intelligent boy. Figure it out.”
Was he right then, how Amber felt about him? Then why did she give him that mark? Her dad said she wasn’t happy about it. Which could fit, sort of. Hang on. Dragging him behind those bushes, and feeling guilt about it after both made more sense too, if he was right. Maybe. But then why so abrasive? If Amber wanted what he suspected, why would she give the opposite impression in person? Also given that, why wouldn’t she have the same control over her nerves on the field?
“Correctly assuming,” he quick-stepped to catch up, “that you won’t confirm or deny any theory I voice?”
“No more than I already have.”
“Next question,” Frost watched his friend closely, “Why answer my questions now? I got my one date.”
“The fact you ask,” Jess stuck her tongue out at him, “strongly suggests that you are already close to the answer.”
“Why,” he paused, letting it stretch long enough that Jess looked at him before he continued, “me?”
“We seem to have made it all the way around,” Jess gave a look, before speeding up a bit to the corner to make that true. “Nice chatting again Frost. You should double with me ’n Brent some time.”
“And subject an innocent girl to the three of us?” His response was immediate. Most of his mind remained on that last question, on Amber. “I would not be so cruel.”
“Don’t underestimate all of the girls at our school.”
With that as her parting wisdom, Jess went to her car. So. Frost was now sure Amber had a crush on him. That for whatever reason, she would not admit to. Even after everything. That did not explain the tattoo on his chest. Or how she made him feel things. So there was more here than just a teenage crush. But what? For all his jokes about super heroes after the dance, Frost was no longer certain of anything. At least the back and forth between wanting and pushing him away made a little more sense. Several pieces remained mysteries, but it was progress.
His pressing concern now was Monday. He made a point saying he’d see her then, but what had he meant? Amber made the decisions about her interactions with boys. Crush or no, she’d certainly not seemed interested furthering their acquaintance. Did he want to? Could he even choose? With how he felt on Saturday, Frost’s own opinion might have little to do with his actions. So what then? Meekly follow her lead? The idea unsettled him. Frost was not timid. He was not raised that way, he would not start acting that way out of fear of the unknowns.
What he needed, still, were answers. He couldn’t work out how to feel about Amber as a person, until he understood what all was going on. Frost knew he’d gotten closer, but too much remained in the dark. Something more than hormones had made him go along with… that night in the park. The symbol etched on him didn’t appear on it’s own. He was going to have to try to get Amber to tell him straight. That wasn’t likely to happen soon. Her father was about to say more, before… She would not appreciate him showing up at her house on his own, again. So that was the order of business Monday. Clear with her that he’d visit her dad.
“It is a lovely day isn’t it, brother Winters?”
Frost gave a thin smile. He’d been standing by his car staring into space. He nodded and waved at the speaker with a friendly farewell and headed home.