Frost wondered if normal relationships were as all-consuming as this. Track, school work were all just things he did now, not where his mind was. Which was all the more ridiculous as they still hadn’t spoken since the day he learned what she was. Was she waiting for him to do something? Just how did everything that had happened between them affect her feelings? She liked him, that was certain. Still, even. But why wasn’t she giving him anything to work with? What was she afraid of? More importantly, how should he handle that?
His own opinion of her had improved over time, in spite of the cold shoulder. Frost shook his head as he rounded the corner by the park. He was just thinking around the same circles. Something needed to change. Apparently he was going to have to be the one to do it.
The attack came with little warning. A shift in the air, before a stick flew past inches from his face. Frost whipped his head to see a figure, green hair flying, dodge back into the shadows of the trees. Was that- Did Amber just throw a stick at him? Frost veered off the sidewalk into the park.
No answer, and she was not in sight as he came under the trees. Leaves crunched under his feet as he turned slow circles, trying to see. Footsteps, and he turned in time to catch a fleeting glimpse of her. Crunch of leaves in the opposite direction, a glimpse again as he pivoted. Another and Frost stopped whipping around frantically. All right, then. On impulse, he closed his eyes and listened.
The leaves crunched again, closer. Another two steps across the way. Wait. They didn’t quite sound right. Why? Frost focused. Each step sounded the same. It was the same few steps, played over and over. He strained his ears, trying to filter out the steps, and heard the branch above him creak. Reflex threw Frost to one side. Felt the wind as a heavy wedge of stone narrowly missed his head. Looking up as he dove, he glimpsed his attacker. Long thin limbs extended from a small body, inhuman proportions. Not Amber after all.
“What are you playing at?” He called up.
The wedge of rock would absolutely have killed him had it struck home. The figure disappeared.
“In the way, in the way she says. Kill, she says.” It’s voice drifted among the trees, hard to pinpoint.
“She,” Frost tried to look everywhere at once. “She who?”
“In the way, in the way. I take out of way, I says. Yes, out of the way.”
“What’s in it for you?”
“Human asks,” the source was impossible to pinpoint. Moving. “I no answer. Stupid human, in the way!”
Another stick shot out from behind a tree. Frost ducked, felt it ruffle his hair before sticking into a trunk behind him. Luck had saved him, three times now. He doubted it was a limitless resource. Frost needed a strategy better than turning circles. Half-smiling, Frost picked his direction and sprinted.
“Hey!” the voice was no longer echoing, very near. “Where is stupid going? Stay still! In the way.”
Frost didn’t answer. He couldn’t think of anything worth saying back. He dodged around a tree, something slamming into it as he rounded the trunk. Come on Frost, just a little- He broke out of the trees onto the green. Two lonely soccer goals stood at either end, but it was empty in the near-winter cold. Went right out into the middle of the grass, dove and rolled to one side for good measure. Apparently wisely as something else thudded on the ground not far away. He got to his feet, facing the trees.
Frost smiled. Subtlety was clearly not a province of all fairies. So Frost was ‘in the way.’ He thought he understood what that meant, at least. He had a feeling even if he were to catch this thing it wouldn’t tell him anything useful. He didn’t want to just leave it, but there was nothing he could see to do. Another rock sailed out from the trees. Frost didn’t dodge it entirely and it hit his shoulder. The thing could throw hard. Nope, not doing this.
Frost turned and ran for home. This was going to be a problem. If fairies were half like they were in the stories, running was not a solution. Nor would it always be an option. He was going to have to come up with something better than that. But what?
“Amber,” Frost pushed through the intervening people. “Amber, if I could talk for a second.”
“Frost,” a minor torrent of emotion flowed over as Amber turned on him, “not now.”
Okay. Eyes were turning toward them with interest. He’d come prepared. Frost extended a scrap of paper under his fingers which she palmed without looking. Flicked her eyes down to read the single question there. He started past. She caught his eyes.
She left, and Frost continued on his way. Could have timed that better. Probably she’d rather he just show up. Invading her home would have kept it from public eyes. Still, it had been weeks since the dance and they’d only spoken one time since. No one knew about the fight with the three boys. Possibly, this would fail to gain traction. Crap. She hadn’t attended the halloween dance. Frost had forgotten about that, but speculation was already rampant. Amber had been to every dance since she turned sixteen. Till now.
That was hardly his fault. Or was it? He had to remember - and the often conflicting emotions he picked up really should remind him, Amber was a 17-year old girl, whatever else she was. And had her first dance with the guy she liked. There was going to be talk.
Was it that big a deal? Amber seemed to think so. Really, people got into relationships all the time in high school. He wasn’t the star of the football team. He wasn’t some nobody either. Dating shouldn’t hurt either of them that much. It would make arranging to talk a lot easier. Hang on, Frosty. I want to date Amber? The added scrutiny would be it’s own danger. He wasn’t worried about school, but at home… There would be questions. Questions he didn’t dare answer fully. Plus he’d carefully avoided any such thing before this.
It would mean not worrying about being seen around her. Not like he wasn’t already hiding things. Maybe, just maybe he’d be able to learn more about Amber herself. Whether the girl behind the public persona would be someone worth being tied to. Since he didn’t have a choice, he hoped so.
“Ok, Frosty. What’s your secret?”
“James, I’m sure I don’t-“
“Hogwash and nonsense words you won’t let me use. You ask Amber to a dance.” He holds up a hand, ticking off fingers. “You ask Her. She agrees. Dances, with you, the whole time. Doesn’t attend the next dance at all. Now you’re passing notes.”
Well, so much for low profile. Or not having people connect the pieces. Which put Frost behind the curve. Again.
“So. So he says,” James rolled his eyes heavenward as he sat down with his lunch tray. “Mister no-serious-relationships is involved with the,” James saw the girls at the table watching them and lowered his voice, “the hottest girl in the school. How? And how can I learn your ways?”
“James, you are making tenuous connections…” No, that wasn’t the tack. Tenuous or not he was right, and Frost sucked at lying. “I couldn’t tell you how,” get dragged into a roll in the grass because her mother enchanted her and have her magically bind you to her while you’re there? Hardly repeatable. Amber’s apparent crush, -wait. Frost sat back. Jess’s actions. Mr. Dawn and his raised eyebrow. He was the reason she still tried to fit in. Holy crap. He blinked. Just how long had Amber been hiding a crush, on him?
“Earth to Frost. Hey,” James brought him back with a tap on the temple, “spacing out still won’t save you.”
“I,” Frost tried to refocus on his friend, “honestly don’t know J. Maybe try asking her.”
She certainly wasn’t telling him anything. Why was she resisting so much now? After the park… Could he learn anything asking, with what he now realized? He needed to think.
“No thanks, Frost. I like my dignity and what popularity I have thanks.”
“Hang on,” Frost remembered, “weren’t you warning me before the dance she might be aiming to keep me?”
“Well, yeah. If that was it, you should be her boy-toy already. What we’re seeing,” he gestured with a limp french fry, “is on you my friend.”
James didn’t know he was understating. Frost hadn’t, until a minute ago. That afternoon was going to be intriguing. Amber continued a mystery to him, despite the clues he now held. What would happen if he kissed her? And why on earth did he think of that right now?
“James,” Sara spoke up from the other side of the table, “it’s obvious. Look at him. Dude likes her.”
“Sure he does. Everybody,” he leaned close to Frost, “does.”
Frost leaned back from the scrutiny.
“Hi, James.” Brain caught up to what they’d been saying. Crap. “How about you stay in your space, kay? Thanks.”
“Sure, sure,” James was leaning back, with a sympathetic look to their friend. “Dang if you aren’t right Sara.”
Frost heard pain there. Glanced at his friend, head down and busy clearing her tray of food. Shook his head at himself. He needed to work out what he was going to say to Amber that afternoon. Bigger fish and all that.