Frost didn’t hear from Amber again until the next Monday. Snow had arrived over the weekend, and everyone was depressed by the weather. He got inside the school to find a scarcity of people roaming the halls. A little exploration led him to a gathering in front of the common room. Some drive for some school something or other. The cheer squad was spear-heading the effort, in uniform, all the more noticeable considering the cold snap, as they manned a table under the banner for the event. Meandering his way through the crowd, he didn’t get close enough to see what they were about before Amber sighted him. He felt it, this time a pleasant buzz under heaps of smug annoyance. She called out before he located her.
Immediately Frost resisted. Gave up fighting halfway to her, as it made little difference. A plethora of nicer ways she could have given her answer ran through his mind. Tried to remind himself she was seventeen, and hurting. That he didn’t remember agreeing to all this tattoo meant, though he apparently must have done was more privately bitter. Take it as it comes, Frosty.
“There you are Frost,” she put in his name for the crowd’s sake. “Take this, will you? Thanks.”
He took the box handed to him. The temptation to let it drop simply because he could was only brief. Hands reached for the flyers or whatever that were in it. Looking over the crowd, Frost could almost watch the news travel. Few people would reach first period without hearing about Amber’s indirect announcement. That was one way to get it out in the open. He was going to get an earful and a half at lunch. First bell rang and people started to disperse. Amber reclaimed the box with a kiss on his cheek that sent electricity straight to his toes.
“The team could use help with this during lunch-break, if you would.”
That was not fair. She was not allowed to appear so unruffled. The girl was supposed to be the emotional one, wasn’t she?
“Thanks, Frost.” She beamed.
Beamed, at him. Clearly, she was going for blindingly obvious. Was that all? Suddenly he didn’t trust what he felt, any of it. He figured whatever else, dating the guy she was in love with would make her a little happy. In that moment he couldn’t separate which feelings were hers, or his own. Odin’s eyeteeth, why was this so confusing?
Frost floated right through his first classes. Between the kiss, the smile and distrust of his emotions he had little attention for anything outside himself. He thought Sara tried to talk to him at one point, before stalking off. He told himself to try to remember, follow up on that later.
“Hey man,” James bumped into him outside the lunch room. “You ready to share your secret, now it paid off?”
“J, it was news to me. Do not ask me what I did.”
Not completely true. But it was, to the intent of the question.
“Wow, ok. Seriously?”
“Yeah. Hadn’t seen her since last Wednesday. And that was not what the note said.”
“That’s crazy man. You didn’t argue though, am I right?”
“You kidding?” The words were too adolescent for his liking, “the top-of-class, hottest and don’t forget most popular girl in school calls you boyfriend in front of the whole student body, denial is no longer a real option, senior year or not. Remember pole kid.”
“Fair point. You ain’t complaining are ya?”
Considering I gave her the idea, no James. A little nicer method, even a word of warning beforehand would have been appreciated. He’d forgotten last Wednesday, Amber the persona in favor of Amber in private. That morning had served a blunt reminder that he was tied to both. Of course, it had come with a kiss and a smile that could end wars, as well as start them. There were perks.
“Nah,” Frost shook his head with a smirk. Whichever feelings were his own, there was no real anger. “Can’t say I am.”
Frost forgot most of what he was thinking as senses filled with Amber’s presence, sidling up next to him.
“You know,” her voice was pitched not to carry, “this will make them work harder to get rid of you.”
“Really? I haven’t been attacked but the once.”
“It’s winter. Mom’s sleeping till Spring.”
“There aren’t winter fairies?”
“Of course there are.” She said it like it was obvious. Started walking, steering him to the exit. “But they aren’t going to do a summer fey any favors.”
“We’re safe until spring?”
Frost took a long step and held the door for her. Amber pinked and his insides warmed as she walked through. Let him catch up again and caught his hand. Wondered what audience she played to still. Not that he really cared.
“Safer. Don’t assume though.”
They reached her car, stopped. Frost stepped back, still unable to clamp on the roil of emotions enough to tell what was going on.
“See you tomorrow?”
“Mm.” Amber didn’t look up as she opened the door and climbed in.
“And Amber? Thank you.”
Frost didn’t bother waiting for a response. He didn’t expect one. The feeling as he left for his own car was impossible to identify.
“So, Frost. Decided the no steady policy isn’t for you after all huh?”
Frost cringed as he shut the front door. Having a sibling (or two) in your school, nothing was secret. Now, he had to face the greater drawback to Amber’s method of announcement. He still had no idea what to tell his family.
“You know mom’s gonna go ballistic.” His sister, Aurora, continued in his silence.
“I know. Will you let me tell her first?”
If it wasn’t already too late. Mom wasn’t waiting with her at the door, so probably not.
“Yeah, okay. Today.”
“Mm.” Frost set down his backpack. Looked at his sibling carefully. “What’s your take?”
Aurora tapped her chin.
“Can’t blame you. People seem to have very public guilt trips after disagreeing with that one. She is very pretty. Probably the only thing more dangerous than ‘taking her away’ from every other red-blooded male in the school would be saying no, so.”
She made Frost feel both better, and worse. Amber looked almost prescient in that light. He had a reason, honest, to give family without bringing up any too dangerous subject areas. Except that it did not paint her in very flattering light. He didn’t like that, but had nothing better.
“At least it makes sense to you.”
“I wouldn’t want to ruffle feathers my senior year either. You think about Sara though?”
Sara? He’d forgotten Aurora knew her, being on track as well. But Sara had nothing to do with this. Not what was between him and Amber.
“What about her?”
“Wow, Frosty. Just - Really?”
“That helps, thanks.”
His sister, two years his junior responded as if explaining to a child.
“She liked you since you were freshman together. All last summer she talked about saying something this year and then… this.”
Oh, geez. In retrospect, it was pretty obvious. Would have taken her out once, at least. It wasn’t his fault, though, really. He hadn’t picked sleeping with and getting branded by the new cheer captain over the summer. Hadn’t planned much about his life lately. Frost sighed.
“I’m an idiot.”
“We knew that already. Just would have been good to consider her feelings a little more. I know trotting it out there wasn’t you, but you could have said something to her at least.”
Frost sighed past clenched teeth. “It’s not like I meant to. I,” he trailed off. Couldn’t give any of his real reasons, or excuses. Dropped his eyes with a shake of the head. “I’ll try to apologize. Something.” Apologize for not knowing?
“You do that.”