Being Amber

Without any memory of her past and not knowing why people react to her as they do, Amber has to learn to survive in the hard underworld of the City, among gangs and the unwanted citizens.
Her appearent resemblance with Ben's dead girlfriend, places her in the middle of a war that easily can cost her and others their lives.
In her quest to find her identity Amber has to learn to tell friend from foe, see behind the lies and decide if Ben's past matters at all.
When Ben asks Tom to train Amber he gets pulled into the war happening around him, far more than he wants to be.
Tom's alliance with Ben hangs in a thin tread when he not only falls in love with Amber but also starts a relationship with Kattie, who already has a boyfriend in Clay, Ben's second in command.
Will Amber ever find out who she really is ?
And how Will they get through the war ?

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16. Her trials

 

 *Amber*

 The day when Tom and Ben let me have my final trials arrived. With Tom everyone had to go through a hard test before becoming active members. And even though it wasn't something Ben normally did, they had agreed that it was the best way to see if I was ready and to see if Tom had upheld the deal him and Ben had made about my training.

 I had been training for nine months to get to this day. A whole new chapter of my life waited for me. I could finally leave the safety of Tom's walls and start as an active member.

 We started the morning by my physical test. It was all the things I had done every day for months. In the beginning it had been hard, but now I found it easy.

 After that I had a theory test. Primarily about fighting and were it was best to hit and were not to hit, depending on what your intentions with the attack was. I was also questioned in the unwritten rules of the underworld, in the structure of the gangs and a bit about how the city of Catrista worked. Everything Was something I had learned from Tom during our training.

 When we were done with that we had lunch, before going down to the shooting ranch. My time with the plastic bullets was over and I was handed live ammunition to prove my skills. Tom was controling the cardboard figures movements and Ben stood beside me and told me were he wanted me to hit it. When we had been through it three times, they agreed it was enough.

 I couldn't read Ben's expression and it annoyed me. I wanted to know if he thought I had done well. If I was good enough.

 We ended with hand to hand compat. And I felt this was it, the deal breaker. I hadn't expected to see Ben standing in front of me, to have to fight him made me very nervous and kind of excited at the same time.

 "It's the best way for me to really see how good you are". Ben pointed out when I hesitated. "And well you didn't seem to have a problem hitting me a few months ago".

 "Close off". Tom adviced me. "Don't see him as Ben, see him as an opponent". I nodded, I could do that. I had fought a lot of different opponents, because Tom just grabbed random members and made them fight me. Of course I could fight Ben too.

 I quickly realised that Ben wasn't bad. Better than most I had been up against actually and I didn't feel like he was holding back. But he wasn't as good as Tom, and I had beaten Tom a couple of times. That thought kept me going. I didn't want to loose to Ben.

 The hardest part was the fact that my heart was beating way to fast every time we touched each other, which was very impractical when his hand locked around my right wrist. It wasn't enough that I only had my left hand to get me free, but my pounding heart was fucking up my concentration. My longing for him to hold me close made it hard for me to wish for him to let me go.

 "It isn't fair when you effects me like this". I hissed at him through gritted teeth, while I tried to make my knee connect with his stomach. But he was to quick on his feet. Finally I managed to turn fast enough that he had to let go of my wrist and in the same motion my left hand flew up to strike the side of his face. He staggered a few steps backwards, but I was on him fast, not wanting to give him the benefit of the distance.

 My right hand hit his bicep, I had been aiming for his chest, but he turned in the last second. At the same time I tripped him, so he lost balance and followed up with an elbow in his back. I now had him down on all fours. Sure of my victory I pressed a food into his back.

 Ben turned out to be faster than me. He grabbed my foot and pulled, sending me down on my back, hitting my head down into the padding. And before I could get up or roll away, he was on top of me, holding me down with his body weight. His hands grabbed my wrists, pressing my hands into the mattress.

 I had one option, but it would hurt. Far more than having my head slammed into the mattress. So instead I gave up, giving Ben the victory.

 Ben didn't move. His face only a few centimetres from mine and my heart was most definately trying to escape through my chest. I was sure he could feel it.

 "I think we can say that the test is passed". Ben said to Tom, but he was looking at me. "I got to give it to you, even I hadn't thought you could make an Ace out of her".

 Ben finally got to his feet and gave me a hand to get up. 

 "An ace ?" I was rubbing my neck, hoping the question sounded casual enough. 

 "That is how we rank people when it comes to hand to hand combat and shooting". Ben explained. "If you are good you are a knight, below that you don't pass. If you are better, has something speciel, you are a king. The really good ones are aces.. and well if you exceed all expectations you are a joker". Had he just told me I was only second best.

 "It is more than okay being an ace". Tom said holding the rope up for me as I climbed out of the ring. "Especially since Zombie and Sunny don't have any jokers up their sleeves anymore".

 "What is Zombie ?" I was waiting for Ben to get out of the ring. He was limping slightly. I didn't remember hitting his leg. It must have happened when he fell.

 "An ace. Most leaders and seconds in command are Aces". Ben said, putting an arm around me. I didn't know if he wanted to hold me or just to get the waight of his leg, but I didn't mind it. "Don't feel bad about it, it is very rarely anyone gets labelled a Joker, we only have two in the entire underworld at the moment. Zac and Tom are the only ones".

 I looked at Tom. If he was ranked better than me, how could I have beaten him a couple of times then ?

 "The line between being an ace and a joker is almost invisible". Tom explained. "Me and Zac just has this little detail, that others don't have. We refuses to give up, no matter how impossible it looks for us". The look he sent me told me that I had given up. That he had expected me to choose the pain over letting Ben win. I had disappointed him.

 

 Everyone was collected in the apartment that evening, which didn't happened very often. Hope had went to the shared kitchen, getting food for everyone. Me and KC had done the dishes together and then we had all moved to the living-room.

 "How was the meeting this evening ?" Ben asked Kattie, looking curiously at her. "How has sales been today ?"

 "We sold all the VIP cards like always. We are only 15% under what we made on drugs". Kattie seemed very proud and I totally understood her. Her plan actually worked even though no one had believed in her.

 "Which reminds me. Our stash will be empty after tomorrow". KC said. "And the new thing will get even better then. The 15% we have gone down in the day to day sales, we have gone up at the club. So from tomorrow we can say with a clean consciousness that we no longer sell drugs".

 "Oh we all know you just hope your sister will come back now". Clay said sharply. "Penny is the real reason you have supported the girls this entire time".

 "Do we have a problem Clay ?" KC sat totally relaxed in the armchair Clay usually used. But today Clay was sitting on the couch, his arm around Kattie. "We found an alternative solution. We are not going to lose anything".

 "But imagine how much money we could make if we kept up both businesses ?" Clay said.

 "Imagine how amazing your life would be as a single". Kattie said angrily. "You are just pissed because my idea work. Because I turned out to be smarter than you". She got up. "I need to think about some things". And before anyone could react she had left the apartment.

 "You should go after her". Ben said casually.

 "Oh she just need to blow out a little steam and calm down". Clay said like he couldn't care less. "She is always overreacting this time of the month".

 "Your girlfriend has just left your home to think about your relationship and you think she is overreacting ?" Ben raised one eyebrow at him. "I admit, I am definitely not world champion when it comes to love. But if my girlfriend had told me she had to think about some things, well then I most definitely had some things I would want her to consider".

 "You also think I am far out right ? Just because you have gotten a new Amber, then the girls can get everything as they want it right ? If this is who you were before the war, I don't get why people was so busy getting you back". Clay got up and left for his and Kattie's room, slamming the door after him.

 "Someone should go after Kattie". I said hesitantly. I wondered for a moment if I should go or not, but when no one else got up, I felt I had to go.

 I found her sitting on the bottom step. She looked quickly when I came, then she dried her eyes with the back of her hand. "The fact alone that he don't go after me, says something about our relationship". Kattie mumbled as I sat down next to her. "How do you know if what used to be so good isn't worth it anymore ?"

 "Honestly I don't know". I didn't really know if I should put my arm around her. Kattie didn't seem the type that wanted to be cuddled. But on the other hand I hadn't seen her cry before. "I think you just know it".

 "He has changed". Kattie slowly shook her head. "After Ben has pulled himself together. It is like he can't handle Ben is acting like a leader again, making his own decision and that Ben treats me like an equal".

 "If he has been the one holding it all together for a long time, then it might be a bit difficult for him seeing things change". I suggested. "And you have been here longer than Clay, maybe he is jealous of the past you have with Ben ?"

 "There is nothing for him to be jealous about between Ben and me". Kattie dried her eyes again. "But we started The Shadows together. We have raised Hope together. We have always been there for one another and had each others back, no matter what situation we ended in".

 "Maybe he feels like he is no lomger needed, now when Ben is listening to you again ?" I could only try and guess. "I guess you have to talk to him".

 "I would actually love to talk, but he don't want to listen and don't want to answer me". Kattie looked at me. Her eyes was dry. "I am not used to having a boyfriend or deciding whether a relationship should end or not".

 "If Clay wont talk to you about it all, haven't he taken the decision for you then ?" I couldn't help asking.

 

Kattie and I shared my bed that night. She fell asleep quickly, but I was laying awake. In the end I got up, and went to talk to Clay.

 "What ?" He mumbled tired. "Amber ?" He sat up quickly. "Is everything okay ?"

 "No!" I sat down on the edge of the bed. "Things are actually going really badly". I was angry on behalf of Kattie. "Please right me if I am wrong, but you are so consumed by the idea of power that you can't handle that Ben is back on track and taking care of his own gang again. You can't handle that he is seeking Kattie's advice instead of turning her away because she is right. You'll rather see Ben on drugs, on the edge of a breakdown and a constant threat to Kattie, just so you can feel powerful". I stopped to breathe.

 "You are not even officially a member". Clay snapped. "You carry no symbol marking you as a member of The Shadows and still he listens more to you, than me. You should never have been brought here". I stiffened. He was the third one to say that. The second who was supposed to be a friend. The first friend who said it sober.

 "You are right". I got up. "For your sake I shouldn't have come here, because I ruined your changes of keeping the power you desire. But the only one that can ask me to leave is Ben. And if you are planning to ask him to choose between you and me, well good luck then".

 

 Kattie is awake when I come back, laying down next to her. "You have become much stronger". She said sounding tired. "And not only physical. It suits you".

 "I shouldn't have said those things to him". I said.

 "He deserves to hear it". Kattie answered. "The walls are thin here and it was a good thing for me hearing he didn't even object to your accusations".

 "Was I getting to cocky in the end ?" I knew I could ask Kattie. "If he actually asks Ben to choose, would I  then risk ending out on the street ?"

 "Amber". Kattie was smiling indulgently. "Ben gave up the drugs for you. He gave up the business he has spend years bulding up for you. If you asked him to, he would give up his whole life to follow you to the end of the earth".

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