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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13. Hitting Tom, hitting Zac, hitting Ben

 

 *Amber*

 My body had changed a lot since I woke up half a year ago. I had filled out and I could actually fit into Katties clothes now. I had developed shapes and muscles. My arms no longer looked like spaghetti dangling from the sleeves and the pants sat close to my legs. My ribs were no longer visible and my collarbone didn't stick out as much.

 I still had my scars, but they had faded and they seemed to fit my body better now. It just looked much less macabre when my body was healthy. I had dyed my hair a couple of times, to hide the blonde colour growing back. I had thought about going back to blonde, but it was to much trouble compared to dying it.

 My training was really moving along now. I was still on the shooting range, but now I had started hitting even the moving targets. And I had started the preliminary training for hand to hand combat, which meant hitting a punching bag until my knuckles were bleeding and.. dancing.

 Every afternoon I had dancing lessons for two hours with Tom. According to him it gave me the grace and reaction to my opponent there was necessary the day I went into the ring or ended in a real fight on the streets.

 "So are you doing this when you train the young men too, or is it reserved for your female students ?" I ask Tom one afternoon as I walk into the training room.

 He grins and slowly walk over. "Well so far it is reserved to you". He says softly. "I tried with Kattie, but she wouldn't let me lead".

 I blushes slightly, not really knowing why, as he grabs my hands, pulling me flushed against his body. "I was thinking you are handling the waltz really well by now, reading my moves, so we should move on to some latin rhythms. They have more passion, reminds more of a fight".

 "Fuck.. could you focus Amber". Tom curses when I step on his foot for the hundredth time that day. I can't keep focus on my feet. He is to close, he moves those hips so enticing.

 "Sorry". I feel fustrated. And I don't know what is going on with me. Honestly this has been happening more and more. But why ? Ben is the one I am in love with.

 Tom runs a hand through his hair. "No need to apologise, just.. well try to focus. You need to be able to keep your focus no matter what".

 I got better, learning to focus and ignore those feelings the closeness caused. I spent my morning training with the gun, either at the shooting range or one of the paintball arenas if there were any opponents. Then after lunch the dancing and the rest of the afternoon I get my pent up frustrations out by pounding the punching bag and lifting weights.

 I have had several run ins with Zombie, but none where I was in danger or close contact with him. I was always with Tom, Ben, Kattie or KC if I was outside the school or apartment and always in or on some kind of transportation that didn't let Zombie stop us.

 He had come to the apartment a couple of times, but every time the others had reacted before I had even realised that there was a threat. Before I knew what was happening Hope pulled me to the bathroom and locked the door. For that reason we now had weapons hidden in the bathroom.

 

 I had spent the morning on the paintball course and borrowed Tom's shower to get cleaned up. So my hair was still wet when I stepped into his office to see if he was ready for my dancing lessons.

 "Give me ten minutes darling". He was focused on the papers in front of him, so I let the darling slide this time. "You can go wait for me in the ring".

 "The ring ?" I couldn't hide the enthusiasm in my voice. This was what I had been waiting for. What I had been training towards.

 "Yes, you are ready". Tom looked up, sending me one of those flashing smiles. "Or what do you say ?" I understood the challenge and accepted it.

 "I have been ready for a long time". I couldn't help smiling when I turned on my heels and left his office. Finally I got to the fun part.

 If it took ten minutes I don't know. But I felt like I had only just entered the ring, trying to get used to the slightly padded floor, when Tom arrived, crawling between the ropes to stand in front of me.

 "Okay we are starting out simple". He said while correcting my posture. "You need to look confident. You have to believe that you can beat your opponent. Keep your back straight and your head clear". I nodded and tried to swallow, my mouth suddenly feeling dry. "Today you only have to attack. Try hitting me".

 He spread out his arms, looking at me, making himself an easy target. I was hesitant. "Come on. You are the one saying that you want to learn this". He said sounding a bit impatient.

 "So I can beat up Zombie, not hit you". I answered feeling frustrated and took a step back from him.

 "So what you are saying is that I should go out and find Zombie, to haul him back here and let him loose with you in the ring ?" Tom raised one eyebrow. "In that case I can't guarantee what shape you are in after the fight".

 "Listen I can't hit you. I actually like you...".

 "Well I am flattered. But that doesn't change the fact that you have to learn how to fight and you only learn by trying. So you need to hit me. Come on like you really mean it. And don't worry, you won't hurt me". He cuts me off.

 I try swinging my hand at him, slapping him, it was all I could really think to do. But he caught my hand easily with his, holding it over my head.

 "You can do that much better". He sounded disappointed and slightly angry with me. "Remember you got an entire body, it is flexible. Move it".

 I tried with my other hand, this time balling it into a fist, but without letting go of the hand he already in his, Tom caught my second hand and I was locked. Pulled close to him, both hands over my head.

 "And this is were I got all control". When his eyes locked into mine I felt my breath getting stuck in my throat. I could see his chest moving faster with his breathing. His face so close to mine. My brain was screaming at me that this would go wrong, very wrong.

 "I have never been good at training others at this". He mumbled, stepping away as he let me go. "Give me five minutes".

 He left the ring, and I leaned on the ropes breathing hard, shit that had been close. That couldn't happen.

 

 When Tom returned he wasn't alone. There was a guy that looked to be around my age walking next to him. He was even taller than Tom and a bit more broad over the chest. He had dark wavy hair and stubbles. He had The Stars tattoo on his neck.

 "Amber this is Zac, he is Kress second in command". Tom introduced him. "And he is the best at training others in hand to hand battle".

 When I had heard people talk about Zac, they had always described him as a younger version of Kress. Like he was a younger brother Kress had taken under his wings.

 "You don't look like Kress at all". It just flew out of my mouth when Zac entered the ring and shook my hand.

 "Thank you". Zac had a firm handshake and hazel eyes, they kind of reminded me of something or someone. "I choose to take that as a compliment. Even though I don't know were my genes come from, at least I know they are better looking than his".

 "It wasn't what I meant, it..". I hadn't meant that Kress was ugly or Zac was attractive. Kress was handsome enough I guess, for his age. But he didn't have Ben's striking face or Tom's handsome charm. Zac on the other hand was actually very handsome, but like Tom he looked to be very aware of his own charms.

 "Of course it was". Zac sent me an overbearing smile. "So should we teach you how to defend yourself ?" He placed himself in from of me. "Remember you got elbows and knees". He tabbed lightly on them as he mentioned them. "Not only your hands. That gives you six potential weapons and with that six things for your opponent to worry about".

 "And six things for me to focus about". I pointed out.

 "When we get to that, yes". Zac answered. "But the idea in starting out against friends and allies, is, that we wont try to hit you back before you are ready". Are we friends ? I had never met Zac before and from what I knew about Kress I wasn't thinking friends here. "So if we pretend for a moment that I actually wants to spend the time I was going to use on my own training to teach you, because Tom suddenly forgot how to do it, could we then also pretend that you actually wanted to hit me ?"

 I was still hesitant, which made Zac step towards me, looking rather threatening. "See I promised not to try and hit you, but I said nothing about not trying to kiss you". His eyes were hard and when I still hesitated, his hand grabbed around my neck and pulled my face towards his.

 Then suddenly it was Zombie's face I saw and without thinking I put both my hands on his chest. Pushing him of me, while I kicked after his crotch with my knee. Zac blocked me fast letting go of me, but his eyes told me that he would try again given the chance, so I kept trying to hit him.

 I was never even close to hitting him. No matter what I tried he blocked me of or moved before I could reach my target. It seemed effortless for him.

 It wasn't before I saw Tom in front of the ring, watching us intently, that I realised I was forgetting the dancing. I forgot to move. I forgot to read Zac's movements and move with him, not against him. I was to stif in my body.

 "Don't you know who your parents are ?" I asked Zac when we stopped the training and he held the ropes apart for me. Could it really be, that I wasn't the only one without a past here.

 "The underworld is were all the unwanted citizens ends up". Zac said. "Some of us was unwanted from the moment we were born". He said it like it was nothing. Like it didn't matter that he was unwanted.

 

 I was tired when Tom dropped me of at the apartment that afternoon. I hadn't been close to getting through Zac's defences at any point. But both him and Tom was positive. Unfortunately Zac didn't have the time to train me the next couple of days, so I would have to train with Tom. It had to be okay. Zac had given me a taste for it and I no longer felt like I was trying to hit a person. Now I felt like I was trying to get through someone's defences.

 There was no one home in the apartment when I came in, so I slumped down on the couch and started looking through the newspaper on the table. It was a couple of days old, but it was mostly to have something to look at.

 I found an article that talked about the big problem with drugs in the city and that the police would start using more time on fighting it, stopping the sale. I was halfway through the article when Clay and Kattie came home.

 "Did you know this ?" I asked them putting down the paper. "That people dies from the drugs ?" Kattie sent Clay a knowing glare as he rolled his eyes theatrically.

 "We need the money Amber". Clay tried to explain to me. His tone was condescending. "The fact that some of our customers takes the wrong dosis can't be our problem".

 "You put the means to kill themselves in their hands and you say it isn't your problem ?" I got up, starring angrily at him.

 "Tom sells weapon, wepons kill. Funnily enough I don't see any of you girls giving him a hard time, but I guess he only need to batter his lashes and flash you a smile and all reason goes out the door". Clay said angrily.

 "People know guns can kill. They don't use them to have a fun night out". I yelled at him. "Weapons are only dangerous in the wrong hands, drugs can be it in everyones hands".

 "So you prefer us to starve ?" Clay pointed out.

 "There are alternatives". Kattie jumped in. "I have made a whole business plan and showed you, we could make the same amount of money, but you wont listen".

 "Because it is foolish!" Clay turned towards Kattie.

 "So now I am foolish ?" Kattie didn't really sound hurt or angry. "Well nice to know Clay. Nice to know that as soon as I disagree with you I have lost all sense".

 "I didn't mean it like that..". Clay reached for her, but she pulled away.

 "Oh yes, that was precisely what you did. You think us foolish, because we don't want to sell something that destroys people". Kattie stalked towards the door, grabbing my arm and pulling me along.

 "What are you doing ?" Clay yelled after us, as I stepped into my shoes.

 "What I should have supported Penny in years ago". She answered him angrily. "I am out". She slammed the door behind us.

 "Were do we go ?" I asked her with uncertainty. "To Tom ?"

 "This isn't Tom's fight". Kattie answered. "It is time we start telling our members that we have other possibilities, alternatives".

 Kattie led me into one of the other buildings belonging to the Shadows and up on the third floor, where she knocked on the door. A tall gangly but still muscular young man opened. "Hi Lucas, is KC here ?" Kattie asked.

 "Is something wrong ?" Lucas was looking at me. "And no KC isn't here, but I can go find him if you need him".

 "Could you ? And can we wait here while you do ? I don't want Clay or Ben to find us before we have talked to KC". Lucas stepped aside, so we could enter the apartment. It was much smaller than ours.

 "What are you going to do ?" I nervously asked Kattie when we were alone. She looked at me. "I don't really know yet".

 "But what are the plan ?" I wasn't sure whether I trusted Kattie to make sensible plans.

 "To make Ben listen". Kattie said and slumped back on the couch.

 "Why did you think KC was here ?" I couldn't relax like she did.

 "KC and Lucas are best friends, they spend a lot of time together. And Lucas is the only one with the privilege of having his very own apartment, so it is a good place to talk privately".

 "Do you know all the members of the gang ?" I asked. I had wondered a lot about it, because Tom seemed to know every single of his members.

 "Name, apartment and were their strengths lie in battle". Kattie said. "The thing about the strong sides caters to just about everyone in the underworld. I need to know my members to use them the best way possible and my enemies to beat them".

 "Isn't that a lot to remember ?" I had a hard time remembering just the people I had met this far.

 "It becomes a habit". Kattie shrugged. "You find you own way of remembering. And well I have welcomed most the members here".

 "But still though..". I said. I suddenly remembered something and asked. "So who is this Penny ?"

 "She is KC's twin sister. She left when Ben started on the drugs. We all should have left too".

 

 It took an hour before Lucas came back. He hadn't managed to find KC anywere and apologised profoundly.

 "Then you will have to help instead". Kattie said and leaned forward. "I don't know how much KC has told you, but me and him has stopped selling drugs".

 "Yeah I know". Lucas said. "If I had the same safety net I would have followed your example".

 "Thank you, but the problem is that both Ben and Clay thinks that we are foolish. It is time to do something drastic". She smiled seeming happy with herself. "So I want you to go to Ben and tell him that Amber and I plan on going to all members, turning them against him and Clay".

 "What ?!" Both Lucas and me looked at her with shock. "Are you seriously going to do that ?" Lucas asked. "That would pull The Shadows apart".

 "Exactly". Kattie said looking smug. "Which means that Ben has to act and before we can reach all the members. Tell him we have asked to spend the night here before we start our campaign tomorrow".

 "Which would make Ben angry with me". Lucas defended himself. "I am only sixteen and it is only thanks to KC that I am allowed to have my own apartment. Ben is going to kick me out or worse".

 "Of course not. I am still above you, you can't really refuse to do what I ask you to do". Kattie said with a  indulgent voice. "You are informing him. So you are showing loyalty to him".

 "Okay then". Lucas got up. He clearly didn't feel good about this. "But I am staying away after delivering your message".

 

 I could feel the nervous energy from Kattie and it made me even more nervous. Kattie was pacing the floor, while I sat in the couch, my legs pulled up.

 Ben and Clay both showed up. They didn't knock, but walked directly inside. Kattie stopped pacing and stared at them.

 "What the hell do you think you are doing ?" Ben asked her angrily, glaring at Kattie. "Is it true ? Are you trying to commit mutiny and destroy The Shadows ?" Kattie 

 just stood there staring at him.

 "No, Ben". She finally said. And she kind of slumped, like her entire body gave up. "You are taking care of that yourself. It doesn't matter now"- she turned to Clay. "If you can't see what the drugs are doing to him, you are not the man I thought you to be". Without another word she ran out the door.

 Clay mumbled a single word I couldn't hear, before he ran after her. Leaving me alone with Ben. His eyes almost black when he looked at me. Those green/blue eyes I loved so much were gone. That was why Kattie had reacted like she did. He was on drugs and she wouldn't take the fight when he was high.

 "Are you going to yell at me too ?" Ben asked, his voice cold. "Try to teach me how the drugs are destroying me. Destroying my judgment ?" Rigth now he wasn't the man I cared for and respected. He wasn't the man that made me feel safe. Quite the opposite.

 I shook my head and got up, making sure to keep the coffee table between us. "I think you already know that". I said quietly. "I am so sorry I came here and drove you back out into this. Don't worry I will disappear, then this wont be my fault anymore". I slowly edged towards the door.

 Way to fast Ben reached me, grabbing my wrist. "Where are you going to go ? Catrista ? They will send you back to your family. The family you don't know and who raped you".

 "There are people here in the underworld, to whom I don't bring bad memories". I said angrily and tried to rip my arm free. "People that don't find me so horrible that they need to do drugs to be able to be near me". I managed to pull my arm loose, but Ben grabbed my biceps instead. I could feel how he left bruises.

 "Zombie was right in one thing". Ben hissed angrily. "You should never have been brought here".

 Without hesitation I attacked. I managed to give him an elbow to the jaw and I felt a weird satisfaction when I heard a crushing sound of something breaking. I followed it up with a knee to his balls, before I turned and ran.

 

 I could only think of one place were I would be safe. So that was were I ran to. It had been dark for hours, but I didn't think about the dangers of being alone outside in the underworld. Not right now.

 At this time the gate was closed, but as soon as the guards saw me the opened to me. Both of them looked at me with worry, when I crying and out of breath walked swiftly to the door. As I reached it, the door opened and Tom stood in the doorway. The guards must have contacted him. Without a word he opened his arms and pulled me into him.

 "I hit him". I whispered hoarsly. The sobs was stuck in my throat. "I think I broke his jaw".

 "Amber what happened ?" Tom held me out from him, so he could look at my face. "Are the others okay ?"

 "Ben was high". I couldn't look Tom in the eyes. "He told me I should have never been brought here".

 "But you weren't attacked ?" Tom's voice was serious. "Look at me Amber. Has Ben hurt you ?" I shook my head. "And Kattie ? Has he hurt any of the others ?" Tom asked worriedly.

 "Kattie ran". I tried to remember what had happened. "She was angry with Clay and Ben. Clay followed her. I don't know were they are".

 "Let's find you a bed". Tom sighed and put an arm around my shoulders". And then i better go find Kattie and make sure everyone is okay".

 "I never want to see Ben again". I mumbled.

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