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Calm After the Storm

Summary: Since the virus, Amber has felt completely torn between the different men in her life. She soon realizes who is the most important man of all of them…
Written by: heartsoflead

It was a long journey from the City to shore. Almost two months. They had run out of food rations a very long time ago. It was a good thing they had Jack on board who built a filtration system from the vast amounts of salt water using random things in their boat- a tribal McGuyver, if you will. Each person on board had fishing duties for each day. They’d only packed one hot plate which hooked up to a car battery, so dining was quite difficult. It came down to boiled fish, fish soup, or just plain fish. On occasion they’d find some kind of crab, mollusk or snail attached to one of their lines- those were treats.

Amber had been sick of the boat after the first two weeks. The rocking of the ship had gotten to her almost every time, causing her to feel like heaving her lunch off the side of the boat. The baby was always fussy. He seemed to miss land as much as his mother. Oh, did she miss land! She’d constantly dream of the first time she found the mall with Dal. They’d planned on going to the countryside, growing all their own food and keeping to themselves. They had been sidetracked by a little girl chasing a cat. Amber didn’t believe in fate then. She thought that everyone just floated around like feathers, accidentally crossing paths with soul mates, enemies and best friends. But now she knew that everything was set from day one. Had she gone with Dal to the country, she would have never met Bray, would have never lived in the mall… would have never had the most beautiful baby she could ever imagine.

Where would fate take her now?

“Hey guys! I think I see land!”

Amber had taken shelter with little Bray in one of the rooms below. She placed the child on her hip and made her way up toward the main deck. When she arrived, she saw everyone by the front of the boat, chatting happily and pointing ahead of them. Her heart almost leapt out of her chest, into her throat and onto the deck of the boat. Land, finally! Amber felt like she had forgotten what it felt like to walk on stable ground. There were risks to dropping anchor in a new land, but that was just in the back of her mind right now. She was sick of the bitter smell of sea salt that filled her head and caused her to feel dizzy.

Jay turned around, flashing his pearly white smile her way. He held out a hand to her. “Come on, take a look.”

Amber couldn’t help but return the smile and walk over to them. With her free hand, she grabbed Jay’s and squeezed it gently. As she looked out, she could see the small piece of beach, surrounded by bright blue water. It was a little island, but it was big enough for her. There were so many palm trees and regular trees, and even trees that she couldn’t even remember ever seeing in her time with the Eco’s. She could hear the beautiful songs of birds other than fat, pompous sea gulls; exotic birds just cawing away in their own lovely paradise.

“There are probably so many farming opportunities.” Jack pointed out, his arm wrapped around Ellie’s waist.

“No tribes like The Techno’s, or The Chosen…” Trudy added, bouncing Brady on her hip. The little girl began to giggle.

“Peace… finally.” Ruby sounded breathless.

“A new slate. A new beginning.” Amber heard Ebony say from behind her.

They were all right, especially Ebony. A new beginning. Amber had made so many mistakes in the past, pre and post virus. She had loved and lost. She’d been hurt. She’d been wronged. She had hated, and also forgiven. She would miss the city, but a new beginning sounded like something she could get used to.

They’d pulled the boat up the shore with ease. It was as if the Island was welcoming them with a gentle current and a slight skin tickling breeze. There was only a short wade from the boat to land. As Amber was packing, she heard a knock at her door. Looking up, she found Jay standing there, another bright smile lit up his face. “Are you almost ready?” He asked, leaning against the door frame.

“Almost. Just putting the last bit in my bag.”

“Trudy’s still up on deck too. She’ll be going over with us.” He stood up straight now, walking over to her and kneeling down next to her. “What’s on your mind?”

“Just thinking about how quickly things can change. I mean, look at what we’ve gone through these couple of months. The city we called home is now dead to us. We had to leave everything we know, and now we’re going to a place that is so unfamiliar to us.” She turned her head away from him, putting a couple more belongings in her bag. “I’m leaving a lot of ghosts behind.”

Jay gently put his finger under her chin, turning her head to look up into his eyes. His big blues were smiling at her, but his face wasn’t. It was stern and serious. “You’re not leaving them behind. They follow you around. They’ll always be in your heart.”

A small smile tugged at the ends of Amber’s mouth. “You’re right. And I’ve got to live for them now, don’t I?”

“Not just them, but this beautiful baby here.” Jay turned his attention to little Bray who biting a wooden ABC block. He poked the baby’s belly, causing a little eruption of giggling.

The wade wasn’t difficult. The highest the water ever got was the around Amber’s thighs, causing a great roaring laughter from Bray who was sitting on her hip as the water licked his pudgy little feet. When her toes hit dry sand, she almost wanted to go down on all fours and lay there for a few minutes- just embracing the fact that solid ground didn’t rock or throw you this way and that. She looked at the other Mallrats who had made it before them. Most of the kids were running around, playing tag. Brady wiggled off Trudy’s hip and ran off to play with them. Poor things, Amber thought. They hadn’t had a good run or stretched their legs for a very long time. It was well needed.

“So, what now?” Asked Lex. He had taken off his boots, enjoying the sand between his toes.

“We should probably find some kind of shelter.” Amber said, dropping her bag around where the others had already dropped theirs. “There seem to be a lot of sturdy looking trees. We could make some tents using them and some sheets I brought off the boat from our beds. We’ll also need to make a fire.”

“Already on it.” Jack said from down on the ground. He had already gathered some rocks in a circle with a pyramid of sticks in the middle. With a piece of flint and a rock, he was creating sparks to ignite.

“Great. Now, food… We could have some of us look for berries in the woods… Salene, May? How about it?” The two girls nodded. “Maybe a few of us could set up fishing rods and get some fish.”

Everyone moaned at the fish idea, since that was the only thing they’d been living on for their entire journey, but nonetheless they nodded and began to work. Amber turned to Trudy who had been laughing as she watched Brady try to tag Lottie. “Hey, Trudy, do you think you could watch over little Bray for a bit? I want to take a walk.”

“Of course.” Trudy smiled, taking the child from Amber’s arms. “C’mon little one. Let’s watch your cousin play tag.”

Amber couldn’t help but smile. Trudy had been such a great friend over the years- though they had obviously had their hardships. She had always been a bit mislead and always had it tough. Amber could recall the period of time where Trudy and Dal left the mall, leaving Brady behind. She’d also changed into a monster, allowing a tribe called The Chosen to take over the mall- all for the sake of that little girl. Everything had been so up in the air. Back then, Amber could have never imagined that Trudy would blossom into the mother that she was today.

After slipping on her boots, Amber began to walk out into the woods. The sand made it a bit hard to keep her pace, but it felt good to actually get to stretch her legs again. Wildlife was in motion all around her- birds chirping good day to her from the tops of trees, rabbits skittering away with their small children following closely behind, a crane at a nearby tide pool trying to find a midday snack. She could remember her time with the Eco’s and how precious the peace was there, but this was a different story all around. The peace she felt here was much stronger.

And yet, despite this beautiful scenery her mind still wandered back to what she left behind in the city. So many people lost? Cloe, Alice, KC, Patsy. Dal, Pride and Bray? perished. She knew that she was so thankful for Jay to pick up the pieces of her life and put it all back together for her son. She’d only felt love twice in her entire life, and it was nothing at all like what she felt for Jay. She saw him more like a step father to her child, and something like a rock for her to feel safe. He was nothing like Bray or?

A snapping of a twig close by caused her to get out of her head and back into reality. She’d been walking in a dream, realizing that she had traveled very far into the woods. She couldn’t remember which way was forward and which was back. Another twig snapped, sounding as though it was closer than the last. “May? Salene?” She called out, thinking that maybe the girls were around, trying to find berries. “Hello?”

She turned around and instantly her heart stopped.

Standing in a small clearing was a man she had felt was a dream- yes, that’s it? she was still dreaming. As fast as he’d come into her life, he’d exited. Though she moved along with her love life, she thought about him constantly. How was he? Where did he go? What is he doing now? Does he still love her? And there he was, just standing there, handsome as ever. Oh, how he changed! His boyish features now replaced by that of a man. The long hair he had back then was now cut and messy. His eyes still sparkled like wet diamonds.

“S-sasha?” Amber asked. Her knees were weak. Her voice felt as though it didn’t belong to her, but an invisible onlooker- still inside her head, no doubt. Could you see mirages on an island? “Is that you?”

He didn’t speak. He swiftly walked over to her, placing his hand on her cheek, engulfing her in a soft kiss. The familiarity of it all overwhelmed her. She could feel her face turning red, the butterflies in her stomach causing uproar of commotion. She didn’t want to separate from his sweet embrace, but knew she had to to take a gulp of air. She wrapped her arms around his neck and he curled his around her slim waist. Amber, in all of her joy, began to weep. The smell of him, the feel of him, the taste of him… it was all just too unreal.

“Miss me?” Sasha whispered in her ear, then kissing it shortly after.

She laughed a small laugh, too busy silently weeping on his shoulder. “I just can’t believe you’re here. How did you even get here? Did you know about the city?”

He broke the hug they were entwined in, but left his arms on her waist. “When I left the mall, I moved out passed Eco territory. I stayed there for a bit, but I wasn’t satisfied. So then I moved out further, but it still left me unsatisfied. So I got a boat and left the city completely, finding this little island. I figured that maybe to be satisfied, I’d have to live completely alone, no company, no anything. And still, I was unsatisfied. It just made realize something…” He paused for a moment, getting lost in the sea of her eyes. “I need you to be satisfied.”

“Oh, Sasha.” Amber said, giving him a small kiss on the lips.

“Now you tell me. How’d you make it here? I thought I was least likely to see you here out of anyone I’ve met in my travels.”

“Something happened in the city. We all had to leave. We’d been on a boat for almost two months, though I feel as though it was longer. Finally we found this island, and we’re planning on setting up camp. I had such a positive feeling about this place when I saw it. Not only for me, but for my-” Amber stopped herself.

“For your…” Sasha pushed on.

“Tribe.” She didn’t want to say son… she didn’t want to spoil this one moment she had been dreaming of for almost four years. “It’s a new opportunity to start over again. And that’s what we want to do. We want to start over without any Locos or Zoot. We want peace.”

“Well, you’ll definitely get it here.” He said. He couldn’t help but keep smiling. “You said the tribe was here? Bray, Patsy, Dal, Jack- I still remember them all. How are they?”

Amber’s blood ran cold. “Jack’s back with the rest of them, but the other three…”

“Oh.”

“Hey, who’s over there?” Salene and May, both side by side, came towards them now, a basket filled to the brim with different colored berries. Both simultaneously stopped, staring at the scene ahead of them. Sasha with his arms loosely around Amber’s waste and Amber’s hands on Sasha’s arms. Quickly, Amber pulled away.

“Sasha?” Salene said, her eyes wide in excitement. She walked up to him and embraced him. Sasha did the same. “How have you been? It’s been ages since we’ve seen you! How did you get here?”

“Oh, you know me. I’ve been traveling. It’s so good to see you. You’ve really grown up.” He was looking her up and down, remembering the young girl back when he stayed at the mall for those couple of weeks. She was so skittish back then, trying not to trip on other people’s tails. Now it seemed that she was a woman.

“This is May.” Salene said, realizing that the two hadn’t met. May arrived way after Sasha had even been in the mall. They both greeted each other. Salene looked at Amber, motioning to the berries she had picked. “We found a whole lot of them. There are bushes and trees everywhere. May, show them what you’ve got.” Inside her satchel, she pulled out a coconut. “There are a whole bunch in there. Isn’t that great?”

“Yeah. Awesome.” Amber smiled. A little flicker of anger and jealousy pierced her heart. She wanted to keep Sasha to herself, just for a little while longer.

“We should probably get back… it’s getting dark.” May spoke up.

“Are you coming with us, Sasha?” Salene asked, sounding as excited as ever.

“Sure, if that’s okay with you guys? I wouldn’t want to intrude.”

“No, of course not. Right, Amber?”

“Yeah, right.” It was as she feared. She only wanted to spend a bit more time with him before she’d have to tell the truth- she had had a son with Bray, and she was now with Jay. But Jay was so far away in her mind right now. The only thing she could see was Sasha, the first boy she had ever fallen in love with; the boy that never ever left her thoughts and dreams at night. As they began to walk back, May and Salene leading, Amber gingerly grabbed Sasha’s hand, trying to make a mental note of the feel of his rough, calloused skin; the warmth she felt when she held it, crawling slowly up her arm and engulfing her heart; the way he’d glance over at her and throw a small smirk her way.

Fate, where exactly was it taking her this time?

When they reached the shore, Amber split apart from Sasha’s grasp. It was almost as painful as leaving him again. She noticed that they had made a few tents, and on the fire there was fish being cooked. Trudy was the first to notice Sasha, her eyes as big as saucers at the sight of him. Though he had grown, he still looked like the same boy from so long ago. Lex was the second to notice. “Well, there’s an old face I thought I’d never see…”

“Sasha…?” Jack got up from the fire, having been turning the fish on the rotisserie the whole time. He walked over to him and hugged him, Sasha embraced him right back. It felt so good for Sasha to see old faces. It took everything in him not to shed a tear. “It’s good to see you.”

“Thanks.” Sasha said to Jack, then looked over at Trudy with Brady. “My goodness… is that Brady? The itty bitty girl who couldn’t even walk all those years ago?” He knelt down so he could be eye to eye with the girl. Shy as she was, she turned away and hugged her mother. He couldn’t help but smile. From inside his pocket, he pulled out two red hacky-sacks. Curiously, Brady turned back around. Where he was kneeling, he began to juggle the two of them, causing little Brady to clap her hands and giggle. When he caught the two of them in one hand, he handed them to the girl. “Here, how about you try?”

Trudy let Brady down and the small child began to throw them simultaneously in the air, each time she did, they just fell right by her feet. This made her laugh and laugh, causing Trudy to laugh. “Sasha. It’s so good to see you again. Really.”

Sasha looked at her, then back at Amber. He felt like he was in the right place, like he was at home. This was the way it should have been- he was blind back then for leaving the mall. Amber still loved him, and though some of the faces in the mall had changed or had been replaced, he still felt a distinct feeling of home.

As Sasha was feeling all of the most positive feelings, Amber was a wreck, though nobody would know it. Her heart almost dropped when Jay walked out of one of the tents, little Bray on his hip. “Who’s this?” He asked as he approached Amber.

Sasha stood up, extending a hand. “Sasha. And who might you be?”

After Jay shook his hand, he placed his arm around Amber’s waist. “I’m Jay, and this little guy is Bray Junior.”

It felt as though the whole island went silent. The small smile that had been on Sasha’s face since he h ad been reunited with Amber slowly turned into the most serious face Amber had ever seen him wear. It seemed as quickly the fire within her heart was restored, it was harshly blown out.

“Oh.” Sasha paused for a moment. Everyone was watching. Everyone’s eyes were on the three of them. “Well, nice to meet you, the both of you.” His feelings of home were set on fire. He wanted nothing more than to suddenly explode- burn into a billion little pieces and let the island breeze blow him to sea. So she had moved on with Bray, just as he had though. And even worst yet, she’d bore his child, a beautiful blond haired boy with Bray’s nose and Amber’s eyes. He felt sick. And obviously this Jay fellow was her beau. “Well, it was great to see you all again. A breath of fresh air, if you will.” He forced a smile. “I should probably be going. I do have to get back to my camp on the other side of the island.” He panned his view to the lot of them, then let his gaze stop on Amber. “I hope you have a great life.” Sasha spoke to her, directly, then began to walk away.

Amber loosened herself from Jay’s grip, running after him. The entire tribe watched, confused, but she didn’t care. She couldn’t let him slip away again. They were far from the tribe when her strides began to match up with his. “Sasha, please, I can explain… Just hear me out-”

“You lied to me.”

“I didn’t lie. I just wasn’t telling you the whole story.”

Sasha stopped dead in his tracks, almost causing Amber to fall over. She could tell from the fire in his eyes when he turned to her that he was angry. “So you decided to skip the minuscule detail that you had a son with Bray? And you’re dating this Jay fellow? What now? You’re actually Zoot in disguise?”

“I couldn’t ruin it. I couldn’t ruin us.”

“HA. Could have fooled me…”

He began to walk again but Amber pulled on his arm hard enough to stop him. “Did you know that I dreamed about you every night after you left? I cried myself to sleep sometimes when I was laying next to Bray. I didn’t know what happened to you, and it scared me to know that you were out there in such a dangerous world. Sasha, you were the first boy I ever fell in love with- the first one I ever let into my life. I gave you a little bit of my heart, and I never EVER filled the spot that was missing. You were always there.”

“But you did. You did fill it. And what hurts the most is that you didn’t just tell me the truth. Bye, Amber.” Sasha turned away from her and began walking

Ambers knees caved in as she let herself hit the sandy ground. “Fine! Leave then! I never want to see your face ever again, Sasha! Do you hear me? NEVER AGAIN!” She wasn’t just crying tears. She felt like she was crying rivers, streams, oceans. The tears were flowing from her eyes, down her cheek, and even further onto her clothing and sand below her.

Was this her new beginning? If it was, Amber couldn’t live like this.

Eventually she found her way back to the tents. Mostly everyone was asleep- everyone except for Trudy. She was up, sitting on a log by a crackling fire. Amber knew her eyes were red and swollen. She didn’t care. The total feeling of hopelessness just washed over her like the waves of the tide. On a log next to Trudy’s, Amber slumped down, keeping her gaze on the fire. She could recall when the fire of her heart burned that bright… now it was only a small spark, if that. A dark cloud hung over, darker than the night sky, covering the stars. There were a couple distant rumbles and small flashes of lightning. A storm was brewing, not only up in the heavens but inside Amber’s thoughts.

“You love him, don’t you.”

When Trudy spoke, it almost startled Amber. Glancing over, not turning her head fully to look at Trudy, she nodded. “Don’t be mad.”

Trudy stood, sitting next to Amber on her log, wrapping an arm around her best friend. “Of course I’m not mad. I could never be mad at you. I’m just a little… surprised. I never thought I’d ever seen you so upset in my life.”

“Was it that obvious?” Amber asked, curling up closer to Trudy’s figure.

“Oh my, yes.” Trudy almost chuckled at herself, but held back. Now wasn’t the time. “He was your first love, wasn’t he?” Amber nodded. “Well, you never forget them. They’re always there. I loved Martin at one time. I’ve never forgotten that love.”

“I’m just so confused. I loved Sasha, and then he left. I loved Bray, and then Bray left. And I love Jay, but now that Sasha’s back… I feel like everything is just blurred.”

“I know you’re confused, and I know that you love Sasha, but now it’s not just about you. You have your son to worry about now.”

Amber knew this was so. She knew that her son was the number one priority. It was so apparent and clear to her now. The old ghosts of love came back to haunt her, but not taunt her. They came to teach her. It was now too apparent what she must do. She wrapped her arms around Trudy, giving her a small squeeze, then broke apart. “I have to talk to Jay.” Trudy just nodded as she watched her best friend walk away.

Amber’s a smart girl, Trudy thought. I know she’ll do the right thing.

Amber ducked inside the tent that Jay had made for them and the baby. He wasn’t asleep, just laying back in a makeshift bed, both arms supporting his head. The baby was asleep in a basket lined with a fluffy pillow and blanket. “Can I talk to you outside?” She asked him, not wanting to wake the baby up. Jay just nodded, getting up from where he was laying. He was so silent? this made Amber even more nervous.

When they walked outside, before she had time to open her mouth and speak, Jay spoke. “You’ve been crying.” He cupped her cheek with his hand but she moved away. She couldn’t feel the touch of his skin on hers. It would make the pain greater. “What is it, Amber? Why are you being this way? What happened between you and that Sasha guy?”

“It’s complicated…”

“We have all night.”

Amber didn’t want to, but she knew she had to explain the whole thing. She began with the Tribal gathering, where she found Dal and Sasha almost nearly sold as slaves. They’d rescued them; only to have Sasha spend some time in the mall He was charming not only the kids but her heart as well. She then told him that they’d both left for a couple of days on their own little holiday. Every little detail escaped her lips, from how he was her first love and how happy he made her feel, down to when he left and how she knew she would never ever forget him. She even told him about the crying in bed, missing him, the complete loneliness of not knowing where he was tugging at her heartstrings.

The lightning and thunder began getting louder and brighter. Though no rain fell, the storm seemed to intensify. The humidity of the island caused the air to buzz. All of the chirping from the nighttime animals were silent.

Jay didn’t speak. He was expressionless. Amber only assumed that he was deep in thought, trying to soak in everything she was telling him. After a few moments, he took a deep breath. “What does this mean for us?”

“Sasha coming back was a breath of fresh air for me, but it made me realize that things have become so mangled and changed with the age of time. Rusted. I have a son now, and that has to be the most important thing for me. I can’t keep chasing a dream, and I can’t keep worrying myself over this. My prime focus in my life needs to be on raising my son… I’m sorry, Jay. I just can’t do this anymore. I can’t keep splitting my heart up like I have been doing.”

Again, silence. The only thing Jay did was shake his head. He was about to speak again when the baby began crying from inside the tent. Amber quickly ducked back inside, picking up the fussy child. She assumed that the last clap of thunder had scared him. “Shhh. It’s okay.” She kissed his damp cheek, bringing him outside to walk up the shore line. Jay did nothing but watch her go, completely at a loss for words.

Amber soaked her feet in the warm water, bouncing the little baby on her hip. As she did this, she noticed the clouds breaking apart, allowing a total view of the stars. So beautiful they were. The baby was now hiccupping from all the crying he did. “Now, that’s more like it. Mummy’s got you. Nothing to fear.” The moon now shown bright, bathing her in it’s beams. She didn’t know if she would ever see Sasha again. She had no idea how big the Island was. But it didn’t matter. The only man in her life was the little one on her arm. He would stay with her, thick and thin. Everything she did from now on would be to better his life, and his life alone.

Fate. This is where it had brought her?and she was just fine with it.