I cried the hardest at Amber’s funeral. Not that it’s a competition, or anything. All I’m saying is my tears were real. Wet and itchy, dripping down my face.
To be honest, I wasn’t crying because I was Amber’s best friend. I admit I wasn’t. That honor went to Jenna, who I was standing next to in the cemetery, under the shadow of a stone angel with a cracked wing.
But I was grieving too. For what could have been. What should have been. For Amber, for me, and for a friendship cut short.
I wasn’t alone in wanting to be Amber’s friend. She possessed the one quality every high schooler wants – confidence with a capital “C.” I’m not saying her good looks, fashionable clothes, and convertible didn’t help her star quality shine a little brighter. It did. But her Confidence drew people toward her like a magnet. Everyone wanted to be in her orbit. Including me.
You know the saying, “opposites attract”? At one time, I was certain that was the case with us. I’m quiet and nice. Amber was nice, too, but more bubbly and vivacious with a wicked sense of humor. No one laughed harder than me when Amber depants Jenna during gym class.
That’s not to say we didn’t have anything in common other than being nice girls. We did, for sure. We wore the same outfits. PacSun skinny jeans with black-and-white checkered Vans. We cut our hair in the same style. Choppy, razor-cut bobs. And we both tried out for cheerleading and yearbook. We were even invited to join the same sorority.
In fact, I picked her up to go to the sorority’s first party together. She didn’t even have to ask me. It was just something I wanted to do. I’m nice like that. Always thinking of others.
So, I was surprised when Amber didn’t look happy to see me when I showed up. It wasn’t as if it was convenient for me to drive all the way across town. Not to mention I had to beg and plead with my older brother to borrow his pick-up truck. But Amber’s car needed new tires, and Jenna wasn’t invited.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
“Nothing,” Amber lied while she made a show of picking dog hairs off her black dress. My family owns a big German shepherd. She’s the sweetest bitch.
We drove in silence for several minutes. It wasn’t uncomfortable or anything. Until she asked me to drop her off two blocks away from the party. Mind you, we were still a few miles away at this point. So, I couldn’t help but wonder.
“Why?” I asked. “Are you worried about me finding a parking spot? I can drop you off at the front door, so you don’t have to walk.”
“That’s not it,” Amber grumbled.
Then I noticed her hand up by her face. As if she were embarrassed to be seen in my brother’s truck. Or with me.
“I don’t understand.” And I didn’t.
I was always nice to her. Like, I baked her cookies to say, “congratulations” for making the cheerleading squad. Even though I didn’t. And I gave her balloons when she made the yearbook staff. Even though I didn’t.
“God, you’re such a stalker,” she said. “Let me out here.”
I did as she asked, and stopped the car. Amber jumped out. I was worried, leaving her alone on a back road littered with weeds, broken glass, and the occasional roadkill. But she already had her phone out.
That’s when it hit me like a slap in the face. One text from Amber could ruin my life.
What happened next is a blur. I just remember grabbing my brother’s hunting knife. He keeps it under the driver’s seat.
Amber’s funeral was a closed casket. Her parents didn’t want anyone to see the two dozen stab wounds. When they lowered her coffin into the ground, I almost couldn’t catch my breath. Jenna handed me one of her damp tissues. She’s a nice girl. Like me.
Samantha Seiple is the award-winning author of several narrative nonfiction books for adults and young adults, including Louisa on the Front Lines: Louisa May Alcott in the Civil War (Seal Press, 2019), an Amazon Best Book of the Month and Nazi Saboteurs: Hitler’s Secret Attack on America (Scholastic, 2019), a Junior Library Guild Selection. Her flash fiction has been published in Drunk Monkeys and Jokes Review. You can find out more about her at: www.samanthaseiple.com.