Chapter Ten - Malcolm

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Cobblestone seems so old-fashioned for this modern age. Here there's electricity and even buildings that reach seven and even eight stories tall! But connected by cobblestone streets... Carriages bumped over them worse than if they were dirt and I can't imagine riding a bicycle down one of them. But still, looking down the empty street adorned by the reflection of the night lights as I sat on the bottom step of the apartment building, I can see why they haven't upgraded from the outdated material.

I'd sat down on the front steps of the building a while ago, unsure of what awaited me inside. Amber was probably upstairs doing one of two things: crying while she was still alone and felt free to or smashing my worktable to pieces. Either way, I'd let her finish in peace.

Amber didn't cry in front of me anymore. After her mom passed away a couple years back, she just stopped. Nothing had tangibly changed between us: she was still my sister and we still had the same father, but it felt like she locked a part of herself away after the funeral. During the service was the last time she'd let me comfort her while she cried.

"Shit," I muttered, slicking my hair back roughly. Who knew what time it was, and here I was sitting on the doorstep like I'd been kicked out of the house. That's what it felt like, because even if Amber had been the one to storm out of the house, I'd been the one to fuck up. And I bet she knew that I knew it.

I could imagine her upstairs, sobbing quietly while she listened for the front door to creak open or using one of the wrenches from our tool case to break everything atop my worktable to bits and not giving a damn about the front door opening. A laugh ripped through my throat and it sounded much scratchier than I'd expected. I needed water, but...

Dammit! I shouldn't be afraid of my own little sister! I should just march up the steps, apologize, and take whatever she says like a man!

The funny thing about Amber is that when it comes down to just the two of us, she's more of an intimating, confident, fucking terrifying figure than I am. What I should do was go upstairs and take whatever she said like an Amber.

Another laugh as I leaned back against the steps, propping myself up on my elbows that rest against the top row of bricks even with the foot of the front door that I should've been walking through. Any moment now. Any moment.

Give it another minute.

Maybe one more.

And then I heard footsteps – heavy and clumsy – carrying someone down the cobblestone street at a running speed.

And then a figure came into view over the fence, bobbing in and out of sight, and I could see dark brown hair.

And then the figure turned at the gate.

Amber stopped immediately when her eyes landed on me sitting on the steps like the pathetic person that I was. She looked like a sweaty red mess with her blouse covered in mud and locks of hair stuck to her neck and forehead. She looked disgusting!

So I got up, walked over to her, and wrapped her in my arms before she could catch her breath enough to protest.

The too-quick rise and fall of her body and the gasps from her trying to take in as much air as she could eventually slowed and steadied until she wasn't quite as much of a mess in my arms, though she still smelled terrible. 

What was that stench? It couldn't have all just been from her, could it? Maybe she should sleep outside... I didn't let her go, though, and then she finally wrapped her arms around me and I hugged her hoping that this would be enough of an apology but knew that it wasn't.

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