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art by Jonathan Westbrook

Shattered Amber

She gave me the amber right after I had kissed her for the first time, right after I started to confess, well, everything. Nothing. The sort of things you say, or don't say, right after you have just kissed her for the first time, and you are convinced this means something.
"So you can carry my warmth with you," she whispered, tying the piece around my neck.
The golden brown was hardly my shade, and from any angle, I could see the insect inside: huge, looming, and very dead. A dreadful piece. But I had just kissed her, and so I wore it, and kissed her again.
I left it there, warm against my chest, hidden beneath my shirt, although discerning eyes could probably see the bump. It was a miraculous week, or two, or three. We spoke of everything and nothing, and laughed at everything. I spread honey on her lips as she gently stroked my skin. I watched her laugh and talk with others, and felt the amber quiver against my skin. I clutched it in my hand.
She was right. It was very warm.
A small quarrel at first, over nothing important. A few fiery words, and then I could not bear it and kissed her, hard, and then she was kissing me, harder, and the quarrel was forgotten. Two days later, a terrible day where I did not see her, nor she me. I held the amber still in my hand, and wished I had given her something in return.
I found something--a small bracelet of silver, and slipped it over her wrist. She smiled, but by the next morning, she had slipped it off, saying silver chafed her skin.
"I'll find you amber," I whispered to her.
But somehow I never did.
We stopped spending every spare moment together. I found myself surprised by her ideas, her words; we had never really talked, before that kiss. And I noticed her with others. She laughed with them, that deep laugh that had always made me want to laugh in return. Her hand reached out to touch their skin. I could feel the amber tremble against my chest.
I pulled it out to look at it, and saw a fly wing move.
I knew of course--of course--that the fly could not be moving. It was dead, had been dead well before it had been encased in amber and placed about my neck. And yet. One wing wiggled, then the other.
I looked up, to see her laughing with the others, to see the lips I had drenched with honey parting as if waiting for a kiss.
She was not the only one, I thought, who could do this. I turned to a woman near me and told her something, what I could not say. She smiled back. My hand reached out and brushed this other woman's cheek. The amber around my throat gave a great leap.
"Excuse me," I said, and hurried away.
Wings fluttered madly against the golden warmth. I stroked the stone, and slowly it stilled.
Perhaps I was going mad. It certainly felt that way. I could not focus. I could not think. Another quarrel. Then another. I was choking her, she said. She was choking me, I said. We could not breathe. We could not think. We clutched each other desperately, I trying to meld her to me, to feel every inch of her skin. The amber quavered between us.
When it shattered, she was nowhere near.
I saved two slivers, still warm in my hand, and searched for the fly, to smash it. I never did find the fly. But the slivers slipped into twin silver rings. She smiled a soft cool smile when I gave her hers. I touch mine now, and wonder if somewhere, she feels the same warmth, and remembers.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, November 26th, 2012

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