The next evening, Kevin paced back and forth in the living room impatiently. Amber had gone out over three hours ago and she stil wasn't back yet.

"Where is she?" Kevin wondered aloud. "She's been gone for three hours and she didn't even tell me where she was going!"

At that moment, she burst in the door. The door was locked, but she used the key they hid in the mailbox.

"Where have you been?!" Kevin rushed towards Amber, inspecting her. "What in God's name have you been doing out there?"

"It's nothing, Kev. Honest," Amber was covered with dirt and scratches.

"You call this-" Kevin held up her arm, in which the shirt sleeve was ripped, and there were a couple of scratches, some of which were bleeding. "-nothing?!"

Amber jerked her arm away from Kevin's hold. "Kev, just because amber eyes are a one-in-a-thousand shot, doesn't mean I'm gonna let you baby me! I can take care of myself just fine!"

Before Kevin could argue, a car horn beeped outside. "Shoot, that's them. Oh, well, go and get cleaned up, and change your shirt."

Amber ran up the stairs, and Kevin went to the door. He opened it and greeted the people coming out of the car. "Aunt Mary! Noah! Uncle John!"

"Oh, Kevin, it's so nice to see you again!" Mary gushed, her blonde hair shining in the evening light. Her voice was clear as crystal.

"Sorry Ambie couldn't come out to meet ya, she got a little dirty," Kevin rubbed the back of his neck nervously, his usually laid-back tone streaked with anticipation.

"Oh, well, that's fine," Mary said. "She's fourteen now, isn't she?"

"Yup," Kevin grinned. "And twenty-one here."

"Big deal, so am I," Noah grumbled, brushing his dark brown hair out of his eyes. His voice could be gentle and soothing, but it could also mutate to something firm and sharp, and sometimes nasty.

"Oh, shut up," Kevin snarled. He and Noah got along, but they sometimes bickered and such.

"What's the matter?" Noah sneered. "For a guy who never shuts up over the phone, you sure don't have much to say, buddy-boy."

"Uh, don't you guys think you shouldn't fight? I mean, Amber doesn't like it, I'm sure," John stuttered quietly, his head hung low so that his brown hair hung over his eyes. His voice was quiet and nasal-ly.

"Shh! Here she comes!!" Noah whispered.

"Amber! Darling, come give Auntie a hug!" Mary squeezed Raye tightly.

"Hi, Aunt Mary. How have you been?" Amber asked politely and attempting to put on a smile.

"Oh, I've been just peachy, dearie," Mary replied, pinching one of her cheeks with her thin fingers. Her fingernails were sharp and painted red

Amber pulled away and rubbed her cheek. "Yo, Noah. 'Sup, my brother from another mother?"

"Keeping it real, Ambie," Noah knuckled her, then pulled her in for a hug. He had gotten stronger and a little more husky since she had last seen him.

"Hey, Johnny-cake!" Ambie laughed.

"I don't like it when you call me that," Johnny laughed, moving into the hugging circle.

"Hey, Noah," Amber grinned, "Think fast!" She quickly grabbed Noah and put him in a headlock. Noah struggled and pushed, laughing and screaming at the same time. He couldn't get out of Amber's hold; even if he was considerably bigger.

"Hey, lemme loose! Lemme loose!" Noahscreamed.

"All right, you two. That's quite enough," Mary said firmly. "Honestly, girls shouldn't be rough-housing with boys anyway."


Later that night, at dinner, Kevin and the others were chatting it up. Amber was silent, staring blankly into her cup of ramen. It was kind of a rough night, and the other dinner had burned. So they made instant ramen instead.

"Hey, Ambie, what's wrong?" Kevin raised an eyebrow and looked at  her long and hard.

"Sometimes I just wish we had more nights like this; with you home," Amber sighed.

"Well, work can be tough, Ambie. It's kind of hard to get days off like this," Kevin replied.

"Yeah, but you're gone for days at a time! One time you've gone for up to a week! And yet, you can't tell me a thing!" she said.

"I'm not allowed to. I just can't do it," Kevin frowned, shaking his head.

"Kevin, I'm walking to school by myself, and walking home. I'm the one who cooks dinner every night, just for when you get home for break. There's been an outbreak of kidnapping and murders, I've read it in the papers. And yet you don't seem to care."

"Amber, I DO care," Kevin said, "don't ever doubt that."

"Well, you certainly have a funny way of showing it. It's not something Mom and Dad would have done." she said coldly.

"Gulp," John gulped down his sip of ramen. Mary and Noah remained silent, looking at Amber in surprise from her statement.

"Why do you have to say things like that, Ambie?" Kevin quiered, half-angry, half-hurt.

"It's the truth, isn't it?" she contradicted.

Kevin was silent for a moment. "Amb-" he choked, trying to hold back tears. "I just- I don't-" He sniffled and covered his eyes with a hand. He sobbed quietly, but not quietly enough.

Her heart melted. She didn't really mean what she said, and yet she kind of did. "Kev?" she stood up and walked around the table to her brother. "Kev, I'm sorry."

"Amber, I miss Mom and Dad as much as you do," Kevin looked up at his sister and sniffled. "I wish they were here. I wish I could talk to them. But above all, I wish I knew what to do. I wish I wasn't so alone."

"But, you're not," Amber said seriously.

Kevin wiped his eyes and smiled at his sister. "Come here, you." He wrapped his arms around his little sister and hugged her tightly. "I love you so much. I don't know what I'd do if I lost you, too."

"You won't," she promised.

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