Cherry Land Chapters

Illustration by Nik Garvoille

“Oh, Humphrey Bogart,” Amber’s mother sighs on the other end of the line.
“Still, I don’t get it – he’s not as good looking as the other guy,” Amber studies the cover of Casablanca, the film she turned off minutes earlier. “He has a lisp and big teeth, and he’s probably like 5’5”.”
“Sweetie, everyone liked him. And let’s be honest, I don’t think the boys you think are attractive are attractive.”
“Come on,” Amber tosses the cover on her kitchen table – a card table littered with other rented DVDs and the remains of a BLT in a Styrofoam container.
“So, how are you?” her mother asks.
“Oh, fine.” Amber scans the corners of her damp little cottage, searching for cobwebs.
“How’s Door County? Are the leaves turning colors?”
“They are. Everything’s changing,” Amber can hear her voice change to a light shrill. Her chin quivers. “Everyone is leaving, Mom. Brittany just took off for New York; Casey is all sad. Gina’s gone…Kyle wants to go to Southeast Asia…now Tyler wants to go with him. Martin’s long gone.”
“I don’t know if you should have spent so much time with him when he visited.” Her mother exhales.
“It doesn’t matter. I’m fine. It’s fine.”
“Are you still sure you want to stay this winter? You know, don’t tell them I told you this, but your sister and your father are taking bets on how long you’ll last.”

Amber imagines her mother on the brown leather couch rubbing Tootsie’s furry white head. She wishes her mother were running her delicate fingers over Amber’s blonde hair. She wouldn’t even mind watching Dancing with the Stars or The Biggest Loser, so long as her head was safe on her mother’s lap.
“How’s Deer Hill?” Amber asks, curled up on a second hand loveseat with rough flannel upholstery, resting her feet inches from a borrowed space heater, sporadically scanning the ceiling for spiders.
“Good! Laura cut my hair yesterday, so, that was nice. Her baby is three months away, you know.”
“Oh, that’s cute.”
“And everyone is all up in arms about the new addition to the high school. They painted over that atrocious mural in the gym – that one with those deer that had disproportioned bodies.”
“Why couldn’t they have done all this when I was there?” Amber twirls her hair around her pointer finger and peers out the window that rattles with each breath of wind. Shadows spread over the gravel driveway leading to her secluded little cottage. “Remember how orange that place was – the lockers, the bleachers, the doors? And like nasty, ‘70s orange.”
“It looks really nice now,” her mother says. “They had a nice lunch in the cafeteria for the community – barbeque sandwiches, potato salad, and a huge cake from Mega Foods, with the creamy frosting, you know, like the kind we got for your graduation party.”
“Yeah, that’s good cake.” Amber wonders about living with her parents again. No rent. A rust-free shower. A refrigerator full of grapes, yogurt, leftover casseroles and take-out Chinese food. Maybe she could get her job back at Bath and Body Works?
“So, that’s what’s going on here. You’re father started coaching football, you know, so, he’s lost his voice from all the shouting.”
“God, he needs to take it easy on them. They are only like 16.”

Maybe it would be pleasant to visit Laura, her old classmate, visit her new baby, and catch up on life. Maybe rekindle a romance with her high school boyfriend, who still sends regular Facebook messages, some that simply read, ‘Hey. I miss you.’
“Well, the boys do what he tells ‘em,” her mother says. “You have any plans tonight?”
“No, I think I’m going to stay in.”
“Call a friend, Amber. You’re too young to stay in.”
“Okay. Love you.”
“Love you.”

The sun has set. Amber regrets not talking a walk, her legs restless and her mind spinning. She has plans. She made plans. To stay in one place – after a winter waitressing in Minneapolis, another gallivanting throughout the UK, she decided to stay in one place.

She considers painting her nails, reading the Bob Dylan biography on her nightstand, or re-watching Casablanca to understand what all the fuss is about. Call a friend. Amber opens her cell phone and scrolls through her contacts. “No…no…no…no,” she sings up and down the scale, then hesitates on Martin.

She focuses on relaxing her jaw, do re me fa so la te do, pressing the edit option, do re me fa so la te do, then erase, do re me fa so la te do. “Erase contact?” She bites her lower lip, presses OK.

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