Apple Martini

by Meghan Lueck

She didn't know what was happening. All her life seemed like such a dream now. The stress of her days was really starting to take a toll on her. She had just recently moved away from her mother, unable to handle the constant accusations and violent arguments.

Amber brushed her long brown hair out of her eyes, the bright green shining out through her tears. She blew her nose and rose from her bedside to pick up her guitar and strum it softly.

She thought she heard her dad stop to listen from outside her door and stopped playing, only to begin again when she realized it was her imagination. She was a very talented guitarist, though no one ever noticed it. She tried to sing a note or two but was unimpressed and got up to place the instrument back in its stand.

Amber walked over to her large mirror hoisted upon her blank white walls. She studied her face. Amber had a nice figure, the average height and weight of a 17 year old girl.

She turned around to face her room. It was a good thing her uncle worked in construction or her walls would still be cracked, and the torn curtains would still be hanging by the windows. It now smelled of paint and fabric store.

Out the window, the sky was dark. But the orange glow of streetlights reflecting off the wet pavement was bright and distracting. It was always raining in Portland, Oregon. But she had grown so used to the cold, wet weather that it seemed almost happier than the sunshine. Besides, Amber enjoyed the peacefulness of the sounds it made, the gentle tapping on the roof as she tried to sleep, and the soft rumble of thunder.

She looked down and her hands. She wasn't one for jewelry but wore earrings on occasion. The only thing that she seemed to always wear was a single emerald ring. Amber twisted it around her right ring finger and thought back to all the times she had wanted to take the worthless thing off and throw it away. But she could never do it. Even as Amber had sat and thought of the many ways she could possibly run away, she could never find it in herself to throw away the only piece her mother that was genuine. The only thing she had ever truly seemed to give her out of love.

Wiping the tears from her eyes again, she walked over towards her nightstand, yanked the ring off, and set it harshly next to her contacts case.

"Oh boy," she said quietly to herself, pacing over to her dresser to retrieve an over-size t-shirt and boy shorts to wear to bed. She removed her school clothes and slipped into her comfy nightwear. Amber pushed aside her large quilt, pushed herself under the covers, and flicked off her small pink lamp, seeing the glint of green disappear.

Amber awoke the next morning later than usual. She pulled on a dark red tank and a brown sweater, a pair of dark-wash jeans and ran out the door to her tan Ford Taurus, not saying a word to her father who was watching the morning news on the television.

School was average, as always. Amber sat in the back of all her classes and didn't speak very much at all. She only had a few close friends to tell her deepest feelings to, the rest were mere acquaintances.

The drive home was quiet. The cold rain sprayed across her windshield as she made the long trip home to her father's house in the suburbs. She tuned the radio to some Christian station and turned the volume way down. Amber pulled into her driveway, and scurried into the house to get away from the freezing rain.

She immediately ran upstairs to begin working on her large amount of school work when she realized that she didn't have her emerald ring on. In a panic, Amber rushed over her bedside table to retrieve it.

Was she blind?

"What?" she said out loud. It wasn't there. Amber knew she had put it there the night before. Regardless, she ran to the bathroom and rummaged through the drawers, then came back into her room and rummaged some more. After a long and arduous search, Amber came back to lay on her bed in defeat. She glanced over to where her ring should have been sitting peacefully when she noticed something she hadn't before.

A small white slip of paper.

She leaned over and picked it up, examining it closely. Scribbled on it were the words "Apple Martini." Amber looked at it more closely.

"What?" she said again out loud, this time hoping someone would hear her though she knew her dad would be at meetings all night.

Amber was so confused. She couldn't find her precious ring, and in place of it found this abandoned piece of paper.

She glanced out the window. It looked as though the rain had settled. Amber ripped off her damp sweater and pulled on an oversized basketball sweatshirt and grabbed a hair tie, throwing her curly hair into a soft pony. She rushed down stairs and grabbed the phone, only to set it down again. "Calling dad would be pointless," she thought to herself, "he's not going to answer if he's already in his meeting." She grabbed the keys from their hook by the door and ran out to her car. Maybe she could catch him before he started his meeting. He could deny his daughters phone calls, but he couldn't deny her if she was actually there.

About halfway into town she noticed the rain had begun again and it was starting to get dark already.

"Stupid daylight savings," Amber muttered, slowing down a bit.

She drove past a bowling alley, a movie rental store, and many fast food restaurants before she looked at the time. 5:30.

Great.

He would be way too far into his meeting to stop it now.

Amber sighed deeply and pulled into a random food joint to turn around. But just as she was about to put it in reverse she looked up. She had happened pulled into her mother's favorite place to relax and have drinks.

There was a green glowing sign that read The Big Apple with a glowing martini glass next to it.

Amber felt the anger welling inside her again when she made the connection.

"No way," she said to herself, shaking her head. There was no way the words on that note and this place had anything to do with each other. But Amber was a curious girl and was always interested in the ways of fate and chance.

"I'm really going to regret this," she thought. Amber pulled into the joint, found an open parking space, and put the vehicle in park. She stepped out onto the wet ground, listening to the sound of her brown heels clack as she approached the door to The Big Apple.

Amber pushed open the door to find the same semi-sophisticated cocktail lounge that she had visited many times as a child. Modern and laid back, with people quietly socializing at tables, and a large mural of New York City displayed on the far wall. The Big Apple wasn't really an animated hangout.

She walked more slowly, hoping not to attract much attention. Looking around, all she saw were middle-aged women drinking martinis and laughing at each other. Amber was about to lose hope, when she spied a familiar looking face in the far corner of the room. Her mother sat quietly, a somber look on her fresh face, holding her favorite drink in her left hand spinning it around, watching the liquid splash against the sides of the glass.

An apple martini.

Amber felt the tears well up in her eyes. She didn't know what to do. Should she run away back to her car and drive away like she saw nothing? Or should she approach her and risk another outburst?

She didn't know. She panicked as she saw her mother look up from her swirling drink. They locked eyes for just a moment. Amber saw her mother start to get up, so she rushed over towards the table.

There was no going back now.

Amber walked towards the table, her eyes fixed on the face of her mother. It was soft and almost loving, a face she hadn't seen in a long time. She took a seat across from her mom and wiped the small tears from the corners of both her eyes.

"Amber," her mother began, "I'm so happy you're here."

Amber looked at her with curious and confused eyes. "She must have planned this," she thought.

Seeing that her daughter was at a loss for words, she began again, "I've been meaning to call you but I haven't had the time. What with work and the new guy in my life I.." she trailed off, knowing that none of this was thoroughly reaching Amber.

She wiped her own tears away with her sleeve, "I know we haven't been on the best of terms lately. But that doesn't mean that I don't love you, Amber. You're my daughter for God sakes." She reached across the table and took Ambers hands in hers, "Honey, you mean the world to me," she said shakily, starting to cry more.

Amber began to cry herself. She had never seen her mom like this before, not even when her and her father split.

Her mother reached into her large purse beside her and pulled out what looked like a small pink and gold jewelry box. Embellished on the top were the pictures of angels flying with golden wings.

"I want you to have this. If you ever want to come home, you know where it is," she said softly, handing her the small box.

Amber took it, admiring the beautiful details. And in one deep breath, Amber reached across the table and embraced her mom in a warm hug, the first one they had had in quite a long time. She heard the deep sobs from her mother, and it took everything she had not to start sobbing too.

Amber returned to her seat across from her, noticing her mother's face was now more reddened. Amber took the small pink box in her hand and gently pried it open, knowing what would be inside.

What?

Nothing.

Where was the ring?

She looked up at her mother's face, confused.

"Where's the ring?" she asked her mother.

"Huh?" her mother said, "what ring?"

"You mean you don't.."

Amber was completely baffled.

"Mom it was really great seeing you again, but I have to go now. I'm sorry," Amber said as she got up to leave the table. Her mother stood too and embraced her in one last hug.

"It's alright dear. If you need anything, you know where to find me," said her mom, smiling sincerely at her daughter.

Amber nodded a "thank you" at her and waved goodbye as she ran out the door through the now pouring rain to her car.

Upon arriving at home, she noticed that her dad's van was parked in the driveway.

"Strange," she thought, "he shouldn't be home yet."

Amber darted out of her car and into her house, throwing open the door to see her dad's goofy face staring at her coming in sopping wet.

"Out with a boy I presume," said her father, flashing a daffy smile at her.

"Didn't you have a meeting tonight?" Amber asked him, getting straight to the point.

"Nope. Cancelled. Boss called in sick if that's what you call it these days. But all of us at the office know better. There's evidence plain as day showing that he's been-"

"Dad! Does it look like I want to hear about your boss's so-called 'involvement'?" Amber interrupted, beginning to get frustrated.

He looked at her dumbly, "Nah. I s'pose not. Whadd'ya need Amber Lynn?"

Amber didn't know whether or not to tell him about her time at The Big Apple.

"Dad, do you know where my ring is?"

"Oh that old emerald one?" he started, "yeah. I took it with me to the pawn shop today to see how much it was worth. I know you don't like it much so I thought I might take it off your hands. Turns out it's worth quite a bit of money."

Amber gave him a look of shock.

"Mind you, I didn't sell it," he retorted defensively, "I figured I'd ask you first and maybe see what the prices were like online. I know there are some pretty stupid people in the world who would pay a lot more for this here ring." He held out his hand to give the ring back to her.

She took it back and looked and it closely, turning it over in her hand.

"But what about that piece of paper that was in my room? The one that said 'Apple Martini' on it?" Amber asked. She was becoming more and more confused by the second.

"So that's where I left it," exclaimed her father, "that's the password to my eBay account. Had to make it something memorable.."

She looked at her Dad. He was lost in thought, his face saddening.

"I still love her you know," he said, still lost in thought.

Amber went over to him and hugged him, reaching her arms all the way around.

"Me too."

He looked down at her as she left the warm hug. He reached down to take her chin, "And I love you too." He smiled at her with the same loving eyes her mother had only a few minutes ago.

She nodded a "me too" at him and left to go upstairs, still clutching the ring and the pink jewelry box.

Amber entered her room and removed her sweatshirt. She placed the jewelry box on the nightstand next to her bed, gently opened it and set the ring inside. She shut it tightly and smiled to herself. This had all happened by chance, but she believed that some higher power had decided her fate. She now felt at peace, yet more lively and motivated. And it was all because of that silly green ring and an apple martini.

Amber picked up her guitar out of its stand and began to strum, and this time sing along.

I believe in the sun even when it is not shining, and I believe in love even when there's no one there. And I believe in God even when he is silent, I believe through any trial there is always a way. But sometimes in this suffering and hopeless despair, my heart cries for shelter, to know someone's there. But a voice rises within me, saying hold on my child, I'll give you strength, I'll give you hope. Just stay a little while.

She thought she heard her dad stop to listen from outside her door, but didn't stop singing this time. She knew he was there, just as he had been every other time.

May there someday be sunshine, May there someday be happiness, May there someday be love, May there someday be peace.

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