The Saga of Amberlin – Chapter 11

Chapter 11

“You want to what?”  Ben looked first at Amberin then to Hannah. As was often the case, they were hanging out in the Sanctuary that had become their unofficial clubhouse, especially when they couldn’t think of anything else to do, which was most of the time.

“We want to have an arm wrestling match,” Amberlin replied more calmly than she felt.  “There’s really nothing else to do, so why not?  Come on, it could be fun.”

“You’re not afraid you’ll lose, are you?” Hannah asked right on cue.

“Don’t be silly. I just don’t want to hurt you.  I’ve already had my quota of getting in trouble today.”

“Well, this won’t get you in trouble and no one is going to get hurt. Come on, let’s see how strong you really are.”

Amberlin sat down at the table where she and Papa Herb often studied.  “Come on Hannah, you and I will start, and Ben can challenge the winner.”

“Okay, but get ready to go down,” Hannah replied as she suppressed a grin.

“We’ll see.  Let’s get ourselves ready, then Ben, you tell us when to start.”

Both girls rolled up their right arm sleeves, and leaned their elbows on the table as they gripped each other’s hand, just as they’d practiced it over the last few days to be sure they knew what they were doing.

“Brother, this has got to be the silliest thing I’ve done in a long time,” Ben said.  “If you tell anyone that I did this, you’re both dead.”

“Our lips are sealed.  Just tell us when to start.”

With a sigh, Ben looked from one girl to the other.  “Are you ready?  Set.  Go.”

Both girls strained against the other’s arm, their knuckles turning white from the strain.  Just as they practiced, their arms remained stationary, more or less at right angles to the table, then slowly but surely Hannah began to gain on Amberlin, to which Amberlin made a face of determination and strained harder.  Slowly, their arms returned to ninety degrees, then slowly Amberlin began to gain.  The two girls swung back and forth like that for another minute before Hannah’s arm started to cramp.  With a last effort, Amberlin pressed Hannah’s arm flat to the table.

“And the winner in our first round is Amberlin Gentry,” Ben said in a deep announcer type voice.  “Amberlin has won the chance to challenge the reigning champion, Mighty Ben Stover.”

“Just give me a couple of minutes to rest before the champion match,” Amberlin said as she winked at Hannah.  Everything was going just as they’d planned, and Ben was falling into their trap.  Soon she’d learn what was really going on inside Ben, and with that realization she was suddenly nervous.  Did she really want to know the deep dark inner nature of her friend? But even as she asked herself that question, she knew it was too late to back out now.  Hannah would kill her, besides she really was curious to know more about Ben, as well as to practice her new gift.

“Okay, I’m ready.”

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Ben asked.  “I’m almost a year older than you and well… I’m a guy?”

“Both statements are true and irrelevant,” Hannah said, as she took her position as the referee and announcer.

“Wow, look at you with the big word,” Ben joked.

Ben exchanged seats with Hannah, and positioned himself across from Amberlin. The two of them clasped each other’s right hand, and placed their elbows on the table a few inches apart.

At first nothing happened, and Amberlin was afraid that her theory that her gift was more sensitive when she touched someone was only wishful thinking.  Well, I may as well finish out the charade, she thought…just before she felt a warm sensation grow in her hand and travel down her arm.  As she continued to hold Ben’s hand, she began to recognize the sensation.  It was one of deep affection bordering on love, not too dissimilar from what she sometimes felt when Papa Herb placed his hand on her shoulder during their studies.  Similar but different, Amberlin realized, embarrassed to recognize that the difference was in the kind of love that Ben felt for her. Ben Stover had a crush on her.

She felt her face begin to flush with embarrassment, but before she could respond a second, more powerful wave of psychic energy coursed from Ben’s arm across the bridge of their two hands, down Amberlin’s arm and throughout her body. Wave after wave of deep pain, humiliation and shame crossed across the connection, overwhelming Amberlin’s ability to hold it all.

“I can’t, I can’t, I can’t,” she heard herself say as she let go of Ben’s hand, just before she blacked out.

She felt herself slowly coming to and heard a distant voice calling her name.  “Amberlin, wake up. Wake up, please.”  As her eyelids fluttered open, she felt someone slap her not all that gently first on one cheek, than the other.

“She’s coming to, Ben.  Quit hitting her.”

As her eyes began to focus, she could see Ben and Hannah’s concerned looks gazing down at her.

“What… what happened?” She asked, as she slowly sat up.

“You fainted,” Hannah replied, a note of relief in her voice.

“Yea, you fainted dead away, then fell out of the chair before either one of us could catch you,” Ben added.  “You conked yourself on the back of the head pretty hard. Bet you’re gonna have a bump there.”  He also sounded relieved that Amberlin was awake.

“Yeah, I can already feel it.”  She reached behind her head and gently felt the bump that was already forming.  As she did so, she remembered what had happened and what she’d felt.  So, Ben has a crush on me, she thought, strangely pleased by the realization.  But what was the rest of that stuff that coursed through her so strongly that it overloaded her system and forced her to pass out?

Deep pain, mixed with humiliation and shame; wave upon wave of it. Of course, she didn’t know what was its cause, least not yet, but she planned to find out, because she knew one thing for sure.  That level of pain would eat a person’s soul right up, and she wasn’t about to let that happen to Ben – crush or no crush.