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Excerpt for Death Wish List by , available in its entirety at Smashwords










Death Wish List


By Jessica Surely


Copyright 2018 Jessica Surely


Smashwords Edition



Smashwords Edition, License Notes: Thank you for downloading this ebook. This book remains the copyrighted property of the author, and may not be redistributed to others for commercial or non-commercial purposes. If you enjoyed this book, please encourage your friends to download their own copy from their favorite authorized retailer. Thank you for your support.























The whole point of life was to make it Death Wish worthy. That’s how it felt sometimes anyway.


Deep down, Amber couldn’t wait to forget the rest. All those in between moments that no one really cares about. All the days you spend worrying about dumb shit. All those things you do just because you have to. Or because you don’t know what else to do.


She couldn’t wait to see the movie she was making. All her best moments strung seamlessly together. She’d made hers viewable. And she wanted it to be great.


She had a pretty good list so far. Making it better was her most motivating thought. It gave her a reason for everything.


“Amber! Hello… are you still obsessing? Just keep it saved for now and tell me which looks better.”


Monica looked good in anything, but try telling her that. The need for validation was constant.


“Red is your color. No doubt.”


“You sure?”


“Now she’s just fishing for compliments,” Lexi smirked. “We’ve told you a million times that outfit is hot. You’ve posted a pic of yourself already. You’re gonna wear it. Why are even still talking about this.”


Lexi was overtly confident. That was her persona. She had a way of honing in on people’s insecurities. Then she’d gloat about not having any of her own. Amber loved and hated that about her. Even when she made you cringe, Lexi just impressed.


“Scuuuse me Lexi. Didn’t mean to bore you with my anxiety. We all have our issues. Right, Amber?”


Amber hadn’t heard a word they said.


“Amber! Hello!” Lexi clapped her hands in front of her face. “Be in the now Amber! Here. Now.”


Amber rarely lived in the moment and she didn’t think of herself as obsessed. This was how she’d always been. The list was her most basic and constant thought. Same way cavemen thought about surviving, Amber considered what her life would look like.


Lexi laughed.


“At least Amber’s issues are entertaining. Like, she’s literally grappling with life and death.”


“We all think about DW.”


“Not like you babe. You know Justin doesn’t belong on your list. You just need to make a big deal about it.”


“And how do I know that?”


“Because you guys are done. Aren’t you?? And by the time you die, you won’t give a shit about him. You barely do now.”


“Fuck you. It’s only been two days.”


Amber was easy to annoy. Monica was the peacemaker.


“Idk I think you should remember your first time. It’s a milestone.”


“Oh my god Monica. Of course she’ll remember it. She’ll remember it sucked. She doesn’t have to relive it on her deathbed.”


Amber relaxed into her comfort zone, which was talking about DW.


“It did suck. I want to be honest about my life, though. I don’t just want to see the perfect parts.”


Very noble of you.” Lexi was so smug. “It’s only a milestone in high school. Maybe college. By the time you’re thirty, you won’t care about it at all.”


Amber knew she was right, but she couldn’t help herself. Her mind just went in these circles all day. List it, don’t list it. Keep or delete. Talking about it was her only relief. Dragging her friends through the loops with her, made her feel present and less alone.


Amber looked sullenly at Monica in the mirror. She watched Lexi’s mouth move, but didn’t hear her words. Her eyes scanned the clothes on Monica’s bed. The objects in the room and the scene outside the window. She liked the way some rhinestones on Monica’s blouse were catching the light and she focused on that.


It would be a while before she spoke again and everyone knew it. They were used to her like this and thought nothing of it. She was just Amber. That’s how she was.


She moved through the world and felt apart from it. On this night, like so many others, she went from here to there. From Monica’s house to a whatever party.


She was silent in the car, looking out the window. Familiar sights blended with familiar sounds. The highway dressed in darkness. Lexi’s laugh and the hum of cars doing their job. She didn’t respond when Monica said, “Justin will be there.”


She had nothing to say to Justin. She never really did. Truth was, she only slept with him because nothing listable had happened in a while. Even if she didn’t end up keeping it, she needed something to chew on and deliberate.


Lexi spoke on her behalf. “Justin’s old news. He served his purpose. Amber only cares if Chance will be there. Right, Amber? We know you’ve got a hard on for him. I don’t know why you can’t just say it.”


That bitch Lexi really had her number.


Chance was too perfect to talk about. He was hot in his low key way, but that wasn’t it. He just exuded cool confident calm. When he was around, everyone else became scenery. It was always like that. Ever since they were kids.


When they dangled their feet in the pool in tenth grade and water and sunshine were glistening on their skin, he told her she looked stunning and she believed him. When he rolled his jeep last year and doctors said he might not walk again, he was out of the wheelchair within a month. When Lexi called her on her shit in front of everyone, Chance caught her eye and held her fucking soul. When they walked into the party and everything was a blur, he was the only thing in focus. That was Chance.


“Ladies!” He smiled and sat up when he saw them. “Feeling as good as you look, I hope.”


“Impossible!” Lexi jutted her hip and squeezed her tits together. “No one could actually feel this good.” She plopped on the sofa next to Chance and murmured, “It’s an illusion for your viewing pleasure.”


“Ohh baby work your magic on me.”


“Meow.” Lexi stretched her legs across his lap. “Sit!” She laughed and commanded the scene. Amber was quick to get by his side. Monica sank into a large chair.


Amber liked when Lexi flirted with Chance. It meant she didn’t have to. Snuggled next to him, she was where she wanted to be.


“Why all by your lonesome?” Monica purred.


“Was waiting for you girls.” He winked and squeezed Amber’s hand. “So what’s up.”


“Oh god.” Lexi groaned. “Guess!”


“You were kidnapped by Korean gangsters who mistook you for the nieces of a trafficker they’re beefing with. Amber devised an escape plan, using Monica’s looks to distract them and channeling Lexi’s inner rage to drop kick their machine guns. You fearlessly battled your way to freedom. Then floated back into my life unscathed.”


“I wish! Then we’d have something so dope to list, but nah we’re just obsessing over dumb shit as usual.” Lexi sighed dramatically. “Living the dream.”


“Oh really.” Chance cocked his brow. “Do tell. What is this dumb shit you speak of.”


Amber was on alert now. She didn’t want the conversation to veer toward Justin. Monica love that girl was lookin out.


“Girl stuff. Nothing you’re dying to know.”


“Ahh. So talking about guys and all the dirty shit you wanna do to us. You can tell me your erotic agendas. It’s ok. Use my male mind.”


“Gosh I wish we had sexy stories for you…” Lexi ran her finger across her lips. “Using your mind sounds like so much fun. Lemme think… there must be something we can tell you…”


“Ohh no Lexi. We can’t spill our secrets.” Amber leaned over Chance and kissed her closed mouth.”


“Yeah.” Monica piped in. “Girl code. Can’t mess.”


Chance smiled. “Who’s messin. I like what’s going on here.”


Amber laughed and got comfortable again. “We’re really just boring.”


Lexi pouted. “Yeah you are.”


Amber did feel kind of boring sometimes. Not in her heart and mind, but in her life. She figured she’d be exciting given the circumstance, but how enthralling can you be if nothing special happens. That’s all people wanna know about. What happened. No one gives a shit how you feel. The hoops you go though to seem casual.


“What’s this? A pow wow?”


On fucking cue. Justin ambled over from another room. He looked at Chance and then Amber. “When did you get here?”


Amber felt that quickening of pulse. The spark when he looked at her. Then she felt a pang of weird regret. She wished they hadn’t ruined it by fucking.


She liked when they were mostly texting. She took lots of pics and he sent happy bubbles saying how hot she was. She knew it was superficial, which was fine. Who cares about love when you’re trying to cum. He got her out of her head, which felt great. She went to bed smiling and got used to waking up to his messages. He called her his girl, but only in text.


“I don’t know. Little while ago.”


“I called you.”


“Yeah sorry. I got caught up. Knew I’d see you here.”


“Ok well party’s moving out back. That little matter I texted you about?? Kai brought it.”


“Yeah actually don’t think I’m up for all that.”


Justin shrugged. “Suit yourself princess.” And he looked at Monica same way he always looked at her. “You girls are still down, right?”


Lexi was merciful. She didn’t challenge Amber. She gave silent approval and took Monica’s hand in hers as she stood. “Wouldn’t be a party without us.” She looked at Justin. “Lead the way.”


Chance watched them go and cut to the chase.


“So the sex wasn’t stellar, I take it.”


“He told?”


“Just that you fucked. I’m filling in the blanks.”


“It was ok. Not that I have anything to compare it to. It was just weird.”


“Weird how.”


“I don’t know. It didn’t feel like we were us. It wasn’t how I thought it would be.”


“How did you think it would be?”


“I don’t know.”


Chance looked down pensively and said nothing.


What was she supposed to say? That she got more turned on alone in her room, acting like a slut for him? That she looked at her own pictures more than his? That she came thinking of him getting off to her, but couldn’t imagine cumming in his presence?


“I’m just glad I got it over with.”


“Why is that.”


“Everyone says the first time sucks.”


“Who’s everyone. Lexi?”


“What about you? Was your first so amazing?”


“I wouldn’t say that. Wouldn’t say it sucked either.”


Amber retreated into silence. The room was warm. A fire was burning and bass heavy music thumped from a speaker. The scene looked good to her, but nothing notable was happening. Sprite and Smirnoff in red plastic cups. Friends laughing and posing. Bongs, hoodies and phones. Three girls were snapping pics of some photos on the wall. White Christmas lights glowed outside on the patio.


Amber stroked her wrist absentmindedly. She could feel her chip almost imperceptible under the skin. The urge to tap and save was constant. She felt good and had to remind herself she had scenes that looked just like this already.


Her slight gestures and stern reveries weren’t lost on Chance. Nothing ever was. He knew when and how to engage. Eyes then voice.


“I wish they’d let one song play through.”


“I know! Every time I get into one, someone bumps it!”


“Get it together guys! Seriously.”


Amber laughed sweetly. “Oh my god remember last time… Aidan in the dance off!”


“That was sick.”


“I love this house. It’s so spacious.”


“Yeah it’s cool.”


Amber touched his thigh.


“Hey would you be friends with a comedian, if they used you for jokes in their act?”


“Wait, wut!? Where did that come from.”


“Just tell me.”


“Hmm… if it was my girl I’d be cool with it, but not a friend.”


“Ha! Why is that.”


“If she was my girl, we might be getting rich. If it’s a friend, they’re just abusing me.”


“Good answer.”


“It’s the truth.”


“So could she say anything about you? Like, would your whole life and psyche be fair game?”


“Sure why not. I could take it.”


“You think.”


“Roast me right now.” Chance waggled his eyebrows, then made a stone face. “See if you can faze me.”


“Pass.” Amber shoved him playfully. “I believe you!”


I believe in you. That’s what she thought, but wouldn’t say.


“When you had your accident, did you ever think you were going to die?”


“No.”


“So you’re life didn’t flash before your eyes or anything.”


“No. I saw everything that was happening. Super vividly, in slow motion. Then I looked down and saw all this blood. Next thing I knew, I was in the hospital.”


Amber’s heart pounded. He never talked about it.


“Honestly, the worst part was going home in a wheelchair. Like that was my new life or something.”


“Everyone was so scared for you… and you didn’t seem scared at all.”


“I was just so angry, you know.”


“When I read that story in the paper and they wrote how you’d pull yourself up and down the stairs at night, I saw you like it was a movie. I thought… yeah that’s him.”


“How so.”


“Strong, I guess. Fierce.”


“I just couldn’t let that happen to me. I wasn’t gonna let that be my fate.” He looked down and laughed. “Also I couldn’t sleep. It was something to do.”


You’re amazing. I fucking adore you. Amber bit her lip.


“Do you ever wish you had a chip?”


“No. Do you ever wish you didn’t?”


“I don’t think so. I’ve wondered what I’d feel like without it.”


“And?”


“Not a clue. I can’t imagine.”


Amber looked outside. It was starting to rain. She didn’t want to be there when Justin came back.


“Will you take me home?”


“Sure. Wanna not suck with me?”


“Haha. I’m exuberantly tired.”


“Exuberantly tired. Is that a thing?”


“Yep.”


“So you’ll sleep… like sleeping’s an Olympic sport?”


“Exactly.”


“Well I’m gonna sleep… like forty hot virgins are riding me in my sleep.”


“Hmm too bad I’m not a virgin anymore.”


“You just read my mind.”


“Guess you’ll sleep good tonight.”


“Yeah going for the gold baby.”




・・ ☆ ・・



Amber had a walk-in closet. There she was her most neurotic, getting ready to relax. As she undressed, she semi watched herself in the mirror and replayed whatever just happened. Her mind unwound from there.


Sometimes she stayed within the confines of the day. Often she spiraled back weeks or years, rehashing scenes she’d analyzed completely. This was where her oceanic thoughts swelled. This was her place of reckoning.


And this night was prime, the best kind of mood. Like pearlescent moonlight on soft shining water. Alone time with Chance kinda had that affect. He looked so sick when they sat in the car. Rain hit the window cinematically behind him. If she could’ve saved it without him noticing, she would’ve. She missed a lot of moments she liked the most.


She was shy sometimes, saving in front of people. Not that anyone gave a fuck. Of course it depended on the sitch… but she worried it might reveal something about her. Something unintended. To Amber, the beauty of DW was control. If you’ve edited well, you’ll just see your life as you wanted to. A burst of poetry. Then boom you’re gone. You’d never have to know what anyone thought.


She felt extra conspicuous saving around Chance. He didn’t have a chip and she wondered if that’s what made him seem special. She couldn’t tell. When Lexi got her chip, it didn’t change her at all. She was twelve and her whole family got them together. Right before they went to Hawaii. Her parents just thought it seemed fun.


Amber’s parents said it was too late for them. They’d lived too much of their lives already. Their lists could never be complete. And trust me, the irony of those words weren’t lost on Amber at all.


She had her chip her whole life practically and she felt the same way. She wanted to try though, to make it good. Her brain was hardwired to care.


Still basking in the assuredness of Chance’s crooked smile, Amber didn’t feel compelled to combat her truth. She was how she was. And ultimately, she liked herself. She put her clothes away, threw her socks in the hamper and sailed out of the closet with a smile on her face.


She sat on her bed, feeling solidly calm. When she closed her eyes and saw that white star, she was home.






Amber got her chip when she was five. Once it was in, a nice looking lady explained everything. Amber’s mom held her hand and listened and nodded.


Amber was instructed to choose a shape and the lady showed her a card with examples. Amber liked the gold star and said she wanted a white one, like a real star. Also the room was very bright white. There was an orchid in a vase and a poster on the wall. It said YOUR LIFE. YOUR LEGACY.


All she had to do was think of her star. They called it visualizing. A unique electrical charge in her brain would activate her chip and viola… she could see her list displayed. Random freeze frame images from each saved memory. Right there in her mind! Like a playlist, except you can’t play it. Until.


The images were a reference for editing. She could scroll with her mind! And delete with her mind! It was so easy, anyone could do it. Or she could snap her fingers to delete. Some people found that easier.


To most people, editing becomes important. Death happens uniquely for each of us, so the length of everyone’s playtime is different. “That’s just life.” The lady shrugged. Science hasn’t found a way around it. So there is some level of organic chance. Just enough to be fun and assure that your list will feel fresh when it plays.


When the time comes, your list plays on a shuffle. You see as much of it as fate allows. The tighter your list, the greater your control.


If you’ve made your list viewable, loved ones can see its entirety. That’s your legacy and it’s up to you. There is no limit. DW let’s anyone be an artist.


Amber was given a glossy card, which she held in her hand the whole drive home. It was square and black, with a centered white star. On the flip side, it said AMBER. She was quietly happy. Her mom seemed excited. When they got home they practiced saving and deleting.


“Ok I’m going to walk out and come in again. When I do, look at me and tap your wrist. Are you ready? Should we try it?”


“Yes!” Amber stood next to her bed. She watched her mom walk out and one minute later, she walked in same way as always. Warm afternoon light played on her face and Amber smiled when she saw her.


“Did you get it?”


“Oh! I forgot!” Amber laughed.


“Silly,” her mom laughed too. “Try again?”


“Yes!” Amber swung her arms. “Again!”


This time Amber tapped and saved. Right after she saw her mom’s expectant smile. She held her wrist up. “I got it!”


“Yay that’s my girl!” Her mom got on her knees and hugged her. “Now close your eyes. Think of your star.”


“I am.” Amber swayed and murmured dramatically.


“What can you see? Can you see a picture?”


“I see it! I see you in the door!”


“Amber that’s amazing!”


It really was easy.


“Ok now let’s try to delete it.”


“I don’t want to.”


“Why?’


“I like it. You looked pretty.”


“Aw baby… thank you!” Her mom kissed her. “It was just a test, though.”


“I think I should keep it.”


“You can if you really want to but… remember what the lady said? About not keeping too many things? We have to think about what’s important.”


“You’re important.”


“Oh baby…” her mom scooped her up in her arms. “Of course I’m important. I love you so much! And I’m going to walk through that door and see you… a bunch of times. Every day. You don’t have to save it every time. We’re just practicing.”


“Oh.”


“So don’t you think we should practice deleting?”


“Ok.”


Looking back, that felt like a pretty key moment but oh well.


It took a few tries to delete with her mind. Her mom said just snap if it’s easier, though Amber soon learned to take pride in not having to. Learning how to save and delete was easy. Knowing what to save or delete… well. That was another story.


So they practiced that too. With faithful repetition. Same way some children learn to say their prayers at night, Amber learned to review her list. When she was washed up and ready for bed, her mom would ask what she saved that day. Then they’d discuss and decide what to keep.


Her cat Honey waking her up in the morning. Lexi doing a cartwheel. Her dad making funny faces at dinner. A rainbow she saw in the sprinklers. Amber saved it all. And she sincerely lamented every delete.


“I wish I could see what you see.” Her mom said. “I feel like I can. You describe things so well. I love seeing through your eyes.”


“Mom you were there!”


Amber loved their ritual, deciding together what to save… until they just didn’t anymore. The shift was unceremonious, sanctioned by the silent distancing pact between mother and child.


Amber still reviewed every night before bed. She just did it on her own. And she still asked her mom’s opinion sometimes, but mostly just to be nice. When you’re building your legacy, can’t let anyone push you around. Even if they mean well.


Amber sighed. She didn’t have anything sexy yet.


Once she stole a golf cart with this guy from her SAT class and he fingered her really well. Trespassing in the hushed thrill of twilight, they made out and she moved on his hand until she came. That was super hot, but of course she didn’t list it.


Once after that, he came over and fingered her on the floor. It was almost as good, but they never hung out again.


She knew she could list anything around Justin. He wouldn’t think twice about what she saved. They were even flirty about it. She looked him in the eye with a downright sultry stare. And he said,” Mmm death wish…” when she tapped her wrist. Sounded pretty sure of himself.


The sex wasn’t hot though. It was straightforward and strangely boring. She thought it would be a bigger deal. When Chance just looked at her, the feeling lasted days.


Justin was practice. The decision was always going to be obvious. Now it felt easy. Delete.




・・ ☆ ・・


Amber woke to one of her favorite messages.


babe i’m here


That meant Lexi was downstairs. There was also a pic from Justin, but it wasn’t a morning selfie. It was from the party, after she left. Monica was in it too.


Amber felt like she’d been waiting all night to get up. She threw on some sweats and headed down. Lexi was at the kitchen table eating a strawberry.


“Morning sunshine!”


“What did he say?”


“Nothing. Which is gentlemanly, I guess.”


“Did he hook up with Monica?”


“Of course. They’re actually perfect for each other. Did you proclaim your love to Chance?”


“Haha.”


“Idk what you’re waiting for. That conversation would be more listable than sleeping with Justin.”


The truth burned.


“You know it’s true.” Lexi whispered, then called out. “Hi Autumn!”


Amber’s mom came in through the laundry room. She’d gone for a bike ride. Her cheeks were flushed, her ponytail was frazzled.


“Such a nice day out! So fresh after the rain.” She kissed both girls on the cheek. “French toast??”


“Yes!!” They answered in unison.


“Amber get out a bowl and the cinnamon.” Autumn got milk, eggs, bread and butter from the fridge.


Lexi grabbed a knife. “I’m on berry duty!”


The scene in the kitchen was picture perfect. The walls were painted buttercup yellow. Pink paper hearts were pinned up near the window. Geraniums bloomed in the flower box. And a rustic wood table, sat perfect talking distance from the vintage stove.


Fresh from her ride, Autumn’s buoyancy was genuine and contagious. Lexi hummed and chopped. Amber looked transfixed, waiting for the butter to golden. Autumn looked at them and smiled. She thought how good life was. She felt pure love and happiness. Then her eyes glossed over. She got that look.


Amber felt it before she saw it. Snapped from her reveries about fluffy toast, her shoulders moved wave-like away from Autumn. She gave her a sideways stare down.


“What? Why are you giving me that look.”


“I was just thinking how nice this is.”


“And.”


“It might’ve been worth saving. Not anymore, obviously. You’re so sensitive. I said nothing.”


“I can hear the wheels turn in your brain. You’re totally obsessed with cooking scenes. Every time we make food, you think it’s worth saving.”


“That’s just not true. I felt good, is all. And cooking with loved ones is a classic effing memory.”


You mean like in Little Women??”


No. Not like in Little Women… like throughout all of human history.”


“Why do you care so much what I list? It’s not like you’re even going to see it.”


“I’m not eating breakfast either. So I shouldn’t care if you do??”


“You guys! Peace!” Lexi made the timeout signal with her hands. “I hate when my favorite mom and daughter fight.”


Autumn looked at Lexi imploringly.


“Smile again, Autumn. I’m gonna save this. My mom never makes french toast.”


Lexi held her wrist up and Autumn got hold of herself. Lexi tapped and smiled. “Saved! I love it.”


Autumn looked tenderly at Amber. “You know I don’t mean to meddle. I’m sorry.”


“I know. It’s ok.” Amber dropped the bread in the pan.


Autumn opened her arms. “Cmere… cmon.”


They hugged and Autumn seemed happy again. She got out the syrup and told them to enjoy. Then she went upstairs to shower.


Amber rolled her eyes. “You’re such a suck up.”


“You should giver her a break. She’s just being parental.”


“So I should let her dictate my list?”


“No just save and make her happy. Delete it later if you want.”


Lexi’s superpower was common sense. She closed her eyes and snapped. “Simple.”


Amber didn’t argue, but she was far from surrender.


“You take DW way too seriously. It doesn’t have to matter so much.”


This kind of rationale drove Amber crazy.


“If it doesn’t matter, why do it?!”


Lexi shrugged. “Because we can.”


Amber suddenly felt lost. Lexi softened.


“Babe. Your mom isn’t dictating your list. You’re letting DW dictate your life.”


Amber couldn’t respond. Lexi gave her an easy out.


“Do you realize your mom says effing like all the time?”


Amber almost laughed. “Yes I realize.”


“You should list a clip of her saying that.”


“Gawd it probably autofilled in… but yeah, I should.”


Lexi wolfed down her breakfast and some of Amber’s too.


“K babe I gotta go get ready for my game. Wanna see you there.”


“You will.”


Amber smiled, though she felt like a hornet in a jar. She barely touched her food. It was high tide in the closet when she changed into her running clothes.


Everything was so easy for Lexi! She didn’t know what it felt like… to have things creep under her skin and stay there. Was it even human to be so chill??


Lexi saved and deleted things all day long. Amber had no idea what was actually on her list. Sometimes she wondered if Lexi even knew.


Amber’s mom used to say they fought like sisters. Once when they were thirteen, they were having some dumb spat and Lexi said in a huff, “Fine then! I’m calling my mom. I’m leaving!”


Amber retorted, “Oh no you don’t!”


Without thinking, she swung her bedroom door shut. She meant to block Lexi, but was a second late. Lexi’s finger was brutally caught in the door.


Lexi shrieked, “YOU WHORE!!!!”


And before she even looked at her mangled finger, she tapped and saved.


“Oh my god! Lexi! I didn’t mean to!!!”


The finger was purple and swollen and bleeding. In addition to the blunt force of the door slam, a loose nail on the latch plate had punctured her to the bone.


Lexi looked stunned. Her face was bright red and her eyes filled with tears which never streamed down her face.


With Amber’s hand clamped tightly over Lexi’s, they rushed to the kitchen. Amber filled a bowl with ice and Lexi plunged her hand in. Amber called Lexi’s mom in a panic of apologies. In the bowl, was an instant bloodbath.


Amber was horrified. Lexi was cold, cruel and completely unfazed.


“You should’ve seen your face. Evil little twat. I’m keeping that forever. I hope you live to see yourself.”


Lexi’s mom got there quickly. They went to the ER and Amber cried in the waiting room. Lexi’s finger was broken and of course, she seemed fine. They made up like always, but Lexi kept the scene much to Amber’s dismay.


Amber begged her to delete it. Lexi taunted her heartlessly. “Oh I’m sure I will. Eventually.”


Amber nagged and kept at her, but Lexi never really caved. When Amber asked about it, she was callously vague. “I probably deleted. I don’t remember. It gives me a headache to scroll back that far.”


This went on for years and was mostly buried, but sometimes Amber got on about it again. Which just made Lexi laugh.


“Oh my fucking god. Do you realize you’re stressing over the past and like 80 years into the future at the same time. LET IT GO!”


She must’ve deleted it. Why couldn’t she just say so??


Amber tied her hair in a knot. She found no peace. There was no shore in sight. She marched downstairs and left the house with blinders on.


She fumed as she ran. Her thoughts churned, her brain burned. The crazy thing was, she knew the whole time that Lexi was right. She actually meant well. Sometimes she tortured Amber just to prove a point. That she shouldn’t let things get to her… but who was she to tell her how to be?? She wasn’t her fucking sensei.


Amber stopped in a field. Just stop! She often said this to herself. She watched a blue dragonfly and for a minute, she let go. Then she noticed she had and her mind pushed back in. Dragonfly. She wondered if she should list it.


Just stop! She silently said it again. She gazed at it’s color, gleaming against the green of distant pines. Its wings were shiny with sunlight and motion. The day was cool and crisp and bright. She tried to feel a pure sensation, but she’d already lost it.


She saw the beauty in that moment. This was the bittersweet theme of her life. She stood in the field and was stoically sad, because she just couldn’t feel it.




・・ ☆ ・・



Amber went to Lexi’s volleyball game on her own. First thing she saw when she walked in the gym, was Monica and Justin sitting in the bleachers. They did look good together.


Monica waved and Amber mustered some enthusiasm. What the hell. She walked over and joined them.


“Hey! You guys ready for the short shorts show?”


Everyone laughed and Justin jumped right in. “You know it! I never miss a game.”


“Ohh we know. Don’t think I haven’t noticed you tapping that wrist.”


“Fuck yeah. I’m not ashamed. I list this shit! Looking at ass in shorts is a great way to go.”


He winked and both girls were undeniably charmed. He did have a way. He tapped his wrist. “And now I have both of you smiling at me. What could be better.”


He put his arm around Monica and Amber kept smiling. She felt fine. Monica sighed. “We’re gonna get creamed.”


“Why?” Amber was clueless about sports.


Justin shook his head in disbelief. “Covelo always creams us.”


“Oh yeah.”


After all these years, Amber still didn't know the rules of the game. She just liked watching. Lexi was in her element on the court. Then again, where wasn’t she. Her ponytail was high, her serve was strong, her style was vocal. Amber was awed by her confidence. She was fearless in every situation.


Amber waved at Lexi’s dad. He came to every game. Her mom came sometimes, but not often.


Monica tugged at Amber’s sleeve. “Come with me. I wanna get my jacket from the car.”


There was no tension between them. The gym was loud with the squeak of shoes, the scuffle of bodies and voices calling out. Monica walked in front of Amber. She pulled her gently by the hand and Amber thought of that day in first grade.


Monica’s mom sent them to the store to buy a loaf of bread and milk. Monica was casual, she’d done it before… so Amber concealed her excitement. She’d never gone anywhere without an adult.


They walked through the fancy neighborhood and Amber relished her close-up view of the houses she’d looked at from the car. She coveted their rolling lawns and cut glass windows. Climbing roses, stone paths and guest cottages set elegantly apart.


When they reached the busy boulevard and stood waiting for the light to turn, Amber felt distinctly grown up. Daunted by the traffic, she was also thrilled and stepping into the crosswalk felt momentous. She tapped her wrist as they ventured boldly on toward the store. Years later she deleted it, thinking it was childish. That memory still liked to pop up on her, though.


It was the first time she slept over at Monica’s. Everything there stood out to her as strange. The largeness of her house, the distance of her parents.


The fifth of six sisters, Monica seemed completely on her own. She made grilled cheese sandwiches, which they ate in the kitchen. Her mom never spoke to them. Never offered them breakfast, lunch or dinner. Amber couldn’t tell if her dad was even there and her older sisters were around, but paid no attention to them.


When they swam in the pool, her mom never came out. Monica helped her little sister change, held her in the water and dried her off after. Amber was shocked they had no supervision.


When it was time to get ready for bed, Monica rifled through a dresser drawer and handed Amber a teal bikini bottom. She said she had no more clean underwear or pajamas. It never occurred to Amber not to put it on. It had plastic rings on each side which rubbed her hips and kept her uncomfortably up all night.


Amber’s mom sometimes said what a shame it was… that Monica’s parents didn’t care about her. “Such a pretty girl.” She’d lament. “All the advantages in the world.”


Monica didn’t seem to know she was rich. She definitely didn’t care. She was like a flower in shade, anxiously twisting toward sunlight.


“So we’re cool right?”


Monica closed the car door and put her jacket on.


“Yeah totally. I deleted it last night. I was always going to.”


“That’s what I figured.”


Amber thought of Justin and her brain shuffled through a series of his selfies. She wondered if she should delete those too.


“He can be super sweet. Maybe you guys will really connect.”


“I kind of think so.”


“That’s great.” Amber thought of how good his attention felt. “Really.”


Monica read her mind and spoke gently. “I’m not a thinker like you. Or a boss like Lexi. I just need someone to love me.”


He’d be crazy not to.” Amber hugged her. Monica was beautiful. Inside and out.


“Thanks Amber. You’re a good friend.”


“You are. Now let’s go watch Lexi get her ass beat.”


They went back in, arms around each other. The ball got punched, it flew back and forth. Heads turned, their owners called shit out. One girl got smacked right in the face. And most of what happened went over Amber’s head.


She was thinking of sugar cookies. Shaped like Christmas trees, birds and stars. She made them every year with her mom. They made their own frosting to decorate with. And sometimes they hung them from the tree. That was her cooking memory. The one she knew she wanted and kept.


When she saw the cute cookie with her name spelled in green, Amber felt the heat from the stove in the kitchen. She sensed her mom’s smile. She felt her fingers slipping a loop of red ribbon over the branch of a noble fir.


It was a cozy patchwork of memory. Several years seamlessly seen at once. Pretty fucking classic really. How many cooking scenes did she need?? It’s not like she was a chef or something. Food preparation wasn’t her passion.


The game was over before she knew it. Lexi came out of the locker room shrugging. “Fucking Covelo!” Justin told her she played a good game.


“At least we weren’t humiliated.” With her duffle on her shoulder, she stood tall.


“So what now.”


Monica always asked that. Lexi always answered.


“My dad said he’d get us a pizza. Let’s go down to the beach.”


“Sounds good. See you there.”


Justin and Monica headed out. They seemed so official already. Lexi pulled out her ponytail.


“I’ll let everyone know ok.”


Amber didn’t realize, but her brows knit together. Everyone could only mean one thing. Lexi concluded their lopsided discourse with brevity, certainty and ease.


“It’s a nice day and he knows Justin’s done. Dude will be there.”


Amber couldn’t help it. She smiled.


“Whatever.”


Then she took her sweet ass time. She walked to the store and bought a bag of chips. Back at her car, she sat for like an hour. Just staring at her phone and into space. When she got to the beach, the pizza was gone. And sure enough, Chance was sitting there.


“Here she is!”


Monica beamed and patted the blanket for her to sit. Amber set down the chips and joined them. Justin passed her a blunt, she took a hit. What came out of her mouth was random.


“Did you guys know there’s a thing called The Doomsday Vault in Sweden? They store samples of every kind of seed.”


Chance interjected. “Actually, it’s in Norway. On a small island near the North Pole. There are seed banks all over the world but, that one is the big back up. Built to stand the test of time etc.”


“Wow ok.” Amber was impressed. “Someone really knows their stuff.”


“Well, I try.”


“That’s humanity for you.” Justin’s trademark flippancy cut conversations short. “Always thinking about the end.”


Lexi rolled her eyes. “How frivolous. Thinking about survival.”


“Not everything is meant to survive. What lives, is destined to die.”


“Oh my. Justin’s getting deep now?” Lexi mockingly looked up toward the heavens. “What’s next! The end of life as I know it??”


“Hahaha…” Justin was always quick to laugh. Especially at himself. He ripped open the chips.


Monica held out a seashell. “Look what I found in the tide pools.”


“Oh that’s a nice one.” Amber liked it. “Unusual.”


“She’s so cute.” Justin kissed her cheek. “She listed it.”


“Seashells make me happy! Guess I could take a pic, but I like saving better.”


Lexi pointed out the obvious.


“You can actually look at a picture though.”


Amber countered with more obviousness.


“She has the shell to look at. She wants to recall the experience of finding it.”


“Sometimes the little things feel most magical.” Monica earnestly expounded. “Like SEASHELLS… or watermelon slices. Whatever. Simple everyday moments. They give your list texture.”


Lexi was unmoved. “Did you read that somewhere? You sound like a manual.”


Justin laughed. “Chicks will fight about anything.”


Monica proved her peacefulness. “That’s what they do in movies. I just like it.”


Chance shook his head and reached for the blunt. “You guys are such control freaks.”


Amber got over the top defensive.


“Whatever Chance. You think you’re so classic, but what if you see a bad memory? Or some random thing that means nothing to you.”


“That’s the whole point. What you see when you die should be an epiphany. You can’t plan a fucking epiphany.”


“That may be, but no one else will see it. You and your epiphany will be dead and forgotten.”


Chance gave her his Chanciest look that just slayed her.


“If you’re worried about me, you can have me on your list.”


Amber’s pulse jumped and her jaw set.


“Yeah right. In your dreams.”


He laughed. “Exactly. My dreams are mine. And so are my memories.”


Chance was already on her list, but she’d literally die before letting him know that. In sixth grade, when their class was coming back from recess, he’d stopped in the doorway of their classroom and gripped her shoulders.


“Do you like me?”


She was out of breath from running in the yard. His hair damp with sweat, curled around his blue eyes and his face was so close to hers. She answered without thinking.


“Yes.”


“Good. I like you too.”


They were only eleven, but it felt big at the time. So she tapped to save. And she’d almost deleted it a thousand times. She just never did.


Why was she being such an uptight bitch? She didn’t mean to be. She just was.


“I gotta walk. I can’t sit when I’m high.”


No one responded. They were all chill with her prickly ways. So she walked down the beach. Beyond the jutting rocks which took her out of view. She watched the clouds and the water reinforcing it’s patterns made in sand. She tried not to think and was almost successful. Ten or maybe twenty minutes went by. Then Chance was by her side.


“Lexi says I let DW dictate my life.”


“Do you think that’s true.”


“No just because it’s important to me, doesn’t mean I’m not living life. So I give a fuck. I plan it. I care. Is that wrong?”


“No. It’s not wrong if you’re happy.”


Amber watched a seagull pulling at a plastic bag. Inside was half a sandwich. He’d fought for it and sought solitude with his prize. Fucking plastic. She scowled and wondered if the bird knew he was being watched. He must’ve, but didn’t seem to.


Chance drew in the sand and waited for her to speak. One never knew what she might say on the tail end of a silence.


“What if someone could hack into your chip and see all your memories. Like literally all of them.”


“I’d hack your chip if I knew how.”


“Yeah you could waste your life obsessing on me.”


“I already do.”


“Right.”


“I do.”


Amber couldn’t think of what to say. Chance’s gaze was hypnotic. His voice, velvet.


“And it’s not a waste.”


“What is it.”


“A fascination.”


“Really?”


“Don’t pretend you don’t know. I’ve always been obsessed with you.”


“What do you think about the most?”


“Kissing you.”


“Really? Maybe you should.”


“Yeah? Think you’re ready for a kiss??”


His words held a tinge of irony and humor. There was nothing sardonic about his actions though. He kissed her and it felt fucking perfect.


“Why didn’t you ever do that before?”


“Because I want you to stay kissed.”


Amber was nothing, if not coyly tough.


“Tall order. I think a team effort is needed.”


“Exactly.”


He kissed her again. Go team.



・・ ☆ ・・



Who ever knew life could be so sweet?


The day played out pretty regularly, except everything felt incredible. The light on the water, the shine in his eyes, the warmth of his mouth, the sound of the waves.


Monica looked happier than she’d ever been and Lexi seemed super pleased with herself. Grand orchestrator that she was. When they played frisbee, Lexi ran up to Amber and tapped her wrist triumphantly.


“Babe you should see your face right now. I want details later. Momentous day!” She laughed and ran away again.


The whole world seemed in on their fantastic mood. The sun setting pink and orange and gold. Night falling gracefully in shades of blue. The air was balmy. Stars came out in force.


Back home in her room, Amber broke from every norm. She didn’t even wash up or get undressed. Didn’t go in the bathroom or the closet. She just pulled off her jeans and left them on the floor. She got in bed with her sweatshirt on and pulled her bra off Flashdance style.


She thought of texting Lexi and telling her, but decided to wait. She felt so good. She didn’t want to do or say anything. And for the first time since she could remember, she went to sleep without reviewing. She hadn’t even saved that day. Not one thing.


And Amber slept good. Like good good good. She went deep into sleep and had cool vivid dreams. She dove fearlessly from waterfalls. She formed vague alliances with guerrillas in jungle towns. She led faceless comrades through dark maze-like streets. And when confronted with lethal threat, she didn’t hesitate. She raised her arm to shoot and her hand was a gun. She felt no remorse. She’d done what she had to do. Her followers trusted her and they went on.


When she woke, she stretched cat-like. She felt like a woman who might have nine lives. Huh. Woman. She’d never felt that before. She smiled. Her sweatshirt smelled like the beach.


She sang while she showered and checked herself out in the mirror as she groomed. She felt cute and had an urge to take selfies. She put on her favorite panties and she liked how she looked, but felt funny when she thought of sending to Chance. Maybe someday.


Then she did something spontaneous and different. Something she’d never thought to do. She looked in the mirror and listed herself.


“Hey you lucky people.” She smiled wryly and tapped. “This is me when I was alive.”


It was early, but she texted Chance right away.


can i come over


absolutely

i’m here


She’d always thought his house was cool. His mom had artsy taste. The furnishings and objects were sparse and unique. She stole a few glances, as he walked her to his room. Once he closed the door, they were in their own world. And they stayed there a while. Like all fucking day.


They had sex a few times and yeah, that’s kinda quick… but really, she’d been waiting for him since sixth grade.


This time it felt like something big. This time the sex stuff was part of a whole. They talked for hours in between. They joked around and looked at each other’s naked bodies. When they got hungry, he made her bow tie pastas! They ate at the table, then went back to his room.


She’d never felt better in her own skin. Even when she was posing, she did so with ease. She showed herself off. She hid nothing and didn’t pretend at all.


Once her hand moved toward her wrist and she almost tapped, but caught herself. She did it without thinking.


“Not listable?” Chance grinned provocatively. “Am I not death wish worthy?”


“Um…” she blushed. “I think I just missed it.”


“Ah. That’ll happen…” he took her hand and stretched her arm out. He kissed her shoulder, her neck, her face. His manner was pleasingly purposeful. Then he kissed her on the mouth and tapped her wrist himself. “Think we got it.”


She laughed. “Yeah you got me.”


He was like always. Intent, charismatic, relaxed with himself… but now he was giving her all she wanted. All of him. To touch, taste and hold.


He texted before she even got home. He told her she left her tank top there. He said he was bringing it to bed with him. He said he would think of her all night long.


Amber went to sleep in bliss. And she woke to the unimaginable.





・・ ☆ ・・



Autumn nudged her and waited for her eyes to open.


“Amber wake up. I have to tell you something.”


“What? What is it.”


This couldn't be good. Autumn’s face was white. Her voice sounded grave.


“It’s really bad, baby. I think you need to hear it from me… before…” her voice trailed off.


“Mom you’re scaring me. Tell me what’s going on.”


Autumn choked on her words. She cried as she spoke.


“I don’t know how to tell you this. Lexi died last night.”


“What?” Amber sat up and rubbed her eyes. “What are you saying.”


“She had some kind of seizure. Apparently, she had a brain tumor. She died on the way to the hospital. It’s just… the most bizarre thing that could happen. No one saw this coming. They had no idea.”


“Mom that can’t be!”


“I’m so sorry. Baby… I’m just so sorry.”


Autumn cried quietly, but Amber felt numb. This just couldn’t be. This just couldn’t be. What in the actual fucking fuck?!? Her mom hugged her and that made her angry.


“I think I need to be alone right now.”


“I understand baby. I’m right here. I’m downstairs when you need me.”


Amber’s head throbbed. Her heart felt like a fist in her chest. She could feel it clenching and punching her insides. Frozen on her bed, with her breath held tight… she was close to panic. This couldn’t be. Then she looked at her phone and there it was. The notification from DW.


She couldn’t bring herself to look. So she tortured herself with her own memories first. One of her all time favorite scenes.


Just last year, they stole her mom’s car for a joy ride. It was an old BMW, one you could actually drive. Amber always wanted to drive it. A few times her mom let her, just on their street. She never would’ve dared to take it though, if Lexi hadn’t pushed her to do what she wanted.


“I barely know how to drive you guys!”


“We trust you!” Lexi hopped in and called out, “Shotgun!!”


Amber got behind the wheel, Monica sat in back… and they rolled out, high on their recklessness. They drove all the way to the city, with the windows down and music playing loud. They were breaking the law and loving it.


She felt so electric and alive. She’d left her misgivings so far behind… she forgot to keep her eyes on the road. They were singing along with a pop song, when Lexi yelled.


“Babe! Red light!” Her blonde hair was blowing around her face and she covered her mouth with her hand as she laughed. “Red babe! Red!!!”


“Oh shit!!!!”


She was flying through an intersection. Cross traffic came at her on their green.


“Quick! Tap my wrist!” She commanded Lexi. Then she pushed the pedal to the metal, dodging and swerving. Lexi tapped. “Got it!!”


They all roared with laughter. Ohhh my god!!!!


Ever since she could remember, Lexi was there. Making things fun, looking out for her. She couldn’t imagine a life or a world where Lexi wasn’t just right there.


Amber braced herself. She’d never anticipated this moment. Not really, it was distant and vague in her mind. Definitely not like this. She clicked on the link and waited for Lexi’s list to play.


When she saw the first frame, she knew exactly what it was. Lexi went parasailing in Hawaii. It was the first thing she ever listed. She told them about it when she got home.


Amber saw Lexi’s foot kick. She saw the white speed boat she and her dad were tethered to. It got small, as Lexi lifted higher and her view broadened. Then Amber heard her voice. It felt faraway.


“Dad I’m scared.”


“Lexi you’re fine! Look… we’re flying.”


Amber heard her laugh and the wind rushing past. There was a few seconds of vista. Then black. That’s all there was.


Amber was stunned. She played it again and again and again. She kept thinking there must be something else. Where was the rest? How could Lexi be scared?? Over and over, Amber watched Lexi’s foot kick. Her heart lunged every time she heard Lexi’s laugh.


She wondered where the rest was. She resisted the truth. How could that be it? How could this be real? She must’ve sat there for an hour.


When she finally got up, she went to the bathroom then stood in her closet. A hostile expanse of eerie dead calm. She sat down and Facetimed Monica.


Monica’s face looked ravaged from crying. Her eyes were bloodshot.


“I just can’t believe it. I talked to her yesterday. She seemed fine.”


Amber’s heart raged. The one day she didn’t talk to her!


“Did you watch her playlist?”


“Yes of course.”


“So there must be some mistake, right? Do you think the tumor fucked up her chip?”


“No one knows yet. Lexi’s mom talked to some people at DW. They said it’s possible, but unlikely. They’re going to look into it.” Her face darkened. “You know… with an autopsy.” She shuddered. “Her family’s too upset to push for answers now. I mean, they’re devastated.


Amber blinked back tears. “I’m devastated.”


Monica’s voice was pure sorrow. “Me too.”


“Remember that night on the beach? The campfire?”


One night, they listed each other together. Lexi counted down… 3,2,1…and they saved in sync. Best friends forever.


“Yes I remember.”


“She wouldn’t have deleted that.”


“Amber, we saved that scene in eight grade. Has it occurred to you… maybe this is how Lexi wanted her list to play.”


Amber was dumbfounded. No. That hadn’t occurred to her.


“What are you saying? This is some kind of message?? Knowing her, it’s more likely a sick joke.”


“It could be a message. Maybe it symbolized something for her. How she felt… or I don’t know. Maybe she really just didn’t care about her list.”


“Yeah maybe.” Amber felt like she might fade away into nothing. “Love you.”


“Love you too.”


Amber stared herself down in the unfriendly mirror. She still couldn’t cry. Dad I’m scared. Amber heard the wind rush. The look on her own face sent chills down her spine. She wanted to scream, but contained herself. She addressed the mirror with taut composure.


“Mom, I hope you never live to see this… but I love you.” She tapped to save.


Chance texted right then.


are you ok


no. i’m coming over


i’m here


・・ ☆ ・・




Chance knew better than to touch her. She really might explode right there on his porch. He spoke simply and seriously.


“Quite a shock.”


Amber’s body loosened a tiny bit. Her voice trembled. “That’s the understatement of the year.”


“Cmon…” he led her to his room. He closed the door and sat on his bed. An open invitation to say anything.


Amber blurted out. “I thought Lexi’s list would help me understand her. Now I feel like I know her less than ever! How can that be what she wanted??”


Chance looked down and chose his words carefully.


“We can’t know how Lexi wanted her list to play. We can’t know what she saw or how she felt. We did know her, though. We still do.” He stood up and took a step toward her. “The only tragedy is that she’s gone.”


Then he touched her and the floodgates opened. She started to cry.


“I just can’t believe it. I can’t stand it, Chance! She was my rock. She always has been.”


“I know.”


She collapsed in his ready arms. She cried until her body shook. She cried until she was gasping for breath. He wiped her tears. He held her face in his hands and he kissed her.


Deflated from grief and her anguished tears, Amber felt the rousing fullness of life all at once. The sweetness of a kiss, the pain of her loss. Love and death both rushing headlong to make their presence felt.


There was a sensation of ultimate peace, with the collision of those extremes. They merged miraculously. And even as the feeling filled her, Amber doubted such purity of emotion could last.


Chance gripped her shoulders. She saw him in sixth grade. She saw him yesterday. She saw him in the moment. His eyes were the same. Then and now, they reflected what she knew to be true.


He said, “I will always remember this.”


Her hand moved reflexively toward her wrist. There was no decision to be made. She just knew.


“So will I.”



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