DramaFictionPsychological ThrillerSuspense




Amber hated herself in a way no one could have ever understood.

It took me a while too. But when you’re living with someone in the same pigeon-hole of an apartment, day-in, and day-out, some secrets spill no matter how good you think you’ve become at hiding them.

“Delilah, you’re going to be late, honey. You should get going.”

“Yes, Mom.”

“Do you think you’re going to be alright today?”

No. Not at all.


I threw my black coat on because the November skies had decided to pour down on us. New York was like that, weather as unpredictable as the streets. I’d forgotten to bring my umbrella with me over to my parents’ place, so I stood on the pavement with my purse held over my head – half trying to hail a cab, half trying to not get my mascara ruined.

I had met Amber Mason eleven months ago – just two broke freshman girls trying to pay the rent. She was a Design major, I was pursuing American Literature and that was that. We didn’t say anything more than the obligatory ‘hello’ for about two weeks until one Sunday morning she walked into my room and said, “Coffee?”

She was impeccable that way. Coffee out on the balcony every evening, burnt toast with orange marmalade every morning, lemon vodka every time she went out, red lipstick every time she left the house. So we had coffee on the balcony that morning and she made me some burnt toast to go with it.

You see, I grew up on a farm. Girls back in Omaha didn’t stack issues of Vogue on their bedside tables or have brunch on Sundays. She was like the outsider’s guide to the City that never sleeps and to say I was intrigued would be an understatement.

I’ve always been caught up by people who can be put to paper, eccentricities and all. So I memorized all her childhood memories and got to know all about her part-time modeling gig, the concerts she’s been to, and the shoes she would buy with her first paycheck. I’d stay up for hours, sitting on the balcony under the starlight, listening to her talk about her wild high school days. I started noticing other things too, things people don’t usually spend hours talking about. Like her bloodshot eyes when she had been crying in the car, and the razorblade she tried to hide in her pocket after having cut herself in the bathroom.

In my head, I’d built a world around this girl; this shiny, plastic girl who had at one point seemed so perfect to me, she might just have been playing a role.

And here I was, less than a year later, sitting in a cab dressed all in black –

on the way to her funeral.


…as I know my daughter will be missed by friends and family alike.

Amber has gone into the light and is now free.”

The sky cried, her mother cried;

the funeral was beautiful in its own way.


I’d been living at my parents’ place for over a week now, mostly because –

well, it’s haunting when you wake up at 4 in the morning in an empty apartment and realize that the bedroom next to yours is…empty.

Everyone I’d seen and known since moving to the city had come to mourn this lovely, sad girl they’d all loved.

“How are you holding up?”

That was Cara – Cara From Downstairs. Inside joke, never mind.

“I’m doing okay, thanks for asking.”

“How did it happen? I heard the accident was pretty bad.”

“Well, she had gone out to get some dinner at that bistro downtown. Probably had too much to drink before taking off, they found her body in the wreckage by the side of the road. Her car had crashed into the roadside guard rail.”

We were both quiet for a while.

“It’s almost ironic, isn’t it? She never got wasted easily, not even over the weekends.”

That was true. Amber was always the one holding my hair up when I threw up in clubs. She was the perpetual Designated Driver.

The cops had thought it was a little sketchy how I wasn’t concerned at all about how late she was that night. But that was her way. She’d stay out all night drinking coffee – or beer, depending on how bad her day had been – at some obscure downtown bar.

By the time I got out of the shower in the morning, she’d be sitting in front of her mirror in fresh clothes, using concealer to cover up her under eyes and bad decisions.

“I see her mother, three of her exes, everyone from college – where’s her Dad?”

“I.. don’t know. Her parents have been separated for a while now. She lived with her grandparents most of her childhood, her Mom had a pretty hectic job back then. Amber never really talked much about him.

Now that I think about it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him. Not even in photographs.”

We looked over to the aisle where Mrs. Mason was sitting; alone, tear-stained.

Strange thing, not to show up to your daughter’s funeral.

I started walking back to the café where everyone got their breakfast.

“Avocado toast and a latté to-go.”

Stepping out onto the freshly wet concrete, I decided to swing by our apartment, maybe get my mail and some fresh supplies. The rain was starting to drizzle again as I hurried back, wading through the crowds, clutching my breakfast to my chest.

I’d barely set my coffee down when there was a knock at the front door.

I opened the door to a pair of brown eyes and a head full of unkempt gray hair.

He stood there looking pitiably lost, fidgeting hands crammed into pockets.


“Um, okay…are you Delilah Jane?”

“I am. And you are?”

“Jeff Mason. I got the address from her mother…

I’m Amber’s father.”



He wanted a boy. He wanted a son.

That’s all I could think about as Mr. Mason stood in his daughter’s room and tried to make sense of all the pictures covering the walls. He had separated from her mother when she was eleven and when I’d asked Amber why, she just shrugged and said, “He wanted a son, I think.”

“I hadn’t seen her in seven years, you know.”, he said, settling down on the yellow couch.

“Well, maybe you should have.


“No, thanks. I prefer tea.”

“Well then…why didn’t you come to the funeral, Mr. Mason?”, I asked, sitting down across the room from him.

“I would have. I just, I couldn’t. I got up this morning and it felt like she’d been a stranger to me until the end. I felt…responsible.”

That’s because she had been a stranger to you.

“Tell me about her.”,  he asked.

“What?”, in my head, I’d sworn to hate this man a long time ago.

“What was she like? You would know better than most, I suppose. It’d be a shame for me to not have known her at all.”

Everyone cares when it’s a little too late, don’t they?

“She talked to herself.”

“She did?”

“All the time. A couple of times when I asked her who she had been talking to, she denied it – said she’d been singing. But she did. She held actual conversations with herself in empty rooms.”

“Who would’ve thought?”, Jeff’s smile lines crinkled around his eyes again as we sat there, sipping Earl Grey from coffee mugs.

Okay. I know I had sworn to hate him, but I cracked.

He seemed to be a pleasant enough man – unless he was your father, I guess. More than anything else, when it came to Amber, he had a blank slate. It was like I had finally found a page to write down all of her little flecks in, an eleven-month-long diary. And it all came spouting out.

I told him about the summer she ran off to Mexico with her photographer boyfriend, how self-destructive she could be – how she starved herself for days when she was angry, the one time she had stopped for ice-cream in her prom dress with five other girls.

“Did she tell you about the time we went up to the hills?

Amber, her mother and me?”, he asked.

That’s strange. She hadn’t.

“No, what was that like?”

“Oh, the trip was a complete disaster. Joanna and I got into this huge fight, I kept snapping at Amber for complaining how cold her hands were, the mountain air gave me a headache, the list goes on. At the end of it all, we were driving back to our cabin, sullen and brooding, when our driver stopped the car by a stream in the middle of the wilderness. It was the clearest water any of us had ever seen. He told us the stream flowed when the ice atop the hills started to melt. Then he went on to take off his shoes and started washing the car. Joanna went off the tracks following a herd of deer, and Amber and I just stood there in the middle of nowhere for a while. After a minute or two, she staggered her way through all the rocks and sat down on a boulder jutting out of the stream. I waited a while before the following suit. I wasn’t very far from her. We just sat there, looking around at all the pine trees, letting the silence sink in…

Before I knew it, Amber bent over and splashed the cold stream water all over me. My feet were soaking wet, my head throbbed harder than ever;

and then I looked over at her – she just sat there, laughing with her head thrown back as if her father in soggy trousers was the funniest thing she had ever seen.

It was just so…serene. Pure. There’s no other word for it.

So I splashed some chillingly clear water over to her side as well.

She looked at me, eyes widened as if to double-check, before bursting out in giggles. By the time Joanna returned, we were both completely drenched and our fingers were numb. But that was the warmest I’d felt in a long while.”

The sound of the clock ticking away was all that consumed the room as he set his mug down.

“I should go now. I’ve taken up way too much of your time.”

“Not at all, it was my pleasure.”

I got up to open the door.

“Mr. Mason?”


“She loved you. She never said it, I never thought I would be saying this – but she did.”

“I’m afraid you’re right.”, was all he said before disappearing around the hallway.


{ The Night of }

“When will you be coming back?”

Delilah was sitting on that ridiculous yellow leather couch in her sweatpants, eating nachos out of a bag.

“Don’t know. Don’t wait up.”

I bet she thought I didn’t notice how she watched me when I put my heels on, how she watched me no matter what.



“Drive safe.”

I smiled at her before walking out the door.

The traffic was absurdly hushed, so I let the windows down. Let the steely chill in the wind mess my hair up. I swear I could hear stormy clouds rumble in the distance.

The dashboard started to vibrate in the middle of a quiet streak on the road.

Delilah calling.

“She just can’t stop, can she?”

She was like a child. I remember that was the first thing that had come to mind when we met all those months ago. So untangled, so naive. So…impressionable.

She drank in my movements, all through the day, every day. She may have thought she was being subtle about, but I noticed all right. How her eyes followed me when I came home at 3 A.M. with smudged makeup, how she made an effort to remember how I liked my coffee.

I let the phone ring and drove on farther than usual.


“Beer and fries, please.”

“Anything else?”

“No, thanks.”

I hadn’t been to this part of the neighborhood much. So I just sat there staring at this wall and that door. I’ve been told by so many people that, from a distance, I appeared to be the most unapproachable person ever. So I play the role – the mysterious, lost girl sitting in the shadows, sipping a drink at midnight in murky bars. It’s one of my favorite parts honestly.

The last time I’d gone out of my way to get dinner at a new place, I had a mental breakdown in the middle of that Italian bistro. Sometimes, it gets worse. Sometimes it gets worse than usual. Mostly it happens when I have been thinking a lot, it consumes me – the more I think about everything, the more it spreads like poison through my head.

Last Saturday, I woke up at 8 A.M. and cried for about half an hour straight. I’d been thinking about when Dad had finally left. He packed his bags and drove off. Mom had sat me down and explained that he won’t be coming back for a while.

“Are you getting a divorce?”

“No, love. Not yet at least. Meanwhile, you’ll have to go and live with Grandma, alright?”

“Where will he go?”

“I don’t know.”

She was sitting on the kitchen floor in her nightclothes. Her hair was a mess. Her eyes held mine for a moment – she hadn’t been crying.

“Why did he leave, Mom?”

“He doesn’t care enough.”

“About what?”

“About us.”

Seven years later, I just lay there under the covers with tears streaming onto my pillow wondering – how can someone not care?

How can someone just not be there anymore?

Other times I thought about middle school. Or the time my high school boyfriend ditched me in the middle of Mexico during summer break. All the heartbreaks and hangovers. The blood on my bathroom floor and the streaks of mascara staining the sink.

The waitress bought my order and I chugged down the entire bottle at once.

“Two cups of black tea and a tall espresso.”, said a voice that made me feel cold to the bone.

No, wait, what –


I was two tables away and had barely let out a whisper, but he still turned. Hair more grey than black, the frown lines around his mouth slightly deeper than they used to be, those hazel eyes were still just as I remembered them as; a mirror to the pair staring back at him.

“Amber? How did you…What are you doing here?”

He wasn’t happy to see me. Stirred, maybe. But not happy.

And he wasn’t alone either.

He was sitting at a table for three with a wickedly blonde woman and a boy of thirteen, maybe fourteen – a mess of white hair and brown eyes and teenage years. The woman was staring at me, frozen completely.

“Did she just call you ‘Dad’?”, the boy asked. He almost seemed scared.

“No, Jake. Talk to your mother for a minute.”

I don’t know what came over me, but I bolted right up and almost stumbled over to where they were sitting. I think part of me knew – maybe a part of me had known all along – and I was terrified of the chapter where all the pieces would finally fit.

“Who’s everyone, Dad?”, I blurted out.

“Stop calling me that-”

I didn’t hear much more of what he said. I could feel my face starting to burn up. I could hear that Jake boy, whispering to his mother, has she lost it?

The woman’s eyes didn’t leave me for a single second.

It was suddenly bitingly cold against my bare arms. He had dragged me out to get me to stop crying and I’d left my coat inside.

“Amber, stop crying, for the millionth time – stop crying,”

“What was that, Dad?

And don’t say, ‘Nothing.’

Don’t run away again. For once, tell me what the hell is going on?”

He looked at me.  Really looked at me.

He hadn’t seen me in seven years. We hadn’t spoken in much longer than that.

Even when he hadn’t left, talking was something we had never been much good at.

That’s when I realized I’d been holding my breath waiting for him to speak.

“Kathy and I married shortly after I split up with your mother.

And Jake…well, Jake’s my son.”

A caressing breeze started to blow as if the sky was letting out a sigh. But I still held my breath, scared to let even the slightest gasp escape from my lips.

“How’s that…I don’t understand.

When did you and Mom get a divorce? How come I don’t know about this?

And that boy – ”


Joanna and I got divorced a long time ago. We thought it best to wait for a while before telling you, or it could only get worse. Jake is -”

“It could only get worse?

It’s been ages since you left. I run into you seven fucking years later and you’re having dinner with your blonde wife and teenaged son!

What on earth could be worse?”

“Amber, calm down. Jake is your little -”

“You wanted a boy, is that it?”


He looked at me and I realized he never thought I’d have known. All these years and still the same.

“Tell me, I need to hear it.” My voice was on the edge.

“Amber, I…”

“Got it. Thanks.”

I almost sprinted back to my table, tripping over my shoes. I remember grabbing a tissue to wipe my face, falling on my knees when I turned to leave, feeling everyone’s eyes on me the whole time.

I was strutting back out when the boy called to me, “Hey,”

I wouldn’t have turned. I shouldn’t have turned.

But I did.

“Where’s my Dad?”

I looked at him. The same hazel eyes staring back, but nothing else that felt even minutely like home.

“Is he good to you?”, I found myself asking him instead.


“Is he a good father?”

“He’s the best.”, he blurted out before his mother sat him down again.

Their coffee arrived as I ran towards the door.

I walked right past my father on my way out, leaving him out there – standing, waiting in the cold.


I broke down in the car again.

How unusual.

The midnight breeze had made my face go numb. It must have been a pretty picture – this sniffling, tear-masked girl driving around with her hair flapping in the wind. I kept breaking down over fresh, again and again, whimpering like a three-year-old.

I was thinking again.

All those years. Wasted away waiting for someone who’d forgotten I even existed. Someone who had replaced us long ago. All that fabric in space and time, all the mistakes you’ve made leading up to that one moment when it all comes crashing down on you.

Ayn Rand once wrote, “ I’d die for you. But I won’t live for you.”

Well, I had lived for you.

So, what of it now?

“What of it now?”, I said out loud.

“You’re not worth it.”, came the reply.

“I am his daughter. How could he ?”

“You’re not worth it. That’s how.”     

“Oh, shut up.”              

To another passing by on that moonlit night, it would’ve seemed as though the sad girl in the car was talking to herself. The girl, on the other hand, didn’t even notice anymore.

I hit that melancholy patch on the road again. It was the kind of night wolves howl into, the kind of gale that means you should probably stay in for the night.

“Show him.”

“Show whom what?”, I should have slowed down. It was happening again. I was thinking too much.

“Show your ‘father’ what it’s like to be guilty.

Show him what it’s like to hurt.

Show him that you’ve lived for him or else he’ll never know,”

“I…can’t- ”

“Show him how heavy a memory can weigh,”

“No, no stop- ”

“Show him how pretty a corpse can be.”

This is what it’s like after;

After they’ve found your body in a car wreck at 5 A.M.

After you’ve risen and fallen back into the dust;

After your mother has buried you alone.




Written by:- Ananya Ghosh

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