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Our Darkest Moments

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Sterling opened her mouth to speak before closing it once more. What could she say? Her mind raced through the possible words that could be used to try to improve the situation she found herself in but every potential response fell short. She watched as the figure emerged from behind her into her line of sight, confirming what her ears had already told her. “Please just let me go.” Her voice shook, revealing the fear coursing through her. She watched as a cold smile spread across his lips as he cocked his head to the side.

“Why would I want to do that? You only just got here, and I have so many plans.” He reached his hand out to touch her face, fingers brushing against her eyebrow. Sterling winced away. “Oh, come on now, it’s only a little cut. Things could be worse…a lot worse.”

“What do you want?”

“What do I want?” His voice grew deeper and louder. “I want to go back to a time before I sat in a jail cell. I want to have my reputation back. Can you give me that?” Sterling dropped her gaze to the floor and shook her head. “You had no problem taking it all away. Did you even think about the consequences of your actions?”

Sterling felt regret wash over her. She hadn’t thought about the consequences of her time bounty hunting. Sure, she was taking in people who had skipped bail but she hadn’t stopped to think about the domino effect. How the people she was taking in would impact on those around them. She had been so caught up in the fact that they had broken the law that she overlooked the fact that they were parts of families, even when faced with some of those people. Her mind flashed up Cherry Grigio holding her son; Gary Durbin’s wife; April. People who had been carrying on with their lives when someone integral to it had been taken away. “They broke the law.” She offered weakly.

“Being charged and convicted are two vastly different things. Surely they have taught you that at school! I’ll tell you what…you do something for me and then we’ll see about letting you go. How does that sound?”

Sterling had a sinking feeling about what he could ask her to do. This was a man who clearly despised her, the look in his eyes said it all. He held her responsible for the downturn in his life and so when it came to balancing the scales in his mind, what would that take? Despite the feeling of dread, her options were limited. If nothing else, she needed to buy some time so that the people who loved her would be able to find her. “What do you want me to do?”

He patted her cheek. “Good girl. It’s simple really. Just call up that sister of yours and get her to join us for a little…chat.”

As soon as the demand registered in Sterling’s mind, her own fear dissipated. There was no way she was going to do anything that could put her own sister in jeopardy. She offered up a quick prayer that they would find her soon and took a deep breath to steel her nerves. Looking up to meet his stare dead on she gave her answer. “That is never going to happen.”

She caught sight of the shift in his demeanour, the way his lip twitched into a sneer. Then his fist connected with her face. She felt the burst of pain and then registered the metallic taste of blood. Before she could fully process that, the air was knocked out of her as his fist connected with her solar plexus. She bent forward as far as she could, gasping for air. Her face was grabbed roughly and brought close to his. “Never is a long time.” He released his hold on her face and walked to the door. Sterling was still gasping for air when she heard his comment. “I’ll give you some time to think about your answer. You don’t want to disappoint me again.” With that he left the room, the door closed behind him and then she found herself plunged back into darkness once more. Left alone with her own thoughts about what could happen. She was stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place. Whatever her choice in the matter, there would be serious consequences. On the one hand, she could agree to call Blair and hope that she could give some indication of what was happening, a warning, so they could find her but the risk was her warnings would go unheeded and she would land her own sibling in the same predicament she was in. Alternatively, she could refuse to play along and suffer the consequences of her non-engagement alone. The thought of what those consequences may be made a wave of nausea wash through her if his reaction to her first response was just a hint of things to come.

Five months ago

“Ok, guys and gals. Now I’m sure y’all remember the success that was our biblical buildings project. Let me tell you the comments we got from the open house about our centrepiece…woo. So, I think we can all repeat the success of that with our next project.” Ellen paused dramatically at the board, smiling at the class who looked back with a mixture of dread and hesitant intrigue. Ellen pulled the cord to reveal the board. “Divine Dioramas.” The room was filled with a chorus of groans from the less enthusiastic members of the class. “I want you to recreate your choice of story from the Bible in teeny tiny model form. Who doesn’t like miniature religious scenes, right?” The class started to mutter between themselves. “I think we should keep the same partners as last time so just call out your stories once you have decided.”

“Adam and Eve.” Lorna called out. “Two people, created as the perfect match for each other…so romantic. Don’t you think, Luke?” She asked as she turned to him, her hand once more straying to glide down his arm.

“Yeah I guess but didn’t they kind of lose everything by giving into temptation?” Luke scratched the back of his neck, trying to shift a bit further from her in his seat.

“We can focus on the happy part…things are always best when they are starting.”

“The golden calf with the burning and the slaughter and bodies just strewn everywhere.” Franklin called out.

“That sounds…graphic Franklin.” Ellen replied, a minor grimace on her face as the mental image of what may be forthcoming formed.

“Jesus rising from the tomb.” Ezekiel called out.

Other members of the class continued with their claims on stories while April turned to face Sterling. “Any inspiration?”

Sterling looked back at April. “I’d love to say Naomi and Ruth for the meaning but I know you’d like to do something a bit more…impressive.” April smiled at the blonde. “So, I was thinking maybe the Tower of Babel?”

“Sounds like that would take a while to construct if we are going to live up to our previous creation.” April gave Sterling a half smile as she glanced up at her through her eyelashes. She watched as Sterling smiled back in response.

“Many hours of working together.”

April bit the side of her lip at the thought of having a legitimate excuse to spend many hours with Sterling, alone. “The Tower of Babel.” April called out to Ellen.

“Oh April, I would ask if you were sure about such an undertaking but after yours and Sterling’s last effort, I have every confidence you will do it justice.”

Sterling leant a little closer to April as Ellen continued to note down the choices of the class. “Want to come over tonight?”

April deflated slightly. “I can’t tonight. John has decided that the first Friday of each month requires us to have family night.” She sighed. “Tomorrow?”

“Come over as soon as you are ready.”

“Careful Sterl, I know you like to have a lie in and I do tend to get up pretty early. I’d hate to be the reason you had to get out of bed.”

April met Sterling’s eyes before seeing the other girl cast a quick glance around the room. She watched the blonde lean closer to her, dropping her voice to barely above a whisper. “I’d prefer you to be the reason I stayed in bed.” April felt her ears start to burn as they turned red with the mental imagery now planted firmly in her mind.

“Ok, so now we have our assignments, let’s get to our discussion for today.” Any further conversation was cut off between the two girls as Ellen led the class in their debate for the day.

*********************************

April sat at the table in the country club, quietly trying to eat her dinner without having to engage in the conversation her dad was having too much. He had spent the past twenty minutes sharing his views on why the fake news was to blame for anyone thinking negatively about their president. April had tried to switch off from his rant lest she share her views on the matter.

“Not long until you get to vote little Padawan. Then you can follow your dad’s lead and help keep the Republicans in power to get this country back on track long term. How was school?”

April really wasn’t sure she would be following in her father’s footsteps in any way other than voting in each election. “School is good. We have a project for Bible Studies to do so I will be out of the house a bit over the next couple of weeks until the deadline.”

John sat forwards in his chair. “Who are you working with?”

“Miss Johnson said we need to keep the same partners as last time.” April saw the interest pique on her dad’s face.

“When will Sterling be coming over to work with you?”

That same feeling of unease that she had last time the conversation had been directed at Sterling returned. This time, it was compounded by the knowledge that there was another secret being kept that April certainly didn’t want her parents to find out about. “We are going to be working at the Wesley’s house as Mr Wesley has some a workshop with the tools we need to really make our project stand out again.”

April watched as her dad turned away to catch the attention of a passing waiter to get another drink. Ever since the conversation she’d had with Sterling on the bench, April had been more aware of her father’s interest in the blonde. Anytime the conversation started to veer in the direction of the Wesley’s, April tried to steer it in another direction. Her feeling of disquiet had been growing over the past month and there was nothing she could do to stop it. Glancing at the clock on the wall, she mentally started to countdown until she could return to the sanctuary of her own room.

*********************************

April
Are u still awake?

Sterling Wesley – Facetime

April clicked accept and waited for the call to connect. She was met by the sight of the blonde smiling back at her with a sleepy look, clearly all settled in bed. “Hey.” She breathed out, just taking the time to drink in the features of the other girl.

“Hey yourself. I take it dinner did not go well.”

April let her head fall back against the headboard as her eyes drifted up to the ceiling briefly. “It was…draining.” She brought her gaze back to the face on the screen. “He asked about you again.”

She watched as Sterling’s face dropped. “I’m sorry…”

“Hey. We have said all we need to say about that. You have no reason to apologise for his actions.”

“I know. I just wish things were different.”

“Me too.” A silence fell between them for a moment, each girl just looking at the other.

“Top five things you are grateful for.” April looked into the eyes on the screen and let a small smile play on her lips.

“Second chances.” As much as there were meant to be five things, that was the only one that mattered right there in that moment. The fact that she got a second chance to be with Sterling. That she had been granted a second chance to be herself and explore a side to herself she had believed would be firmly kept so far in the closet, she swore she was going to wake up in Narnia one day.

“Second chances.” Sterling echoed, smiling back. “You know one day we are going to have to actually make it to the full five on the list.”

April chuckled lightly. “Maybe, but not tonight.” She looked at the other girl through the screen and shook her head.

“What?” Sterling looked at her with the adorable confused expression she got where her eyebrows crinkled.

“How do you do it?” The brunette’s voice held an air of awe.

“Do what?”

“Make me feel like everything is going to be OK with virtually no words.” April almost whispered out.

Sterling met her gaze as best she could through the phone. “Because together we can do this. I’ve got you.”

“You really do.” April watched as a smile blossomed across the blonde’s face before she yawned. “Get some sleep Sterl. I’ll see you in the morning.” As they ended the call, April settled herself down into bed. Her thoughts no longer plagued with the what ifs that used to invade her mind at night, instead they were filled with brighter thoughts of a future with a certain blonde who seemed to chase away the shadows.