2 months ago
“Do you need to answer that?” Luke asked gesturing to the phone resting on the desk as the device vibrated once more. “It seems like someone really wants to get hold of you.”
April picked the phone up, casting a quick glance at the screen to see multiple message and call notifications from Sterling. She knew she needed to talk to the other girl but just hadn’t been able to face it. Every doubt she had about having any form of romantic relationship while still living with her parents had returned with each individual negative thought being amplified, making her question if what she had with Sterling was ever meant to be. The doubt about if she would be enough for the other girl when she couldn’t be brave enough to hold her hand around anyone who knew them had become overbearing. That there would come a time when the complexity of her home situation would become too much. She was just waiting for the moment to come when she would be transported back to the 5th grade and Sterling would walk away from her once more. On some level it was one reason she had avoided the blonde and her attempts at communication since they parted ways at the club, if they didn’t speak then Sterling couldn’t confirm her fears. “It’s fine. Your exam is more pressing and we are almost out of time today. Remember, your focus determines your reality.” April slid the phone into her bag to prevent it drawing their attention away from the task in hand. “Estás hablando con tu amigo español. Yo soy tu amiga. Describe a una persona en tu familia.”
As Luke painstakingly made his way through the conversation, April tried to keep her focus on what was being said. Not wishing to let her thoughts drift to far more enjoyable Spanish exchanges she had held with a certain person she was trying not to think about. By the time the bell rang to signal the end of the period, Luke had actually managed to get through a conversation with only minor corrections.
“Thanks for helping me with this April.” Luke gave her a genuine smile as they packed their belongings. “I know you are super busy.”
“I have cut back on some of my extra curriculars recently.” Ever since the events earlier in the year, April had found herself less inclined to dedicate so much time to certain activities that were so misaligned with her true beliefs. With the SATs drawing closer, it had been a perfect excuse to withdraw from some of those less desirable groups without drawing any unwanted suspicion behind her motives. The pair of them walked out of study hall together and made their way through the corridors.
“I could never find the time for anything much, except golf. And I think that’s because I’m just really good at it so it never felt like it took much time.”
Before April could respond, she felt someone grab her arm and drag her through a nearby door, slamming it closed behind them. “What are you…” She spun round to face the other person, pulling her arm free from their grasp.
“No. You do not get to speak.” April fixed her assailant with a cold glare before casting her eyes around the room she had been dragged into. Noting the only way out was the door currently blocked, she resigned herself to having to talk her way out. The only saving grace was that at least she hadn’t found herself being dragged into a closet.
“Blair, I don’t have the time for this.” She watched as the brunette fixed her with a scowl.
“Oh you don’t have the time for this? You seem to have plenty of time to cosy up with Luke!”
April raised an eyebrow at the accusation. “I am not…”
“Save it. I told Sterl you’d do this.”
April crossed her arms over her chest, feeling the discomfort about her concern that Blair was very much against their relationship return full force. Not willing to let on to how much it hurt that her suspicions about the negative view Blair had on her and Sterling had been confirmed, she raised an eyebrow in question trying her best to put on the front that had served her well for years. “Do what exactly?”
“Remember who you really are and hurt her again.”
“You don’t know anything about me.” April kept her voice level, unwilling to get drawn into a full-blown argument with the other girl.
“Don’t I though? I know that you are so consumed with maintaining this perfect image that you will do whatever it takes to keep it.” Blair took a step towards the shorter girl. “No matter who you have to hurt along the way. The only person you care about is yourself. You don’t even have friends, you have minions who likely only associate with you because they would rather be deemed as mildly useful to you and suffer the odd cutting remark than to be an outsider bearing the full force of your redirected self-loathing.”
April opened her mouth to respond, to counteract all the points Blair had made but words failed her. She wrapped her arms around her middle tighter as she battled with trying to keep the tears she could feel prickling the back of her eyes from falling, her eyes had dropped to the ground between them.
“After everything that Sterl has been through this year, she doesn’t need you to…”
“I decide what I need.” Hearing the new voice fill the room, April’s eyes shot up and she was met with the sight of Sterling. However, the girl standing before her held an expression she had never seen before. She was angry, really angry and that anger was directed squarely at her sister. A sight that April never thought she would bear witness to.
“For fucksake Sterling! Why can’t you see what is right in front of you?” Blair spat out as she spun to face her sister.
“I can see what’s in front of me perfectly clearly.” Sterling met her sister’s gaze square on.
“Oh yeah? What’s that?” She challenged.
“Currently the person who is meant to be my biggest ally, the person I have always been able to count on to have my back and to fight alongside me is the one causing me the most harm.”
“I’m trying to protect you.”
“From what?” The exasperation was clear in her tone.
“From her breaking your heart again. The last time she did that…I…”
“Blair…” Sterling stepped forwards and placed her hands on her sister’s shoulders. “What happened that night after I left the lock-in wasn’t April’s fault. You have to stop blaming her for that.”
“If she hadn’t dumped you then you wouldn’t have left.”
Sterling shook her head and shrugged. “Maybe not but Dana had come to the school looking for me. It wasn’t because of what happened between April and I, she had no idea about that. She knew where I was and had her mind set on getting me.”
“No Blair. She could have just as easily got Ellen to let me out. She’s our mom’s identical twin that nobody knew about. Nobody would have questioned it if she said I needed to go with her.” Sterling tried to reason with her sister.
“Fine but that doesn’t change the fact that she is just going to hurt you again.”
“It’s a risk I’m willing to take. What I feel for April…” April watched as the blonde made eye contact with her over her sister’s shoulder. “It’s like nothing I’ve felt before. It’s more than just what I feel for her, it’s how she makes me feel about me. She makes me feel vulnerable yet also invincible. She makes me feel like I can finally breathe and yet she can take my breath away. These things…they should be mutually exclusive but being with her, somehow it makes them all possible.” She could feel a tear run down her cheek as she listened to the words of the blonde.
“She has spent the day avoiding you, just like before.” April watched as Sterling refocused on her sister.
“And that is something for us to talk about. Our past is just that, but I need you to listen to this…April is my future.”
The silence that descended upon the room was palpable. April found herself frozen as she watched the two sisters maintain eye contact with one another, neither willing to look away and concede. Finally, Blair broke the stare and shook her head. “I don’t understand how you can trust her.”
“You don’t have to understand it. You just need to trust me.” April watched as Sterling stepped around her sister and approached her. She felt the brush of the blonde’s thumb across her cheeks as the remnants of her tears were wiped away. Her eyes were drawn to the brunette who had made her way to the door. Blair turned to meet April’s gaze, opening her mouth as if to say something. April saw the way her brown eyes took in the way they stood together and without another word, she left the room.
April watched as Sterling took a step back from her. “We should talk...just not here.” She received a nod from the blonde in response. April held her hand out and felt relief when the other girl interlaced their fingers. As she started to walk back to the corridor, she felt the blonde try to release her hand as they approached the door. Instead, April squeezed her hand tighter, gripping the fingers interwoven with her own.
“April? There’s bound to be others still around.”
She turned to face the concerned look on the blonde’s face. “Do you care?” Her only response was Sterling searching her eyes for a moment before tightening her own grip on their conjoined hands. In that moment, it didn’t matter who else was still around. The only thing that mattered was maintaining that contact between them, keeping that source of her strength when inside she felt broken. Together they walked to April’s car, their hands remaining firmly entwined.
As the doors closed on the car, the two girls found themselves in silence once more. Considering words were normally her strength, April was struggling with finding any that would form a coherent thought. She felt Sterling’s hand reach for hers once more and with that she found a way to start.
“Sterl, I’m sorry for today.”
“April, I don’t need you to apologise to me. Just...don’t shut me out.”
“I didn’t mean to shut you out. I just got scared.”
“That you would realise that everything with my father made this…us, too complicated.”
“I went into this with my eyes wide open. Do I wish we didn’t have to contend with outside influences and were just able to be together whenever we want? Of course I do but that’s just not realistic. What is real is what you make me feel and that is worth every bit of complication we have to deal with.”
April let the words settle in her mind, feeling the truth behind them from the girl beside her. “How did you know where to find me?”
“Luke. While he wasn’t going to face Blair himself, he didn’t want you to have to face her alone. He knew we had history last period.” April nodded at the information. Her focus was drawn to the way Sterling was playing with the fingers of the hand she held. “What did Blair say to you?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“Hey…” April glanced up to meet the gaze of the other girl. “It matters.”
“She just pointed out some facts.” Seeing the patient yet searching look being directed her way, she knew that Sterling wasn’t going to settle for partial information on this matter. “Just that I’ll do whatever it takes to maintain my image, whatever the cost to others and that people only associate with me to avoid my misdirected anger.” April broke the eye contact with her admission, not wanting to let the blonde see the glassy appearance of her eyes as the tears threatened once more.
“She’s wrong.” The certainty in Sterling’s tone caused April to draw her eyebrows together in confusion and disbelief. “At best she is describing the old you, but you are not that person anymore. Honestly, I don’t think you ever really were that person deep down. Your home situation isn’t like ours and I get that now. The image you project isn’t so much through choice as it is for survival. Sure, you can be…intense…at times but you have people who choose to be with you for more than dodging your wrath. I remember in 6th grade when Hannah M made Hannah B cry when she told her Santa wasn’t real and you turned round and told her that just because she always fell short of his expectations so her parents had to buy her gifts, didn’t mean he didn’t exist for kids who were worthy.” A small smile graced Sterling’s lips as she recounted the tale.
“How do you remember that?”
“I told you before…I remember a lot about you. We have always been in each other’s orbit, even when we weren’t friends, you have always been there. Your friends have chosen to stand beside you because you stood up for them.” Hearing those words broke the final barrier that had been holding her tears in. She felt herself being pulled into Sterling’s embrace, as the taller girl wrapped her arms around her, April responded in kind while burying her head in the blonde’s shoulder. Once her tears had subsided, she pulled back to look at the girl who always seemed to know how to help put her back together.
“What did I do to deserve you?”
“You’re you. You said it before…some things are a fait accompli. But…just to be clear…If I had the chance to make any choice, I’d still choose you.” April watched as the blonde cast a quick glance out of the car before leaning over and connecting their lips. “Never doubt that.”
The rest of the week had seen April and Sterling settle back into their natural rhythm of late night and early morning texts followed by stolen moments after school. By the time they all pulled up to the lake house, April had allowed herself to be caught up in the conversations with her friends and had done as the blonde asked and focused on having a good time with them. By the time evening rolled around, the teens had settled into the cinema room to enjoy a couple of movies. As the evening wore on, the numbers dwindled as individuals made their way to bed until only April, Ezekiel and Hannah B were left.
April felt her phone vibrate next to her and slid it off the arm of the chair to read the message.
What are you up to?
Just watching the last scene of a movie with Ezekiel and Hannah.
Not been here since mid-afternoon. He messaged to say his meeting was going to run very late and not to wait up.
I know it’s late but after the movie, could I see you? I’ve missed you today and I need to wish you a happy birthday properly.
“And just who is messaging you so late?” April jumped at hearing Ezekiel’s voice and opened her mouth to reply. “And before you claim it is your perfumier, we didn’t buy that the first time.”
“We didn’t?” Hannah asked, looking perplexed.
Ezekiel placed his hand on her shoulder and shook his head before returning his attention to April. “And this face,” He waggled his fingers towards April, “Is doing nothing to convince me that you haven’t got some juicy little secret.”
April looked at her two friends and considered her options. Of course, she could come up with some excuse, give some name to redirect their attention but her mind supplies her with the memory of their interaction a few months ago.
“Ezekiel! If April has a secret then she doesn’t have to tell us unless she wants to.”
“It’s OK Hannah.” Taking a deep breath she regards her two friends. Sterling’s words echoing in her mind from earlier in the week gives her the courage to speak. “I’ve been seeing someone for the past few months.” She paused and bit her lip as she weighed up if she was going to actually say the words, she felt her phone buzz in her hand.
“Is it Luke? I know he likes Star Trek too.”
“Star Wars honey but I don’t think it’s Luke.”
“Oh that makes sense.” Both April and Ezekiel turned to look at the Hannah with their confusion plain to see. “She’s the only person who challenges you and the two of you always kind of gravitate towards each other, ever since we were kids.”
Ezekiel raised his eyebrows as a smile spread across his face. “She’s not wrong.”
“So, you don’t think it is wrong?” April could hear the mild shake in her voice as she asked the question.
Ezekiel rose from his seat and came to sit beside April, placing his hand over hers. “Love is never wrong. Unless you had told us you were hooking up with Jennings…that boy is so beneath you.” He waved dismissively at the thought.
“I didn’t say I loved her.” April felt her heart rate pick up with the suggestion. She felt her phone buzz in her hand and chanced a glance at the screen.
Ezekiel smiled back. “No, you didn’t say that. Answer your girl.”
Has the movie ended?
When it finishes, go check the dock.
April read the messages on her phone, a frown creasing her brow with the last one. She looked behind her, over towards where the dock would be, despite there being a wall between the areas.
“Well, I think that is our cue to head to bed.” Ezekiel remarked as he stood from his seat.
“Is it? Why?”
“I’ll explain on the way.” April watched as Hannah followed Ezekiel out of the room. As he passed her, he gave her an encouraging smile. “Talk to your girl.”
Once her friends were out of sight, she made her way to the dock. She wrapped her arms around herself to fend off the cold night air as she walked towards the edge of the property. When she reached the bottom of the stairs, she felt the air rush out of her lungs with the sight that greeted her. The dock area had been adorned with fairy lights and standing beneath them was none other than Sterling Wesley. When her eyes met the face of the blonde, she saw greeted by a wide smile and felt her own lips tug up in return. She continued on until she stood before the taller girl. “What are you doing here?”
She watched as Sterling cast a look back towards the house. “Are the others asleep?”
“Hannah and Ezekiel were the last ones up but they headed off when they knew you were texting me.” April saw the question on Sterling’s face and answered before she could voice it. “I told them…about us…that we are together.”
“How did they take it?”
April smiled. “I think they approve.” The smile that lit up Sterling’s face only served to make April smile wider.
“I’m so proud of you. Dance with me?” April looked at the hand Sterling held out towards her before stepping closer to the blonde and slipping her arms across her shoulders, gently lacing her hands together behind the blonde’s neck. Sterling’s arms came to rest at her waist, drawing her close. Sterling reached into her pocket and pulled her phone out to press play. The opening chords of Secret Love Song filled the quiet air around them. As the song played on, the pair of them moved together, the rest of the world fading away. All other sights and sounds dissipating into the darkness until it was just them. April let one of her hands slide forward to rest against the side of Sterling’s neck, her thumb brushing gently against her maxilla. Slowly she leant forwards to close the last few centimetres that separated them, their lips moulding together perfectly. As April parted her lips and ran her tongue along those of the blonde, she felt Sterling’s hands pull her closer as her lips parted. Their kiss deepening as the song played on. As the final notes rang out into the night air, April pulled back and rested her forehead against Sterling’s. “Happy birthday April.”