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Our Darkest Moments

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2 days ago

“Ok forensics warriors listen up. We have one week until our next city-wide competition. Last time we were beaten on our home turf, something that still gets my goat. Next weekend we get to take our revenge because you know what we are going to do?” Coach’s eyes tracked around the students in the room. “WIN! It may be an away game but we are going to go in stronger than before.”

April stood from her seat and took her place beside Coach Esposito. “I know we all remember how close we came to securing a win last time.” She watched as Sterling sank down in her chair slightly at the reminder of the events at their last tournament as the eyes of the others in the room turned towards her. “As your captain, I have reviewed our performance at that meet and across the year. While the dossiers I provided last time were comprehensive and prepared us with information about our opponents, I did not consider the information they would have on each of us.” April gestured towards the pile of folders to be handed out. “So, in addition to the updated dossiers on the opposition, I have also included information on each of us. Strengths, weaknesses, any secrets you thought were hidden that could be used as ammunition. We need to be prepared for anything that Craig Wu may have dug up on each of us. If I could find it, he can too.”

She watched as the members of the team started to look at the information that had been compiled in the files. “Well April, I have to say it certainly seems like you have been thorough.” Ellen came to stand beside her before addressing the group. “I’m sure that the other school’s teams would never resort to using underhand tactics to win.”

April cast a sceptical glance at Ellen. “Anyway, I have reviewed everyone’s past performance and identified the weakest subject areas for each of you. We are going to pair off to focus on these areas. Ellen has the assignments.” April took her seat as Ellen circulated to hand out the topics and pairings for the session.

“Sterling, you’re with April. The dream team back together again. It just warms my heart to see the two of you so close once more. Here’s your topic.” April watched as Sterling took the slip of paper from Ellen before resting her hand on the blonde’s, drawing the attention of the taller girl to herself.

“Before you read our topic, I picked the one that I think we would both have the potential to be thrown off point by well targeted questions on the cross.” She gave the blonde’s hand a light squeeze of reassurance before drawing back to allow Sterling to read their topic.

“To what extent is a person’s nature determined by genetics or does their upbringing and environment lead them to commit crimes?” Sterling read aloud.

“With each of our familial links with those who have fallen foul of the law, it seemed like the topic that would be most likely to present opportunities to open a line of questioning to try to unsettle us. I thought it best we prepared for that eventuality as Craig Wu demonstrated last time, he can dig up information and isn’t afraid to use it.”

“You really think he would use something so personal to win?” April saw the way the blonde’s face fell.

“Without question. He did it to me last time.”

“What could he really have on me though? It’s not like my family situation is public record.”

April cast a glance around the rest of the room seeing the others on the team focused on their own discussions. “Sterl…I know that it’s not common knowledge but if you dig, you can find it.”

“But your information on me in here,” Sterling raised the folder she had just been given slightly, “doesn’t have anything about all of that.”

“Of course not. While the student body may have their own thoughts, and certainly spread plenty of rumours when everything happened, I wasn’t going to put anything in writing about it and start the gossip again.”

“OK, so what can you find?”

April regarded the blonde sitting opposite her for a moment before reaching into her bag and retrieving a different folder. “This is everything I could find through using a few useful search sites and asking around.” Handing the file over to Sterling she watched as the blonde looked over the information within.

“You found all this, but you know me. It’s not like Craig Wu knows me or anything about my family. All he knows is my name and that I go to school here.”

“And that’s all I used. I started with searching your name. Aside from the typical social media, which you really need to update your privacy settings on by the way, not a lot comes up…probably because of your age so you’re not on many databases. It did link me to your parents though and then when I searched your mom that’s when the information started to stack up. It gave me her family links and then from there it led to the arrest record for Dana. From that a quick search through the local papers revealed a story about the events at the trailer park and it didn’t take a leap to put the information in that article about a teenage girl being kidnapped and held at gunpoint to the gossip that was all over Willingham about you.” Looking over at the blonde, April could see that the realisation of how much detail was out there about the events of that night settle in. “Hey Sterl?” She waited until Sterling raised her head to make eye contact once more. “Are you OK?”

Sterling nodded in response. “Can you…is there…did you find anything more?”

“No. There is no record that I can find that links Dana to you in any way other than as your mom’s identical twin.”

A silence descended upon the two girls. April waited for the blonde to process the information she had just received while doing her best to try to read what the other girl was feeling. “OK.”

“OK?”

“While I’d rather not have all that dragged back up and have to deal with the whispering in the hallways again, it’s old news. Plus, if we beat him, that will bring the focus away from whatever is brought up.”

April gave Sterling her trademark half smile. “You never cease to amaze me.”

Sterling returned the smile. “Come on oh captain, my captain...the quicker we focus and finish, the more time we have for...other activities.”

April regarded the other girl, feeling her eyebrows draw together. “Did you really quote a Walt Whitman poem about the death of Abraham Lincoln to me?”

“Is that where that line is from? I saw it in a movie and it seemed appropriate.”

“OK.” The scepticism was clear in April’s tone.

“It’s true. It’s the way they address this one character who has inspired them to be themselves, to stop living inside the box that their parents and community have dictated they should, to embrace life and stop hiding from the things that ignite that spark in you. That’s what you are to me, what you have given me. I’ll just stop talking now.” The blonde shrugged as she ducked her head as the final words slipped past her lips.

April felt the quirk of her lips as she listened to the explanation. “You gave that to me too.” Their eyes met as Sterling raised her head upon hearing the validation of her own words through the reciprocal phrase. “We should get started or we really will be reducing the time we have together for our debrief.” April watched as a slow mischievous grin spread across the blonde’s face, the realisation of Sterling’s chosen interpretation of her words sinking in. The shorter girl rolled her eyes while shaking her head at the girl opposite her. “You take the affirmative.”

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

“Well…I think we can all agree that there is still room for improvement. After all, we can’t afford to let these trivial events from our past render us incapable of forming a solid rebuttal due to an emotional response.” April caught sight of the look Sterling shot her at her team debrief, subconsciously reaching up to play with the cross at her neck while considering how to provide a more moral boosting statement. “However, we still have some time to work on compartmentalising our feelings and many of your initial arguments were based soundly in irrefutable facts.” The shorter girl bit the inside of her cheek to stop a smile forming as she saw the disapproving look fade from the blonde’s face and be replaced with a proud smile.

“That was a great practice. Now I don’t know about y’all but I’m really looking forward to learning about how to compartmentalise better. There was this one time that I was in Home Depot looking for a solution for my gopher problem and when I Googled how this one trap worked…well, let’s just say I had nightmares for weeks and decided that the gophers have as much right to share this world as I do…even if they do keep chewing through the sprinkler lines and stealing my post.” April shook her head slightly with a minor eye roll at Ellen’s latest gopher tale.

“Ok, well, I think that wraps things up for tonight. See you all next week.” The shorter teen headed over to her desk and began slowly tidying away her belongings as the rest of the team and staff filtered out of the room. Once they were alone, she felt a hand slide across her lower back.

“So…what time have you got to be home?” Glancing over her shoulder, she took in the sight of the blonde leaning against the desk behind her. Noting the way her eyes sparkled with the hope of being able to spend time together, alone.

“John is never home before 7 these days and my mom…well, I’m not sure she has any real concept of time after the first few glasses of wine.” April felt her brows draw into a slight frown with the admission.

“April, I’m so sorry that things are like that for you at home.”

She shook her head and turned to face the other girl fully, her hand sliding across her arm reassuringly. “It’s not ideal but in truth, it hasn’t been for a long time. The fact that neither of my parents seem to be interested in much outside of themselves and maintaining the image of a perfect family when in public does afford me certain…freedoms.”

“What would these freedoms be?” She suppressed a chuckle at the ridiculous way the taller teen waggled her eyebrows at her.

April glanced around the room they were in, taking in the double glass doors on one side and the open doors and large window at the back of the room. She reached up and placed her hand on the taller girl’s shoulder before leaning up, closing the distance between them slowly. She watched as the blonde’s eyes drifted closed in expectation of what was to come, leaning close enough that her breath ghosted across the other girl’s lips. “Nobody questioning where I am…” The corner of her mouth twitched up into a half smile as she changed course ever so slightly to lean closer to her ear. “Giving me hours of unsupervised time…” She brushed the pad of her thumb on the hand resting on Sterling’s shoulder over the edge of her collar bone which was protruding from the collar of her shirt. “To explore…” She both felt and heard the way the blonde’s breath hitched. “The range of reference texts in the library.” She placed a chaste kiss against Sterling’s cheek before stepping away to retrieve her bag. She took a couple of steps back, keeping her eyes on the blonde and the shocked expression she wore. Reaching into her bag she pulled out the item she was looking for and let it dangle from her fingers, watching as the other girl’s focus shifted to the keys now hanging from her hand with the very distinctive Rubik’s cube key ring clearly visible. Seeing the look of recognition dawn on the blonde’s face, she felt her lips pull up in her half smile.

“How did you get Ellen to give you her keys?”

April took a step back into the hallway. “Do you really care?”

“Nope.” It took only a matter of seconds for the response to come and the blonde to begin to follow.

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

Buzz, buzz

April became vaguely aware of the sound of buzzing again from somewhere on the floor beside the couch she was currently lying on, a certain blonde beneath her.  The sound breaking through the cocoon of bliss that existed between the two girls.  Reluctantly she pulled back from the kiss eliciting an unimpressed groan from the other girl, the hand that had slipped underneath her shirt attempting to pull her back down.  “Sterl...”  She managed to utter before relenting to the insistent pull of hands, allowing their lips to reconnect and sinking into the warmth that surrounded her entire body.  Their tongues sliding against one another as they freely explored, hands drifting over skin where they had sought to touch previously uncharted areas.  

Buzz, buzz

Their tranquillity was shattered once more by the vibrations from the phone.  April felt the blonde pull back at the same time she did, both separating just enough to rest their foreheads against each other as they tried to get their breathing back into some semblance of a normal rhythm.  A considerable challenge when all April was aware of was the way Sterling had consumed all her senses.  The faint scent of perfume that lingered against her skin.  The sound of her own blood pulsing around her body.  The way her nerve endings were acutely attuned to every point of contact between them, rapidly firing off impulses along her sensory neurones, flooding her parietal lobe with information.  The lingering taste of the cherry lip gloss that served as a continued temptation to lean in once more.  

Buzz, buzz

“If Blair isn’t either in grave danger or...or...I don’t know something serious then I’ll...do something really bad.”  

April couldn’t help the small chuckle that escaped her lips as she sat herself up.  “Your eloquence is lacking.”  

“Yeah...well...it’s your fault.”

She raised an eyebrow at the blonde in question of her statement, taking in the sight of her kiss swollen lips and tousled hair.  “How so?”

“Because all the blood that should be supplying my brain with the valuable oxygen it needs has been diverted…elsewhere.”  

“And that’s my fault?”  

April found herself captured by the sincere look in Sterling’s eyes.  “You have no idea what you do to me, do you?”  She shook her head slightly.  “When I’m with you like this, it’s like my body is designed to respond to you, like you are my resonant frequency.  The smallest touch from you gets amplified and causes my nervous system to go into overdrive.  Your drive me crazy...in a good way.”  

Buzz, buzz

April leant over to grab the phone from the floor before handing it to the blonde.  “Blair, this has better be important.”  She watched as the Sterling listened to whatever her sister was telling her while her fingers absentmindedly traced patterns over her thigh.  “I told you we had a debate meeting tonight...Blair!  That is none of your business.  No, do not do that.  Yes, I’ll be there.  I’m hanging up now.”

“We should go before we get locked in.”

“I can think of worse places to be.”  April rolled her eyes at the ridiculous attempt at a suggestive eyebrow wiggle the blonde cast in her direction.

“I’m not sure sleeping on this couch would do much for my posture.”

“Who said anything about sleeping.”

“You are incorrigible.”  She stood from the couch, shaking her head and smoothing down her clothing after tucking in her shirt.  She extended her hand towards the other girl to help her up from her prone position.  “You head out first.  I’ll just lock up.”  April leant up to place a brief kiss to the lips of the girl before her.  “Call me later?”

“Count on it.  I always sleep so much better after talking to the girl I lo...look forward to talking to.”  April felt her heart give an odd flutter at the word she thinks were about the slip out from the blonde’s lips but before she could question it, Sterling was out of the door.

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

Present Day

Sterling pushed down the handle on the door, her grip tightening further on the knife in her other hand.  She held her breath as she watched the handle depress and then she heard the click as the latch disengaged and the door came free.  Her heart was pounding in her chest as she gingerly pushed the door open, constantly listening for any sound that might reveal she was not alone.  Once the door had opened sufficiently, she stepped across the threshold and into the unknown, offering a silent prayer that she would get out of this.