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Our Darkest Moments

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1 day ago

The alarm sounded rousing April from her slumber. She reached out and picked her phone up from the nightstand, quickly silencing the alarm. She lowered the phone onto her chest for a moment while she stretched and rubbed the sleep from her eyes. Lifting her phone back into her line of sight, she clicked the button to illuminate the screen, fully expecting to see a message from Sterling after the lack of a call the night before. It wasn’t the first time that one of their calls had to be postponed due to an assignment taking longer than expected. As much as part of her wanted to just hear the blonde’s voice before bed each night, having Blair in the background certainly put a damper on most of those conversations and as a result they had decided that calls when on the job were just better avoided. April felt herself frown when there were no new notifications on her screen. She unlocked her phone before pulling up their conversation.

April
Morning…Missed you last night. I hope you stayed out of trouble and at least got some sleep. See you at school. xx

Clicking send on the message, April set her phone back on the nightstand before getting herself ready for the day at school. Every so often during her morning routine, she would glance at her phone but it remained silent.

As she made her way downstairs to the kitchen, she started to mentally prepare herself for another early morning interaction with her dad. Her mom was never awake before she went to school these days, hadn’t been since she was in elementary school. Breakfast was a time that used to be reserved for conversation between her and her dad when he didn’t have an early meeting, each of them sharing what the day ahead held for them. It was one of those times that always felt special to April in the past. Yet now, each morning that she descended the stairs, each step she took brought with it a feeling of apprehension. The father she had known, or at least thought she had known, was gone. Erased as the result of his actions, leaving only those fading memories that were slowly being overwritten by ones filled with pointed questions, uncomfortable silences and unreadable looks.

Entering the kitchen, April was surprised to be greeted with an empty space. The coffee pot still sitting unused and no sign that anyone had passed through since the night before. Since her dad had made his return from his temporary incarceration, he had always been present on weekday mornings. The early meetings, if that was ever what they had been, were no longer a feature of their lives resulting in her constant companion in the mornings. April set about getting the coffee on while taking the time to enjoy not having to put on a façade so early in the morning.

Her phone pinged just as she poured herself a cup of coffee. A smile graced her lips in the expectation of the message from the blonde. She cradled her mug in one hand while retrieving her phone from the counter.

Dad
Morning honey. Sorry I missed our morning routine today but there was an urgent matter that came to light last night that I had to deal with.

April’s smile slipped from her face at seeing the sender. She knew that her dad was trying to make an effort to reconnect with her after everything that had happened and as much as she wanted to just be able to forget everything she had learnt about him and just focus on the image that she had let herself believe for so long, that time had passed. The actions he had taken, the words that had been uttered were forever seared into her mind, tainting every memory she held.

April
That’s OK. I hope everything gets sorted soon.

As much as she wanted to just close the message and not reply, she knew that her dad would be expecting an acknowledgement. After she had sent the message, she finished her coffee and headed out the door, preferring to get to school early in the hopes that a certain blonde would also make an appearance before home room.

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

April had been disappointed to not manage to see Sterling before home room. Their first lesson together was during second period when they had bible studies. Throughout the morning, April had snuck peeks at her phone hoping that at some stage there would be a notification waiting for her from the blonde. So far, she had always been greeted with a blank screen. By the time second period rolled around, she had run through an extensive list of potential reasons for the radio silence. She had considered every eventuality from standard sickness to many scenarios involving Blair being the root cause of the twins having their phones confiscated.

As the bell rang signalling the start of second period and there had been no sight nor sound of Sterling, April started to get a bit more impatient to get some information about her whereabouts. Glancing towards the front of the room and seeing Ellen still getting herself set up, she pulled her phone out and sent a quick text.

April
Twice in one year? I think we need to talk about your truanting before it becomes a habit! Can’t have your GPA slipping if we want to get into the same school Sterl. And I really want you close…very close. Miss u

April tucked her phone back into her bag and tried to regain her focus on the class ahead but her eyes strayed to the empty seat beside her.

“She’s not been in all day. I’m sure she’s just sick.” Ezekiel supplied, drawing April’s attention from the empty chair.

“Maybe there was a power cut and so her alarm didn’t go off. That happened to me once.” Hannah B added with a thoughtful look on her face.

“I’m sure there is a perfectly reasonable explanation but…” April trailed off, not wanting to delve into the details of the last time Sterling had missed school and everything that had followed.

“Don’t you have Spanish next period?”

“Yes.”

Ezekiel gave her a look that clearly communicated how simple he believed the solution to the problem to be. “So just ask the angry twin.”

“Morning y’all. I’m super excited about today’s lesson…” Ellen started to detail the lesson for the day and try as she might, April couldn’t bring herself to embrace the infectious enthusiasm that her teacher projected. Her mind was torn between repeating a mantra that Sterling was fine and watching the clock on the wall that seemed to be counting down incredibly slowly to next period.

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

As April sat in her seat at the front of the Spanish class, she could feel her leg bouncing under her desk. Another class had passed and there was still no word from the blonde which was certainly out of character for her. Even if she was sick, it had been hours past the time an alarm would have woken her for school and so to not have sent so much as a quick response seemed very unlike her. Perhaps more concerning was the lack of the other half of the dynamic duo. April started to spin the ring on her finger as she anxiously waited and willed the brunette to appear.

“So, do you want to go first?”

She turned at the sound of a voice to see Luke had slid into Sterling’s usual seat. Her eyebrows drew together as she tried to work out what she would be going first in and why Luke had moved seats.

Luke reached up and scratched the back of his neck under her gaze. “Erm, Senora O’Reilly said that since neither Blair nor Sterl are in that we should work together today. Which is weird as I thought I saw Blair first thing.”

April glanced around the room and saw the other students all involved in conversations. As she glanced at the clock on the wall she realised that they were twenty minutes into the lesson and she had no idea that the lesson had even begun. “Sorry Luke, I must have missed that instruction.”

“Yeah that’s OK. You looked kind of super focused.”

Eventually her mind caught up with what Luke had said. “You saw Blair? Do you know why Sterling isn’t in or where Blair is?”

April watched as Luke shook his head. “I can’t say we talk much these days.”

Sneaking a glance over her shoulder to locate her teacher, April was relieved to see her focused on writing something in a notebook on her desk. No doubt some new idea for her future telenovela dream project. Slipping her phone out of her bag she opened the thread with Sterling seeing the message had been delivered but not read yet. A slight frown creased her brow as she typed out the message.

April
Sterl…I’m starting to get worried about you. Please text or call me as soon as you get this.

April hit send on that message but kept her phone in her hand. She chewed her lip as she contemplated her next move. With an internal prayer that this would go better than she imagined, she opened a new message.

April
Blair…It’s April. Are you with Sterling?

She scrolled through the list of contacts and selected Blair, thankful that she had let Sterling program her sister’s number into her phone in case of emergency. She just never believed there would ever be a time that she would feel the need to use that number. Placing her phone on the desk before her, she turned her attention to Luke. “You go…” Her voice trailed off as her phone vibrated against the wooden surface. She snatched it off the desk and quickly looked at the screen, seeing Blair’s response flash onto the screen.

Blair
Yoghurt shop. Now.

Before April could respond to the message another came in.

Blair
Before you say anything, yes you are skipping or I’ll come and drag you out of the building.

A feeling of dread settled in as to why the brunette would be summoning her in the middle of class. “I have to…” She gestured towards the door. She turned towards her teacher, “Senora, may I be excused please?” Getting a nod and a wave in response, April slid out of her seat grabbing her bag as she went. Being the perfect student certainly had some perks when it came to teachers not questioning your actions.

As soon as she was out of the classroom, she fired a text back to Blair trying not to focus on the way her hand was shaking as she typed.

April
Is she OK?”

It wasn’t until April was seated in her car that the reply came.

Blair
Just get here.

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

April pulled up to the yoghurt shop with her seatbelt already unbuckled before she had turned off the engine. The entire drive over had been accompanied by a vast array of images of what could have happened that required her to leave school in the middle of the day. She pushed the door open, her eyes searching the empty shop for Blair. Part of her hoped that Sterling was also somewhere on the premises but she wasn’t able to come up with a plausible reason that would allow that to be true.

“Blair?” April called into the empty space. Moments later the door behind the counter flew open to reveal the brunette twin.

“What the fuck did you do this time Stevens?” Blair rounded the counter and approached the shorter girl. The anger being exuded by the brunette was almost palpable.

April felt her eyes widen in shock at the sight of the angry teen, she took an involuntary step backwards while Blair continued to close the distance between them. “What do you mean?”

Blair was right in front of her, her eyes burning with rage but underlying that was something else. Something she hadn’t seen reflected in the brown eyes before her previously. Blair was scared. “Don’t play dumb! Sterling. What…did…you…do…to…her?” Each word was punctuated with a shove to her chest, until her back hit the door behind her.

“Nothing. She left to meet you.” April held her hands up to try to placate the girl in front of her. “You called, she left and that was the last I saw her.” She watched as the brunette seemed to deflate, the anger fading away and leaving behind a girl who looked like she had shrunk in on herself. When their eyes met the fire that had been burning had been extinguished and all that was left was a broken look. The two girls just stared at each other for a moment before another voice broke into her consciousness.

“Blair, you said you were just going to talk. Didn’t sound much like talking.” April watched as an older man appeared from the same back office and walked over to them, placing his hand on the brunette’s shoulder. “Head on back and we’ll be through in a moment.” To her surprise, Blair acquiesced and headed into the back. “Now you must be April.”

“Yes sir.”

“Enough of that sir stuff, Bowser is just fine. Certainly not how I’d wanted to meet ya but we are out of ideas.” April opened her mouth to ask the question that had been on her mind all day but before she could utter a word Bowser spoke once more. “Just hold your questions. Let’s go in back and I’ll tell you all we know and then we can take it from there.”

April followed Bowser into the back room, seeing Blair pacing by some shelves. She took a seat on the old couch that Bowser directed her to.

“There ain’t no easy way to say this so I’m just gonna say it. Rip the band aid off. Sterling is missing.”

April shot up off the couch. “What? What do you mean missing? How long? Where are the police?” She pulled her phone out to make a call, if nobody else here was willing to do so.

“Just…Hold on.” April paused in her actions to look over to the man behind the desk. “We only realised this morning. The Wesley’s are talking to the police back at the house.”

“How did you not realise sooner?” She spun to where Blair was still pacing. “You literally share a bathroom. How did you not know she wasn’t there last night?”

“Well let me think…She was with you. Last time she failed to show to help us catch a skip…she was with you. I thought she had flaked on us again because of you.”

“Girls! This is not the time to argue.”

The two girls reluctantly let their argument end before April turned back to Bowser. “How can I help if the police are already involved?”

“We need information. Times, if you saw anything out of the ordinary.”

“Ok.” April sat back down on the sofa, her eyes dropping to where she had begun to twist her ring. “Ok…We finished forensics practice and then went back to the Fellowship room for a while. Then Blair phoned so Sterl headed out first. She was heading to wherever you were I assume. I locked up and then headed back to my car.”

“When you got to the student parking, did you notice if the Volt was still there? Were there any other vehicles?”

“I didn’t go that way. I had parked in Ellen’s space in the staff parking area that morning as I had all the dossiers to take in and it was closer.”

“Great, thanks for all the help.”

“Blair.” The warning was clear in Bowser’s tone.

“Who would want to take her?” April’s voice waivered slightly with the question.

“Well…that’s what we have been trying to work out. Could be a skip that has got out and wasn’t too happy that a teenage girl took them down. Could be someone random. We’re running a list of names of potential suspects against last known locations now to try to narrow it down.”

April looked between the two people in the office. “How can I help?”

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

Present Day

Sterling stepped out into a hallway, quickly taking in her surroundings. There was nobody in sight and everything seemed silent, she felt the relief at that knowledge she was alone flood through her body. The hallway was relatively narrow. Directly opposite her was a door that seemed to lead to a bathroom from what she could see from her current position. To her left were two closed doors. She quietly moved closer to the first door, placing her ear against the cold surface. Hearing nothing inside, she placed her hand on the handle and pushed. The door opened quietly and revealed a dark room, another bedroom but this one was much larger. It not only had a large king size bed but also a seating and entertainment area. Satisfied that there was nobody lurking in the shadows, she moved on to the other closed door. She placed her ear to the surface and listened once again. Silence. She cautiously opened the door and revealed another bedroom, smaller than the last one but still large and more importantly empty. She pulled the door closed and looked down the hallway. Slowly, she made her way down the hallway, past the bathroom and a pantry on her left and came to a stop just before the hall opened up into a larger space. Her back was pressed firmly against the wall. She closed her eyes for a moment to mentally prepare herself for what could be round the corner. Opening her eyes, she took a deep breath and peered round the corner. She was greeted with a large open room, a kitchen diner on one side and a seating area on the other. Her eyes scanned every corner of the room and once more was greeted by an empty space. Then she saw it. In the far corner of the room was a door. This one looked different to the others she had passed, sturdier. With one more glance around the room, she made her way across the open space to her escape. Her steps increased with speed as she moved closer. As she neared the door, she heard crunching under her shoes. Looking down she saw broken glass, the remains of a whiskey glass if the odour was anything to go by. Her mind pieced together the information from a previous time of shattering glass beyond the closed door. Not sparing another thought as to the reason behind it she closed in on the door. Her hand clasped the handle and pressed…or tried to. It didn’t budge. She tried again, using her other hand to try to apply more force but nothing. Her eyes darted around the door and that was when she saw it…a keypad. She slammed her fist against the door in frustration knowing that despite being so close to freedom, it had been snatched away. Her head dropped against the cold steel of the final barrier as the tears fell, along with her hope.