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Our Darkest Moments

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Present Day

Blair reached out and shut off the sound of her alarm without bothering to open her eyes. She was already aware of the sunlight streaming in through her window signalling that morning had arrived. The shaft of light that always seemed to fall right across her pillow and into her eyes serving as her reminder that another day had arrived. She rolled over onto her left side, curling her legs up and wrapping the covers tighter round her body. She stayed that way for several minutes before the sound of knocking on her bedroom door reached her.

“Blair honey, are you awake?” The muffled voice of her mom came through the closed door.

“Yeah.”

“OK…We need to leave at nine. I…” There was silence on the other side of the door and Blair wondered if her mom had gone, changing her mind about whatever sentence was about to follow, but then she heard a sigh before her voice carried through the door once more. “I’ll see you downstairs when you are ready.” There was a sadness, a resignation, to the tone. It was a tone that had become all too familiar in the Wesley household since that day. The tone that always accompanied words that were spoken in place of the ones they really wanted to say.

Blair pushed the covers off and raised herself to sit on the edge of her bed. Instead of rising from the mattress, she just sat staring at the floor as the memories that had plagued her every moment for the past three weeks, awake or asleep, replayed once more in her mind.

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

Three Weeks Ago

“Can’t you drive any faster?”

“Not on these roads. Not if we want to get there without crashin’ into somethin’.” Bowser frowned. He glanced over at the brunette in the seat beside him as she alternated between fidgeting with her phone and looking out at the road before them. He watched as she hit redial again before hanging up moments later. He glanced down at the dash before rolling his eyes and pressing his foot down on the gas a bit harder.

“I thought you said…”

“You just tell me when to turn.”

Blair looked back at the map on the screen, watching the dot of their vehicle edge closer to their destination. As soon as she had received the call from April telling them that they were at the wrong location, she had felt her stomach drop. The knowledge that John Stevens was on his way back to where he held Sterling and they weren’t going to be able to get there first was gut wrenching enough but if he was headed to the lake house, that meant they had been there. They had been in the same place that her sister was. They had been right there and they had left her. So many thoughts were consuming her mind as Bowser raced along the roads.

What if they couldn’t get there in time?

What if April didn’t get there fast enough?

What if April couldn’t stall him?

What if they were all too late?

She had been holding on to the hope that they would find Sterling before any harm came to her but the knowledge that the person responsible was John Stevens had crushed that hope. She could clearly remember the images from the video they had seen, the proof of the physical harm he was capable of inflicting on another person. She could hear the venom in his voice when they had apprehended him at the lake house, the way his tone and demeanour had flipped from pleasant surprise to one of malevolence. The thought that they had a location and could get there before he did was the last glowing ember of hope she had left but hearing April’s words that they had been wrong was like a bucket of ice water had just been dumped over it, extinguishing it completely.

“It’s the next turn.”

The drive had felt like the longest of her life. Every time she glanced at the clock, it felt like hours had passed and yet each time it was only a few minutes. As they drew closer, each turn they took brought with it a growing feeling of apprehension, of fear. She could feel the clamminess of her hands and the way her leg kept bouncing. No matter how many times she wiped her palms on her jeans, moments later the same feeling would return.

“When we get there, don’t you go runnin’ off. You stay with me. Got it?”

Blair glanced over at Bowser. She knew he was only looking out for her but she wasn’t sure she could wait for him if Sterling was in danger.

“It won’t do nobody no good for you to charge in alone.”

Blair dropped her gaze. “I can’t lose her Bowser.” Her admission was quiet.

“You trusted me to get her back before. Just trust me this time.”

Blair nodded. He was right. When she needed him to help her, Bowser had always come through. He had helped her save Sterling once before, so she had to trust him to do it again.

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

Present Day

Blair pushed the door open to the bathroom, deliberately keeping her eyes on the ground. She had mastered the routine now. Eyes down…four steps from her bedroom door to her sink…turn to the left and don’t look right. She picked up her toothbrush from the counter and set about getting ready. The only sound was the quiet buzz of her toothbrush. She felt her gaze start to drift towards the other side of the counter, to the other sink, but quickly snapped her attention back to the mirror before her. As she looked at her reflection, she was reminded why she had avoided doing so these past weeks. Her eyes were red and swollen, whether this was down to lack of sleep or the random bouts of crying, she wasn’t sure. The dark circles beneath her eyes were more noticeable now than when she previously looked although the paler appearance of her skin may be enhancing them.

She heard the padding of Chloe’s footsteps, the sound breaking her evaluation of her own appearance as she pulled her gaze away from the mirror. She turned off her toothbrush and placed it back on the side. She felt her fur brush against the back of her legs as she walked past her. It was only in that moment that she realised where she was headed, her mind operating at too slow a pace to have pre-empted the outcome. She heard the way her claws ran down the edge of the wooden door as she pushed it open.

“Chloe. Come here girl.” She patted her thigh to try to call her back. When Chloe didn’t return, Blair swallowed. She turned her head tentatively to the right and felt her heart drop at seeing her suspicions confirmed. The door to Sterling’s room was ajar and Chloe was nowhere in sight. Blair took a few reluctant steps towards the door, coming to a stop at the threshold.

“Chloe…come on, here girl.” She waited for a moment, hoping her dog would saunter out of the room of her own accord. She did not appear. Blair placed her hand on the wood and pushed gently to open the door further, revealing the space she hadn’t set foot in since…She snapped her thoughts back to the present and scanned the room for the dog. She saw her curled up on Sterling’s couch with her head resting on a discarded Willingham shirt. Her heart lurched in her chest at the sight. She took a tentative few steps into the room, trying not to look around too much. Trying not to see the can of coke still sitting on her desk, nor the notepad resting on her Spanish textbook. Everything looking like she had just stepped out for a moment. That she would walk back in any second and pick up where she left off. She got to the edge of the couch and knelt down, running her hand over Chloe’s head.

“I know girl. I miss her too.” Blair could feel the tears slip from her eyes with the words. She reached up to brush them away with one hand as she nudged Chloe off the couch with the other, not wanting to spend any longer than necessary in the room. She led Chloe back out to the bathroom, pulling the door closed behind them.

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

Three Weeks Ago

As soon as they turned the corner, they were greeted by the sight of two police cruisers pulled up to the property. Their lights were still on, the rhythmic flashing of red and blue the only sign that they had arrived in a hurry. Blair cast her gaze further up the drive as Bowser pulled them up. She caught sight of two other vehicles, one she recognised as April’s car. The door to the driver’s side was wide open on it. As soon as Bowser came to a stop, she dashed out of the car and ran over to the open door. Looking inside she saw nothing out of the ordinary until her eyes caught on the phone still sitting in the cradle. She carefully leant into the car and pressed the screen. It lit up with the touch, the missed call notifications flashed on the screen.

“What did I tell you bout runnin’ off?”

Blair ignored the question. “April’s phone is still in her car. That’s why she wasn’t answering when I called.”

“Ok...the police are here so you need to do exactly as I say. We got no idea what the situation is and you don’t go rushing in to situations where people may have guns out. You hear?”

As much as Blair wanted nothing more than to race into the building, she knew Bowser was right. They didn’t need to end up creating an incident with the police on top of whatever John Stevens was up to. She nodded her agreement.

“You stay close and behind me. Do exactly as I say, when I say.”

Bowser made his way toward the side of the house, ignoring the door that was open at the front of the property. “The door...”

“Ain’t no way we are walking inside a strangers house unannounced... ‘specially not one owned by someone with history of violence and a grudge. Georgia’s a stand your ground state and I didn’t get to this age by bein’ reckless.”

Blair followed Bowser as he made his way cautiously around the side of the property. As she passed a window that looked into the kitchen, she peered in. Seeing nothing but an empty room, she sighed and stepped round the corner of the building to follow Bowser and collided with his back. “Little warning Bows.”

A new voice pierced the quiet. “Hands where I can see them.”

Blair leant slightly to the side to see round Bowser and was greeted by the sight of a police officer with his gun levelled at them. Her eyes were drawn to the weapon as she slowly extended her arms, palms out in front of her. “It’s cool…we’re the good guys.”

“Identify yourselves.”

“Blair Wesley and this is Bowser…”

The officer cut her off before she could finish. “Wesley? Like Sterling Wesley?”

Blair stepped out from behind Bowser at the mention of her sister, coming to an abrupt stop as the gun turned towards her. “She’s my sister. How do you know her name?”

The officer ignored her question. “Why are you here?”

“Can we maybe discuss this with you not pointing a gun at an unarmed teenager?”

The police officer raked his gaze over the pair of them before reaching up to his radio, keeping his eyes on the pair. “Blake, meet me out back.” As he released the call button, he started to re-holster his gun. “So?”

“We’re here to rescue my sister. April called us after she tracked him here. Have you found them?” Blair could feel herself getting impatient with having to explain her presence to someone who should be helping them, not hindering them.

“No.” Another voice answered as a second officer joined the group. “There’s nobody in the house but the doors were open so someone was here.”

“They are still here. We have to find them.” Blair could hear the increasing volume of her voice as time ticked by with them all just standing there.

“We’re going to need you to wait in your vehicle while we finish our search.”

“He has my sister. He’s going to hurt her.”

The older officer approached and placed a hand on Blair’s shoulder. “You need to let us do our job. If he is dangerous then we can’t have you in harm’s way. I promise that we…”

Everyone froze as the sound of a shout followed quickly by a gunshot echoed off the walls. The birds in the nearby trees took to the air with a cacophony of calls with the sound. Blair felt her heart stop at the sound. Too late…they were too late. She turned towards the source of the sound, feeling the tears stinging her eyes as the realisation of what that sound could mean settled in her mind. Before anyone could move three more gunshots rang out.

Then…silence.

Blair felt her legs unfreeze and surged forwards, only to find her progress blocked by the police officer. He wrapped his arms around her struggling body, holding her firm.

“Get off me! Sterling! Sterl!” She twisted and thumped her hands against his shoulders, but he didn’t release her. Blair had to watch as two other officers emerged from the house and the three proceeded towards the sound with their guns drawn. “Let go of me! That’s my sister! Bowser, help me.” The tears were flowing freely down her cheeks as she begged with the two men to let her go.

She watched as Bowser shared a look with the officer before he stepped closer placing a hand on her shoulder. “We need to wait here.”

Blair shook her head as the tears came faster. “No…I…I need to help her. I can’t leave her alone.” Her eyes pleaded with Bowser but when she met his eyes she saw something she had never seen before. She saw fear. Even when everything with Dana had been occurring, Bowser had never shown any fear that they wouldn’t succeed. Now as she stared at him, she knew. She knew he thought that they were too late, that what was at the source of the gunshots was not a scene she should see. She felt her legs give way beneath her with the dawning realisation. Felt herself lowered gently by the officer before Bowser slipped into his place, wrapping his arms around her shaking frame. All Blair could do in that moment was let her tears fall, allowing them to soak into Bowser’s shirt.

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

Present Day

Blair glanced down at her dress, brushing her hand over the side where a couple of Chloe’s hairs were visible against the black fabric. She placed her hand on the door handle, pausing for a moment to swallow the lump that had formed in her throat. She let her eyes drift shut for a brief moment as she drew in a deep breath before opening the door and heading downstairs.

The house was quiet. It was always so quiet these days. She could hear her own footsteps as she descended the stairs. Could hear the faint creak that sounded as she placed her weight on the fourth step. Something she hadn’t even known happened until life in the Wesley house was shrouded in an oppressive silence. Conversations were muted when they happened at all. The usual sounds of the busy household had been hushed.

As Blair entered the kitchen, she saw her mom stood over by the sink. Her back was to her but Blair could see the way her mom’s shoulders slumped forwards as she leant her hands against the edge of the sink, her head hung low. The posture seemed so alien on her mom. Even when everything with Dana had come out, she hadn’t looked so defeated.

“Mom?” Blair spoke quietly, not wanting to startle the older woman. She saw as a hand raised up to wipe at the face still turned away from her.

“Did you want anything to eat or drink?”

Blair watched as her mom only partially turned her head towards her, keeping her face predominantly hidden from view. “I don’t think I can face anything.”

She watched as Debbie finally turned towards her. Her eyes were bloodshot, betraying the tears that had escaped before Blair arrived. “If this is too much...if you don’t want to go, then you can stay home. She wouldn’t want you to...”

Blair shook her head. “She would. If she was here right now, she’d tell me we twin swore that we’d always be there for each other.” She paused as the weight of the words seemed to cause her throat to constrict. The memory of the last time Sterling needed her to be there for her, the time she had failed her. “I failed her before.” Her voice cracked as she made the quiet admission. She sniffed back the emotions threatening to overwhelm her. “So, I’m going...for her. I won’t fail her again.”

Debbie stepped closer to her daughter and wrapped her into a hug. “Oh Blair. You did not fail her. Don’t you ever think that. Sometimes, no matter how strong we are, there are things only God can stop. You did everything you could.”

“But it wasn’t enough.”

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

Three Weeks Ago

Blair wasn’t sure how long she had been sat on the ground. She was vaguely aware of the cold stone beneath her but couldn’t summon up the strength to lift herself up. It was as if every cell in her body had gone into shock the moment she saw the look in Bowser’s eyes. The police officers had not returned, leaving the pair of them alone on the patio. She could see Bowser standing a little way off from where she sat, his phone held up to his ear. She knew he was talking to someone, she had a dim recollection of him saying something about her parents, but she hadn’t been able to decipher any individual words being spoken. The conversation sounding muffled against the roaring of the blood racing through her ears with each beat of her heart. She absentmindedly watched the way his hand ran over the top of his hair as his head hung low.

A new sound broke into her consciousness…sirens. Their pitch and volume seeming to increase as the seconds ticked by. Blair glanced up as one of the officers re-appeared in her line of vision. She only saw him for a moment before he vanished around the edge of the building but it was long enough. Long enough to see the blood on the gloves covering his hands. The bright red standing out in stark contrast to his pale skin. She could feel fresh tears slide down her cheeks as the visual confirmation of what those gunshots meant sank in.

The sound of people approaching drew her attention. She watched as paramedics rounded the corner following the officer. Blair pushed herself up from the ground and followed the group. A tiny flicker of hope reignited at the sight of medical personnel. She followed them down the steps to the lower pool and then watched as they walked into the pump room. She rounded the corner into the room and the sight that greeted her made her stomach drop. The grate she had walked over, stood on, was open and revealed a flight of stone steps. Shaking away the thoughts flooding her mind, she stepped further into the room and started to descend the stairs. The sound of voices grew louder with each step she took. She frowned as she tried to decipher what was being said but different people were talking at the same time.

“…GSW…”

“…blunt force trauma…”

“…no breath sounds…”

As she continued to descend the stairs, more of the scene came into view. The police officer was standing in the doorway preventing her from seeing everything. She could make out people moving around but not what was really going on. Then one of the paramedics moved and Blair caught a flash of blonde hair. “Sterl…” The word slipped out form her lips at the sight of her sister lying motionless on the floor. The officer in front of her spun round, eyes wide.

“You can’t be here.”

“That’s my sister.”

He glanced over his shoulder at the blonde and the paramedics working on her. “You need to let them work.”

“Is she…”

“They are doing everything they can.”

“Let’s move.” The sound of a voice from inside the room cut through the rest of the noise. The officer herded her back up the steps. Blair threw a glance over her shoulder to see Sterling being carried out on a stretcher. The officer has positioned himself in front of her so she all she could do was watch. She saw the pallid complexion on her face, the blue tinge to her lips as they rushed past. Instinctively she reached her hand out towards her sister but was too far to touch her. Before she could make her legs move, the sounds of more footsteps on the stairs drew her attention back as a second stretcher emerged. Blair watched as April was carried past her. Their eyes met for a fraction of a second. Blair could see the way the area around the shorter girl’s eyes were swollen and red. As soon as her brown eyes met blue, she saw fresh tears spill as April screwed her eyes closed. That split second was enough to see the regret and sorrow that resided within the depths of ocean blue.

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

Present Day

Blair sat in the back of the car, staring at the buildings and people passing by the window. The only sounds filling the space were those of the engine and the steady rhythm of the windscreen wipers passing over the glass. She watched as new raindrops fell on the surface, temporarily blurring the image before being swiped away.

She saw a couple of young children running along the sidewalk, jumping into puddles with their hands firmly gripped together, laughter spilling from their lips. Blair felt her heart clench at the sight, a flash of a similar scene of herself and Sterling doing the same thing much to the disapproval of their mom…especially when their dad had joined in. It was a memory from a time that seemed so long ago, before everything became so complicated. A time that used to only be filled with light and laughter rather than the darkness that now permeated round the edges of each interaction and new memory.

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

Three Weeks Ago

Blair sat rigidly in the passenger seat of Bower’s truck. As soon as the ambulances had pulled away, he had pulled out of the residence following their path. She was aware of him telling their parents what hospital they were headed to. She had heard the short-lived relief in her dad’s tone when Bowser had told them that they had found her. Heard the way Bowser had faltered when asked if she was OK.

Since the phone call had ended, the pair had been driving in silence. Blair had noticed the frequent glances Bowser would cast her way. She had expected him to speak but the few times he had opened his mouth, he had closed it soon after with no words having been uttered.

“I can’t stop thinking that we could have stopped this.”

Bowser’s response was immediate . “Don’t be thinking like that. We did everything we could.”

“But we were right there. I literally stood on that grate. She was right there that whole time and I left her.”

“Listen to me. You listenin’?” She nodded at the question. “There ain’t no way we could have known about a secret underground bunker. You never gave up lookin’ for her and you ain’t gonna give up on her now, you hear me?”

Blair nodded before turning her attention back to the trees passing outside the window while silently offering up a prayer that they had got her out in time.

Present Day

The car came to a halt outside the church. The building was framed by the dark grey clouds that seemed to reflect her mood perfectly. She could see Pastor Booth standing just inside the door through her rain spattered window. His normally cheerful demeanour replaced by a much more sombre look. She watched as a couple of people who looked vaguely familiar to her, possibly members of their congregation, walked to the door. She saw the way they exchanged a solemn nod with each other before disappearing into the body of the church.

“Honey, are you ready?”

Blair turned her attention to the front seat where her she met her mom’s gaze, the usually vibrant blue of her eyes decidedly more muted. She looked back towards the doors of the church before dropping her head and nodding. She reached out and pulled the handle to open the door. The cool air that rushed in sending a chill down her spine. As she stood from the car, she could feel the way her legs felt unsteady beneath her until she felt an arm wrap around her own. She glanced over and met her mom’s gaze.

“If it’s too much, you don’t have to stay.”

Blair took a moment to consider if she could do this. If she could actually take the steps needed to enter the church. To sit in the pew and listen to the words that Pastor Booth would say. ”Twin swear.” The words flashed in her mind with the image of their interlinked pinkie fingers. Her decision was made. “I do…for Sterl.”

Her mom nodded and gave a watery half smile before straightening her back and neck. Blair felt the gentle squeeze on her arm and then they started to walk. Each step taking more effort than it should, reminiscent of trying to walk through the swash at the beach. As they approached the door Pastor Booth looked between them, extending the same nod as before only this time he placed a gentle hand on Debbie’s shoulder. His eyes met Blair’s for a second before she looked away, unable to bear the sympathy in his eyes. As they walked down the aisle, she vowed to keep her eyes away from anyone else in attendance. She didn’t want to see the looks that might be held within their eyes. The Wesley’s slid into the pew and Blair felt her leg start to bounce the second she was seated. The quiet murmuring of the other occupants of the church sounded all too loud to her ears. Swallowing the lump in her throat, she slowly drew her gaze up.

She saw the wooden legs of the stand, knowing that sitting on top was a picture. A picture from much happier times, a smiling image selected to hide the reality of the reason they were all there. As if that one image could somehow erase the memory of just what had happened, how it had ended. She couldn’t look at it. Her eyes tracked left. There it was. The wooden coffin was simple, no ornate carving or ostentatious decoration. Seeing it before her, she couldn’t help but think how small it appeared. Seeing the closed lid with the flower arrangements on top drummed home the finality of it. She never imagined that the first funeral she attended would be this one.

Pastor Booth made his way to stand at the lectern on the stage, casting a look around the assembled mourners. His gaze paused on their pew for a moment before continuing to the other side of the aisle before momentarily pausing prior to speaking.

“We meet here today to pay tribute to…”

Three Weeks Ago

Blair sat on the hard plastic chair in the waiting room of the hospital, shifting slightly to try to find a more comfortable position. The smell of disinfectant that lingered in the air added to the queasy feeling that had taken up residence since hearing April confirm her fears that John Stevens had her sister. She paid no mind to the various medical staff and people wandering around the area. Bowser alternated between sitting beside her and pacing around the room. She had asked for information as soon as they arrived but nobody had told her anything other than the doctor would be out as soon as they could.

“My daughter is here. Wesley, Sterling Wesley.” The voice resonated around the room.

Blair lifted her head at the sound. “Mom?” As soon as the word left her lips, Blair felt the tears that she had been threatening to fall since the moment she arrived finally slipping free. Debbie spun towards her and rushed over, scooping her into her arms.

She leant back from the embrace, her eyes scanning over her. “Are you ok baby?”

Blair nodded through the tears. “Sterl…she…they took her and haven’t said anything.”

Her mom pulled her back into her chest, her arms tight around her torso. “Shhh, your daddy will find out what is happening.”

As Blair’s sobs subsided, her mom pulled back, gently brushing the remaining tears from her cheeks. She could see the tracks left behind from tears that her mom must had shed as she slid herself into the chair beside her daughter. She looked up as a shadow fell over the pair of them to see her dad standing there, his lips turned down and his brow furrowed. Her mom reached up a hand and clasped one of her dad’s hands. “She’s in surgery.” Blair heard the sudden intake of air from beside her. “The doctor will update us as soon as she comes out. She had a collapsed lung and they think her spleen is ruptured. They are hoping to be able to repair it but if it’s too damaged, they will have to remove it.”

“What…” Blair swallowed down the bile that had risen in her throat at the thought. “What if she doesn’t make it?” Her lower lip quivered with the question.

“We’re not going to think like that. Your sister has never given up on anything, she’s not going to start now.” Her mom pulled her into her side as her dad sat on her other side and wrapped his arm over her shoulder, his hand resting on Debbie’s back.

The doors to the waiting room finally opened a couple of hours later as a doctor emerged. She spoke briefly to the man behind the desk and then started to walk towards them. Blair felt both her parents stand as she approached and looked up at the new arrival, not trusting her legs to hold her own weight if the news wasn’t good. “Mr and Mrs Wesley?”

“How is she?”

“Please have a seat.” She gestured to the chairs and pulled up a seat of her own as her parents sat. “She is out of surgery and in recovery. When the EMTs arrived on the scene, she had developed a tension pneumothorax, so they had to release the pressure to help her to breathe. It appears to have been caused by the fractured ribs she sustained. We were able to repair the rupture in her spleen. She has a chest tube in which will have to stay in place for a few days while her lung recovers. We also need to monitor her due to the extensive blunt force trauma she experienced. She’s stable at the moment but we will monitor her closely in case any bleeding recurs.”

“Can we see her?” The doctor looked towards her.

“She’s not awake yet but when she is, I’ll get one of the nurses to come and get you. She will need rest so keep it short tonight.”

“Thank you, doctor.” The doctor gave them a small smile and stood, returning the chair to its original position before slipping back through the doors out of the waiting room.

“I’m going to get a coffee. Can I get either of you anything?” Her dad stood from his chair and looked between them. When both shook their heads, he made his way out of the waiting room.

Blair was aware that sometime after her dad had returned, Bowser had stepped back into the waiting room. She watched as he spoke quietly to her dad on the opposite side of the room. As they returned to take the seats beside herself and her mom, a nurse came over to them. “Wesley family? You can come through to see Sterling but only two at a time I’m afraid.”

“You go with Blair, Debs.”

Blair stood on shaky legs as her mom wrapped Anderson in an embrace and placed a kiss on his cheek. As she pulled back, her mom took her hand and they followed the nurse through the doors. As they walked, Blair glanced at some of the rooms they passed. Rooms that were occupied by people with a range of machines attached to them. As they walked, the sound of an alarm going off made Blair jump. She expected people to rush into the room like she saw on TV but instead one of the nurses walked into the room in question and shut off the alarm on a machine while talking to the person it was attached to.

Finally, the nurse came to a stop at a door. “She’s on some quite strong medication so she may be a bit sleepy. I’ll be at the nurses’ station if you need anything,”

Debbie took a deep breath and pushed the door open, stepping onto the room with Blair just behind her. Her view of her sister was blocked by her mom’s back but as she stepped closer to the bed, Sterling was revealed to her. She lay in the hospital bed, surrounded by various screens connected to her by a multitude of wires and tubes. Blair felt the breath leave her chest at the sight. Sterling’s face was pale in places but was also littered with a range of different colour bruises and cuts. She knew there were other injuries hidden beneath the covers that lay across her body. Her mom had moved to stand beside the bed and was talking to the blonde as she rested her hang gently against her cheek. Blair couldn’t find the strength to move her feet, didn’t want to get closer as she couldn’t face seeing the injuries her sister had sustained in greater detail than she already could. Injuries she sustained, in part at least, because she had given up searching for her when they were at the lake house before. The feeling of guilt that she was responsible washed over her, crashing down on her and making it hard for her to catch her breath. She had no idea how long she stood in that one position until her mom, placed a gentle kiss on Sterling’s forehead before walking over to her.

“I’m going to get your daddy.” She repeated the forehead kiss on Blair before continuing past her and out of the room.

As the door clicked shut, Blair finally found the ability to speak. “Sterl?”

The blonde turned her eyes towards her, she saw a slight movement from the corner of her eye and glanced down to see Sterling extending a hand slightly towards her. The action was sufficient to trigger her legs into moving. She stepped close to the blonde and carefully took her hand in her own. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Feeling a firmer squeeze to her hand she brought her eyes up to meet those of the blonde. Sterling shook her head. “Not your…fault.” She winced as she spoke. “April?”

Blair swallowed and shook her head. “I saw them take her in an ambulance but they won’t tell us anything as we aren’t family.”

“She saved me.” The words were quiet and punctuated by pauses. “Need you to be there for her.”

Blair shook her head. “Don’t talk like that. Don’t talk like you’re not going to be there for her. You’re not going anywhere. You can’t leave me. Promise you won’t leave me?” She squeezed the hand she held tighter with each word she spoke.

Sterling didn’t respond to the question. “Tell her something for me…tell her…I’ve got her.”

“You tell her yourself.” Blair stubbornly retorted.

“Blair…please…twin swear you will.” Sterling held up her pinkie finger on the other hand. Blair stared at the finger for a moment. She glanced back up to meet her sister’s eyes and could see the pleading look they contained. “Please.” Closing her eyes, she linked her own pinkie finger with Sterling’s.

“Twin swear but you’re going to do that yourself.”

Sterling gave a small smile. “Thank you.”

The sound of the door opening drew her attention away from the blonde. “Hey honey, your mom is waiting for you and Mr Bowser is going to take you both home.” She opened her mouth to argue but her dad cut her off before she could get a word out. “You need rest and I’ll stay right here. If anything changes, I’ll call.”

“Go…I’ll be here tomorrow.” Sterling spoke from the bed.

“You’d better be.” Blair squeezed the hand she held once more before turning and heading to the door. As she reached it, she glanced over her shoulder. “Love you Sterl.”

Present Day

The pitter patter of raindrops striking the fabric of the umbrella was the only sound that penetrated the fog that had descended in Blair’s mind. She could see the way Pastor Booth’s lips moved as he stood at the side of the open grave. There were only a few people gathered around the graveside. Considering the circumstances, the decision had been taken to keep the service small. She had opted to stand further back, not wanting to be surrounded by the others present. She was aware of her mom’s presence beside her. She hadn’t left her side since they left the house which Blair was grateful for as she could draw strength from her mom’s proximity.

She watched as the casket began its gentle descent into the ground.

She watched as the handfuls of dirt fell onto its surface.

She watched as one by one, the people gathered began their walk back to their cars.

She watched as Pastor Booth placed his hand on the shoulder of the last remaining figure standing at the side of the grave.

She watched as he spoke quietly to the individual before walking away.

She watched as the lone figure continued to stand at the side of the grave, the rain running down their face.

Blair turned to her mom, the two women sharing a look before she turned her attention back to the figure at the graveside. She started to walk towards them. The rain was still falling steadily, starting to soak through her jacket now she was no longer covered by the umbrella her mom held. As she drew level with the edge of the grave, she came to a stop and looked down at the coffin. Its surface now speckled with mud and rain. The pair stood in silence.

A quiet voice sounded from beside her. “Shouldn’t I feel something?”

Blair turned to look at the face now turned slightly her way, absently noting the way the water ran down their face before dripping towards the ground. The faint bruising still evident at such close proximity. “There have been days where I have felt everything…and then others where I have felt nothing. I don’t think there is a right way to feel.”

The silence returned for a moment. “I can’t stop thinking what if I’d done something different. What if…”

“Stop. You are not to blame.” Blair turned to look at the girl beside her. She saw the rivulets from the rain had merged with tears now falling steadily. “None of this is your fault.”

“Will you stay with me for a minute?”

Blair slipped her hand into April’s as they stood side by side, feeling the shorter girls fingers close around her own. “I know I’m not her, but I’ve got you.”