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Our Darkest Moments

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April sat down on her bed, leaning back against her headboard before placing the ice pack on her shoulder. She leant her head back as her eyes drifted closed while her skin acclimated to the chill spreading across her skin. It had been a month since her whole life changed. A month since her surgery. Surgery that was only required because of the actions of her father. Actions she was still trying to process in her own mind. The sound of her phone ringing pulled her focus back to the present. Adjusting the ice pack slightly so it wouldn’t require her to hold it in place, she reached down to retrieve her phone from the mattress. She didn’t even glance at the name illuminated on the screen before she accepted the call.

“Hey Sterl.” She smiled as the face of the blonde appeared. No longer was her face marred by the multitude of contusions that had been present, serving as a constant reminder of what she had experienced. All traces had now faded away with the exception of a small pink scar that disappeared into her left eyebrow.

“Hey yourself, how did it go?”

April angled the phone slightly to show the ice pack. “It’s a bit sore but the ice pack should help. It’s getting there…slowly.”

“You’ll be back to lifting in no time.”

Her lips tugged up on one side at the confidence Sterling had in her. It was still an unusual feeling to have someone who would be so supportive and hold this unwavering belief in her ability to succeed, one she was adjusting to slowly. “Maybe not no time. I’m not allowed to do any overhead lifting for another couple of months.” She sighed and started to adjust the ice pack. “Let’s just say that I will not be viewing action movies the same after this. All those times someone gets shot in the arm or shoulder and just carries on…clearly they have never experienced it themselves or even done the most basic research.” When she looked back to the screen, she could see a change in the look on the blonde’s face, the smile that had been present had slipped and a sadness shone through. Her own look softened. “Sterl...I’m OK.”

“I know and I keep telling myself that. And I know I’m sitting here right now looking at you and talking to you as proof that you are OK...but I can still see it. I’ll close my eyes and then I’ll be back there. You got shot April...because of me.”

Even through the screen, April could see the glassy appearance of Sterling’s eyes as she spoke, could see the way she dropped her gaze from the camera. “Hey...look at me.” She waited for the hesitant eyes to return to the screen. “Nothing that happened is because of you.”

“But if...”

“No.” The word was spoken with a force that brought the blonde’s response to a halt. It was the same voice that April used to command the room in a debate, a voice that left no room for negotiation. “The only person to blame is him.” She spat the final word out, her disgust at even referring to him in the most basic terms apparent in her tone. There was a silence that hung in the air, neither girl seemingly willing to speak the thoughts in their mind.

“I just wish you hadn’t got hurt.”

“I know but I don’t regret it. I can’t regret it. If I hadn’t made the choices I did that day, it might not have ended as it did. If all it costs is a few months of physical therapy to have a future with you, I’ll pay that price.” April noticed the way Sterling turned slightly from the screen before swiping a hand across her cheek. The action brought a feeling of longing to be able to wrap her arms around the other girl and say the words in person. To feel the warmth of the other girl’s skin against her own, to feel the gentle brush of air against her ear as soft words are spoken. “I wish I could see you in person.”

“So I have some news.”

April noted the way that the phrase seemed to have flipped a switch in the blonde, her forlorn expression fading away to be replaced by one of excitement. After a few moments of prolonged silence, she checked the call was still connected. “Are you going to share the news?”

“I was building suspense.”

“Don’t you think we’ve had enough suspense for a lifetime?” She raised her eyebrow at the other girl while trying to fight the corner of her lip tugging up.

“But this was the good kind.”

April watched as the blonde pouted, finally unable to contain her own smile at the sight. “You are ridiculous and yet adorable.” She saw the answering smile appear on Sterling’s face as she glanced away from the screen briefly in an attempt to hide the pink tinge to her cheeks. The action only serving to increase the size of the smile currently residing on her lips.

“I’m coming home this weekend so if you aren’t busy and want to come over...?”

She could feel her smile grow exponentially wider with the news. Sterling was finally being released from the hospital and would be back home, no longer too far to travel to without access to a car.

“Why are you crying?”

April brushed her fingers across her cheek, feeling the moisture from tears she hadn’t even realised had fallen. “You’re coming home.” Uttering those three words felt like the weight she had been carrying for weeks had finally been lifted. The constant fear that greeted her every morning when she woke up, that it would be the day she got a call to say there had been another setback, an unexpected complication...all dissipated in that moment.

“I’m coming home.”

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

“Blair, for the love of the lord will you just sit down.” The exasperation at her sister’s antics shone through in Sterling’s voice. She watched as the brunette slumped down into the seat beside the bed with a huff.

“What is taking them so long?”

Sterling glanced over to the clock on the wall. “You’ve been here for an hour.”

“Exactly. Those are fifty minutes longer than I planned. You’ve been cooped up here for weeks. Weeks Sterl.”

“I am aware.” Sterling fought the urge to roll her eyes at her sister.

Ignoring her Blair continued. “In this room that is just...beige.” She gestured at the walls, curling her lip with disgust. “It’s like they found the most uninspiring colour known to humans and someone decided to paint the walls of a hospital room with it. As if people here aren’t feeling bad enough, they then have to look at this.”

Sterling opted to let her sister’s voice drift into the background as she pulled her phone out.

Sterling
Please tell me you are able to come over later? I love Blair but she has been non-stop Blair since she got here.

April
I can imagine. Just tell me when to come.

Sterling
Well Miss Stevens, that is quite the offer.

Sterling could feel herself smirking at her phone as she imagined the way that April would react to her message. She could picture the way the shorter girl’s ears would turn red whenever things would get a little heated between them. The way the little spark that was always in her eyes would glow that much brighter with her half smile that never failed to make her heart skip and her breath catch, resulting in her brain becoming starved of the oxygen it needed to function on more than a fire pretty level.

April
Come over...Tell me when to come over. Mind out of the gutter Wesley.

“Are you sexting Stevens?”

Sterling almost dropped her phone as the sound of Blair’s voice pierced her consciousness. She felt the burn on her face at the insinuation, knowing that by now her cheeks were quite obviously glowing red making it impossible to redirect Blair from her belief. However, that didn’t mean she wasn’t going to try. “No. Do you not remember the health lesson about the dangers of such an activity? I don’t want to become another statistic or cautionary tale to be told to other teens.”

As she looked over at her sister, she saw the way her eyebrows had raised. “Sure Sterl.”

“It’s not like either of us is medically cleared for such activities.” The blonde grumbled under her breath.

“You discussed your plans to get down and dirty with your girlfriend with your doctor? I didn’t think you had it in you.” Blair looked almost impressed with the suggestion. Placing a hand on her chest, she actually looked like she was tearing up. “I’m so proud of how far you have come under my guidance.”

“What? Eww...No, of course not. He’s like the same age as Big Daddy.” Sterling could feel herself getting more flustered. “I just mean that she still needs to keep her arm in the sling and has a lot of restrictions on what she can do and I have stitches that I don’t want to split.”

“So, what I’m hearing is you have thought about it...in detail.” Blair paused for a moment before continuing. “It was her left arm that got injured right?”

“Yeah.” Sterling reluctantly agreed with the statement, uncertain about what her confirmation would lead to.

Blair sat back in the chair and shrugged her shoulder as she spoke. “Good thing she’s right handed then.”

“Blair!” Sterling sputtered, trying desperately to think of a response that wouldn’t be twisted by her sister to her own gains. “I just wanted to check she was still able to come over later.”

“Who is coming over later?” Sterling looked over to the door to see her dad walking back into the room.

“Oh April...if that’s OK?”

“That’s OK.” Her dad came to stand beside the bed. “We’d better get going if we want to get back before your mom cooks anymore brownies. We already had enough for half a bake sale on the kitchen side and that was before we left this morning.”

Sterling eased herself down from the bed. She noticed the way Blair picked up her bag and slung it over her shoulder without needing further prompting. With one last glance to make sure she hadn’t left anything, Sterling went to leave the room but came to a stop as a wheelchair appeared in the doorway. “I don’t need that.”

“Hospital policy.”

Sterling went to sigh but the flash of pain that radiated across her ribs prevented it. Reluctantly she settled herself into the chair before hearing her sister’s voice from over her shoulder. “Step aside nurse Ratched, I’ve got it from here.”

“Blair!” Sterling turned to the nurse in question, the same one who had been nothing but caring and helpful during her stay, the same one who had passed on her note to April. “I’m sorry, Blair gets caught up in the moment at times.” She could hear the protestations of her sister but opted to ignore them. “Thank you…for everything.”

“Just doing my job. Take care Sterling.”

Before Sterling had a chance to reply, she found herself being propelled out of the door by the brunette. As much as she wanted to be leaving the hospital without the aid of a slightly recklessly steered wheelchair, allowing Blair to push her out certainly reduced the time it took to get back to the car. The sooner Sterling was able to get home, the sooner she would be able to see April in the flesh once more. That was a thought that stopped her from complaining too much, even when there was an occasional collision with a door frame on their exit.

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

As April walked up the steps to the Wesley’s front door, she felt an odd combination of nerves and excitement. She could feel the way her heart was beating that little bit faster as she raised her hand to knock. It wasn’t like this was the first time she had visited the Wesley’s house, as a child it had been like a second home until the recess incident. In more recent times, she had spent a significant number of hours tucked away either working on school projects or on the pretence of working on school projects. Yet as she waited for the door to answer this time, she knew the reason for the nerves. After all, she was no longer just a project partner or even a friend from school, now she was the girl who was dating Sterling. As if meeting the parents after months of sneaking around wasn’t nerve wracking enough, she also had the concern of if all the Wesley’s were as accepting of her as an individual or if they would always see John Stevens when they looked at her. Hearing the lock turn in the door, she took a deep breath to steady her nerves.

The door opened to reveal Debbie Wesley. April felt herself straighten up a bit more trying to stand a bit taller to exude the confidence that she normally carried without any real effort. “Good afternoon ma’am.”

In the next moment, she felt herself wrapped in a careful embrace from the woman. On instinct, she stiffened at the touch which caused Debbie to pull back slightly, her left hand resting on April’s good shoulder. “Oh April, I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

“No ma’am.”

Debbie waved a hand dismissively. “I think we have moved past the ma’am phase with everything you have done for my daughter.” She felt herself ushered inside. “How are you doing?”

“I’m healing.” She saw the way Debbie nodded her understanding as she led them through the house to the lounge. As soon as she turned the corner, her eyes fell on Sterling and she felt a smile instantly spread across her face. Nothing could have prepared her for the rush of emotions that she felt at seeing the blonde in the flesh for the first time since she had been discharged. She had come to a stop in the doorway, her legs seemingly incapable of moving any further as she locked eyes with the other girl. “Can I get you something to drink April?”

The sound of Debbie’s voice drew her attention back from the blonde. “Could I have a water please?”

“Sure thing. Blair, come and give me a hand.”

Blair dropped her head into the back of the couch as she rolled her eyes at the ceiling. As she looked back over towards them, her eyebrows raised as she questioned the request. “You need help with water?” April noticed the way Sterling nudged her in the side to make her move. As she reached the doorway the brunette turned towards April and gave her a nod in greeting before turning her attention back to her mother. “Have you and dad ever considered the benefits of a drinks fridge beside the couch?”

April heard the voices of Blair and Debbie grow quieter as they retreated further into the house. “You’re not going to make me get up are you?” As soon as she heard Sterling’s voice, her feet unfroze and she stepped across the room. As she approached, the blonde patted the cushion beside her and April followed the unspoken instruction, slipping into the seat beside the taller girl. She turned slightly in the seat towards Sterling to really look at her, eyes darting across every curve and contour of the face now so close to her own. She felt the brush of fingertips across her cheek, the gentle contact sending impulses racing through every neurone. Sterling leant in, her lips grazing April’s cheek with the lightest of touches. April felt her eyes drift closed as her nerve endings went into overdrive, sending wave after wave of excitation spreading from that one area of contact throughout her entire body. She could feel the way her own hand began to tremble as the simplest of touches broke down the carefully constructed barriers that contained all the pent up emotions of the past few weeks. “I’ve missed you.” The words were whispered against her cheek, the warmth of her breath ghosting over the skin it touched, triggering a small shiver to race down her spine.

April reached up and pulled the blonde’s lips to her own. Their lips met in a gentle caress, neither of them pushing for more than the feeling of soft skin slowly moulding together. April let herself sink into the kiss, her thumb grazing over Sterling’s cheek as she surrendered herself to the moment. The tentative flick of Sterling’s tongue against her lips sent a new wave through her, awakening her senses further and heightening her awareness of every point of contact between them. Yet simultaneously dampening her perception of anything that extended beyond the pair of them. April felt herself drawn closer to the blonde, her body moving of its own volition to close some of the space that still existed between them, craving the feeling of the solid warmth of the blonde’s form against her own. Their kiss deepened as each of them sought what they had been missing, trying to communicate everything that words spoken through a screen had fallen short of achieving through re-establishing an intimate physical bond.

The sound of Blair’s voice shattered the connection causing April to pull back reluctantly from their embrace. She heard the quiet disgruntled sound that escaped Sterling’s lips as they broke apart, pausing to rest their foreheads together. April could feel the smile that graced her lips as they remained close enough that their breath mingled, the increased rate for each of them not going unnoticed. “I didn’t realise how much I needed to kiss you until now.”

She felt the blonde lean in to press a chaste kiss against her lips before pulling back. “Really? It’s all I have been able to think about. Hopefully we can continue this later.”

Hearing Blair much closer, April slid back on the cushion, allowing her hand to drop to intertwine with that of the blonde between them.

“Is it safe?” April looked over towards the door and saw Blair standing there with her hand covering her eyes. Before either herself or Sterling could respond, Debbie appeared giving her arm a light slap on the way past.

“What have I told you about mocking your sister?”

Blair rolled her eyes once her mom had passed her. “But light mockery is our language of love.”

“No matter, I’m sure April doesn’t need to be subjected to your antics.” Debbie set the water down on the table for April before looking back to where Blair stood. “And don’t roll your eyes at me.”

Blair’s mouth dropped open at the comment before she made one last attempt to defend her actions. “She signed on to dating Sterl knowing that we’re a package deal. Besides she has known me like our whole lives and hasn’t complained about me yet.”

“Not to you.” April heard Sterling mutter quietly and had to bite down on her lip to stop the smile spreading across her face at the comment.

“I heard that.” Blair huffed as she sank down into the seat beside April.

“When are you back at school, April?” Debbie’s voice cut through the room to redirect the conversation away from any potential squabbles.

“Monday.” She could feel Sterling’s eyes on the side of her face with the new information. She hadn’t wanted to mention her plans to return to Willingham to the blonde until after she had been given the medical clearance to do so. Even after being told there was no reason why she couldn’t return as long as she was mindful to avoid certain activities and bustling in corridors, the apprehension about what the return would be like had prevented her from sharing, not wanting to burden the other girl with her worries.

“Probably a good thing too, Fellowship hasn’t been the same since Hannah B took charge. She may look all sweet and innocent but that glare...” Blair shook her head as she blew out a breath. “I don’t think Luke will be MOBOT during a devotional reading again. He looked like he was going to cry.” April felt a surge of pride in Hannah B for having kept the group in check while she had been absent. She knew that many people would write her off as a bit ditzy and not think that she had more substance to her but there was a reason they were still friends after all these years. “Plus I’m pretty sure Ellen is a little afraid of her.”

“I'm sure that’s a slight exaggeration.” Debbie interjected.

“Then why did Ellen run over Coach’s foot on her scooter when she pulled U turn on seeing Hannah B heading out of the Fellowship room the other day? She didn’t even stop to apologise.” April noticed the smug look spread across Blair’s face with the lack of response from Debbie.

“How’s your mom doing?”

The question caught her off guard. With the exception of Sterling, nobody really asked about how things were at home. Hannah B and Ezekiel had learnt over the course of their friendship that family was a topic best avoided unless April brought it up herself. She felt a reassuring squeeze to her hand that was still held by the blonde, aware Sterling had turned to face towards her and Blair. “She’s coping in her own way.”

April braced herself for a follow up question upon seeing Debbie open her mouth. Before she could utter a word, Blair’s voice interrupted the moment. “Bet you’re glad Willingham doesn’t have metal detectors.”

“Blair.” The exasperation with Blair’s statements was evident in Debbie’s tone.

“I’m just saying. Last thing you want when going into school is to set off alarms because you have some additional hardware.” April caught the sudden way Blair’s face lit up. “Can we like stick magnets to your arm now?”

“Mom, is it OK if we head up to my room?” Sterling’s voice interrupted any potential need to provide the brunette girl with an answer to her question.

Debbie sighed while rubbing a finger across her forehead. “I think that would be a good idea.”

As Sterling rose from her seat, there was a gentle tug on the hand still firmly ensconced within the blonde’s grip. She stood from the couch and the pair of them made their way out of the room. Just before they got to the door April noticed Sterling shoot a look of thanks to her sister. As they reached the doorway, the sound of Debbie’s voice carried to them. “Door open Sterling.”

April noticed the look of disappointment flash across the blonde’s face before she turned back to face her mom. “Yes ma’am.” Debbie gave a short nod of approval that served as a signal they were free to leave. She felt the gentle tug on her hand as Sterling continued out of the room and gladly followed to escape any further questioning.

April let herself be led into Sterling’s room, their hands still connected, as the blonde pushed the door closed. She heard the small sigh escape the other girl as she opened the door slightly, clearly recalling her mom’s instructions. April couldn’t help the small smile that appeared with the feeling of being treated the same as any other romantic partner. She wasn’t sure the same could be said of her own mom. Since she had returned home from the hospital and purged any images of her father from her room, it wasn’t like she was hiding who she was. Those pictures had been replaced by the few photos of herself and Sterling with the one by her bed being of them cuddled up together, leaving little room for debate as to the nature of their relationship. Yet it felt like her mom was just opting to ignore any and all signs that there was anything that didn’t fit with the facade the Stevens family had cultivated for as long as she could remember.

She felt the gentle tug on her hand as Sterling led them over to the bed. “Your room is abnormally tidy.” April looked around the space, noting how there were no articles of clothing half hanging out of drawers or strewn across the floor.

“Mom went into nesting mode when I was discharged.” She felt Sterling relinquish her hand as she set about arranging the pillows against the headboard. As she watched the other girl, she noted the stiffness to some of her actions. One of the remaining signs that the other girl was still healing from her injuries despite the visible bruising having faded. “Is that OK for your arm?”

April stepped closer to the taller girl as she turned towards her, closing the distance between them. Her right arm slipped up to rest against Sterling’s shoulder before she raised herself up enough to brush her lips against those of the blonde. “Perfect.” As she went to step back, she felt an arm wrap tentatively around her waist, the simple action halting her retreat. As she looked up to meet Sterling’s gaze, she quirked up an eyebrow in question at the action.

The blonde shook her head. “Not enough.”

The corner of her mouth pulled up at the words as she slipped her hand round the back of the blonde’s neck, fingers gently pressing into the warm skin to draw the other girl closer. “You’re insatiable.”

April’s gaze dropped to the other girl's lips, noticing the faint remnant of fading scar on one side. “You have no idea.” When she raised her eyes to meet those of the taller girl, she had expected to see the sparkle of a teasing look. What greeted her was a look that went so much deeper, held such intensity that she felt her breath catch. The arm round her waist drew her closer, bringing their bodies together. She felt the brush of fingertips against the skin on her back, slipping underneath the edge of her top and leaving a trail of goosebumps in their wake despite the heat that radiated from every point of contact. She felt the brush of fingers against her cheek as Sterling tucked the errant strand of hair back behind her ear, tracing a path round the edge of her ear and across her jaw to gently tilt her chin up. She caught the fleeting way Sterling’s eyes dropped to her lips as they edged closer, feeling the anticipation building. She was sure the other girl would be able to feel the way her heart had increased in tempo as it pounded in her chest. April’s eyes drifted closed as she leant in to close the last remaining gap between them, lips reconnecting in a searing kiss. She felt herself being pulled closer, their bodies melding together until the only thing April was aware of was Sterling. The warmth that enveloped her from their interconnected bodies, the unique aroma that would linger for a time after they part but never long enough, the taste of her lip gloss...every sense was filled with the other girl. In another circumstance, April was sure it would be overwhelming to have every receptor attuned to one person, but in that moment all she felt is safe and home.

The sound of footsteps coming up the stairs snapped April out of her Sterling induced haze. She pulled back just far enough to break their kiss, despite the quiet groan of disapproval that emanated from the blonde at the action. She felt the way Sterling sighed before a gentle kiss was placed on her forehead, the blonde’s lips lingering for a moment against the skin. “I don’t know about you but I need to sit.”

April leant back to look into the face of the other girl, searching for any sign of discomfort. “Are you OK?”

She watched as a small smile tugged at the corners of the blonde’s mouth. “I told you once that the thought of you made my patellas quiver. Well, the reality of you is so much more. Kissing you...touching you...it makes my whole body tremble.”

April could feel the way her ears started to burn as Sterling's words registered. “Come on.” She slipped her hand up to gently grasp the hand of the blonde and lead them the last couple of steps to the bed. She took a seat, resting her back against the pillows Sterling had arranged for her before their momentary distraction.

She had expected her girlfriend to take the space beside her but instead Sterling moved to lie across the bed, her head resting on April’s lap. “Is this OK?”

April’s hand came up to brush against the blonde’s cheek. “Very much so.”

“Good.” A silence descended between the pair of them, April let her fingers play with the ends of Sterling’s hair as she lay there. “So school?”

“Yeah.” She sighed. “I can’t stay home forever.”

“How about just until I can go with you?” The blonde looked up at her, the concern evident in her eyes.

She shook her head. “I’ve missed so much already.” As she looked down at the girl lying on her lap, she noted the pensive expression on her face. “What?”

“Nothing.”

“Sterl…”

Sterling released a quiet sigh. “It’s just that Blair mentioned that there were a lot of rumours going round about what happened. I just...I don't want you to face them alone.”

She brushed her thumb over Sterling’s lower lip. “I’ll be fine. Even if you’re not physically with me, I know you are just a call or message away. I know you’ve got me.”

“Always.”

“Always is a long time Sterl.”

“Or not long enough.”

April smiled down at the other girl, noticing the way each blink seemed to last longer than the one before. “Get some sleep.”

“I’m good. Just resting my eyes for a second.”

“Mmhmm.” She watched as Sterling drifted off to sleep, her breathing slowing as her body relaxed. It wasn’t long after that April fell asleep herself. Neither of the girls stirred when Debbie appeared in the doorway of Sterling’s bedroom, looking over at the pair of them as they slept.

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

The car came to a stop in the parking lot and April looked out of the windscreen towards the buildings of Willingham Academy. The last time she had set foot through those doors nobody really knew the kind of man her father was. Sure, they had heard the rumours that circulated following his arrest but once those charges were dropped, the image of the Christian family man who had been wrongly accused seemed to slip back into place as if it had never left. This time, there was no escaping the truth about at least some of the events that had transpired at the lake house.

“How bad is it?”

She caught the awkward look that flashed across Hannah B’s face before she tried to mask it with a smile. “Not terrible?” The tone of the statement did nothing to assuage her concern for what she was about to walk into.

“Worse than the condom incident?” She saw the way Hannah B reluctantly nodded her head, a look of regret accompanying the confirmation. April wished that Sterling was going to be back at school with her but she still wasn’t due back for another week or two. “If you want to walk in alone I’d understand.”

“Why would I want to do that?” There was a genuine look of confusion settled on the brunette’s features.

“To distance yourself from this, from me. Avoid being caught by the shrapnel.” April could see groups of students standing around the parking lot and the lawn and knew as soon as they laid eyes on her, the whispers and looks would start. She was no longer April Stevens, Fellowship leader, Forensics first white female captain and member of numerous other clubs. She was April Stevens, daughter of the man who kidnapped one of their classmates. A man who had been shot dead for his actions in a situation only a handful of people really knew. Leaving only the imaginations of the Willingham student body to fill in the blanks.

Hannah B shrugged. “You always stood by me...now it’s my turn to stand by you.”

April could feel the tell tale stinging behind her eyes as she swallowed down the lump that had formed in her throat with her friend's words. She had been wrong to ever doubt that their friendship was anything but genuine. With a deep breath she did her best to summon her old facade before they exited the vehicle.

As they started to walk across the campus to the building, she could feel eyes turn towards her. She would catch the occasional finger pointing in her direction, see someone turn to whisper to a friend about her. She shifted her blazer slightly to try to cover the sling she was still sporting. She kept her eyes forward, dimly affixed to the doors that led into the school. As they drew closer to the doors, the whispers grew louder as the number of people present increased. April could feel her heart hammering in her chest with each step she took, trying to keep her steps steady and measured when all she wanted to do was turn and run in the opposite direction.

“...tried to kill her…”

“...murder-suicide…”

Just as she felt like she couldn’t take another step, an arm slipped in to interlink with her own. “Chin up, eyes up and keep walking. We’ve got you.” She glanced to her right and saw the way Ezekiel fixed one of the other students with a glare when they happened to cross their path. As they walked through the main doors, April drew herself up that bit taller as the knowledge that her friends were flanking her gave her the strength she felt faltering. When they turned the corner to head towards the Fellowship room, the bustling corridor grew quiet as people turned to stare. She felt a gentle squeeze on her arm as they continued down the busy hall.

“Told you...she was in on it. The apple doesn’t fall…” A thud sounded off to her left. “Ow! What the hell man?”

April turned her head slightly and caught a glimpse of Luke picking up his golf bag while one of the football team clutched his foot. As she met his eyes, he gave her a small nod as they passed. In that moment, she knew that it wasn’t just her against the world. It wasn’t even that she only had Sterling to rely on. She had friends who would walk beside her and lend her the strength she needed to keep one foot moving in front of the other. She had people who would drop a bag of golf clubs on someone’s foot to defend her, despite everything that had transpired between them in the past. As they entered the Fellowship room and Ellen’s face lit up at seeing her back, April knew that she wasn’t alone anymore.