Oh. Are you okay?
That’s stupid question of course you aren’t.
All Sterling can do is stare at the messages. She feels paralyzed. What started out as an innocent enough conversation, quickly turned into something way more personal than Sterling was ready for. Even though she technically initiated this herself. Even though she would love to just talk about this with someone who isn’t directly involved or who pushes her to analyze every thought she has.
But not April. Not April who broke her heart and whose heart she broke. Not April whose heart she knows she’s gonna have to break some more. She can’t build up anything with April if it just means it’s going to get torn down again. So she doesn’t respond.
Instead she researches the best things to plant in July (Not thinking about how April’s birthday is in July). She goes on a walk with Blair and Chloe.
“You’re acting weird.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well first all morning you’ve been smiling at your phone and now you’re just… pretending it doesn’t exist.”
“I don’t really want to talk about it.”
Blair’s face falls a bit. Sterling feels guilty but sometimes she just can’t do it, can’t talk, can’t look at her sister (cousin). And she wants to be there for Blair too. She knows this is a hard time for both of them and Sterling is kind of stealing the spotlight, but she just can’t do it (I can’t do it, I can’t do it, I can’t do it).
Apparently Blair can’t do it today either, because she presses on when she definitely knows better by now.
“I thought we were talking again? What happened to no secrets?”
“No, I’m getting sick of you deciding when we talk or what we talk about! Why does everything always have to be about you?”
Sterling tries to keep the tears in, Blair deserves this. She’s right.
“I’m done with acting like you’re a sick puppy! I’m done with you acting as if you’re the only one whose life changed.” And with that Blair storms away, Chloe happily running after her.
And God Blair is so right that Sterling doesn’t move. Why does everything always have to be about Sterling? She’s the worst sister, an even worse daughter and certainly a bad friend. Someone yells something to a kid and Sterling snaps out of her thoughts. She looks around her and starts walking.
She just keeps walking until she sees April. April is wearing her headphones and she’s got her head down. And she looks like she’s in a hurry or maybe like she’s running away from her thoughts like Sterling. They both keep walking. April doesn’t notice Sterling and Sterling doesn’t mind (she didn’t secretly wish April would look up and smile at her, no.)
Once Sterling has calmed down enough to go home she has made a plan. Apologize to Blair. Text April.
Step one is harder than expected.
“Go away, I don’t want to talk to you.” Blair shouts through the door.
“Blair, please? I want to apologize.”
“Go ahead, I don’t need to see your face for that.”
Sterling sighs and sits against the Blair’s door in their bathroom.
“Okay, I’m sorry for not talking to you. It’s just hard and I know I was making progress, but sometimes I just can’t do it and you need to understand and respect that.”
It stays quiet for a while on the other side of the door.
“Wait that was it?”
“What do you mean?”
“That was your apology? You say sorry for something I’m not mad about and then tell me I need to do something? That’s a really shitty apology Sterl.”
“Hey! At least I’m apologizing. You’re not doing anything except be grumpy!”
“God Sterl just leave me alone.”
Sterling huffs, rolls her eyes and returns to her own room. There she grabs her phone and opens April’s messages again.
Want to go for a picknick?
The answer comes quickly.
Sure, tomorrow in the park? I’ll get the things.
Okay, I could do it too! What time?
No I’m doing it. I’ll see you at the main entrance at one.
Okay, see you tomorrow April.
At 12.50 Sterling arrives at the park, usually she would wait a couple more minutes, scared of seeming overly eager. But this is April. Right-on-time-is-too-late-April. So she doesn’t really feel bad.
Unsurprisingly April is already waiting for her. Sterling waves enthusiastically which makes April laugh a little. A warmth creeps up her neck.
April starts walking up to her and Sterling really tries not to notice the way her hair looks the same it did at the arcade. They walk in a unexpected comfortable silence for a little until April talks.
“So no therapy today?”
(God she was so mean to Blair. She really needs to fix this).
“Well no, tomorrow’s therapy day.”
(Maybe her therapist will know what to do).
“Hmm okay, are you nervous about it?”
“Also no. I’ve been going for a while so like, she knows everything about me. So I guess I trust her with my life now.” She goes for joking, but April doesn’t laugh.
(What if Blair never forgives her?)
“Oh, eh- that, that’s great Sterl.”
All of a sudden Sterling realizes her mistakes.
“She can’t talk to anyone about anything I say. Not to my pa- eh not to family not to anyone in the entire world. No one will find out. I promise.”
(No one will know her birthday is not the same one as Blair’s, no one will know they’re not even sisters).
Her shoulders relax but April still acts different than she used to. Sterling just can’t really figure out what it is yet.
“So I maybe bought all the books you told me about?”
They talk and talk and talk. It’s all just so easy and Sterling can’t bring herself to talk about the thing that will break April’s heart again. They don’t talk about personal things. Sterling doesn’t tell her about her family and April doesn’t talk about her family.
Instead they talk about pets and books and music until April’s phone dings and it’s time to go home. They walk to the park entrance together (Sterling doesn’t want to grab April’s hand, doesn’t walk closer just so that their hands brush).
“This was fun, thank you Sterling.”
“You’re very welcome. And if you want to we can do this again sometime.”
April just smiles at her and looks at her a little longer than she normally would (Sterling doesn’t want to kiss April, she doesn’t want to hug her or take her home).
Then April turns around to walk away.
The words don’t hurt like they did last time Sterling heard them. They make a smile spread across her face.
(but now she has to go home and face Blair and she doesn’t know how to fix any of this).