This past week has been Hell. Like, April wonders if she died at some point without realizing and God really is punishing her for being gay, Hell.
It’s always the way, when you learn a new word and suddenly you hear it everywhere. When April discovers that her suspicions about Sterling and Abigail are correct, suddenly they’re the only people she hears laughing their way down corridors, the only people she sees sharing stolen glances across the classroom, the only ones that Ellen, without fail, continuously groups her with for assignments.
The revelation starts to tug on every string so meticulously weaved to hold April’s life together, a tapestry that had only been grasping at threads to begin with.
April finds herself slipping up in class, mishearing a teacher’s question and giving an incorrect answer in front of everyone. She’s not as agile in the gym period she shares with Blair, too busy being reminded of the girl’s twin to see a dodgeball barreling towards her chest. She misses her book bag retrieving items from her locker and down cascades a waterfall of class notes, flooding the floors of the hallway. The Dorito incident that is strictly not to be spoken of repeats itself. Multiple times.
All these completely mortifying errors triggered by a mind that remains stuck in a bathroom at a date and time that has long since passed.
By the time her weekly dinner at Hannah B.’s house rolls around, April’s surely becoming a shell of her former self. She’s distracted, lacks all of her conversational quick wit, and is frankly impolite. So much so that even Hannah, as aloof as she can be, has apparently noticed.
Keeping the realization unspoken (for once), Hannah remains gentle with April all night and, when the sun has long since disappeared, tentatively walks her friend out to her car.
April stands at her car door, staring at the handle of it like she’s at war with it in her head, the lever threatening to ensure she remains in this state of physical exhaustion and emotional nothingness, the vehicle itself threatening to guide her back to four walls of yelling and plates smashing followed by fake smiles and niceties.
Her expression remains blank.
Hannah shifts uncomfortably behind her, a reminder that maybe she’s not so alone in this discomfort of the unknowing.
“Is there anything I can do?” Hannah B.’s voice is small but sounds like the gates of Heaven opening up, angels singing and harps plucking, the light beckoning her out of the depths of her inner isolation.
April closes her eyes, attempting to hold onto the beautiful melody of such a simple offer for as long as she can.
April takes a long, deep breath in through her nose. When she releases it, the air passes shakily through her tight lips.
“I’m gay,” April whispers, so softly that she’s not sure Hannah would have even heard it. Her eyes open, the door handle of her car still staring at her, tempting her to lock herself away from the world, insisting that it’s no safer out there.
Maybe to prove the villain she has built her own car to be in her mind wrong, maybe a glutton for punishment, April turns squarely to Hannah, meeting her eyes with a flame of determination.
“I’m gay, Hannah B.” She repeats, more vigor to her tone as if to challenge her friend to dare fight her on the matter.
Hannah looks at her for a long moment, her expression soft as her own brain seems to take an extra long time processing everything.
“That makes sense,” Hannah finally responds, just as quiet as when she had initiated the conversation. “Hey, don’t cry,” she adds quickly, stepping forward to brush away the tears that April didn’t even know were spilling onto her cheeks. “It’s fine, April. I love you. God loves you; He made you! I promise, it’s okay.”
If she wasn’t feeling so emotionally unstable, April would probably be incredibly impressed by her friend’s maturity and thoughtfulness, but instead she feels like she might throw up from overexposure to the ever unfamiliar unconditional love. Instead of vomiting or awkwardly-courteously praising her friend though, April’s collapsing into Hannah’s open arms, suddenly finding herself sobbing into her friend’s chest.
April spends that night at Hannah’s house, the two staying up well into the AM while April finally, finally gets to talk to someone about everything that’s been racing through her mind for the last however long since Abigail stepped all over the already shattered pieces of her by simply appearing in Willingham. Longer even, divulging in her fling with Sterling the year prior and even explaining the multiple Adele Meisners’ to Hannah.
And it’s genuinely, unequivocally life changing to share this part of herself with someone who expects nothing in return for holding these insights close enough for no one else to see. Hannah B. is happy to lay beside April and hold her hand tightly, nodding along as she listens to one of her closest friends speak, offering small words of kindness or thought when she feels prompted to.
The two are like zombies walking into class the next day, but it’s the closest April’s felt to happy, or at least not riddled with anxiety, since... she can’t even remember at this point.
The high can’t last forever though.
Perhaps because she has one less person to hide it from, soon enough, April finds herself once again staring at Sterling across the courtyard with an undeniable and frankly painful longing. She watches the way Sterling’s eyelashes flutter as her mouth pulls into yet another smile, each seeming larger and just happier than the last. She can’t take her eyes off of Sterling as she leans to whisper something into Abigail’s ear, and April could swear she feels the wisp of breath against the shell her own ear, the hairs on the back of her neck prickling to a stance. And Abigail is all blushes and smiles and all April can think about is the distant memory of her own cheeks bunching so tightly as her and Sterling secretively watched each other’s tongues wrap playfully around the Spanish words they fired at one another back when everything felt like some eternal love bullshit.
Though Hannah B. gently grabs April’s arm and quietly asks if everything’s okay, watching the best being brought out of Sterling so close yet so far from reach leads April to huff out of her seat, marching her way to the furthest bathroom she can find.
April bursts into the bathroom, breath ragged as she messily grasps at the waistline of her knitted vest, pulling it up over her head. She lets out a squeak however as the material catches on her earring and pulls. A disgruntled groan escapes her throat loudly and April swiftly turns to meet her reflection above the sink, aggressively attempting to salvage the situation. Her shaky hands are making the task infuriatingly difficult when suddenly the door swings open and Blair Wesley of all people storms in, fists balled at her sides and jaw clenched.
The two make uncomfortable eye contact through their reflection as they both still.
Blair frowns and points at April’s ear.
After a beat, April‘s shoulder’s deflate and she begrudgingly nods. Blair’s chews her lip for a moment, head bouncing side to side as she seems to weigh out her options. She settles on one, stepping forward and reaching up to gently turn April by her shoulder to face her and assist in the salvation of her ear and vest.
Once the garment is free from April’s head, Blair stares down at it in her hands.
“Can I borrow this for a second?” She asks, to which April frowns. She’s taking a breath in to respond when Blair hastily balls up the fabric and shoves her face into it, letting out a guttural, and now muffled, scream.
April’s eyebrows rise and her jaw hangs open as she watches Blair curl all the way down into a squatted ball in one breath. When she has nothing left in her, Blair rights her posture and, in such a nonchalant way that it actually strikes terror into April, passes the clothing back.
April stares at her. Blair stares back with a unnervingly blank expression.
“Same,” she manages, voice horse.
Blair’s eyebrows raise. “Really?”
A smirk grows on Blair’s lips then and she crosses her arms, shifting to lean back against the sink beside April. “Go on then,” she prompts, waving a hand.
April looks at her for a beat but ultimately throws caution to the wind.
Sucking in a deep breath, April presses her own face down into the orange fabric and releases all the pent up rage she’s harbored for the day. She screams out for Abigail’s stupid smile, for Sterling’s gorgeous one, for Ellen always teaming them up, for her having only just found one other person she can confide in about who she truly is, for the fact that she didn’t even feel that she could go to her own family’s home after doing so.
Blair’s chuckling and nodding by the time April pulls herself back together.
“What’s this about?” She asks, amused. April scoffs and rolls her eyes in place of a response. “Oh shit,” Blair realizes, “Sterling?”
April purses her lips. It’s not entirely correct but it sure isn’t a small fraction. She gives Blair yet another silent nod.
“Same,” April’s surprised to hear Blair respond. April looks at her expectantly but Blair just rolls her eyes and laughs. “If you want to have a conversation with me, you’ll have to start using some words.”
“Fine,” April grumbles, weight shifting uncomfortably between her feet. “What’s... what’s going on with you and Sterling?” She asks, sounding much more meek than she’d like to.
“If you repeat any of this I’ll burn your house down. I mean it, I got my hands on a box of matches the other day and now I’m pretty sure I’m a pyromaniac,” Blair threatens to which April nods, musing,
“A weak threat; I’d honestly help you do it, but go on.”
“Right...” Blair looks uncomfortable for a second but evidently regains steam because suddenly she’s rambling in one breath, “look, things haven’t exactly been great for us the last few months. They’ve been pretty less than great, actually. And I totally understand that Sterling’s trying to find something familiar but different but also not dangerous and sometimes when she laughs I think okay, this is actually a really great thing but then she comes home and complains nonstop and I can tell she’s confused and stuck and it just all feels like a repeat of Luke and that went on for years and god I don’t want to see a repeat of her becoming completely tethered to some boring mop and losing her sense of self while planning out this bland future that could never fulfill her and all her amazing potential.” Blair finally takes a breath, realizing she’s practically blue in the face. “Sorry,” she mutters after she’s caught her breath.
April just stares for a moment, mostly impressed to hear Blair apologize for ranting for probably the first time ever. There’s a part of her that understands what this is though and, before she can second guess herself, April puts on a brave face. She committed to coming out to Hannah B., she committed to screaming into her own clothing in front of Blair, she can commit to verbally releasing some tension with her too.
“I really do hope that Sterling’s happy,” April starts. “That’s what I tell myself. And I do mean it, I do hope that she’s happy. But when I see...” Her voice falters and April has to suck in a deep breath, steeling herself before finding a new angle to approach from. “Abigail seems so sweet and–and pretty and I wonder... I wonder if that makes Sterling forget about me... And I know I’m being completely selfish because I’ve thought to myself before, I hope Sterling finds someone great but god I hope she never finds someone better.” A defeated shrug slumps over April’s shoulders. “And now I see her with someone and... I mean, I genuinely do hope she’s happy but... never like how she was with me.” April chews her lip for a moment, not daring to look at Blair. “I think it’s because I know I won’t be; happier. I think I hope all of that because I see that Abigail’s beautiful and kind and it reminds me of how sour and brittle I am.”
The two stand in silence for a long while.
“Not a word?” April breaks the silence with a tentative voice.
“Sworn to secrecy.”
April turns to leave but not before Blair pipes up one more time.
“Hey, um, April?” She turns back to look at her. “You’re... you’re not alone out there. Okay?”
April purses her lips as she examines Blair’s face, looking for a sign of insincerity.
She finds none.
They both leave.