April had been in bed all day, in various states of consciousness. Her fever was high and her skin was ashen. Dr. Goth had visited and diagnosed a virus that would likely pass in a day or two. He offered to take April in for observation, but Sandy refused. There was enough media attention already what with a midnight ambulance arrival at her house. Heaven forbid someone actually left in one; the media would have a field day.
The shaft of light from the bedroom window was directly in her eyes causing April to shift in her sleep. Her eyelids fluttered open and she blinked at the sun. Why was it so bright?
As her senses drifted back she noticed someone had tucked her into bed and she was in her ugliest pyjamas. Had her mother put them on her or – oh God – had it been Broof? Her father? She cringed at the thought of any of them seeing her undressed and tugged her sheets up over her head.
How long had she been asleep? She could vaguely remember hearing Dr. Goth’s voice mentioning a virus and her mother crying, but she must have dreamed that. April had never seen her mother cry, except in movies. Crying at her daughter’s bedside? Even that would have been a falsehood too far for Sandy.
Oh, she was thirsty. She felt like she hadn’t had a drink for days. Her tongue drew across her teeth, rough like sandpaper and her stomach ached; it felt like her insides were caving in.
She crossed the room to her dressing area – no way was she letting anyone else see her in these pyjamas – and she ran her fingertips over her rail of clothing. She had never really appreciated how many beautiful clothes she had. Gentle florals, pink sweaters, a pastel rainbow of softness. Sandy had bought them all for her, of course. She had to have her daughter fit a certain image, and ‘all-round-good-girl’ was the image Sandy had chosen for April.
But she wasn’t feeling that today. She felt like something… darker. She reached into the back of the wardrobe and brought out an item Faith had gifted her the previous year when they were still friends.
A black sweater from a high street fashion store. The three of them each had one. April had accepted the gift but had hastily stashed it away, knowing her mother would never approve. She had never even tried it on.
Faith and Melinda were much more expressive in their fashion choices than April was allowed to be – bold colours, lots of black, tattoos and piercings. It was probably one of the reasons Sandy hated them so much – April couldn’t just stick an expensive dress on them and make them blend in to her world. People in Del Sol Valley just didn’t have band logos inked on their arms or additional holes in their faces.
April didn’t have any way to pierce her nose but she did have this sweater. As she pulled it down over her head she relished the way the crisp, artificial fabric felt in contrast to her usual cashmere.
It felt like freedom.
She made her way down through the silent mansion to the kitchen. If she didn’t eat something soon she felt like she would surely die. To her surprise a bowl of fruit salad had been left in the fridge for her. It was most unusual; the butler was not supposed to feed her when her mother was not around.
April lifted a small piece of fruit to her lips, but as soon as the sugary goodness touched her tongue she felt instantly terrible. It tasted like ash in her mouth, even worse than Broof’s food usually tasted, and she recoiled in disgust as waves of nausea rolled through her.
She steadied herself on the counter top as as a crippling pain tore through her abdomen, bringing her to her knees. What the hell was in that fruit? Her head began to fill with a thick, black smoke. As the room became darker, the image of a familiar man formed in her mind.
She could see the light as it glinted on his teeth, could feel his cold skin as he pressed against her. She once again felt the life being sucked out of her and could hear his words echoing in her head. You should know better.
As she sprawled on the floor, the only solid part of the room, she replayed that night in her head. His hands on her body, his teeth in her neck…
She needed to get to her room. Gripping the banister, she hauled herself up the stairs. Why did they have so many stairs?! If she could only get to her bed, she could get the book, she could look for a way to make it all stop.
Her legs wouldn’t work. She had reached the last step but she was on her hands and knees. Her body felt boneless, collapsing in on itself. Oh gosh, it hurt, everything hurt so much. As her body gave up and the cool marble floor rapidly approached she let out a long, last scream. One final wave of pain rushed through her and then she felt herself becoming lighter; she felt like she was floating.
This is it, she thought. This is the end.