Chapter 1.34 – Down With That

Caleb had arrived at the billboard with the fish on it. There was definitely no sign of April. Now what?

There was barely a cloud in the sky; the sun would be bright and deadly to fledgling vampires today. He walked to the verge where he assumed April had last been. The grass had been trodden and there were tyre marks on the road, heading east.

It was pointless, surely, to just walk and hope for the best.

But he was compelled to.



Lilith was at the bar. Joe looked up as she walked in.

“Doc! The usual?” He picked up a glass and reached for the absinthe.

“No, Joe,” Lilith said, looking around the empty bar. “You had many in today?”

“Nah, you’re the first. This 24/7 gig isn’t really going too well, truth be told. Well, except for Fred over there, obviously. He’s having a great time.”

“Hi Fred,” Lilith said.

“Lily,” he slurred in response. He didn’t really look like he was having a great time, but everyone had their own idea of fun, she supposed.

Well, she was here now looking at Joe’s expectant face. She might as well have a drink. At sunrise. On a Thursday.

“I’ll take the usual,” she said, hopping on to a bar stool.
Joe filled a glass and passed it over, watching Lilith as she downed it in one, as usual.

“No surgery today then, Doc?”

Lilith shook her head, held out her empty glass.

Joe turned towards the back bar. “I don’t know how you can drink this stuff. 90% proof and you waltz outta here like you’ve had one beer. That’s quite some liver you’re pickling there, Doc.”

Lilith turned her attention towards the television where the news was still rolling.

Joe was watching alongside. “A zombie?! Honestly, that’s not even news! Who’s running this show?”

Lilith shrugged “I guess the network will report any old toss to boost ratings.”

The jingle rang out to announce a new breaking story. The newsreader was rather more chipper than she should have been with such a heavy story. “The ex-wife of Broof Hogwash has told reporters that he was ‘sex-obsessed’ and ‘had a thing for blondes’, leading to speculation that he may have played a sordid part in the disappearance of April Moss.”

“Blimey,” Joe said, letting out the breath he was holding. “This story just gets worse. Poor lass! Did anyone look out for her? I should definitely tell the police she was in here; it might be crucial evidence.”

Lilith nodded, but she wasn’t listening, she was remembering what Caleb had said.

I’ll look after her. It’s about time someone did.

Lilith assumed that April was some rich brat; that she’d manipulated Caleb in pursuit of immortality. It certainly wouldn’t have been difficult for her to win him over. He’d been in such a dark place these last couple of decades; completely shut off from everyone. An attractive face offering to share the misery would have been impossible to resist.

But now she started to think she’d been wrong. She found herself wondering if April had genuinely been seeking to share misery of her own.



It was a nice car, but it smelled like wet dog, or maybe that was just him.

“What’s the deal? By the half hour? I shouldn’t need more than about ten minutes. Is there anything you won’t do?”

April was very confused. “What?”

“Are you cool with me putting it anywhere? Is that extra? I’m happy to pay literally anything, you are stunning.”

“Putting what anywhere?” April asked, looking around.

“Geesh… are you telling me you charge extra for roaming hands, too?”

April thought for a moment. Roaming hands. “Oh my gosh, you think I’m a prostitute.”

“Aren’t you? I mean, you were hanging out on Hook Corner and you said you wanted a ride but you didn’t say where to.”

April looked out of the window. She could see a layby just ahead. “Here.”

He pulled over and switched off the engine, unbuckled his seatbelt and turned towards her.

“So, say I want straight sex. No kissing, nothing weird. What we talking?” He started unbuttoning his jeans.

April was horrified. “I don’t want to have sex with you!”

He groaned, “You don’t have to be so obvious about it. I know you don’t want to. No-one does, that’s why I’m here. Are you hitting me with the ugly tax? It’s totally fine, they usually do.”

“No! I just wanted to drink from you!”

He paused, giving her a strange look. “Drink from me?”

“Yes!” she shouted, exasperated.

“Oh,” he said, nodding. “OK, I think I know what you mean. How much will that cost me?”

“Nothing!”

“What, you don’t charge for that?”

“Of course not,” April laughed.

He shook his head, daring himself to smile. “You actually want to put your mouth on me? For free?”

April shrugged. “I wouldn’t say I want to, but I need to.”

He thumped the steering wheel in delight. “Oh, yeah! I am down with that!”

“Great!” April smiled, as she lulled him into a trance. See? I don’t need Faith. I don’t need anyone.



Melinda hadn’t intended to watch the news; in fact she didn’t want to be reminded at all of April, but she found herself captivated by it. Found herself drawn to the little image of April in the top right hand corner. Even after all this, even though it was painfully obvious that she was kidding herself, she still couldn’t shake off the what if?

“Oh my gosh, poor Broof. They are dragging you through the mud,” Melinda said to herself. She remembered all the times he’d treated April’s cuts and bruises, the time he’d managed to sneak April to hospital after Sandy broke her arm. He’d comforted her when she cried, he’d taken her to the arcade using his own money, helped her with her homework. He even let her drink his blood. All the things he would have done with his own daughter, had she still been alive.

If he had ulterior motives with April, Melinda was the Queen of Simland.

She heard the front door unlock and turned to see if April had returned. Faith walked in, looking dazed and confused and took a seat beside Melinda.

“It’s not your fault. They’ll find her,” Melinda said immediately, hoping that she sounded more sure than she felt.

“Will turned up. Just after April vanished,” Faith said, quietly.

Melinda stayed silent. She didn’t trust that smile. She didn’t like where this conversation was going.

Faith continued, “So, he’s harassing me again, making me feel like shit and then there’s a man. Behind me.”

“Oh my gosh. What man? Are you OK?”

“I’m fine. This other man, Seth. He got rid of Will and then he…” she shook her head trying to put it into words, “…invaded my brain.”

“Your brain? Like, he was reading your thoughts?”

“Yeah. How come this is so normal to you?”

“Lilith can do that, listen to thoughts. And project them, too.”

“She can? Oh that is so cool!”

“It’s a vampire thing, but you have to lose a lot of your humanity to do it, whatever that means. Was he a vampire?”

“I think so? He had no pulse, for sure. But there was something off about him and it wasn’t just the way he was dressed or that he was fucking gorgeous. Also, it wasn’t like he was listening to my thoughts, more like he was looking for something in them.”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. But whatever it was, I don’t think he found it.”



Caleb spotted the car in the layby and ran up to it. There was a man in the driver’s seat slumped against the wheel, but there was no sign of April. He couldn’t help but notice that the guy’s jeans were unfastened; he could see the lipstick marks around the puncture wounds on his neck.

Caleb didn’t care to check if this lowlife was alive, or not. He followed the disturbed vegetation into the forest, calling her name.

“April!”

  • The car used in the screenshots can be downloaded from here.

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Chapter 1.24 – Less Dead

Warning: This chapter alludes to self-harm and is generally quite dark.

With April not willing to show her ID for fear of being recognised, they’d had to visit a few nightclubs before they found one that would let them in. With its dingy interior and sticky floor it was definitely not the sort of establishment that April was used to dining in.

It hadn’t taken the girls long to lock sights on their targets and while Faith was already on to the hands-on stage, April was taking her time with a charming man named Asif. He had bought her a drink and the two had settled in a corner to get acquainted. The music was so loud that April could barely hear him, but she liked his eyes and she wasn’t here for conversation; he probably wasn’t either.

“You look familiar,” he shouted over the music.

“Oh?”

“Yeah… has anyone ever told you you look a bit like Sandy Moss?”

She faltered. No. No-one had ever told her that.

Her mind fluttered back to a conversation she’d had as a child with her mother.

“Mother, will I be as pretty as you when I grow up?”

Sandy had laughed and replied, “No!”

“Why not?”

“Because that would be rather foolish of me, wouldn’t it?”

She shook her head until she was back in the nightclub.

“Well you do. Although, you know, less dead.”

April tilted her head towards him. “Sorry, less what?”

He laughed, “Never mind, it was a very bad joke. Another drink?”
“What?”

He pointed to her glass.

“Oh, yes please.”

Asif headed towards the bar and April watched him. She wondered if he would taste as sweet as he acted.

“We need to leave.”

April looked confused as Faith grabbed her arm. “What? Why?”

“Now!” Faith hissed and hurried April towards the door.

They were a few streets away when Faith finally stopped dragging April along.

“Faith? What the hell—“

“Your mother’s dead, April. Mel’s texted and called me a dozen times.”

“Oh…”

“Oh? Just oh?”

“Oh dear?” April looked away.

Faith took a step back shaking her head. “You already knew, didn’t you?”

“Um…”

“Oh my god, April. It was you, wasn’t it?”

“Ah…”

“You killed your bloody mother. Wow. When you said ‘sort her out’, you really weren’t kidding.”

April had run out of noises to reply with so she burst into tears.

Faith was quiet for a while listening to April cry. “How did you do it?”

“I drank too much,” April choked around a sob.

“Fucking hell,” Faith almost laughed, “so they’ve found Sandy with two great fang holes in her jugular and you’ve done a runner, leaving both your phones and all your internet search history behind?”

April hadn’t thought of that. She hoped her father had. “My father is taking the blame.”

“Your father,” Faith snorted, her voice dripping sarcasm. “That excellent pillar of strength and cunning. Oh, we’re all safe then.”

“He offered to do it. He has a plan.”

“What plan? What’s he going to say when they ask how he drained all the blood from his wife?”

“I don’t know. He wouldn’t tell me. He thought I was safer that way.”

“Just great.” Faith ran an agitated hand over her braids. “I didn’t sign up for this.”

“We just have to lie low for a while, it’ll be OK, you’ll see. We have all the time in the world to start again, remember?”

Faith didn’t appear to be listening. “Holy shit, I’m your accomplice. I’m going to go to jail. Or they’ll find out what we are and just destroy us. Or both, I mean a life sentence would be forever for us. I can’t believe you’ve done this! What were you thinking? I’m never going to see Joy again.” Faith was pacing. “Why did you even drink from her in the first place?”

“I don’t know!” April blurted out. “I was just defending myself, she attacked me—“

Faith was blunt. “Like how Caleb attacked you?”

April felt like she’d been punched. “He did.”

“Did he, April? Because I’m starting to think that everything you’ve ever told me is a lie.” She turned on her heel and stormed towards the street.

“Where are you going?”

“As far away from you as possible.”

“Please, Faith. Please don’t leave me,” April pleaded as she followed.

April’s sad little girl voice irritated Faith. She turned back and cried, “Stop! Stop with the guilt trip! I’m done. You can keep your money and your empty promises. I’m sick of your games! I’m sick of your face! I hate what you’re turning me into! I’m going home to Joy, while I still can. I’d rather live in poverty than with you.”

“You can’t! We can fix this!”

“Fix it? Don’t you realise what you’ve done?! Your mother was the most famous, most adored woman on the planet and you’ve killed her. Do you think that’s just going to go away? That people will just forget?”

“It’ll blow over—“

“It won’t! For fuck’s sake! Wake up, you stupid girl!” Faith screamed and before she could consider the implications, she’d slapped April across the face, knocking her to the floor.

She paused, staring at her hand that was still hovering in mid-air. April stayed down; her poorly-applied makeup streaming down her face.

Faith took a step towards April, who cowered.

“Oh my god. April, I really shouldn’t have done that. I’m sorry—“

“I deserved it,” April said in a small voice.

“You didn’t. There’s never any excuse—“

“I always deserve it,” April whispered. Faith saw the darkness creep across April’s face.
The shadows of Sandy’s control.

Faith suddenly wished that Melinda was there. Melinda always knew what to say to bring April back from the brink of hopelessness.

To bring them both back, she thought, subconsciously grazing her nails over the texture of her wrist.

“Stupid girl. Stupid, ungrateful girl. You deserve it.” April was repeating, quietly to herself.

“No. Oh my god, no.” Faith pulled April to her feet, settled her on a nearby bench, “You never deserved it, OK? Anything she ever did to you. You never, ever deserved it.”

“I did. I’m a bad person. I’m a waste of space.”

“April, no. Listen to me. Your mother was a bad person. You’ve done some bad things. There’s… there’s a difference.”

“I killed her,” April said, her voice had lost its sweet lilt.

Faith grimaced. “Yeah, OK, that’s pretty well at the top of the list on bad things to do. But I doubt you were the only one thinking about doing it. And you didn’t mean to, right?”

“No, I didn’t mean to,” April whispered.

“So, a bad thing, not a bad person.”

“I don’t regret it, though. Should I?”

“I am bad, Faith. I’ve lied to you.”

“I… I know.”

“I’ve lied to everyone.”

“But that’s how you’ve survived. Look, you’re weird and very broken. You could really do with working on your jealousy. But otherwise, you’re OK. We wouldn’t be here if you weren’t.”

“Oh, Faith. I’ve ruined everything.”

Faith sighed, “You didn’t do it by yourself.”

April rested her head against Faith’s shoulder. “What are we going to do? How do we fix it?”

“I honestly don’t think we can. I think there’s only one thing we can really do now; damage limitation.” She pulled back to look at April. “You have to start telling the truth.”

“The truth?”

“Yes, you know the opposite of the lies? We can’t deal with any more lies. This is a complete shitstorm, April. If we’re gonna get through this now we have to be honest with each other.”

“Honest,” April repeated, like it was a new word.

“Yes. We are going back right now and… and you are going to explain everything, to both of us. And then we will sit down together and think of a way out of this mess.”

“But I can’t! Melinda… she will be so angry.”

“She will,” Faith agreed.

“She’ll leave us! Faith, we can’t lose her!”

“I don’t think we have a choice. We have completely fucked her over.” Faith was done sugar-coating. “I think she would have left us anyway, eventually. At least this way, if you explain, your conscience will be clear.”

I’ll live with mine.



“So you didn’t mean to kill her?” Melinda asked, again.

“No,” April said. The honesty like a sweet tab on her tongue. “I didn’t.”

“And you’re letting your father take the blame? Does that not bother you at all?”

“I mean he’s not the strongest of men, but—“

“No, I mean morally? He didn’t do anything wrong!”

Faith huffed, “He never did anything right.

“Shut up, Faith. April, making me a vampire. Was that intentional?”

April winced. “I was thinking about it. But that night you came to mine, Mel, I swear, I didn’t intend to. I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know that exchanging so little would turn you, or even that I could turn you being brand new and everything. When I drank from you I didn’t expect you to be quite so… leaky. I thought I’d just instinctively know how to stop the flow, but I didn’t. I panicked and kept thinking how I was going to lose you and that just somehow felt like a normal thing to do.”

“Oh, totally normal, much more normal than just taking me to the hospital. Did the same thing happen with you?” Melinda asked Faith.

Faith squirmed. “No. April told me that she thought she might have turned you and I was sort of jealous.”

“Jealous.”

Faith shrugged. “Vampires are awesome. Eternal life, eternal youth…”

“Seriously? Did either of you actually think this through, even for a second? What did you think we were going to survive on? Did you think we could just carry on life as normal?” Melinda felt like she’d reached the limit of her anger and was coming down the other side of the emotional hill. She collapsed back into her chair.

“I thought the four of us could all run away together, start again…”

“I didn’t want to start again,” Melinda groaned.

“…When I was researching, I found loads of creeps online who would be willingly fed on, so I thought we’d be OK, food-wise.” April said. “Plus, Broof was quite accommodating of my new diet, so I figured we could just hire a butler, or three.”

“Broof?” Faith said, visibly disgusted. “You put your mouth on him? April, your mother has been there.”

“So he knows you’re a vampire?” Melinda asked.

“Well, I couldn’t really hide it from him. There was a huge mess for him to clean up and I had to get him to take you home after you passed out. Plus, I hardly got anything out of you, Mel, before you started freaking out. I wasn’t going to lap your blood off the bathroom floor. I have standards. I had to drink something and Broof is duty-bound to serve me.”

“How was he?” Faith asked.

“He tasted quite good, actually. Much better than Mother did.”

“Wait,” Melinda sat up. “You said the four of us. Is Broof the fourth?”

“No. Caleb is, of course,” April replied.

Faith burst out laughing. “You thought he would just up and run away with us? A centuries old vamp and three random teenagers?”

“Yes.”

“Why would you think that?” Melinda asked over the sound of Faith’s laughing.

April folded her arms around herself, a desperate attempt to hold herself together. “I said he could he drink but only if he stayed with me. And he drank, so…”

“Oh, you naive thing.” Faith sighed, composing herself.

“Did you threaten to tell the media about him unless he turned you?” Melinda asked, remembering Caleb’s version of events.

“No… where did you get that idea? Mother was already upset with me for ruining dinner. She would’ve killed me if I’d done that.”

“So… how did you convince him to turn you?” Melinda asked.

April covered her eyes.

She could see the piano warping before her, she could feel the sharp pain in her neck, his hands on her. She remembered words. Soft words, nonsense words…

“Did you ask him to?” Faith enquired.

“Yes, I think so. I was pretty light-headed by the time he’d finished drinking, though. It’s all really fuzzy.”

“Why would you ask?” Melinda coaxed, gently.

April tried to piece together her memories. In her mind, she could hear him laughing at her.

No, I can’t do that. What the heck’s wrong with you?

“I don’t know,” she replied to them both.

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Chapter 1.20 – Five More Minutes

Ten Years Earlier

“Yes!” Faith squealed, throwing her arms into the air, “I could beat you with my eyes closed!”

Melinda shook her head and turned away from the arcade machine. “You cheated.”

“I did not! Right, best of three.”

“I’m out of tokens. My mum only gave me five simoleons this week. Said the other ten were to replace the jeans I ripped.”

Faith bit her lip. “I’m sorry about those. I’ll pay you back…”

Melinda nodded although they both knew it would never happen. “So… what shall we do now?”

Faith looked around the arcade. “There’s nothing to do here without any tokens. I guess we could go back to yours and do some colouring? Or go to the park?”

“I have tokens,” said the girl.

A pretty blonde girl they’d never seen before. She walked up shyly and held out her hand to present a selection of glittery coins. “Good afternoon, I’m April.”

Faith’s eyes went wide at the pile of tokens. “Hi April, I’m Faith and she’s Melinda. You wanna play with us?”

“Really? You want to play with me?” April’s eyes sparkled.

“Sure!”

April looked at the giant arcade machine, intimidated. “I don’t know how to play.”

“Really? Are you from the moon or something? You’ll get the hang of it. And you really can’t be any worse at it than Mel,” Faith said, playfully nudging Melinda.

Faith and Melinda had never played at the arcade until they were bored, but April’s supply of tokens just didn’t seem to run out. As Faith thrashed them both for the thirteenth time in a row, Melinda yawned, “We should be getting back soon. My mum won’t be happy if we’re late for dinner, again.”

“What are we having?” April asked brightly.

Melinda looked to Faith and then back to April. “You’re… you’re not invited. I mean we’ve only just met you and my mum won’t have made enough… sorry.”

April looked at her shoes. “That’s OK, I’m not supposed to be out anyway, let alone eating. Mother will be so cross with me.” She was quiet for a moment and then she looked up. “Do you want to come to my birthday party tomorrow?”

Melinda gave Faith a subtle shake of her head.

April didn’t seem to notice. “There will be music and games! And Mother says I can have whatever cake I like, as long as I don’t have any of it, so I’ve ordered a massive chocolate one with jellybeans and french fries on it. And there will be gift bags! Last year they had diamonds in!”

Melinda was still shaking her head.

“Yeah, sure!” Faith gushed.

“Great! Give me your number, Faith, I’ll text you the details.”

Faith looked to Melinda, a plea on her face.

“I’ll give you my number.” Melinda said. “Faith… forgot her phone.”



“Thanks for dinner, Mrs. B.” Faith smiled, patting her full tummy.

Melinda’s mum smiled. “I’ve packed you a little bit into a lunchbox for school next week. Make sure you eat it all, including the veggies.”

“I will. Thank you.”

Babs leaned closer to Faith and whispered, “How is your mum doing?”

Faith clenched her fists in her pockets. “She’s OK,” she lied. No thanks to you.

“Oh my gosh, Faith, look at this!”

Faith walked over to where Melinda was sitting. Her eyes transfixed on the TV where Sandy Moss was posing on a red carpet.

“Yeah, that’s last night’s award show. So what?”

“Look at the girl behind her!”

Faith squinted at the TV. “Is that the weird girl?… April?”

Melinda’s phone pinged in her pocket. “Oh my gosh, it is Weird April! She’s just sent her address, look: The Moss Residence, Pinnacles Private Estate, Del Sol Valley. 2 pm. Wear formal attire. What’s ‘formal attire’?”

“Like, a ballgown or something.” Faith dropped her voice to an excited whisper. “Wow! We’re going to meet Sandy Moss! Shoot, I have nothing formal. Can you lend me a dress? I promise I won’t rip it this time.”

Melinda hugged her friend. She hoped her playful voice covered up her concern. “Of course you can! But you’re getting an ugly one.”



Babs dropped the girls off at the gates to the Pinnacles Private Estate. She wasn’t allowed to drive her rusty, old car any further in.

“I’ll be back here at 5 o’clock to pick you up. For the love of Gnome, please be good!” she said. “Please, please be polite!”

“We will, Mum.”

Melinda and Faith slipped through the gate and wandered the estate until they found a huge house with a large, gold plaque that simply said ‘MOSS’.

They climbed the marble steps to the grand front door and rang the bell.

“Wow! Mel, they have a butler.”

The butler opened the door, smiling to himself as he took in the two under-dressed girls.

“Can I help you ladies?”

Faith cleared her throat and said in her poshest voice, “We have arrived for April’s party.”

“I see. Names?” The butler asked.

“Faith and Melinda.”

“Full names?”

Well there was no posh way to say those. “Faith Splodge and Melinda Bucket.”

The butler paused, looked down his list, twice. He looked back at the girls who smiled nervously.

“We might be under something else. April didn’t actually ask us for our full names,” Melinda said.

“Do you have an invitation card?”

“No. We met her at the arcade yesterday and she just sort of invited us. I have a text! Do you want to see it?”

“No need. At the arcade, you say?” The butler looked at them a long while, then glanced back at his list. “How silly of me! Here you are,” he said in a warm voice. Then he nodded professionally and let them through.

“You made it!” April squealed, running up to the girls.

“Oh my god Mel, look! It’s her, it’s Sandy!”

Sandy had entered the hallway. The butler immediately tried to distract her, but even his beard and come-to-bed eyes couldn’t stop Sandy from noticing the juicier feast of two common girls.

“Well, hello. Who do we have here?”

April drew a big breath. “Mother, these are my best friends, Faith and Melinda.”

“Hello Mrs. Moss,” the girls chimed in unison.

Sandy didn’t respond. She took April’s arm, her nails digging into the little girl’s flesh. “Excuse us a moment.”

Faith and Melinda lingered awkwardly until April came back.

“Mother says you have to leave,” she whispered.

“Why?” Faith asked, “have we done something wrong?”

April leaned in her voice barely above a breath. “Head round the back, you’ll see a trellis running up the wall. If you climb that and wait for me on the balcony, I can explain.” She stepped back and shouted. “Thank you for coming by! Unfortunately, we don’t need anymore servants at the moment.”



“I’m not climbing up there, Faith. Let’s just go home.”

Faith hopped down next to Melinda. “Come on Mel. Don’t you want to know what’s going on here?”

Melinda sighed, “Not really.”

“Please?” Faith took Mel’s hand and flashed her best puppy-dog eyes.

Melinda walked forwards and started to climb.

“You’re the best, Mel!” Faith smiled, climbing up behind her friend. “Oh balls!” She looked down where a rogue nail had stuck into her. “I’m so sorry, I think I’ve snagged your dress.”

Melinda rolled her eyes. Of course she has.

April was already waiting when they reached the top.

“I’m sorry for calling you servants and I’m sorry about my mother,” she scuffed her foot on the floor, “she doesn’t like me to have friends that she hasn’t personally selected. You’ll have to be my secret friends, just for now, just until I can sort my mother out.”

“Secret friends,” Faith said sceptically, her hands on her hips, “so in other words, not good enough to be real friends.”

The light left April’s eyes. “I don’t have any real friends.”

“How can you not have any friends?” Melinda asked.

“No-one likes me,” April said quietly. “They call me ‘weird’ or they’re only interested in meeting Mother. Not like you two. Please stay.”

Melinda felt terrible.

Faith scoffed, “Stay and do what? Clean your shoes? Tidy your room? Come on, Mel,” she headed back towards the trellis, trying not to stare at the hot tub or the amazing view, “I know when I’m not wanted.”

April started to cry. “Look, I’ll figure out a way for us to be real friends. I will, I promise. Please, I had so much fun with you both at the arcade. No-one has ever wanted to play with me before. I’m so lonely, stuck in this stupid house all the time. Please be my friends.”

“Why should we stay?” Faith asked. “What’s in it for us?”



“We need to go now, Faith. It’s five past five.”

“Just five more minutes Mel.” Faith pleaded and turned her attention back to the biggest TV she’d ever seen which was showing a movie that Melinda knew her mum wouldn’t approve of her watching.

“He’s definitely a zombie.” Faith beamed through a mouthful of popcorn and chocolate cake.

“Totally,” April replied. “He’s gonna eat her brain, for sure! Hey, if you like this one, you’ll love Zombie Town 3: Pleasantview, you should definitely come and watch that with me next time. I’ll have the butler order in a pizza and we can have a sleepover.”

“How will we get here?”

“I’ll have the butler collect you in the limo.”

“Limo?” Faith’s eyes lit up. “Does the butler do anything you want him to?”

“Yes, that’s his duty.”

“Wow! If you were a zombie, would he let you eat his brain?”

April laughed, “Probably.”

Melinda didn’t like this movie, it made her feel sick. She didn’t like feeling like she didn’t belong in April’s pristine bedroom. She didn’t want to be picked up in a limo. She didn’t want to be friends with Weird April.

But mostly, she didn’t want to share Faith. And that made her feel really mean.

She could feel her phone vibrating in her pocket. She looked down at the hole in Faith’s dress and then up at the sheer joy on the faces of two girls who really needed friends.

It didn’t matter how she felt.

“Five more minutes,” she whispered, wondering if she would ever be able to leave at all.

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Chapter 1.13 – Years of Silence

April slipped her phone back into her pocket, the screen illuminated with a reply as she paced her bedroom.

She was distantly aware of the absence of the pounding in her chest as she ran her fingers through her hair, listening hard to hear where those footsteps went next. They echoed around the cool marble hallways of the ground floor. The sound reverberated obscurely so she couldn’t pinpoint the location. Was she imagining it, or were they ascending the stairs?

She had to get out of there. Whoever it was, when they discovered what she’d done…

Why had she come up to her room? Now she was trapped. Think, April. There must be a way out.

Of course.

As silently as she could, she crossed her room to the escape of her balcony, turned the key and gently eased the large glass door ajar, just enough to slip through. Hand clutched tight to her chest, holding a breath that wasn’t there, she tiptoed across the tiles and peered over the edge.

It seemed much further down than she remembered.

She climbed up on the balustrade, her weight rested against one of the ornate columns. The heel of her boot slipped slightly on the slick stone surface and she steadied herself, swung her other leg up and over, feeling below for the start of the wooden ivy trellis. Finding a sure footing, she lowered herself and began to climb down.

The trellis survived for a few seconds and then April watched in horror as it peeled itself from the wall, sending her to the ground much faster than anticipated.

Travis was grinning to himself as he crossed the hallway and placed his front door key into the bowl. It had been good day. He had a new client and he couldn’t wait to settle down to his dinner and tell his wife all about it. She wouldn’t care, of course, but regardless, he enjoyed the feeling of having something to say.

The house seemed quieter than usual. It was mid-afternoon, he would expect to hear April at the piano or Sandy at the wine. He opened the door to the kitchen and peered in. No sign of Broof either.

The music room was next along the corridor. He peered in but could not see his family. Then, as he turned to leave, something red caught his eye.

April shakily got to her feet and dusted herself down.

Now what do I do? The sun seemed particularly bright today; she scratched at her skin as it prickled in the light. It would take Faith an hour or so to get here, Willow Creek was two buses from Del Sol Valley. April felt that she couldn’t stand in the sun that long; she had to find some shelter.

Travis looked down at his wife, disbelieving.

Had Broof done this? Travis wasn’t oblivious to what his wife did with the butler, or any man really, when she thought he was out of earshot. As the years had passed, Travis had just come to accept that he couldn’t give Sandy what she wanted. At least someone had.

He lifted Sandy’s wrist and felt for a pulse and his heart sank.

In that moment, Travis didn’t know how to feel. This woman was the whole world, after all. He gently held her hand; how long it had been since he’d last done that.

He thought back to the day he had met her at a bar in San Myshuno.

He had been so blinded by her, he couldn’t quite believe it when she’d accepted his clumsy advances instead of laughing in his face. When she had told him she was expecting, he felt like he’d burst with happiness and when she had proposed he hadn’t even hesitated with his answer. His whole life had revolved around her and, even though she terrified him, he would have done anything for her.

Not that he really ever had much choice in the matter.

Now as he took in her neat nose, her chin that he didn’t think needed any changes in the first place, he cupped her cheek for the last time.

As April lingered as best she could in the shadows, she thought about where she was going to go, what she was going to do. How would she blend in to a world that knew her face? When news travelled about her mother – because it would – they would look for her.

Perhaps she should stay. Then they would surely blame it on an intruder, perhaps some disturbed fan with a vampire fetish. Should she slip away for a few hours now, long enough to get herself an alibi, to wait for the police to come? She thought about them taking Sandy away, imagined them searching the house.
A sudden panic flashed through her. The book was still under her bed.

She placed her hand on the latch of the service entrance door and lifted it. It was unlocked; Broof often left it that way when he ran errands, he was terrible for losing his keys. She mentally mapped the route from here to her bedroom and slipped inside.

In the absolute void of the house, Travis heard the latch lift and his heart raced. Was Broof returning to the scene of the crime? With a bravery that took him by surprise he got to his feet and made his way into the kitchen, coming face to face with his daughter.

April froze as her father appeared before her. Both of them looked at each other, the years of silence heavy between them. His expression unreadable as he took in her features like he’d never seen her before.

Travis took a step towards April and she instinctively stepped back. Cornered. Travis’s eyes were wild, she had never seen that look on him before. He knows what I’ve done.

“Daddy,” she whimpered and he visibly shook. She hadn’t called him that for years. “It was self-defence, she… she…”

He had stood by and watched Sandy belittle his daughter.

He had tuned it out, ashamed that he was relieved when Sandy turned on April instead of him. He hated himself every time he watched Sandy raise a hand to April, every time he watched her get cut down a little bit more by her mother’s sharp tongue. As much as he thought he loved his daughter he had completely failed to protect her. Too afraid to stand up for her.

There was nothing for him to be afraid of now.

His voice had an edge, a conviction April didn’t know it could have.

“April,” he stated. “I’ve killed your mother.”

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Chapter 1.12 – Dining in the Gutter

Sandy was back with a brand new face.

It looked very much like her old one, bar the few raw stitches that had been expertly hidden behind her ears.

She was certainly in a good mood. She sashayed in to the dining room for her lunch and took her usual seat at the head of the table next to the large mirror, stealing glances at her new chin and smiling. Until April slid in place beside her.

“Hello mother.”

“April.” Her tone was curt but polite.

Despite it being a Saturday, Travis was at work. The butler had barely served up lunch before Sandy sent him out on a crucial errand. She was out of Glimmerbrook spring water and she couldn’t possibly drink any other kind.

It was rare that Sandy and April were ever home alone. But even rarer that Sandy hadn’t said anything to her. April tried again.

“You’re looking nice mother. Your chin looks good.”

“No thanks to you.”

April looked at her lap. Perhaps her mother wasn’t in such a good mood after all. April could feel the tension building as they each ignored their food in silence.

“Oasis Springs, April.”

April dared herself to look up, confused. “Sorry Mother?”

“Yes, you should be. Three hours it took to travel there. All because of you and your silly little crush on Dr. Vatore.”

April’s fork clattered to the table at the mention of the name. Her mother went on. “Now he’s probably told all his clients about his disastrous evening at the Moss residence. How will I ever show my face in this town again?” She looked at April who said nothing. “Don’t you go denying it. Trying to get a glimpse of him through the sitting room door and then all your attention-grabbing behaviour at dinner. Oh and don’t even get me started on how you followed him to the bathroom of all places! Then to top it all off, you swooned so hard listening to him take a leak that you knocked yourself unconscious.”

“You don’t know anything!” April brought her fists down so hard on the table that the chandelier shook. She pushed her chair back and stormed off across the hallway. She heard her mother’s chair scoot back also, and the click of her heels as she followed.

April burst in to the music room, anger roaring inside her. Sandy stepped in front of her daughter, her face twisted as much as possible with rage.

“How dare you talk to me like that. I’m your mother! I raised you. I have given you everything and this is how you repay me? By trying to ruin my image and my reputation – the very things that put food on your table! You’re an ungrateful brat, April. You’re just a spoiled, stupid little girl. You’re just as pathetic as your father. Living in my shadow, leeching off my success.”

April stood dumb. A deer in headlights. She knew this dance.

Sandy’s tone had that knife-blade edge. “You’d be nothing without me. You’d be dining in the gutter with those stinking, flea-infested mongrels you call friends.” She lowered her voice to a hiss, the sure sign that April had gone too far. “I will teach you not to answer back to me, you little witch.”

Sandy walked towards her daughter, her hand raised to strike.

April used to scream but no one ever stepped in, even when they were home. Instead, she threw her hands up in front of her face, an attempt to deflect the physical side of her mother’s control.

Sandy stopped in her tracks. Her arms dropped to her sides, her mouth hung open around an insult, her body still.

April looked at her trembling hands and back at her mother’s face. Have I done this?

She could feel something radiating through her arms, her fingertips. She pulled her hands slightly towards her face and then pushed them away from her watching Sandy sway with the same motion, like a puppet on a thousand invisible strings.

April was just as mesmerised as Sandy. She couldn’t remember a time she had been this close to her mother. She could smell her shampoo and see the creases in her make-up.

Oh boy, she would be in so much trouble when this was over.

She’d enjoy the control while it lasted. As she manipulated Sandy gently side-to-side, to and fro, April’s mind drifted.

Her mother had given her everything and yet nothing at all.

April subconsciously drew her mother closer until she could almost feel the pulse racing in Sandy’s neck. Her mind was flashing with memory after memory. Every insult, every hit, they all now collided in her mind and fuelled the fire she had kept dampened for so many years.

She thought back over all the times her mother had stopped her from seeing her friends, from having her own life. She’d controlled April down to the minute details: stopped her from thinking, stopped her from talking, stopped her from eating.

The thought hit April like a train.

She can’t stop me now.

April didn’t even try to be delicate. As her fangs slashed open her mother’s neck and the blood poured forth, she drank deeply. Sandy gargled to her daughter; a plea or an insult? April didn’t hear. It was lost to the echoes of everything else Sandy had ever said to her.

April felt her mother falling heavy into her arms. She pulled back, allowing the older woman’s body to fall ungraciously to the floor. The Great Sandy Moss, a heap on the carpet.

April watched her mother for a few moments as the room came back into focus. She had no idea how she was going to explain all this when she came round.

But maybe she wouldn’t have to. April’s body became even colder as it dawned on her that her mother did not appear to be breathing.

The power was replaced by panic. April reached for her phone. She had to do something, she had to call someone. In the sudden silence she heard a key in the front door, footsteps in the hall.

So April did the only thing she could think of, the only thing that had ever helped her. She ran.

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Chapter 1.06 – Gone So Wrong

Sandy was in the hallway, obsessing over her chin. Caleb had promptly made his excuses the second Dr. Goth had arrived. He said he would be in touch. Sandy hoped that April’s unusual behaviour that evening hadn’t put him off.

Her face still needed fixing after all and she had rather enjoyed the company of the quiet young man. 

So she was ever so slightly disappointed when he called her himself that morning to tell her he thought it best she find another doctor. She had taken it out on Travis, who just happened to be walking by, and who was now too terrified to walk past her again so had been hiding in the bathroom for three hours.

Now she was calling every doctor in Del Sol Valley. Unfortunately, news about her treatment of Dr. Caliente, a well-respected figure in the city, had travelled fast. After dialling the fifth number she was starting to wonder if it was too early in the year to be wearing a turtleneck. As she idled at her reflection, considering her options, she was rudely disturbed by the blood-curdling sound of April screaming.

Whether it really was some deeply buried love for her only daughter, or just the worry the neighbours might hear, Sandy rushed towards the landing where the scream had come from. 

Much to her surprise, April was standing on the landing, seemingly fine. Sandy approached her, anger hot in her cheeks. Did April not care that she had a reputation to uphold and an image to maintain?! 

Something about her daughter stopped Sandy in her tracks. April looked different, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. Was she wearing… acrylic? 

“Everything OK, Mother?” April asked. “You look ever so flustered”. Her smile was sweet but her voice dripped heavy with insincerity. Sandy recognised that combination, she had practically created it.

“I… I thought I heard a scream.” Sandy whispered. Where has my fight gone?

April smiled; her soft voice seemed to float through Sandy. “Everything’s fine.”

Almost like her mind was not her own, Sandy nodded at her daughter and turned to head back down the stairs.

April watched her mother go, not quite sure what had just happened, but relieved all the same. She headed towards her room, her steps light and chin high. The pain had completely subsided and she felt great now. Maybe it was just a virus after all.

The early afternoon sunshine broke through her window and she felt her head throb with the brightness of it. Drawing the curtains she reached beneath her bed and pulled out her stolen library book. She again ran her fingers over the softly embossed words on the cover Encylopedia Vampirica. 

When the book had first been suggested to her, she had laughed. Vampires? There’s no such thing. It certainly wasn’t the kind of answer April had expected when she had asked how she might live forever. Vampires, as well as being fiction, weren’t even alive, were they? 

She didn’t really know why she decided to search for a copy of the book online, but her interest was certainly piqued when the only mention she could find of it was in a list of books sold at auction to Windenburg Library in 1992. 

She traced her fingertips down her face, her neck. She didn’t feel any different. She didn’t really know how she was supposed to feel, truth be told. She had wanted to ask Caleb so many questions that night but it had all gone so wrong. She had been so stupid, so awkward.

She turned again to the article about the Vatores. She had read it so many times the words rolled from her tongue even before her eyes saw the text.

Vampyre Infestation Finally Exterminated

Wilbert Wangshaft, renowned vampyre slayer, this morning presented to the townsfolk of Windenburg five decapitated heads belonging to the last remaining members of the known vampyre families: Straud and Vatore. The heads will be on display to the public until the next full moon, whereby they will be ceremoniously destroyed by holy water and fire. Tickets 1d.

She sank back on to the plushness of her bed, the book opened on her chest like a butterfly. Her mind wandering back to Caleb. Oh, he was so mysterious. What was his story?

She fantasised about meeting him again, about what she would say. Images fluttered through her head. Her imagination was vivid, so often her only escape.

They could run away somewhere together. Neither of them would ever have to be alone again. Her mind was drifting back to that night; the way he had held her, the way he had looked at her. 

…The way he had taken her.

A different kind of fantasy started to emerge. April closed her eyes and allowed the scene to knit together in her mind. Lost to her thoughts, the heavy book slid to the floor beside her. 

She didn’t even notice.

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Chapter 1.05 – A Falsehood Too Far

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.

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Chapter 1.04 – Should Know Better

April rushed to the music room, heart racing. She was right. She must be right. 

After they had cleaned him up as best as they could, Sandy had somehow convinced Dr. Vatore and his lap full of chocolate pudding stains to stay for a drink. The two of them were in the sitting room again. April knew they must have passed a dozen mirrors on their way there, but she supposed that her mother was far too vain to notice that her guest did not have a reflection. 

On the hat stand in the music room was the doctor’s coat. April had intended to root through the pockets looking for further evidence, but had been distracted by the sound of voices crossing the hallway. She had hastily shoved the coat into the adjacent bathroom. Now she was lingering in a new listening spot, across the hall from the sitting room. The acoustics here were very limited but she could see them — sort of — and it was, she thought, not worth the risk to upset her mother again this evening.  

She could hear the trill of her mother’s voice as she became more tipsy, then Dr. Vatore’s response, then the unmistakable sound of footsteps heading towards the music room. 

She panicked. Should she go to the piano? The toilet? As she flapped her arms and desperately searched the nearby area for an alibi she heard the footsteps stop behind her. 
Shit.

Turning around, she saw Dr. Vatore, framed in the archway to the hallway, looking at April who was in an unexpected place for the second time that night.  

“Dr. Vatore. Hello. I was… I was just…”

His lips curled slightly at the edges. “…eavesdropping again?”

April shifted her weight and looked around, wishing she had more of her mother’s quick-thinking. Instead she blurted out, “What are you doing in here?”

He motioned behind her towards the bathroom door. 

April nodded and let him step past, but immediately regretted it. Now he was going to find that his very expensive-looking coat was scrunched up on the floor next to a bidet and she’d have to explain. She looked around for a distraction — where was the butler with a terrible pudding when you needed one? Think, April.

“Why do you need to use the bathroom?” Oh god. Did I really just ask that?

He turned back slightly towards her, the shadow of a smile about his lips.” You’re not great at conversation, are you Miss Moss?”

His tone affronted her, so she scoffed, “I just didn’t know that vampires needed to use bathrooms.”

He looked at her for a moment, eyes slightly narrowed. “I’m not sure I’m following you.” 

A charge surged through April as she looked at his face and her body felt compelled to step towards him. He immediately, almost instinctively, took a step back. She took another and so did he, backing himself against the bathroom door. 

She was alight. She had never felt so alive. “I know what you are, Caleb Vatore.” 

They stood for a moment, neither of them moving. She was so close now, she could touch him, if she just reached out her fingers… 

Before her brain had even processed this command, he had caught her wrist. She glanced down,  surprised by the penetrating coldness that curled through her from his touch. She dared herself to look back up.

“I know what you are,” she whispered again, trembling, her fear finally bubbling to the surface.

He let go of her wrist. “You do, huh?” He laughed and she felt her knees go weak. “Then perhaps you should know better.” 

Sandy was drunk and bored. It had been a good while and she was wondering where Caleb was. She thought about following him to see if he was OK, but it was surely rather rude to follow a guest to the bathroom. Then again, it was a large house. Perhaps he had taken a wrong turn and couldn’t find his way back. Or perhaps he’d bumped into Travis and the spineless man had chosen to have a conversation. She couldn’t have that; she had to go find him.

She wandered into the music room, stumbling slightly in her sparkly high heels. She saw Caleb kneeling on the floor. “What are you doing down there?” she slurred.

It took her a few moments to realise that he was doing so because April was unconscious. 

“What happened?” she whispered, clutching her chest. ” Is she… dead?”

Caleb was leaning over her, his fingertips pressed gently against April’s neck. He looked up briefly but didn’t meet Sandy’s eyes.

“I don’t know.” His voice was even and calm as he cradled April’s face. “I found her this way just now when I came out of the bathroom.” 

Sandy leaned against a nearby chair. She pulled out her phone to call their private family doctor, Dr. Goth. She couldn’t risk calling an ambulance; there were always paparazzi outside. Her face would be all over the papers before sunrise. 

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Chapter 1.03 – To Start A Fire

At 8 pm exactly the doorbell rang. Sandy made the butler open it so she could keep up the pretence that she wasn’t really that desperate. In reality, she had been pacing the hallway since about half four. 

April lingered in the adjacent music room and heard her mother announce in her most charming voice, usually reserved for movie directors and enamoured male fans. “Dr. Vatore, won’t you come in.”

“Ms. Moss,” came a reply in a new male voice that sounded like ice and fire at the same time, “please call me Caleb.”

“Broof!” Sandy called, addressing the butler by his first name, something she only did when she was trying to show someone how very down-to-earth and chill she was. “Please take Caleb’s coat.” 

Their footsteps echoed across the hallway, heading towards the sitting room and April softly followed. The muffled conversation she could hear through the wall told her that Dr. Vatore was already discussing the angles of Sandy’s face. April pressed herself closer to the door, trying to listen.  

It suddenly struck her. What was she actually listening for? Suddenly she realised that her plan hadn’t gotten this far. Caleb Vatore was in her house and now she had no idea what to do next. 

Feeling foolish and unprepared, she took a step back to regroup, stumbled and reached out for the door handle to steady herself, accidentally opening it in the process and finding herself making an awkward introduction in to the sitting room. 

Both Dr. Vatore and Sandy turned to look at the teenager who had suddenly appeared in the room. Sandy looked flustered for the briefest of seconds and then reached towards April. “Dr. Vatore, this is my daughter, April. April, Dr. Vatore.”  

April reached out her hand, but Dr. Vatore did not take it. 

He wasn’t… what she had expected. She had expected someone much older, gnarled, somehow grander. But here he was, quite young and, dare she say it, quite handsome. Was she wrong about him?

April pulled her hand back awkwardly, trying to think of a good reason why she was there. Thankfully her mother decided to style out the whole debacle. She picked up a catalogue from the table and opened it to a page about rhinoplasty.

“April is a bit keen to get started on her plastic surgery journey, isn’t that right April?” April stood dumb, nodded along. “I keep telling her, ‘Not yet April! You’re so beautiful as you are!’ But yet she insists!” There was that fake laugh again. “Teenagers! They’re so vain!”

Dr. Vatore blinked at Sandy. “I don’t operate on minors.”

“I’m eighteen!” April blurted for no reason.

“Really.” Dr. Vatore could not sound more disinterested. He turned his attention back to Sandy.  

“We can fix this,” he motioned in the general direction of her face. “If you would please visit the surgery tomorrow evening to discuss further. For now, if you’ll excuse me, I must go. It has been a long day and dinner calls.”

Sandy was jumping up and down – on the inside. Her outside had the same, cool expression she always wore, even with her droopy chin. “Thank you, doctor.”

Dr. Vatore nodded and packed his belongings away. Sandy followed him to the door with April trailing behind. She couldn’t let him leave without confirming her suspicions. Sandy was already gushing about how lovely it was to meet him and thanking him for stopping by. Time was almost up. If April could just get him to stay a bit longer perhaps, ask him some questions… 

“Wait!” April blurted out in her uncool way, “Dinner!”

“What?” Sandy was caught off guard.

“Why not have Dr. Vatore stay for dinner? That way he doesn’t have to rush off and you can discuss the details.” 

Neither Dr. Vatore or Sandy seemed to relish the prospect of having dinner together. But the suggestion had been made and Sandy was not so rude as take the offer back. Plus, there was potential to hear gossip about her fellow celebrities’ surgeries and that was just too tempting. She smiled and insisted he dined with them. 


As they sat down to their bland dinner in their opulent dining room, Sandy schmoozed with Dr. Vatore in her silkiest voice. April tried to interject with questions: Vatore, that’s an unusual name isn’t it – where are you from? and aren’t you quite young to be a doctor – where did you train? But he said very little in response, instead asking Sandy lots of questions about the house and her work. Of course Sandy was only too happy to talk about herself and didn’t seem to notice that Caleb avoided her daughter’s questions. 

April was getting nowhere. The meal was almost over and she was no closer to knowing if her suspicions about Dr. Vatore were correct. She stared at her reflection in her spoon, watching how it morphed in the curve of the silver. Wait a minute.

She glanced up towards her mother where a large mirror was hung. Sandy had had it installed so that she could see herself as she ate, ensuring she never had food in her teeth. It didn’t quite reflect the part of the table where Dr. Vatore sat but it would, if April could just get him to move slightly.

As April wondered if it was over the top to start a fire, the butler arrived, carrying something he was passing off as dessert and April spied her chance.  

She leapt from her seat suddenly and yelled, “Broof! Look out!”

The butler jumped a mile. April wasn’t sure what had surprised him more – that she had used his first name or that she’d addressed him at all – but she watched in slow motion as a bowl of dessert-like substance fell from the butler’s hand into the doctor’s lap. Everyone leapt from their seats. Sandy was mortified at the ineptness of the butler, reprimanding him and apologising profusely to Caleb as she mopped his lap with her napkin.  

In this confusion no-one was looking at April, who was watching only half the scene unfolding in the mirror. Her jaw dropped, her suspicions confirmed.

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Chapter 1.02 – Champagne and Bullshit

April had woken early the next morning. A fitful night’s sleep now meant a plan was fully formulated in her head, although she would have to wait a few more hours for her mother to wake up. Her artificially smooth exterior might have convinced the world that she was defying her age, but Sandy’s insides were finding the effects of copious amounts of champagne and bullshit were getting harder to recover from. She hadn’t found an op for that, yet.

No one ate until Sandy ate, so it was one of those early afternoon breakfasts where the whole family had sat down together. The butler had served up some runny egg-like substance with toast that was somehow rubbery. Travis was pushing it around his plate as he pretended to reply to emails to avoid conversation. Sandy had taken two bites of her dish and was lavishing praise for the mediocre meal. April, as usual under the scrutiny of her mother, ate a tiny bit of her breakfast and then claimed she was full. 

When her father’s phone rang, they all jumped. No-one ever called Travis, especially not on his work number. The only work he got these days was on behalf of the teen offspring of Sandy’s friends. Most of those cases never even made it to trial, which was just as well as when they did, Travis only won because his father pulled some strings. 

 Travis stood up from the table, chest puffed out as he proudly announced he was going to take the call in his office. Sandy watched him leave, muttered something under her breath and then turned to April who had tried to sneak a tiny bit more egg into her face while Sandy was distracted. 

“No wonder you’re so fat.”

April dropped her fork and felt her face grow hot. She looked down at her thighs that didn’t even touch despite being squashed against the dining chair. She felt sick. Keeping her head down as her mother went on at her about her flabby arms, she tried to remember her plan and to turn the shame into some sort of anger. It was now or never. 

“You’re looking old today, mother”

OK, perhaps not the most cutting insult she could’ve come up with, but it certainly did the trick. Sandy stopped mid-sentence and looked like she had been slapped. Her mouth hung open, eyes wide like a fish on a plate. Her daughter, who had never so much as breathed in response to her constructive criticism, had now spoken out of turn twice! When her words returned she seemed to have lost her ability to work a sentence.

“I. beg. your. pardon.” 

April very much wanted to run away and hide, but she forced herself to look at her mother’s unmoving, unlined face. “Your latest face-lift. I… I think it’s failing.”

At this Sandy shot to her feet, hands pressed to her cheeks. She ran to the nearest mirror, which wasn’t far – heck, even the wallpaper in this house was almost reflective – and frantically scrutinised her flawless visage. 

April was enjoying this immensely. “I didn’t want to tell you but I overheard some of your guests at the party.”

“People were talking about my face?!”

April nodded and tried to sound casual. “They said they could tell you’d gone with Dr. Caliente for your last lift. They said you looked like you had a ball sack for a chin.”

Sandy was screeching. Travis came running from his office and the butler rushed in from the kitchen to find her clawing at her face, breathless and beyond control. 

“GET ME DIEGO LOBO ON THE PHONE. NOW!”


April had never felt like this, petrified and thrilled in equal measure. She sat in the music room, pretending to play piano, so she could listen in as her mother paced back and forth.  

First on the phone to Mr. Lobo, practically begging him – although in a very controlled manner that contrasted her face – to give him the details of Penny’s new doctor. Then on the phone to poor Dr. Caliente who would probably now have to leave town. Then finally, to whom April hoped to be Dr. Vatore’s receptionist who informed her that yes, Dr. Vatore would be delighted to pay her a visit… two months from today.

Sandy turned towards the nearest mirror, eyebrows almost raised. “Two months?”

“Yes, Ms. Moss.”

“But this is an emergency. I need to see him today, the Starlight Accolades are only a month from now!”

“I understand, Ms. Moss,” came the cool, smooth reply of someone who was used to dealing with drama, “but Dr. Vatore is fully booked and could not possibly see you any sooner.”

Sandy, who was clearly getting more frantic suddenly switched. When April watched her mother do this she could easily see how she had become such an esteemed actress… but wow, it was terrifying. Her voice now was cool, almost eerie. “He will see me today,” she purred, “or I will ensure he does not see anyone in this town again. Am I making myself clear?” 

The voice on the other line fell silent. April thought for one horrible moment that they had hung up and her plan had failed. Then, thankfully, came the response. “Is 8pm this evening satisfactory for you Ms. Moss?”

Sandy visibly relaxed. “It will suffice. I take it you don’t need my address. I’ll let the guardhouse know to expect him.” 

She hung up and turned to April who swiftly put her fingers back to the keys, heart pounding. She couldn’t believe her plan had worked.

Sandy listened to her daughter play for a while, seemingly lost in thought before she muttered, “Thank goodness you have me to prop you up, April. It’s not like you can rely on those piano skills to get you anywhere.”

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