Chapter 1.14 – Out of Control

He wouldn’t hear otherwise.

Travis didn’t understand exactly what April had done to her mother or how she had managed it, so he didn’t ask. He knew that he couldn’t hear about April’s guilt if he was to be able to convince someone of his. He was a terrible lawyer, after all.

The pair had managed to roll Sandy up in the very expensive rug and Travis had formulated a plan. He thought it best that April leave town for a while – she did not have her mother’s acting prowess and he couldn’t risk her being in the picture with her guilty face as he was arrested. She did have a tendency to blurt things out. He gave her the address of his elderly aunt, Marjorie and April was to leave tonight. Travis would then wait as long as he possibly could before he eventually confessed to Sandy’s murder.

April thought this plan had a few holes, but what did she know about great plans? She headed back up to her room to pack.

“I’m so glad to see you, I was just going to call you.” Melinda had gushed as she opened the door to Faith. “I need to tell you something and it’s going to sound so crazy-“

“April has turned you into a vampire? Yes, me too.”

“What? When? How is this even possible?” This was just a really bad dream, she’d wake up soon. “Wait, you let her feed from you?”

Faith paused. “We traded.”

“For what?” Melinda thought for a moment. “Money?”

Faith shook her head, frustrated with herself. “She wants to see me, urgently apparently.”

“Why? Are you, like, her dial-a-dinner?”

Faith scoffed. “Well she can hardly feast off me now can she? Look, I don’t think she has a clue what she’s doing, Mel. Less so than usual and now she’s undead and has a taste for blood. She’s a car crash waiting to happen. Get your jacket.”

“I’m not going.”

“Yes you bloody are. I’m not doing this without you.”

The two had travelled to the perimeter of April’s estate, scaled the wall behind the house and made their way to the service entrance, a route well trodden by them over the years.

April was waiting for them outside along with a large trunk and a few suitcases.

Faith scowled, “There had better not be a body in there April.”

April didn’t react, her face was pale in the moonlight, her voice so quiet they strained to hear her over the wind. “I attacked my mother and I’m leaving. Right now.”

“You attacked your mother?” Melinda gasped, “Are you OK? Is she?”

“No. I just can’t seem to control myself. The thirst is just… something else.” She glanced at Broof who had arrived to dutifully take April to the train station and was looking between the car and all her bags with some confusion. She carried on in a hushed whisper, “Judging by the fact I can’t detect a pulse in either of you, it’s probably only a matter of time before you’re out of control too.”

“You think I’d attack my mum?” Melinda said incredulous, then remembered that she almost had.

“Or worse.” April looked at Faith. “You could hurt Joy. We all know how easily you can fly off the handle.”

Faith, for once, didn’t reply.

“So what are we going to do?” Melinda asked, still feeling ten levels of numb.

April shook her head. “I really don’t know. Father says I can stay with an aunt until this thing blows over. Maybe you should come with me.”

As much as neither Melinda or Faith wanted to leave their families, the alternative just didn’t bear thinking about. They all agreed that they needed to get as far as they could from anyone they loved. Marjorie’s seemed like as good a place as any to start.

The train was deserted except for the three girls.

They travelled in silence, each consumed by their own thoughts. Melinda stared out of the window, watching the darkness whizz by. She glanced at her phone to see a dozen missed calls and messages from her mother in response to the note she had left.

Faith found herself irritated by the constant pinging coming from Melinda’s pocket. Her own phone had been silent since she’d left. Although she didn’t know what she was really expecting. Her mother had always told her that she took after her father; perhaps she had known that Faith would abandon her, too.

She’d barely had chance to pack anything in the five minutes that April had waited outside her house on the way to the train station, let alone adequately explain to her mother where she was going or why. Thankfully, Joy was at a sleepover and didn’t have to witness anyone else walking out on her.

She thought of Joy’s little face and her heart, or whatever was left in its place, sank. She really hoped she was doing the right thing.

It had taken hours but they had finally arrived at the address on Travis’s note. It had not been easy to find – one very long, very silent train journey, a short hitch-hike to a shady-looking bar and then a trek from the main road down an overgrown path through dense woodland. It was made all the harder by the massive trunk April had packed. If it wasn’t for Melinda’s navigation apps they’d surely be wolf food by now.

“This place looks like something from a horror movie.”

April walked up to the front door, ignoring Faith’s description of her great-aunt’s house. She had never visited this place before. Sandy didn’t really have time for distant family members, especially not Travis’s. She knocked.

No answer.

“It doesn’t look like anyone’s home. Or they don’t want to answer because, y’know, it’s dark and terrifying out here,” Melinda offered, trembling.

April sighed, looking around at the overgrown garden. It didn’t look like anyone even lived here.

“Try calling your dad.” Melinda suggested.

“I can’t. I haven’t brought either of my phones. You know that mother will track me,” April choked around the lie.

“So what do we do?”

April didn’t know. She wasn’t used to making decisions. She sank down in despair against the door and startled as it gave way behind her.

Was it breaking in if she was related?

The three of them wandered inside the pitch black house. April walked around the living room inspecting the dusty furniture. Melinda ventured over to an end table illuminating it with the light from her phone.

April nearly jumped out of her skin as Melinda gasped, “Oh my gosh! She’s dead!”

Had news travelled that fast?

Melinda was scanning a piece of paper. “‘Enquiry about the ownership of the house following the death of Ms. Marjorie Davies.'” She read the page a little further. “Wow, this letter is three years old. Doesn’t your dad know his aunt has died? Did he not call ahead?”

“Clearly not,” April sighed, rapidly losing what little confidence she had in her father’s ability to form a cohesive plan. She walked over to the fireplace and ran her finger through the inch thick dust on the mantle.

Faith was fumbling with something on the wall and then the room filled with light. It only made it marginally less creepy.

“Home sweet home,” April said brightly, as spiders scurried away for cover all around her and something fluttered upstairs. “So… what shall we do first? Choose rooms? Unpack? Perhaps watch a movie? It’d be a great place to watch something really spooky.”

“Nah, let’s go to the pool, I quite fancy a swim and a mojito,” Faith said sarcastically. “We’re not on bloody holiday, April!”

“Right.” April conceded.

“Ugh. You weren’t wrong about this thirst.” Faith pressed her hands to her face. “I’m parched.”

Melinda could feel her insides tighten at Faith’s words. “We didn’t buy any food! Do you think there’s any food here?”

April shook her head, her words heavy. “Probably nothing we can survive on.”

“Oh right.” Melinda looked like she was going to cry. “I can’t… how will I? Blood, I mean…” She turned green.

“I hear you. I’m going to need something, though.” Faith murmured.

“You get over it. The ick part I mean, the thirst just rages on,” April said. “I guess we could head to that bar we passed on the way down here? Might find something suitable there. Or rather… someone.”

Faith nodded and so, reluctantly, did Melinda, although she’d never been less sure of anything.

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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 1.07 – Forbidden Trousers

April was ravenous and yet every morsel made her sick.

It had been almost a whole day since her strange episode in the kitchen. She was feeling fine yet she hadn’t managed to keep a single bite down. Also, just as strange, her mother had been distant since their meeting on the landing. Sandy had informed the household that she would be away for a few days getting her face fixed and that was all the contact they’d had. 

As she lay on her bed scrolling through a mental list of foodstuffs, trying to decide what she found least revolting, April’s bedside drawer vibrated – her secret phone with a message from Melinda.

Hope you’re OK.

It suddenly dawned on April that she hadn’t spoken to Faith or Melinda since her party. She tapped out her reply.

Wicked witch away tonight. Come round for 7.

She opened the drawer to put the phone back, then paused and slipped it in to her pocket instead.

At 7 pm, April was waiting by the door. Her mother had long left for her appointment at a clinic miles away in Oasis Springs. April wasn’t the only one looking forward to her Sandy-free evenings. Travis had changed into his forbidden trousers and had gone up to bed with a large pizza. Broof had taken the night off to go to a sports bar.

It was almost 7:30 when the doorbell rang. April flung it open, excited to see her friends, but it was only Melinda who was standing on the other side.

“Where’s—“

Melinda looked glum. “She still doesn’t want to see you.”

April nodded sadly. She had really messed up this time and Faith could certainly hold a grudge. Melinda’s face brightened. “But I guess that means no drama tonight!” 

April followed Melinda through to the music room. Melinda pulled out her phone and leaned close to April to show her the screen. “Before I forget, you have got to see this video! This cat is so darn talented.” 

She tapped play and the screen came to life. A cat holding a paintbrush in its mouth was making some smudges on a canvas. It was just the kind of video that Melinda enjoyed. She loved anything to do with cats. April would usually giggle at all the right places while her friend belly-laughed beside her, but not tonight. She held her stomach as it gnawed itself beneath her hands. 

She was so close to Melinda she could smell her skin. Oh, she smelled amazing. April closed her eyes, leaned in slowly towards her friend’s shoulder feeling the warmth radiate from her body. She parted her lips. Just a little bit further…

“What the-?” April was woken from her trance. Melinda looked warily at her friend. “Did you just try to lick me?”

Did she? April didn’t know what to do. Her laugh was too high but out it came. “No!” She threw her hands up and laughed like it was the funniest thing she’d ever heard. She laughed until her sides ached and her face hurt. Melinda stood there silently until she’d finished. 

“April,” she whispered softly, “what’s wrong?”

April hated it when Melinda did this. When she cared. Why did she have to be so nice? Now she was shaking and Melinda was stroking her hair and cooing. Every kind touch just made April more inconsolable. Melinda draped an arm around her friend, pulled her close. 
Melinda had seen April cry but never like this. She suspected it was something far more serious than her falling out with Faith. Had her mother done something?

“Shh,” she whispered as she rocked April in her arms, “talk to me. Has something happened?”

April choked back a hiccup. Her words came out broken between her sobs. “He.. he…”

He?

“Your father?”

Melinda struggled to imagine Travis ever doing anything that would ever impact anyone. 

April shook her head. “He… he… attacked me.”

Now Melinda was confused. “Broof?”

April was sobbing so hard now that she could barely form any words at all. “Ca – Caleb.” she managed before falling in to Melinda’s arms.

“What did he do?” Melinda tried to soothe her friend while she felt her blood boil at whoever this jerk was. Was he some rich kid that April knew? A friend of her mother’s? April had been upset after encounters with entitled rich guys before, but nothing like this. What the hell had this Caleb done? 

April slowly regained composure. Melinda sat with her quietly, waiting. Eventually April looked up at Melinda’s concerned face. 

“It was the night after my party. Mother had invited Dr. Vatore – Caleb – round to be her new plastic surgeon and he had stayed for dinner. I’d heard of him beforehand and was keen to meet him. He wasn’t what I expected, not like all those other doctors. He was really young but there was something really strange about him, you know?”

Melinda nodded even though she didn’t know and April continued.

“So anyway we had dinner. I was asking him questions and he was ignoring me like I didn’t exist. Then the butler came in and dropped dessert right into this guy’s lap.  Everyone freaked out. We were in the formal dining room, you know, next to that big mirror? Well I was looking in this mirror as everyone was flapping about it front of it and, I kid you not Mel, this Caleb guy didn’t have a reflection.”

“Wait, what?”

“Seriously. So I was, like, proper shaken because – who the hell doesn’t have a reflection?” April paused, shook her head. “I thought maybe I was seeing things. Anyway, so I excused myself, I came in here,” she motioned around the room, “and I thought I’d try and listen in to the conversation he was having with my mother, then the next thing I know he was standing right behind me. And – I don’t know why I blurted it out – but I did, I called him a vampire.”

Melinda was staring at April, her tone disbelieving. “A vampire.”

April nodded. “He laughed at first and then… he changed. He came towards me and, holy shit Mel, he actually was. He actually was a vampire—“

“But April, vampires don’t exist—“

“He had fangs Mel! He grabbed me and it was like my whole body was in a trance. He told me I should know better than to go around accusing folk of being vampires.” Her words were coming so fast now they were almost unintelligible. “He said he should… teach me a lesson so he… he…” she hesitated, mind reeling, “he sank his fangs into my neck.”

“Why would he—“

“I was so scared, Mel. It felt like he was sucking my soul out. I was pleading with him to stop but he wouldn’t. I remember thinking I was going to die and then… nothing. Everything went black.” April dropped her head to her hands, the sobs once again taking over.

“Right…” Melinda stood for a while trying to process this information. She didn’t so much doubt that April had been attacked… but a vampire? “Are you sure April? I mean, I believe you, I guess, but the vampire part, it’s all a bit… implausible. Perhaps this guy was just some sort of obsessive vamp fan? At one point Faith was thinking of getting fangs, remember? Maybe it was just some sort of weird aesthetic?”

The two looked at each other, silent. Then without saying a word, April laced her fingers with Melinda’s and pulled her gently towards the nearest mirror.

Melinda’s eyes were like saucers as they registered the image before them. April still had hold of her hand and she turned her face towards her friend. April’s irises were almost white; her voice barely above a whisper. “He was a vampire, Mel. And now I think I am too.”

Melinda was rooted to the spot looking between the mirror and April. Her heart hammered as she took in the undead coldness of April’s fingers against her own. She trembled. Why had April invited her here? What did she actually want?

As if she’d read her mind, April looked up almost shyly through her lashes. “Please,” she whispered as her fingers traced the veins in Melinda’s wrist, her voice broken. “I just… I think I need to drink.”

Melinda didn’t know what to believe. Something about April’s story just didn’t seem right, but she was never one to turn away someone who needed her. She relaxed her arm into April’s hands, nodded and closed her eyes. 

Resigned to her fate, she winced as she felt something sharp puncture her skin. 

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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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Prologue

Sandy Moss wanted a large glass of wine, not a child.

It was only supposed to be a simple fling, a few nights in with a struggling lawyer while she was in the city shooting her latest film. He of course would be delighted to find out she was expecting. It was probably the only thing he’d ever accomplish in his life, she thought, besides bedding such a fox in the first place, that is.

She thought about him; Travis Davies. He was OK, she supposed. Not too unattractive or needy and he backed down in every argument – she could do worse. Her father, had he still been alive, would’ve approved that this one at least had a ‘real’ job; even if that real job involved him working at his father’s law firm and struggling to find clients. 

She looked up as Travis took a seat beside her and she got in to her zone, her line well rehearsed.

“I’m pregnant, the baby is yours, I require you to marry me and I’m not changing my name.”

His grin could’ve split his face in two. He accepted her proposal and its conditions, not that she’d given him a choice. As he wittered on excitedly about wedding venues and baby names she studied his features. Would her son have his eyes? Maybe his jaw? She hoped he was just as submissive, although she was certain she could work that in to him. 

She imagined the front covers of the glossy magazines: “Sandy Moss Expecting First Child”. She wondered how much she could sell that story for. 

It appears that Sandy was far too busy to track mundane things like cycles, because only five months later she delivered a baby girl. Travis was delighted but Sandy had not wanted a girl. The last thing Sandy needed was a younger version of herself stealing all the limelight. She named her daughter April as that’s when she was born. Sandy didn’t want to waste time coming up with a name when there was one right there on the birth certificate.

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that Sandy was not a natural parent.

As April grew in to a toddler, it was Travis who took on most of the parental duties. And when father wasn’t available little April learned pretty quickly to stay out of mother’s way.

When April was a small child the family moved from Travis’s apartment in San Myshuno to a glorious mansion on a private estate in Del Sol Valley. 

This had all been funded by Sandy’s acting career with no thanks to Travis, who had to have been the worst lawyer in the world. As Sandy theorised, to be a good lawyer you probably had to have a backbone, something Travis severely lacked. 

The extra space in the house allowed them to have a butler, who took over most of the childcare responsibilities as Travis tried to make a name for himself in this new town. Sandy heartily approved of said butler, even though Travis thought his cooking was somewhat terrible and he suspected he wasn’t spending much time looking after April.

Travis may or may not have had an inkling of Sandy’s true reasons for hiring the bearded butler. He never said anything, of course. 

April went to the finest schools and befriended the finest children of the finest people. But she never really felt like she fit into their perfect world. April considered herself to only have two real friends; Faith and Melinda, two girls who lived in the modest suburbs of Willow Creek.

Sandy disapproved of April’s taste in friends and their lack of social status, so they weren’t allowed in the mansion. To ensure as little contact as possible between her daughter and the common folk, April was not allowed out without written permission. 

April, much to the disappointment of her mother, was not completely hideous. 

Sandy had been quite pleased to see that her daughter had initially inherited her father’s boring, mousy hair but alas, it soon lightened to a white blonde eclipsing even Sandy’s platinum locks. April’s face was perfectly symmetrical and – how irritating – she probably wouldn’t even need the small tweaks to her nose that Sandy may or may not have had as a teenager. 

Sandy did not tell her daughter any of this. Instead she would highlight the tiniest pocket of puppy fat, the smallest blemish on her face, the way her ribbon didn’t quite match her socks. It led April to believe that she was, in fact, quite disgusting.

It was these little criticisms that kept April largely out of the spotlight. The only time her image was ever really seen in public would be when it was carefully staged by Sandy to further her own career. They were the perfect family for Sandy’s public appearances. Sandy would allow Travis some brief access for lovemaking beforehand so he didn’t look too miserable and she would ensure April was dressed in a way that made her look loved. She would push her family in front of the hungry cameras and thank them sincerely in her speeches. 

It was these sorts of scenarios that ensured Sandy had quite the reputation among both the media and her colleagues in the movie industry for being a perfect role model – an excellent actor, mother and wife – something rare in the shallow world of Del Sol Valley. Her timing mistake those few years prior had clearly been an excellent career move. It didn’t matter that she didn’t know Travis’s eye colour or how old her daughter was, people thought she did. She had learned a long time ago that she could get people to believe anything.

It was only when April became a teen that Sandy’s hold started to break. Sandy was disgusted to see that, despite her best efforts, she had raised a daughter who was, there was no denying it, very beautiful. 

Especially as by now, Sandy’s own face was starting to resemble a balloon someone had let the air out of and it was becoming quite an expensive routine getting it pinned back up every few months. But fortunately for Sandy she was relieved to find that her daughter, like Travis, also seemed to be missing most of her spine. She never argued, never answered back, just listened to her mother’s criticisms and vowed to do better.

Sandy wasn’t concerned that her only child was not worthy of her legacy. After all, Sandy was certain her fame would ensure that her name was in the conversation long after her body was. Every film she made cemented her in deeper in the history books, her plaque was on the Boulevard for future generations to visit. Sandy was, as she put it to April during a particularly scathing reprimand, an early death away from being ‘almost eternal’.

April was torn. She couldn’t live in her mother’s shadow forever. In two weeks time, she would be eighteen with no discernible acting talents discovered and probably no law ones to inherit. She didn’t want to get famous off the back of her mother, the way her peers were doing, with product placement and scripted reality. But she didn’t want to fade into nothing, either. 

Like most teenagers of this era, she often turned to the internet to try and answer her burning question of the day. Recent searches of how can I be more beautiful? …thinner? …less shit at piano? popped up in the list as she started to type. 

Today she had a new question. Her mother had a great talent for hitting nerves and it seemed she had discovered a new one in April. Her boasts rang loud in April’s memory.

Almost eternal.

April brought her fingers to the keys and the new question was typed out on the screen.

How can I live forever?

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