Home > Searching for April

Searching for April
Author: Julia Bright




April Hampton glanced over her shoulder, taking note of two small bikes in the driveway across the street, the cars and three pickup trucks parked at neighbors’ houses, and the cat sauntering away from the gray house on the corner, but that wasn’t what she was checking for. A shiver snaked down her spine as she shoved the key into the lock, almost positive she hadn’t been followed.

Her Aunt Myrna was in Europe for the summer, and April needed a place to hide. This house in Fallport, West Virginia would keep her safe while she tried to figure out who was stalking her.

The quiet neighborhood was just what she needed to clear her mind. She’d taken the long way from Texas, heading to Atlanta and then driving to Savannah, Georgia, before slowly driving here. Once in town, she’d doubled back, driven in circles, and done double-checks to make sure no one had followed. For the first time in a long time, she felt safe.

The sound of a child screaming made her jump. She slammed the door behind her, gasping as fear skittered through her. With shaky hands, she pulled back the curtain on the front window to watch the scene unfold across the street. Some kid had taken a nosedive off their bike, and their mother had stepped outside to pick him up. She dusted off his shoulder and arm, giving him a smile and a kiss. The illusion of safety mothers gave had not been something she’d experienced. Instead, it had been Aunt Myrna who had offered safety and security. That’s why she was here even though their relationship had deteriorated. No, not deteriorated, but cooled.

No one had followed. Relief slid through April. She was being silly—paranoid like her friends accused her of being. None of them had believed her when she’d said someone had followed her. The police had practically laughed in her face when she’d showed up at the station, complaining about her stalker. She got that the cops had more pressing matters than some woman saying she was being targeted, but it still pissed her off they hadn’t even offered to help. Maybe she didn’t have physical evidence—other than mints left on her bathroom counter—but she knew something fishy had been going on.

Myrna’s house was small. Just two bedrooms, a small kitchen, dining room, a den, and a study, but it did have a huge screened-in back porch where she’d slept as a child. On cold nights she’d snuggled under the blankets and listened to owls hunting. Sometimes, she fantasized about being an owl and flying away from all the trouble in her life. Those had been her carefree days, the only time she’d felt security and safety.

April wished her mother had been stable, but it wasn’t like her mom had chosen to be bipolar and then have doctors tell her she was just a slave to hormones. April wondered how different everything would have been if her mother had had good medical care. Instead of a mother who could cope, April had her aunt. Myrna had saved her more times than she could count, and once again, though Myrna didn’t know she needed help, her aunt would save her.

April checked the refrigerator and pantry, seeing both nearly empty except for a few cans of soup and a box of mostly stale crackers. The allowance she received from the money her mom had left behind was enough for stocking the refrigerator, but she would need to get a part-time job since she hadn’t let go of her apartment back home. Also, she’d emptied her cash reserve when she’d stayed at hotels, and not the cheap motels that dotted the freeway during her wild dash from Texas.

The sun wouldn’t go down for a few hours, and she was sure she hadn’t been followed…but there was always a chance. A shiver snaked through her at the idea of the man or woman messing with her life following her on the crazy path she’d driven. No way anyone could have made sense of everywhere she’d taken detours. She blew out a breath, trying to convince herself she hadn’t been followed.

The grocery store wasn’t too far away, and maybe she could check in town for help wanted signs. Surely a place this size needed some part-time help. She didn’t need a lot of money to survive. A few hours a week would supply her with cash and keep her mind busy.

She checked the window locks and then checked them again, making sure the house really was secure before heading out. The town of Fallport hadn’t changed much in the years since her mother had come to drag her away on their next great adventure. More houses dotted the landscape, a new neighborhood had gone in where there’d been a bunch of trees, and a few shops had turned over to become new restaurants and stores. She recognized, or thought she recognized, a few people as she drove slowly through town but didn’t remember their names.

She had been young the last time her mother picked her up from Aunt Myrna’s place. April had been glad to see her mother but sad to be leaving Myrna’s home. Those last four years with her mother had been wild. As an adult now, she couldn’t imagine living like her mom had.

They’d ended up in California after a few months in Mexico and then a year in Canada and Alaska. Her mother had been contemplating Australia, but she couldn’t drive there. For multiple weeks at a time, their car had been their home. Giving up home was a little too much to ask Mom, so Australia had been scratched off the list along with Hawaii and Europe.

The plans had been exciting but exhausting. Just as soon as April got comfortable, maybe made a friend or two, her mother would get an idea, and off they’d go. At first, it had been exciting, but then April realized she was just along for the ride and that it would never stop.

One day while April was at school, the cops came to talk to her. She feared the police because they’d treated her mother badly in the past, which meant she’d been treated badly, too. She remembered sitting in Mrs. Hubbard’s office, staring at the black scuff on her white tennis shoes while picking at the hole in the knees of her jeans while an officer told her that her mother had driven the car off a cliff, ending up in the ocean. She hadn’t cried, not then, but the lost feeling had almost totally enveloped her.

The cops had ruled her mother’s death an accident, not a suicide, so the money from insurance had come through. At the time, April had been numb to everything. She hadn’t questioned how or why her mother had driven the car into the ocean. She’d just accepted that her mother had wanted to leave this world.

Then the foster homes happened, and she tried to accept it. Apparently, Myrna had been out of the country and unreachable. Foster care had been one shitshow after another. The foster parents might have been considered stable by the state, but they were far from loving. It had been a rollercoaster ride with her mother, but with some of the foster homes, it had been a horror show.

Only when she turned eighteen had she been able to live on her own. It had been glorious, or at least better than having to suffer through lectures made by people who didn’t know or care about her.

Luckily the foster care worker who had her case had made sure April had taken dual enrollment courses for college, so she’d graduated with half her college credits already taken.

Then two weeks after she turned eighteen and moved into a small apartment on her own, Myrna returned home from Japan to find out her sister had died, and that April had needed her.

At first, April hadn’t been mad that her aunt had been away, but the absence had made indifference grow. Because of her mother’s death, or maybe it had been the instability she’d grown up with, April had been full of spite for life. She’d not answered Myrna’s calls or letters. Then she’d turned nineteen and finally contacted her aunt. They met in Dallas, Texas, and spent the weekend trying to revive their relationship. Too much had changed between them. Myrna wanted April to be the child she’d been the last time her mother had foisted April on her. But it had been seven years since she’d seen her aunt, and she’d grown up. She still loved Myrna, but the bond they’d shared when April had lived in Fallport had been broken.

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