People make decisions based on all sorts of reasons. Love, fear, ambition, lust or even naivety. But there are others that are driven by stronger forces; a phenomenon of nature that draws two people together against all odds, much like gravity pulls everyone towards the ground. It knows of no social convention for it is beyond that; it demands to be felt
Anger was the force that drove every decision April ever made. It was the force that drove everyone in her family, the Pages. They were the richest people in Benton and, on the outside, the personification of an ideal family. In reality, however, they were as far from it as it could be. Roland Page, her father, was on his third term as Benton’s mayor and was also the owner of the town’s dairy factory, which was responsible for generating eighty five percent of jobs for Benton’s working-class families. He had made a living out of making everyone believe he was better than them when, in reality, he kept his pockets full by embezzling from the town’s treasury.
Miranda Page, April’s mother, had married Roland who had been her high school sweetheart right after graduation and went along for the ride. While he got to go to college, she had to channel all her energy into becoming a portrait of a stepford wife, right down to the blonde hair. Money and recognition were all things that were supposed to make her happy right? Wrong. And when she finally realized all the money in the world was not going to make up for a cheating husband and a life devoid of all sense of purpose, she turned to alcohol to make things barely tolerable.
So where did all of this leave April? alone and fending for herself ever since she was six years old and her father struck her across the back three times with his leather belt and locked in her room for a week, just for taking of her shoes at a fundraiser; even though they were new shoes and had given her blisters on the back of her talons. Six is way too young to learn how to hate, but in those days, she learned it down to a science. And everything that followed in the years to come just made her anger and hatred grow more and more.
But now, after seventeen years of hating her father and pitying her mother, she was mere months away from freedom. College was approaching and with that the chance to leave Benton and never come back; and boy was she ready to leave after all there was absolutely nothing special about Benton. Buried in the dust of the Arizona desert, what once was a prosper Native American village turned into a quaint little town founded by Nathaniel Benton, from whom it got its name. Or at least that’s what Mrs. Foster had always taught in her boring and endless history classes; and perhaps all the splendor and wealth she talked about might have been true somewhere in the past, but at that time is was just the place where hopes and dreams retired to die. During the day, the heat was so strong one could almost feel the blood boiling inside one’s veins. But at night it changed completely; the air was freezing cold, turning people’s breaths into clouds of frozen ai and when April was a little kid, she liked to pretend it was her special dragon breath. But anyway, with Benton it was as different was black and white. As if there were two different towns existing simultaneously in the same dimension.
Now, April was a far as business savvy as anyone will ever be; the one thing she loved to do in her life was to paint. It was her only escape route out of her stifling home life. So, what she really wanted to do was go to art school; but she knew her father was never going to pay for that thus she was willing to compromise and go to whatever business school her father liked as long as it was on the opposite end of the country. April knew her father wasn’t too keen on keeping promises, but she hoped he would want to be rid of her as much as she wanted to be rid of him.
“Is Jennifer picking you up?” Her mother asked. She looked like a marble statue; all dressed in white and staring into the nothingness completely expressionless. The sunlight breaking in through the glass slide door made her gleam as if she too were made of glass. She held a martini in her right hand despite it being only seven thirty in the morning. Her hair was perfectly style in a blonde bob so full of hairspray it defied the laws of physics.
“Yes.” April replied halfheartedly eating another spoonful of cereal. She had been trying to eat it for forty minutes while waiting for Jenny to arrive and by then the cheerios were all soggy from the milk. It was so like Jenny to be late... again.
Her mother was about to say something else when a roar echoed throughout the house followed by the sound of clatter. April felt her heart sink into her stomach when she realized it was coming from her father’s office. Both her and her mother shot up from their seats and ran towards each other. April saw how the color drained from her mother’s face as she kept her eyes fixed on the doorway to the dining room; the sound of her father’s office door slamming shut and footsteps coming down the stairs.
“I think you should wait for Jennifer outside. Antonia will give you your lunch in the kitchen.” But it was too late. Roland Page was already standing at the doorway. April’s mother yanked her back, holding her tight in place next to her.
The dining room was perhaps the largest room in the house, but right then and there it wasn’t big enough for them to make an escape. They slowly backed away, going around the table towards the door, until they were stopped by bumping into the big mahogany cabinet they used to keep the silverware.
“Can you believe this son of a bitch?!” Her father spat, throwing that day’s newspaper across the table. April kept looking at him across the room; she felt like she wanted to throw up, but she had learned that it was best not to show him any fear, as much as her legs were shaking at that moment. Her mom picked up the newspaper and read it.
“Maybe we should discuss this later. April needs to get to school.” there was this shaking in her mother’s voice, and she understood it, Roland Page was an intimidating guy.
He had piercing blue eyes and a strong gaze; whenever he looked directly at anyone he could make them feel defenseless, like a deer about to be eaten by a lion. His mouth was always shut in a single, unflinching line framed by a puffy black mustache with a couple of gray hairs in it. There was no warmth whatsoever in his expression. Even though he had some wrinkles here and there, the side of his eyes and mouth mostly, he still managed to retain most of his good looks. He also spent an insane amount of time in the house’s gym room, so at fifty he could easily pass for a forty-year-old man.
April hated how much she looked like him; the same blue eyes and black ebony hair, even the same intimidating gaze sometimes. But what she hated the most was how easy it was for her to flare up; just as he was at that very moment.
“What happened?” she immediately regretted asking.
Ronald strode towards them and yanked the paper from Miranda’s hands and then waved it violently at her face before finally pushing it into her chest. There was a picture of her father leaving city hall and the title next to it read where are the funds for the hospital? In big, bold font letters. She let out a faint oh when she read who was responsible for the article: Edward Asher.
“That bastard has been in town for six months and he’s stirring up all this shit? Thinking he can take ME on? Mister big shot journalist from the big city thinks he knows it all... Shit it’s what he knows!”
“Roland!” Miranda cried out, outraged. “Language please.” Roland mockingly scoffed at his wife.
“What? If you think she doesn’t say things worse than this, you clearly don’t know your daughter Miranda.”
April chose to ignore the comment and kept reading the article. It said that her father had received three hundred thousand dollars from the state to invest in upgrades for the elderly care wing at Benton’s hospital but so far only ten thousand dollars had been spent on second hand equipment while the rest of the budget had gone MIA, no paper trail, as if it had disappeared into thin air. This was the fourth attempt at an exposé Edward Asher published on her father since the Benton Tribune had hired him.
“Did you? Steal the money?” of course you did she thought. Her father’s face started turning vermillion red and his breathing accelerated; she could see it coming out of him like steam out of his nostrils. Her mother’s fingernails sank into the flesh of her forearm, she knew what was coming and she was not going to be able to protect April. A chill ran down her spine and she took a deep breath, bracing herself for the blow she was sure was coming.
And just then, like a miracle sent from up above, the sound of Jenny’s car horn stopped her father on his tracks. Sweet Jesus, bless Jenny.
“You’d better not keep Jennifer waiting.” her mother quickly reacted, giving April small shoves towards the doorway ushering her away from the room. “Remember April needs to keep perfect attendance and grades...”
“Yeah, yeah.” replied her father, clenching his hands tight into fists that she was sure he was going to aim at her mother as soon as she left. As her mother kept shoving her away she had to suppress her desire to snap back and give him the middle finger.
Miranda grabbed April’s backpack from the rack next to the front door and gave her one final shove that spewed her into the street. Then she slammed the door on April’s face, just like that; no goodbye kiss, no I love you, no nothing. April understood however, that her mother would rather take all the heat of Roland’s rage just to spare her. There was a knot growing in her throat, but she swallowed her tears and turned around to face Jenny with a smile.
Jenny Randall was April’s best friend since kindergarten. It used to be her, Jenny and Michelle Bannon who were inseparable since mommy and I class. But somewhere in middle school Michelle had stopped talking to them and started fast tracking down the bully path and picking fights with her former friends.
Jenny was a red headed Barbie doll kind of girl; with emerald green eyes and freckles organized in a horizontal pattern lined up across her cheekbones and nose. She reminded April of the Birth of Venus by Botticelli painting. And as most pretty girls she didn’t actually believe she was. She thought so little of herself and was wasting her time dating an ex senior, college freshman douche bag by the name of Martin Shithead... Sheppard.
“Oh no.” was April’s face that obvious? “Spill the beans.”
“Dude, I don’t even want to...” April let out a big sigh of frustration and threw herself on Jenny’s passenger seat. Could she just melt into it and live out her days as a seat?
“Got just the thing for you” Jenny pointed at the car’s cup holder and the two coffee cups resting on it. April’s whole body exploded in joy.
“You know it.”
“Yes!” April took a sip that tasted like glory.
“So... what was today’s drama?”
“Bitch just drive.” The coffee was too good to spoil it with that morning’s event, and as Jenny pulled away for a split-second April felt all her problems were behind her. And then she remembered she was heading from school.
“Well.” Jenny said. “Here’s to another shitty day in the fucking piece of crap town.” And then they took another sip from their cups.