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Broken Pieces

Chapter 2

Sterling held a pillow tightly to her body.

“I was... well, you saw me. I wasn’t in my right mind when I got into the car with... that woman. I guess I should’ve known something was up. I mean... dear God, this is still so confusing. She looked like my mom, like Debbie, you see? She even wore one of her sweaters. But her hair was... stringy and she asked about Luke but didn’t seem to remember his name which was weird. And then she rode in the wrong direction, I didn’t catch on... I just sat there thinking about... well, you.”

She heard April sigh at the other end of the line. She probably wanted to say something but didn’t want to interrupt.

“And then I saw the cigarette buds. There were several in an empty coffee cup with water inside. It was disgusting. And I noticed the smell, too. Then her fingernails, short, cheap turquoise nail polish. And I knew this wasn’t my mom.”

“Wow,” April made.

“Yeah, I know. It got weirder from there. She notices that I’m low-key freaking out and tells me she’s my mom’s sister, twin obviously, my aunt Dana. Who I’ve never heard of.”

“Your mom’s a twin too? I mean, I know it runs in families but that’s... well, mind-blowing, considering you never heard of her,” April said.

“You ain’t heard nothing yet, sister! So, she drives, says she wanted to catch up or whatever. I mean, she was driving dad’s car, wore my mom’s sweater but there’s something off, you know? I tried calling someone but she took my phone and threw it out the window. I knew I was in trouble then. And she has a gun. So I pretended like I needed to use a restroom and then I used my credit card at a vending machine. You see, I knew that Blair would get a notification on her phone if the card was used and I just hoped that she and Bowser could figure out where.”

“Bowser is that bounty hunter you were working with?”

“Yeah, he’s... well, he’s more like family now but at the time he’d found out that my mo... Debbie was wanted for arson, but it wasn’t Debbie, it was Dana but none of us knew. Bowser had been angry about it because he couldn’t bring her in and there was a 90,000 dollar reward for her. But I knew Blair would call him to find me, after all, that’s his job, finding people.”

“You were lucky to know someone like that,” April said.

“Yeah, but not just because he’s good at his job but just because he’s our friend. He’s amazing, you should totally meet him,” Sterl said and she meant it. She wasn’t sure that they’d hit it off but it would be really interesting to see them interact, she felt kind of giddy with the idea.

“I got Sour Patch from the vending machine. Blair loves those, I hate ’em. But I used the sugar and my lipgloss to write a message on the inside of the bathroom stall. You see, Dana talked to someone on the phone and I caught a glimpse of his picture when he called. He had a tattoo and his name was Levi, so I wrote that.”

“That was so smart. I don’t know if I would’ve had the wherewithal to do something like that. You’re so brave.”

“I guess I kinda knew that if I didn’t do something Blair and Bowser would never be able to find me even if they were on the right track. Anyway, we weren’t far from where we were going, Dana said as much on the phone.” Sterling stopped there. Flashes of that place, the trailer park, appeared before her eyes. A new flood of tears was about to overwhelm her, she could feel it brimming and she closed her eyes against it.


“Still here,” she said. She took a few deep breaths. “That place, it was a trailer park. I will never forget what Dana said: This is where you’re from. Your roots. There were people outside, a family, a too-young mother with several kids, and the possible father. I mean, he was much older... And Dana said that this could’ve been me in another life and she sounded like I should be proud, like that was a life worth having. It was devastating, April.”

The tears she’d tried to stop were falling now, she couldn’t stop them so she just let them roll down her cheeks.

“So, your mom--”

“Could you wait just a little. I’ll tell you.”

“Sure, take your time, Sterl. Do you need a break?”

“No, I want to get it out. Let me just get a drink.” She reached for the glass of water on her nightstand and took a few sips. It felt good, she’d developed a headache from all the crying.

“Dana brought me to Levi’s trailer, there’s all this junk around it. We get inside and Levi is... not happy to see me, at first. I try to talk myself out of it, it’s clear they’re on their way out... well, probably out of the country. But Levi thinks it would be a good idea to cash in on the opportunity, ransom I guess. What was weird, he knew exactly who I was, about my whole family. They’d gotten money from my... Debbie and Anderson before and they thought they could get more for me. But then there’s a commotion outside and Levi tells Dana to tie me up and lock me in the bathroom until it was clear. And she does that. I try to talk her out of it, make her see that she can do better than Levi but she’s loyal - for no reason I can see.”

She took a few breaths but had to smile for the first time since she'd started her story.

“She leaves me gagged and bound in the bathroom, but she used some clothes so it’s not too tight. And there’s a window. I can’t get out of it but I can see Blair and Bowser searching there. They see me and... Blair and I have this thing where we can communicate without words, it’s... it’s a twin thing. Anyway, I tell her, Levi and Dana are armed and waiting for them. There’s a firefight and I kick in the bathroom door and try to get out. Bowser shoots Levi and Dana tries to get me away. But then my mo... Debbie comes out of nowhere with a shotgun and says: Not with my daughter, you bitch. I mean, she didn’t really say that but it was the gist. Dad hugs me and unties me and we got them, you know. Debbie is holding a gun on Dana, Levi’s incapacitated, there are sirens coming our way... and then...”

Sterling tried to swallow but her throat was dry. She took another sip of water but it wasn't refreshing anymore.

“It’s okay, Sterl, I got you,” April said. “I know I said it before and it wasn’t true but it’s true now. I got you.”

Sterling smiled through her tears. It turned into a grimace. “And then... Dana says... I’m her daughter.”

“Oh, Sterl.”

There was no holding back the tears anymore. Sterling started sobbing, it was all too much. But through it all, she heard April’s voice trying to comfort her. She talked soothingly, Sterling didn't even get most of what she said but it was still comforting.

“... so close your eyes and just feel that I’m there, okay? I’m holding you tightly. And I’m not letting you go. Can you feel it?”

Sterling closed her eyes and yes, she could feel it. April was there with her, she was holding her, pushing her hair from her forehead, kissing her on it. She was rocking her like a child and didn't let go. It calmed Sterling down and she was starting to breathe deeply.

“I need to blow my nose,” she said after a while and lay the phone down to do it. She took a few sips of water, they tasted salty from the tears on her lips.

“I’m back,” she said as she picked her phone back up.

“I don’t know... hold up, there’s someone at the door. Yeah?”

Sterl could hear muffled voices. “It’s Hannah B... math problem... Sure, not too long. Night, mom.”

“Sorry, my mom.”

“She thinks I’m Hannah B?”

“I saved your number under her name. My dad would blow a fuse if he knew we’re talking.”


“Sterl, listen--”

“No, it’s okay. Truly, I understand.”

“Okay,” April said. “So, do you believe it? What Dana said?”

“Yeah, it was written all over... Debbie’s face. They tried to explain, Debbie and Anderson, when we came home. They adopted me. Blair was born a few days before me. She’s my... cousin.” The word was hard to get out.

“No, she’s your sister, Sterl. I’ve never seen two people as close as you two. She will always be your sister.”

“That’s what she says, too. That Debbie and Anderson are still my parents, that nothing has changed. But everything changed, April. Everything.”

“But not that they love you.”

Sterling knew this was true, they all loved her. They would always love her, as far as she knew.

“They lied to me, though. They told me I had a sister, a twin. They told me they were my parents and they lied to cover up their other lies. You can’t believe the stuff they told us these last few weeks. It was all falling apart and they still tried to cover it all up.”

“Because they knew you’d be devastated by the truth. I’m not taking their side, Sterl, they shouldn’t have lied or at least told you at some point. But they did it out of love, not... not to hide their own sin,” April said. Sterl knew she was thinking about her dad.

“I kinda know that but it’s... it’s so big, April. It’s too big and I can’t understand and so I can’t really forgive them.”

“I get that, believe me.”

“And that is even before I’m thinking about Dana, who’s my mother but not my mother. She kidnapped me and I think she just wanted to know me but... she didn’t know me, you know. She couldn’t know me because she wanted a different girl, a girl she’d raised and I couldn’t be her. So she would’ve gone with whatever Levi cooked up in his brain. And yet... she’s the woman who gave birth to me.”

“You’re right, it’s too big, Sterl. It blows my mind and I’m not even a part of it.”

Sterl nodded. “What you said earlier about seeing a psychiatrist, or psychologist, I don’t even know the difference. I know that I’ll have to do that. I’ve been putting it off, the decision. I’ve been putting a lot of things off.”

“Like getting up in the morning?”

“And like showering,” Sterl admitted. “I know I’m depressed. I can’t really... pull myself out of it.”

“You should let someone help you. I’m here for you, I mean that. As a friend. But you’ll need more than me. You’ll need your family, Sterl. Blair, at least. And yes, you need to talk to someone. You were kidnapped, Sterling, that’s... God, if I’d known.”

“You couldn’t have,” Sterl said.

“I guess in hindsight we can always say we would’ve been better people, if we’d only known. I wish I would’ve been better that night, that I would’ve held your hand and had fallen asleep beside you. I’ve wished that pretty much since I left you outside but I wish it now more than ever.”

“It probably wouldn’t have changed much. Dana could’ve gotten me either way. I mean, she looks like Debbie. She could’ve just told Ellen that there was an emergency, that I needed to come with her. She was determined to get me, April. We couldn’t have stopped it, even if things would’ve been different between us. I thought about this. I thought about what I could’ve done, and I couldn’t have done anything. I still wish, though...”

“I know.”

They fell silent for a while. Sterling was listening to April breathing, it was good that she was there, at the end of the call. But she also wanted her nearer, not just physically, but mentally. She wanted for April to want to be with her, for her to want her so much, it would be impossible to stay away. She wanted the kind of determination she’d seen in movies when one part of a couple would go after the other, stop a wedding, delay a plane. It was childish, she knew because April’s dad was likely to abandon her if he knew about them, or send her to one of those anti-gay camps the vice president was so fond of. And yet she still wanted for April to want her that way.

“We should probably...”

“Yeah,” April agreed. “I just... Sterl, I... I’m here for you. If you want to talk, any time, okay?”

“Thanks. It goes both ways, you know? I know you’re dealing with a lot... I probably shouldn’t have put this on you--”

“No, you should absolutely have and I’m glad you did. I mean if we’re not here for each other, who is?”

“I wish I could hug you right now. You’ve been a lifeline.”

“I wish I could hug you too,” April admitted shyly.

“Okay, I’m saying goodnight now because I can’t start crying again. Goodnight, April. Thank you for listening.”

“Thank you for trusting me. Goodnight, Sterl. Sleep tight.”

“You too.”

She listened for a moment, April seemed to do the same but finally, she sighed and ended the call. Sterling sighed too. What else was there to do when the one you wanted near was not?

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