IV. After April

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…and to me, the world felt emptier of empathy than a seashell is of its lost crustacean…

Her eyes contained those words with definite eagerness and April shuddered reading them, then pushed her face into the pillow beside the torn, tattered copy of that book, the first edition of ‘After April’. It was published an year after she had left for London. Adam’s second book. And it was death of her.

He was death of her, that boy. With his amber eyes and his Shakespeare. His roses and his easy, lazy smile she so missed.  First met when he was hardly a boy, only eight. And she, hardly a girl. Both kids. With larkspurs tucked in his suspender and wild-grasses tangled in her hair.

Under the lady willow, where he had greatly appalled her.

April lifted her reddened face from the confine of the soft silken bolster, sighed dismally and at speed, slapped the book shut. It hurt her physically, reading him for the hundredth stolen time knowing he had hated her for four years now.

Who wrote like he did? At that age? So young? He was hardly seventeen then, for crying out loud.

The untaught art of literature, picked up by the boy from inscriptions in the air, instinct and earth. And April had questions.

Where does your poem comes from, Adam?  What makes you so sad in your songs? Who hurt you?

The answer would have been, ‘You did’.

April did. April hurt him.

April remembered the night she had severed those cherished golden threads that had tied his heart to hers and she remembered Adam’s tears, his heart laid exposed to her cruel cuts. She remembered his not believing her again and again, despite her shouts and cries.

Because she wept, he wept too. And where April was hurt, Adam was shattered. There was no cure to heal them.

None.

“My, my_ look what have we come to!” A soft, womanly voice chided from the door. “April Mildred reading a book? Shocking!”

With a mortified gasp, April pushed her worn copy under the pillow and sat up straight on her bed, amid the mess of blanket and bolsters and her other academic books that she secretly found boring.

On the door stood a pretty, petite figure that resembled April in nose shape and eyes color, although much taller than April in height and with greater fullness of being. She had a humorous smile on and an air of prudence.

There stood Sybil Thatcher, April’s elder sister who had returned from Germany, been home just yesterday.

“Sybil!” April sagged down a bit and shifted on her bed. “Come inside.”

“Lord… April!” Sybil sauntered into the room. “How have you changed!”

April stood on both her knees and edged the bed to embrace Sybil for although the older girl had arrived home yesterday, the sisters had spent but little time together. “Don’t say the name of Lord in vain, Syb.”

Sybil laughed in April’s shoulder and pulled back, rolling her eyes. “Yes, darling. You were missed heartily too.”

“Claims the sister who left me for her husband.” April pouted sweetly. “You rested well?”

“What there was of it.”

April looked down at Sybil. “And your husband left you alone for his flowers again, how sad indeed!”

Sybil let out a soft laughter and wove her hand through April’s waist, looking up at the girl. “And it should be mentioned yet again, for the hundredth time_ My husband is a botanist. Not a florist. Plants and weeds, not just flowers.”

“Yes.” April frowned gently. “That’s a florist. That’s same.”

Sybil was merely five years ahead of April but already out of the woods. She had married the Germany-born botanist, Irvine Thatcher almost the season she came out, which, going by, was a bit out of season and convention. Their inopportune encounter happened not far from Mildred Mansion; Sybil was out, riding and Irvine was visiting the Wilfred Park at that time of the year to attend the funeral of a dead grand-aunt.

Spring was in the air; and was love apparently.

They met in the valley, then at the church. Next, at spring revelry of Maplebell and at the end of the month, Sybil was walking down the aisle to the dark-haired man who stood at the altar end. Smiling.

It was a case of heartbreak for the boys of the Wilfred Park. April could not reckon a single one who had not been keen on Sybil. She was pretty, sweet-sharp and straightforward.

And unlike April, Sybil actually appreciated the impracticalities of love at first sight.

“Irvine will be here by dawn tomorrow.” Sybil sat on the bed beside April and started examining her books from the university. “And what were you reading? Shakespeare? Hugo? Austen?”

“I…no!” April cried hiding the pillow behind herself. She felt a petrifying heat tint her cheeks scarlet. “I would never. You know how literature revolts me!”

“Revolts you?” Sybil laughed in disbelief. “Last I knew, you were reading Homer and Dante. Your sweetheart had been breathing verses in you. That little boy, your Adam Evans!”

April’s parted lips sucked an abrupt breath. Something stopped happening in her.

Her Adam Evans?

Sybil read between the lines in a twinkling. April’s eyes lost its cheer and her lost eyes and frowned brow spoke a lot. Sybil had heard of it, it had been something on the line of love and loss and broken friendship. She didn’t exactly know what happened but then, who did?

“You ended it April.” Sybil spoke softly. “You turned him down?”

When April’s glittery gaze turned to Sybil, Sybil winced. Wrong cords had been struck.

“He never offered anything.” April squeaked, voice heavy. “I turned nothing, no one down.”

Sybil tilted her head. “But?”

“But…” April swallowed and Sybil’s heart ached for her. “But I wound him and…and now he hates me.”

“You met him Ari?”

“No.” April shook her head. “Not yet.”

“He doesn’t hate you.” Sybil assured. “He was too sweet for that.” Too lazy.

“He does.” April sighed agonizingly. “I feel it….here, Sybil. In my heart. Right here.”

In his pages, too. In his writing.

After April’ was published after April had left for London and that day, on which it was launched, April had rushed out from Duchbrook University to nearest bookstore seeking it out. She spent her whole month’s allowance on it. She hadn’t even waited to return to the dorm. The nearest park had served for the reading.

She sat down on the grass, opened the first page and broke her whole heart then and there.

Like all seasons, she drifted away too and I, the winter fool, stood lost in sad moonshine…
... That April spring was a fleeting, a mere passing fancy of mine…



“Listen to me.” Sybil’s warm finger softly held April’s wrist. “Mother said there is a gathering tonight, at Maplebell.”

April terrorized eyes snapped back into hers and it worried Sybil because she had never seen April being this frail.

“Don’t worry.” Sybil shook her head. “I will be there. And we will figure everything out. I promise.”

April took a deep breath and nodded. Sybil would be there. And Jeremy Rochester too. April didn’t had to worry.

Only that she didn’t need to figure things out either.

April knew. April always knew.

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