The room smells like sex and I'm hoping he doesn't notice. If he does, he doesn’t say anything.
"What is it?" Sophie asks, beaming up at Pace.
"Coco said you like macaroni and cheese and pink Starbursts." He treats her to one of his crooked grins, using my childhood nickname that has stuck.
"Starbursts?" Her eyes whip over to mine.
Her reaction is unexpected. "Is that okay, sweetness?"
Pace lowers the tray to her lap. There's a bowl of macaroni and cheese that doesn’t look half bad, despite being prepared by my shockingly-able-to-cook-brother, and a glass candy dish filled with pink wrapped candies. He must have opened all the packages and removed only the pinks. Nice touch.
Tears well in Sophie's eyes and she looks from me to Pace, then back again. "How did you know?" she asks, a single tear leaking from the corner of her eye. She brushes it away with the back of her hand.
I shrug. "I just did." I don't want to embarrass her by explaining that I overheard her peeing and mumbling drunkenly about the candy.
"She really is still here, huh?" Sophie says to no one in particular as she unwraps one of the candies, and places it in her mouth. She closes her eyes and chews it slowly, releasing a little sigh of happiness.
Pace and I exchange a look and briefly wonder if she's totally lost it, but then Sophie encourages us to sit on the bed with her while she eats, and she relays the story about the candy she and her sister always shared and Becca's last words to her in her letter.
My chest tightens as I understand the depth of meaning behind this and the incredible bond these two shared, as well as the sacrifices Sophie made to make her sister happy. My girl is incredible in so many ways.
After a few bites of the macaroni, Sophie thanks Pace and tells us that she's sleepy. Pace takes the dishes away and after turning off the lights, I curl around her on the bed, clutching her tightly against me and hold her until her breaths turn slow and even and she falls asleep.
Becca has been screaming at me all day. As I sit around sulking in my usual fashion, I swear I can feel her. I can practically hear her. She's telling me to get up off my ass and get on with things. And I hate her for it.
I've returned to working part time with Kylie. I've been jogging several times a week. Things are back to normal with me and Colton. He no longer withholds himself from me anymore. He gives himself to me freely, understanding that our shared intimacy helps me. But I'm still not me and through some strange twin connection thing, Becca is calling me out on it.
I jog up the stairs and pull the letter from the special box on top of the dresser that I keep it in. I re-read it twice, looking for clues. The penis drawing still makes me laugh.
The third time through the letter, I get it. Realization slaps me across the face. She doesn’t want me just going through the motions of my life – working, jogging, making love with my boyfriend at night. She wants more from me. She wants more for me. At the pool party she challenged me to live each day like it was my last.
I sink down onto the bed with the letter in my hands.
I want to yell at her, tell her that it's not that easy to do. The truth is I have no idea how to go about it. All my life I've lived to please others. I kept good grades and never gave my parents a reason to worry –they had one daughter with cancer – they didn’t need any additional stress in their lives. I was a good sister, a good person. Polite, well-mannered, everything I was supposed to be. Selling myself at the auction was the craziest thing I've ever done, and even that wasn't for me.
I have impossible conversations with myself all afternoon, trying to figure out what she wants from me. Sky-diving? Bungee-jumping? What?
And then it hits me.
She never wanted me to do something crazy just for the adrenalin rush. All she wanted was for me to be happy.
"I'm getting there," I say to the empty kitchen.
God, I feel like I'm losing it.
I check the clock. One more hour until Colt is home.
One hour to come up with something to do tonight to prove to myself that I can do this whole living life to the fullest thing.
On the drive home from work, my thoughts drift to Sophie.
I don’t know how I was lucky enough to go home with Sophie that night, but over the course of the past several months, I've been thankful for that fact countless times. She saved me from a bitter and lonely existence. And now I'm taking care of her through the hardest part of her life. But I see her progress little by little each day.
I'm helping her to live again – and remind her often that it's what Becca would have wanted. I stop on my way home from work and pick up packages of Starbursts, hiding the pinks around the house for her to find – one set next to her morning coffee, one in her makeup drawer, another in her running shoe. The smile in her eyes when she finds them makes my chest tighten.
I see her strength every time she laces up her running shoes, every time she cooks for me, in every smile, in every laugh – I can feel her bravery. She's choosing to live.
Of course, some days are still hard. Some days her eyes are puffy from crying when I return home from work, and it breaks my heart. But little by little, I'm getting my sweet Sophie back.
But tonight is the best. Because there's a little rosy glow to her cheeks and her eyes are bright with mischief.
"What are you up to Miss Evans?" I ask her, after arriving home from work.