“She’s a student at Berkeley?” He sounds impressed. I tamp down the jealousy. “What’s she studying?”

“Social work.”

“What? She’s wasting an education at Berkeley to study social work?”

I bristle, but recognize that it’s more than just my father and his typical disdain for any career path that doesn’t make a shit-ton of money. Not that mine seems to impress him. “Dori is exactly the sort of person who should do that kind of thing,” I say. I’m annoyed with myself for having had the same opinion of her chosen career path that he does.

Honestly, it stil shocks me that someone with a voice like she has could purposeful y pursue anything but using it.

“Oh?” he says, with an extra helping of disdain. “And why is that?”

“Because she wholeheartedly gives a shit, Dad.”


Once the specialists were in agreement that there was nothing further they could do, I knew my parents would accept the truth. Equal y inspiring and disconcerting to witness, my parents had maintained their faith in my sister’s eventual recovery against al evidence to the contrary. I prepared myself to catch the emotional fal out from my mother, who for al of her medical competence and practicality had staunchly refused to concede defeat.

After our final consultation with Deb’s medical team, the three of us are silent on the way to her tiny apartment. The damage my sister suffered in her fal appears irrefutably permanent. Damaged areas of her brain aren’t expected to recover, though it’s possible that at some point she might begin reacting to a stimulus like a familiar voice. “By react,” one of the doctors clarified, “we mean minute physical responses like a change in breathing pattern, or some smal movement of say, eyelids or digits. We don’t foresee her ever regaining the ability to communicate through speech, however.”

Once back at the apartment, my parents slide into adjacent chairs at the tiny kitchen table, shel -shocked. I reheat a pan of lasagna provided by one of the nurses who’d worked with Deb. Final y, Mom clears her throat. “I’l start cal ing people tomorrow to get recommendations for a suitable long-term care facility close to home.” I’m relieved to hear the return of her natural pragmatism. She glances around the cozy living room. “We’l need to rent a truck to move her things, and a storage facility in LA. Hopeful y, someday soon, she’l need her things again.” I pause in slicing the Italian loaf on the cutting board, turning my face away. I want to scream in frustration. Deb wil never live independently again. Nothing said by any of the doctors could have encouraged this belief, or even a hope of it. Years ago, I might have been wil ing to join the delusion, but I don’t believe in miracles—not for Deb, not for anyone. Maybe I haven’t in a long time, and I’m just now aware of it.


Deb’s apartment has to be sublet, utilities turned off, creditors notified. These details fal to Dad while I distribute her patio ful of plants to neighbors and hospital staff after convincing Mom that they would bring comfort to the people Deb cared for, that it would be impractical to take them with us. As I deliver containers of geraniums and fuchsias and hanging baskets of bougainvil ea, I’m greeted with hugs and tears. I meet with Bradford last, in his smal private office. I bring him an English ivy, the least demanding plant of Deb’s col ection, and a box of belongings he left in her apartment. I’d discovered his razor and toothbrush in her medicine cabinet, and a drawer containing a pair of his jeans along with socks, boxers and t-shirts.

“I packed up these things our first night at Deb’s,” I say, placing the box on his desk. He stares at it, unmoving. “I’d hoped that when we went back home to LA, I’d just be whispering to my sister where she could find your toothbrush and extra boxers.” My voice breaks, but I keep talking. “If there’s anything missing, let me know and I’l find it and send it to you. Mom plans to put her stuff in storage…”

“Thank you, Dori.” He lays his hands atop the box lid but makes no move to open it. “I always wanted a little sister, did she tel you that?” His eyes are ful of tears. “I don’t have any siblings, so I was jealous when she’d talk about you.” He takes a shuddering breath as tears stream down my face. “Your sister changed my life. She changed how I look at the world, how I practice medicine. She changed who I am. And I know I can’t… can’t begin to compare how I feel, losing her like this, with how you feel—”

I walk around the desk and put my arms around the man who would have been my brother. “Yes, you can. She loved you, and you loved her. That’s no different than how she felt about me, or how I felt about her.”

A tremor goes through his chest. “I’m so sorry. I’m sorry we couldn’t bring her back to herself, heal her.” His grief and anger can’t be separated. “This happened in a hospital. We’re doctors. This is why I went into medicine—

to cure and rebuild people, to make them better. And I can’t even fix the woman I…” He stops, unable to speak, and I hold him tighter.

“I don’t blame you, and Deb wouldn’t blame you. If you knew her, then you know she wouldn’t. She’d want you to go be that bril iant doctor she knew you were, to help people and live your life and be happy—”

“How? ”

I swal ow, glad he can’t see my face. “I don’t know.”

The tabloid shows and websites have been going insane trying to figure out who Reid’s latest hookup is. Whoever it is, he's being more undercover about it than he’s ever been. Which is probably the reason for one of the theories that was floating around—that he’s gay.

I may not know much, but I know enough to know that’s not true.

There’s also a day of speculation that he’s reuniting with the girl from his last movie, Emma Pierce, when a photo surfaces of the two of them at the Vancouver Film Festival.

The photo is dark, but clear enough that they’re both identifiable. She leans towards him with a smile as he speaks into her ear. Media speculation goes crazy, and dozens of photos from a year ago resurface—the two of them holding hands, kissing, stil s from the movie where the two of them look al kinds of beautiful together.

The next day, an opposing tabloid publishes the same film festival photo—except this one isn’t cropped. In the new photo, Graham Douglas, Emma’s boyfriend, is sitting on the opposite side of her, his left arm across the back of her chair, his right hand holding her right hand on his thigh.

He’s listening to whatever Reid is saying as wel , and smiling. So obviously, the Emma theory is out.

The guy who sold the cropped photo is blacklisted, the tabloid site that original y ran the cropped photo is discredited, and I just spent 24 hours hating Emma Pierce for no reason.

Throughout al of this, Aimee and Kayla are cal ing and texting, trying to find out if I have the scoop on Reid: Kayla: Is reid gay???!?

Me: Not that I know of. Are they back to that again?

Me: Not that I know of. Are they back to that again?

Kayla: Photos posted of him with that guy tadd who played charlie in school pride and some other hot guy singing karaoke in vancouver…

Me: Old news i think. Not something i am worried about right now.

Kayla: Aww. :( I know everything is crappy right now with what happened to your sister. Aimee and me are going out saturday, wanna come?

Me: Yes

Kayla: REALLY?!??!?! OMG, stay over in our dorm??

Me: Ok. Sure.

I’m wil ing to do anything to become someone else for a few hours. Someone who isn’t invisible to everyone who used to love her. Someone who isn’t the girl who’s misplaced her faith.

They pick me up Saturday, chattering like they’re one person, per usual.

“Did you bring the ID?” Kayla asks before taking off.

“Yeah,” I say. “I don’t think I look anything like her, though…”

Aimee inspects Deb’s Indiana driver’s license. “Oh, this is doable. We can total y do this. I already have some stuff picked out for you to wear. We wear the same shoe size, right? When we get done with you, you wil look so much like her. Just wait.”

“Okay.” I stuff the ID in my bag and lean my head back, trying to subdue the butterflies that are mosh-pitting in my stomach. I’m so tired of feeling everything. Since we al came back to LA, I’ve been overwhelmed. I’m furious with my parents who continue to act as though my sister wil wake up. Their own sleeping beauty, with the canned fairy tale ending.

I’ve become so good at repressing the desire to scream that I can’t even cry. When I think about Deb, I’m dry-eyed and staring, just like her. I am the opposite of thick-skinned.

I am no-skinned. I am raw, as though there is nothing between me and everything insisting that I feel. I don’t want to feel anymore. I want to be numb.

Deb was so careful, always. When I began high school, she took me aside and made me promise to never drink and drive, and never get in the car with a friend who’d been drinking. She told me about alcohol poisoning and dehydration, already the doctor-to-be. “Mom and Dad aren’t always realistic about this kind of stuff. I know you’re a good kid, but good kids are exactly the ones who end up making the dumbest decisions because they don’t plan. If you’re going to drink—or have sex, you have to plan.


I promised to come back for a recap if I ever needed it.

Here I was, needing it, but now, Aimee and Kayla are the closest thing I have to advisors, but they’re more like high-strung tour guides.

My sister slipped on an invisible spot on a slick hospital floor. The doctors explained that she’d hit her head in the exact location with the exact amount of force that could cause the sort of damage she’d sustained. Caution and cause the sort of damage she’d sustained. Caution and risk aversion had done nothing for Deb. No such thing as fate. No such thing as miracles, either, or my sister would have earned one and fal en on her butt—embarrassed, but stil herself.

Tonight I want to stand on the side of a cliff and look down, dare the wind to gust and knock me off. Everyone thinks that fal ing to your death is the worst thing that can happen. But that’s a lie. The worst thing is to be alive for no reason.

Chapter 36


Earlier this week, the film wrapped up and I said goodbye to Vancouver and goodbye to Olaf for at least a week, because John began insisting that I say goodbye to my moral high ground.

“I get the whole abstinence makes the heart fonder thing,” he said last night, and I thought What? “But come on

—you’re home now.”

I wondered if John was attempting a play on words, but maybe he was right. Maybe abstinence does make the heart grow fonder. Other than leaping from the wagon that one night with Tadd and Rob, I’d been clean the whole time I was in Vancouver, and I stil couldn’t forget her.

“There’s this party—” he began.

“Real y? A party? I’m not familiar…”

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