* * *
I can't sleep anymore. At least, not at the right times. I think it's the medication. I spend all night restless, watching my mortality, waiting by the window with a candle burning hoping Jake will come home. Then I spend my days like a zombie, confused and in the darkness. I can't be in the sunlight anymore. It inflames my skin. It makes me weaker. Mother has a new sunhat for me every time I see her. Asa bought me a sombrero.
I don't have the heart to tell them I'm too fatigued to leave my home. I leave the hats behind as I walk slowly downstairs. Instead, a satin robe to hide what the disease is doing to my skin. The robe is Sarah's, and smells like her. Even though I'm thinking about her, I'm startled to see her sitting on my couch. I try to blink away her apparition. I grip the hem of the robe tightly. "She's dead. She's dead."
She's not dead, I remember. She's alive, and there in my living room. For a moment, feeling surreal becomes vertigo and I let go of the robe and reach out for the railing. I blink. She's still there, a little more in focus. Can affect the eyes?
She's holding a crystal Luna gave her. Amethyst, I think. For healing. Luna tried to make me wear stones around my neck at night, but they hurt my skin and left me bruised. So she put them under my bed. Sometimes I reach down to touch their cool surface. I'll never admit how much they steady me.
When Tina comes over, to add stones or lavender or dream-catchers under Luna's direction, I catch her crying.
I shake my head. Sarah is still there. The jagged edges of the uncut stone are pressing into her palm as she clutches it. She's not crying. Her eyes are tightly closed, and she's rocking back and forth. As if she's trying to block out the sight of my apartment. I reach the bottom step and let my fingers brush the small wooden cross Andrew has mounted on my railing.
"It's none of my business," he had said. "I just want you to know you are loved."
I hadn't been able to speak.
Now, though, it's just Sarah and me. I can speak to my own sister. "Sarah?"
She jerks up. Her eyes open wide all at once. She grips the crystal even more tightly, like a weapon. We're both ghosts in our own house, haunting each other. "Megan?" She says before she turns around.
"It's just me."
"Megan," she says again as she stands, turning to face me. I can see her eyes fill with tears. It's hard to remember them any other way, although her voice is still thick and throaty, not just with anguish, but that tone that makes her Sarah.
I try to smile, to distract her from whatever she sees in me that's to cry about, but even I can feel my effort is feeble. My jaw hurts. My lips tingle, and then fail.
A tear slides down her cheek. She's walking toward me. "What am I going to do without you?"
I let her wrap herself around my shoulders, but I say, "I'm not dead."
"I know you're--"
"I'm not dead!" I've always had a temper. It's what excites the boys. It's what makes me such a good actress. I use it now, because the heat makes me feel alive, and I want to make Sarah feel alive, too. "Christ. Can't you live in the present? It's all we have."
She freezes. Her whole body goes rigid against mine. I loop my arms around her waist to steady her. She presses her face into my shoulder. She doesn't look at me. "I...spent so long... trying to live anywhere but the present. In my memories. In my fantasies."
Her voice breaks. "With Bo. With you."
I close my eyes. I press my nose into her hair. She smells like chamomile and vaguely like my apartment, sandalwood and dust. Whatever silly little angst I have with this whole lupus thing, after all it effects over a million people, I'm nothing special, my sister was held hostage. Tortured. Dead. I think to apologize--no--ask her to tell me what happened, but she pulls back. I can see her face again.
"We're alive," she says. "This is all we have." Her voice is stronger. Her grip on me is stronger. I swallow and nod.
I close my eyes before she kisses me, just like they do on the soaps. Kissing her is like going home. Her lips are the same, her taste is the same, even the way she nips my lower lip and then lets out a soft laugh is just like before. I think we shouldn't, we're not kids anymore. But Jake is in the Middle East and Bo is with another woman and I'll be dead soon. So I open my mouth and her tongue glides in. She teases me. She tantalizes me.
"Megan," she says, as I guide her back to the couch, because I'm too weak to keep standing, and too weak to go to bed. "Megan," she says, parting my robe, tasting my breasts. "Megan, Megan." She knows now to be gentle, because she's always been gentle.
I urge her up to my lips, because she's young and strong. We must make a scandalous picture, her knee pressed against the arm of the couch, arching her back in the center of the room. I'm sprawled. My robe is partially open. We could be a painting. I almost wish we were.
Then her taste and her skin and her slickness consumes me. I suck her into my mouth. I feel her thighs against my head. For just a moment, she becomes my whole world. But then, she's always been my world. My sister. She's alive. Tears burn my cheeks and mingle with wetness as she comes.
She says my name so wishfully that I realize she's trying to bring me into existence, like in that movie where the boy saves the universe just by uttering a name. She's trying to save me, or just hold onto me. "Megan." She moves her hand between my legs as if she could restore me.
When I come, when I whimper, I only say it once, because she's warm and soft and kissing my throat. Because I'm grateful. "Sarah."
Thank God she's alive.