Authors: Missy Johnson
Tags: #Romance, #Romantic Suspense, #Teen & Young Adult, #Literature & Fiction, #Social & Family Issues, #Dating & Sex, #Mystery & Suspense, #Suspense, #New Adult & College
Thanks to my husband and my family for once again putting up with my need to be always writing, your support made this book a reality.
A big thankyou to my beta readers, Megan, Melissa, Tarnya, Tammy, Tanja and Kim. I can’t thank you guys enough for you wonderful feedback, and for pushing me to write and even better story.
Most importantly, thank-you to my readers for supporting me and enjoying what I write. It’s your support that fuels my motivation to keep writing.
Thanks dpgroup forum.
“You sure about this, kiddo?” Mom asked, a twinge of sadness in her voice.
I smiled at her, and leaned across the stack of boxes to give her a hug. She’d been so understanding about why I needed to get away, and I was going to miss her so much.
And I knew she was going to miss me.
“I’m sure, mom,” I could see tears welling in her eyes as she glanced around the partially furnished house, “Kella will be here soon anyway, and you know how we get when we’re together.” Mom smiled in spite of her sadness.
Almost twelve years of experience had shown mom how Kella and I behaved when together, and most of that wasn’t pretty.
“I know you’re in good hands with Kella,” She hugged me again.
“I’m less than an hour away,” I smiled, trying to cheer her up, “You can come and see me anytime. And I’ll call every week,” I added. She nodded, another forced smile playing on her lips.
Mom and I had always been close, but after Abby died, things had changed. We were still close, but something had shifted. For her, I guessed that looking at me was like seeing Abby. I was a constant reminder of the daughter she’d lost, and I could understand how that would be hard for her. I felt the same way every time I saw my reflection. I saw Abby.
The weeks following her death had been bad. Really bad. I’d just lost my twin. I’d felt like a part of me had died along with her, and while mom had lost a daughter, our ways of coping, or not coping, had been completely different.
Mom alternated between acting as though everything was fine to shutting everyone and everything out. I, on the other hand, had completely lost it. For nearly eighteen years, being Abby’s twin had defined me. It had played a big part of who I was. In losing her, I lost my sense of who I was. You can’t really understand the pain of losing a twin without going through it yourself.
Imagine every part of your life, every milestone, every hurdle, was shared with someone so entwined in you that their every emotion and feeling directly affected your own. Then imagine they were ripped from your life, gone forever. That’s how I felt.
Imagine you’re holding a Twizzler.
See how the two strands wrap around each other, depending solely on each other for support? Now hold the top of the Twizzler, one hand on each strand, and pull. Watch as they unravel, separate, and fall apart. That’s how I felt after Abby died.
Wow, I just compared the death of my sister to a sweet.
Acute myeloid leukemia. That was what she’d died from. I suppose the blessing was that we knew we were going to lose her, so we were able to show her how much she meant to us.
People die suddenly every day through car accidents, and heart attacks. Thousands of loved ones are left behind, regretting the last words they said to their loved ones, or regretting not spending more time with them. We had known for six months that her disease was terminal. We had tried everything to save her. Even my bone marrow hadn’t been enough to save her.
How the fuck did that work? We were identical twins, yet her body had rejected my bone marrow. Our genetic make-up was the same. It should have worked, but it didn’t. At sixteen, I’d blamed myself for not being able to save her. Everyone had talked up the high odds of my bone marrow taking, and when it didn’t, I had felt on some level it was my fault, that maybe if I’d had more faith in the treatment working, my bone marrow would have been stronger. I felt like I had let my sister down.
That had been the last treatment option. After that, everything that was done was only done to prolong the inevitable, not to save her. My sister, my twin, was dying.
“I better go,” Mom’s voice brought me back to the present. She smiled sadly, “I have to pick up Anna from grandmas.” She gave me another hug. Kissing her on the cheek, I watched her leave.
After mom left, I wandered around the apartment. Looking at the bare spaces, you’d think Kella herself had only just moved in. Boxes littered the floor, and only the essentials of furniture were there.
A sofa, a widescreen television, and a dining table.
In actual fact, she’d been there for over a year. I’d been over plenty of times before, though usually after an all-night bender out with Kella. When she had suggested I move in after I’d found out my application had been accepted, I was ecstatic. Living with Kella was exactly what I needed right now.
Here was Fairhaven County, a small town about an hour east of Los Angeles, in California, and was quite a big change from the city life I was used to. My only reason for applying at Fairhaven was because of Kella, who had moved here for Mel.
We had been best friends since we were seven. After Abby, she was the closest person in the world to me. I told her everything. Even after Abby’s death, I had told Kella about still seeing and speaking to my sister. She was the one person who I knew wouldn’t judge me.
Had it not been for Kella, I probably would have offed myself after Abby’s death. That sounds crude, I know, but I had been in such a low place where nothing felt worth living for anymore. Kella had actually deferred school to come back home so she could be closer to me. Now that was true friendship. Not many people would do that for another person, and I never forgot that.
When I’d first told mom about seeing Abby after she’d died, she’d been cautious. She had been concerned that I was breaking down, to the point where she'd had me evaluated and committed to a psychiatric facility. I’d been so angry at mom for that, but the truth was it was probably the best thing she could’ve done for me. I’d needed to learn how to work as one person. As an individual, and I couldn’t do that alone. In hindsight, she must have felt like she was losing me too.
The seeing Abby thing, it wasn’t dreams, or really visions. I suppose I’d call it hallucinating if I had to label it. I could have a full on conversation with her, and I could ask her anything. According to my therapists, this was my mind’s way of coping with her death. They were probably right, only their theory didn’t allow for the times she told me things, which turned out to be true.
It didn’t happen often, in fact the last time was six months ago when she’d told me our father was having an affair. Deciding what to do with that information had been pure hell. Both my parents had just lost a child; how could I tell my mom what I knew? I’d followed dad for a week, eventually catching him with his ‘girlfriend’ who barely looked old enough to drink. After I had confronted him, he’d agreed to tell mom himself. That may or may not have had something to do with me threatening never to speak to him again if I had to be the one to tell her.
The truth was, mom and dad’s relationship had struggled along through Abby’s illness. After her death, things only got worse. A divorce was inevitable. Anna and I could see that, even before we knew of dad’s affair. Mom and dad splitting up had been the best thing for both of them, but that didn’t excuse dad’s affair. I’d forgiven him, but not forgotten, and I probably never would forget.
The door opened and in walked Kella. As soon as she spotted me, she dropped her bags and started screaming.
“Oh my god, you’re here!” She rushed forward, embracing me in a big Kella style hug. I laughed at her enthusiasm. Kella Roberts had more energy and life than anyone I knew. Our friendship was odd, because we were so different. She was more like Abby than me, which had often caused friction between those two when Abby was still alive. They had possessed the same stubbornness, the same loyalty, and the same love of life. Kella reminded me a lot of my sister, and I loved that.
“I can’t believe you’re here!” Kella squealed again, her arms still around me.
It suddenly hit me again that, at nineteen, I was finally entering college, a year after Abby and I should have been starting together. Before her diagnosis, we used to imagine our lives together at college, away from parents and rules. We were close. Best friends, who could talk about anything. Imagining life without her had been gut-wrenching, and the guilt I felt about moving on with my life scared me.
“Yes! I’m here,” I replied, giggling, her happiness was infectious. I pushed all the thoughts and anxieties out of my head. Kella was comfortable, and I needed comfort more than anything right now. “How are you? Tell me everything.”
“Me? You know, the usual. Studying, working, picking up,” She giggled. Kella had just come out of a relationship. She had been with Mel for close to three years. In her own words, Kella liked ‘boys and girls equally’, so when she spoke of picking up, it could’ve meant anyone.
“Oh? Anyone interesting?” I giggled.
“Nobody worth remembering,” Kella rolled her eyes, “Tell me about you. How’s your mom? And Anna?”
“Good. You just missed mom. They’re well. Anna’s going really well at school, and she’s on the junior national team for basketball this year.”
“Really? That’s awesome!” She squealed, hugging me again, “Coffee?” She raced through to the kitchen. I giggled, Kella was so hyper all of the time, caffeine was really the
thing she needed.
“Great, thanks,” I nodded. I leaned across the kitchen counter as she made the coffee. “I have to organize my classes today. I’m excited about starting,” I admitted, clasping my hands together. Abby’s bracelet hung over my left wrist, each little charm celebrating a milestone in her short life. Kella caught me staring at the bracelet.
“Still having the dreams?” She asked, her dark eyes full of concern. I nodded, ignoring the urge to correct her. They weren’t dreams. ‘Dreams’ implied it wasn’t real.
“Yep. But it’s good. I think it’s my way of dealing with it, you know?” I shrugged. As much as she loved me, and supported me, I knew Kella struggled with the whole dead twin communicating thing, so I usually tried to avoid bringing up the topic.
“Yeah, I know,” Kella smiled, “I’m glad you’re here, Lil.”
“Me too.” I smiled back. “So, tell me everything!” I banged my palms on the counter, forcing lightness into my eyes. I took the cup Kella handed me and followed her into the living room. “Nice to see you’ve unpacked,” I commented wryly.
“Hey, get off my back! I haven’t been here that long!” She rolled her eyes, sinking into a beanbag.
“Uh huh, only a year,” I joked. I sat on the sofa, curling my feet under me, careful not to spill coffee on what looked like a new sofa.
“Brought it last week,” Kella nodded at the sofa. I rolled my eyes again, knowing that meant before that all she’d had was the beanbag she was sitting on. The sofa was comfortable, at least. Falling asleep and waking up five hours later with a headache kind of comfortable.
“So, tell me about school. Who do I avoid, and who do I ass kiss?” I joked, pulling my blonde hair over to one side.
“Nah,” Kella waved her hand, “Stick with me kid, I’ll get you in with the right people. Just watch Professor Rendals. He likes to pay ‘special’ attention to some of his students. And Gordens, if you’re taking History, is a painfully hard marker,” She added. I mentally scrapped History off my electives. The last thing I needed was a professor with a god complex. With my study load I needed as much help as I could get.
I finished my coffee and scrambled to my feet. It was already past noon, I had less than an hour to get myself enrolled.
I was about to become a college student!
The short walk from our house to the campus took less than ten minutes when you cut through the park directly behind Kella's place. There were plenty of students scattered around the sprawling green lawns that surrounded the large buildings, which surprised me, considering it was Saturday afternoon. I followed the signs to student services, my stomach fluttering as the realization I was about to start college hit me again.
I’d taken some classes over the summer in order to try and catch up some of the year I’d missed. As a result, Kella and I would actually be in a couple of classes together. I’d cross checked her schedule with mine to make sure they matched up where they could.
I pushed my way through a heavy wooden framed door, marked ‘Student Administration’, and into the small lobby, which contained a few seats, a vending machine, and a table scattered with out of date magazines and brochures for campus clubs I had no intention of joining.
Ahead of me was the reception desk. I took my place in the line, which consisted only of me, standing directly behind a cute guy who was leaning against the desk, his elbows on the counter.
“Mr. Hanson, regardless of the classes you took over summer, you will still be four units short of graduating this fall,” The lady behind the counter looked sympathetic, but her voice was firm.