Now she had to find a way to tell them the truth.
As she came into the spacious room, she saw her mother sleeping on the overstuffed couch. Sadie frowned, worried for a moment that something had happened. Or maybe her mother had fallen asleep waiting for her to arrive. But a soft sound drew her gaze in the other direction, where she found her sister propped in the recliner Sadie kept angled toward the line of windows along the front of the room.
But her sister wasn’t watching the early-morning sun as it lit up the rolling lawns of the Beddingfield estate. Instead her gaze met Sadie’s. Tears stung Sadie’s nose and eyes as her sister gifted her with a weak smile of welcome.
Quickly crossing the room, she bent over and carefully pulled Amber close. She still had an IV attached to keep her from dehydrating. But otherwise she was awake, and the staff must have thought her well enough to come home for a while.
Bending down, she met her sister’s eyes, green like her own, and whispered, “When did you get here?”
Amber grinned, though she didn’t lift her head from where it rested on the chair. “Just yesterday. We were gonna Skype you last night, but when you called to say you were coming home we decided to surprise you.”
“Well, I definitely am.”
Her sister’s thin hair had been cropped close, leaving a pale auburn halo of curls that highlighted the too-prominent cheekbones in her pale face. Sadie brushed her fingers over the softness. “How are you, kiddo?”
“My white blood count is closer to normal, for now. Electrolytes are good. And I tolerated this latest round of treatments better than they expected, so I got to come home a few days early.”
“She’s getting stronger,” their mother said. Sadie glanced over at her; she hadn’t moved but had opened her eyes to watch her daughters. “The doctors are quite pleased.”
Any improvement in Amber’s condition was considered wonderful at this stage. Their goal now was to halt the deterioration from the disease and keep her as pain-free as possible, without the disorientation and fatigue that could come from the wrong drug combinations.
“I’m so glad you’re home,” Amber said, reaching out to squeeze Sadie’s hand.
The chill from her sister’s skin always startled Sadie. She reached up with her other hand, creating a little sandwich pocket in an effort to warm the cold fingers with her own. It never seemed to help, but Amber told her it felt good, so Sadie had formed the habit over time.
“And just why are you home?” her mother asked.
Her tone said she knew something was up. Not that Sadie was very good at hiding things. Or maybe she was too good, since she’d been able to deceive Zach for so long. “It was time,” she said simply.
It was more than time to cut the ties. Maybe Zach seeing that text was for the best, even though her breaking heart didn’t think so. If it had been up to her, she inevitably would have delayed. And then where would she be?
She pressed her sister’s hand a little more tightly. “You rest a bit. I’ll fix you some tea,” she said.
“That would be good.” But Amber didn’t close her eyes. Instead she turned back to gaze out the window. She’d often told Sadie that she slept enough at the treatment center, pumped up on pain meds and other drugs. When she was home, she wanted to experience life, even if it was only through the window of their apartment.
Trying hard not to let a new wave of tears overwhelm her, Sadie retraced her steps down the hall to the kitchen. As expected, Sadie’s mother joined her.
“For someone who has just been on the trip of their dreams, you do not look like you had a very restful time,” her mother said quietly.
Sadie appreciated her mother’s attempt to keep Amber from hearing her.
“That’s because I lied,” she said, figuring the straightforward approach was probably best.
There was no shock from her mother, only an understanding nod. “I see.”
Why did life have to be so hard? “I did a very bad thing, Mom.”
“I’m sure you did.”
Sadie glanced over in surprise, spilling a bit of water over the edge of the electric kettle. “What? Why would you think that?”