One Tiny Lie (Ten Tiny Breaths, #2)(11)

Reagan is laughing so hard that I’m sure there must be tears running down her face, and it’s infectious. Soon the entire bunk bed is shaking as we laugh at the gorgeous rowing team captain and his inked ass.

And as much as I hate to, as hard as it is to do, I have to admit to myself . . . yeah, last night was fun.

Every second of it.

By three o’clock that afternoon, I’m feeling a lot better. Enough that the smell of coffee and fresh pastries didn’t turn my stomach when we grabbed a quick bite at a quaint local café. But now the hangover has been replaced with melancholy.

I’m saying goodbye to my sister today.

Of course there are texts, and phone calls, and email, and face time, and I’ll see her when I fly down for our friends Storm and Dan’s wedding in a few weeks, but . . . it’s not the same. I remember the two months away from her while she was in Dr. Stayner’s care. I felt like someone had ripped a chunk of my heart out. Outside of that time, I’ve seen her face every single day of my life.

Every. Single. Day.

Even when she was in the ICU after the accident, even when she was messed up with alcohol and drugs, even when she was working those crazy hours tending bar at Penny’s, I still always peeked in on her asleep in her bed, just to get a glimpse of her face. To prove to myself that she hadn’t died on me too.

Knowing this day would come hasn’t made it any easier. Now, standing here, I’m sure I’m losing something. It’s as if I’m saying goodbye to a part of my life that I’ll never get back.

“Well . . . ,” Kacey says, looking up at me with glassy blue eyes and a tight smile as we stand next to a taxi. My sister doesn’t cry much. Even after everything we’ve gone through, and how far she’s come, she normally manages to use inappropriate humor to shrug off any threats of sadness. Now, though . . . now I see a single tear trickle down her cheek. “Little sis,” she mumbles, sliding her hands around my neck to pull me down so our foreheads meet. “You did it, Livie.”

I smile. “We did it.” It would have been easier for her had she left me with Aunt Darla and Uncle Raymond three years ago. Heck, it would have been expected. She didn’t have to burden herself with a mouth to feed. I think a lot of other siblings in her situation would have simply walked out the front door and never looked back. Not Kacey, though. “Thanks to you—” I start to say. She cuts me off with her typical stern brow.

“Oh, no. No thanks to me, Livie. I’m the train wreck of a sister who somehow, miraculously, didn’t derail your future with my mountain of shit.” She closes her eyes as she whispers, “It’s me that owes you. Everything.” She pulls me tight to her in a hug. “Remember, I’m never too far. You let me know if you ever need me and I’ll be here in an instant. Okay?”

“I’ll be fine, Kacey.”

“And even when you’re not, I’m still here. Okay?”

I nod, not trusting my voice.

I hear my phone chirp, indicating an incoming text. Thinking it’s Storm—because she’s the only one aside from Kacey who texts me—I check my phone.

Tell me you did one out-of-character thing last night?

“You have got to be kidding me!” I burst out.

“What’s going on?” Kacey asks with a frown, leaning in to peek over my shoulder at the screen.

“What kind of doctor texts his patients?” I mean, non-patients.

“You have about five minutes to respond before he calls you. You know that, right?” Kacey says.

I nod. I’ve learned that Dr. Stayner is a very patient man . . . unless he wants answers. “What should I tell him?”

She shrugs and then grins. “I find shock value works best with him.”

“Well, I definitely have enough material for that.” She waits with arms crossed as I type:

I drank enough Jell-O shots to fill a small pool, and then proceeded to break out every terrible dance move known to mankind. I am now the proud owner of a tattoo and if I didn’t have a video to prove otherwise, I’d believe I had it done in a back alley with hepatitis-laced needles. Satisfied?

My stomach tightens as I press “Send.” He keeps telling me to leverage that inner sarcasm he knows is in my head.

Ten seconds later, my phone beeps again.

That’s a good start. Did you talk to a guy?

I stare wide-eyed at my phone, processing his reaction—or nonreaction—to my night of scarring debauchery.

That gives Kacey a chance to grab my phone out of my hand.

“Kacey, what are you doing!” I chase her around the cab as her fingers furiously type; she’s cackling the entire time. I don’t know how she can run and text, but she does. Not until she’s hit “Send” does she slow enough to toss my phone to me. I fumble as I catch it and quickly check to see what my sister has done.

Not only did I talk to a guy but I’ve now seen two penises, including the one attached to the naked man in my room this morning when I woke up. I have pictures. Would you like to see one?

“Kacey!” I shriek, smacking her against the shoulder.

It’s a moment before the response comes.

Glad you’re making friends. Talk to you on Saturday.

There are a few seconds of silence, during which my shock outweighs anything else, and then we burst out laughing, lifting the entire mood of this goodbye.

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