I managed to get away with spending the next day in bed. I couldn’t face the world knowing that at some point I was going to do something unforgivable and be taken from everything I’d ever known. I’d hand myself in if I wasn’t so scared and selfish.
Femi appeared in my room after school without even changing out of her uniform. “Homework to do and classwork to copy.” She dropped a stack of books on my desk before turning to me and crossing her arms.
She smirked. “I know you don’t mean that.”
“Of course I don’t. I don’t want to be doing all of that.”
She shook her head and climbed into bed next to me, flinging her blazer on the back of my desk chair first. For a few moments she just stared at me, opening and closing her mouth as sentence starters came and went.
“Let’s go out,” is what she decided on.
“No.” I pulled the quilt up to my ears. “I don’t want to go out.”
“It’ll be good for you.”
“I can’t. I shouldn’t.”
“You’re not sick”
If it could have, the imprint would’ve laughed at that. “I am.”
She prodded the back of my left calf where my Liar imprint lived and raised her eyebrows.
“Really, I am sick.” I looked her straight in the eyes.
Sighing, she grabbed my left wrist. “What does this say?”
“Fem, I –”
“What does it say?”
“Exactly.” She flashed her own and entwined her fingers with mine.
“You can’t always win with that you know?”
“I’ve done pretty well so far.” She sat up. “Now let’s go out.”
“No. I don’t want to go out.”
“You do really. You always want to go out.”
“Well not this time.”
“Not even if I buy you something?”
A trace of a smile crept into my cheeks. “As if you’ve got any money left. You spend it all on Dom.”
“That is not true.”
“What does that say?” I grabbed her wrist like she had mine and she laughed, nestling back down into the bed.
“Seriously, Lex, I’m worried about you. I know there’s something wrong but I can’t for the life of me think of what it would be. You were fine yesterday morning and I dunno what happened. Please tell me.”
“I . . .” I stopped myself before I had to lie again.
“What is it?”
“I can’t tell you.”
“What could you possibly not tell me?”
“Please. I can’t.”
She let that sink in for a moment before changing tactics. “Come on, let’s go to the cinema.”
“There’s nothing I want to watch.”
“What about the park?”
“We could go to Riley’s?”
I just shook my head.
Femi took a deep breath before speaking again but she didn’t lose her cool. Always the level-headed sister. “What do you want to do?”
“Nothing. I want to stay right here.” And that was the truth. I wanted to hide from the world and pretend this wasn’t happening because I didn’t even know how to begin to deal with this mess. The same question went around and around in my head. What was I supposed to do?
“Well that’s not an option. Pick something else.”
“I don’t want to pick something else.”
“Well I’m not gonna stay here and do nothing.”
“Fem, it’s okay. You can leave me alone. I’m okay. Go and do what you want to do.” The last thing I wanted to do was drag her down with me.
Our eyes met for a moment. “I just can’t do that.” She took a hiss of breath in through her nose as though she wanted me to hear it. “Do you know how sick I’ve been worrying about you all day? It’s been impossible to concentrate worrying about the state you’d be in when I got home and hoping you’d snap out of whatever’s bugging you. Or if not that then at least I hoped you’d tell me what’s wrong.”
“I never asked you to worry about me.” I sat up, finding snapping back at her easier and more comfortable than anything I’d done all day. “I’m just a little under the weather and feeling lazy and terrible, there’s nothing to worry about. Why are you always so over the top with stuff like this?”
“Are you kidding me? I care about my sister and this is the response I get? No thanks for worrying, I love you?”
I rolled my eyes. “You know I love you. I don’t understand what the problem is.”
“And I don’t understand what the problem is with you. Lex, all I want to do is understand.”
“But I can’t explain something to you that I don’t understand.”
“Really? You can’t think of any words to use? None at all.”
“Honestly . . . no.” I didn’t want to fight with her but this was the most alive I’d felt all day. “But Fem, why is this bothering you so much? Am I not allowed twenty-four hours of moping every now and again? If I had a cold you wouldn’t be so concerned.” I bit my lip, fear jumping through my system at her answer.
“Because . . .” she started twisting her watch around. “I’ve never seen you like this before. This isn’t just you in a bad mood, I know what that looks like. This isn’t what you’re like when you’re ill. You’re always clingy and needy when you’re sick and you’ve been waiting to get rid of me since I walked in here.”
“That is not true.”
She held her wrist up and sighed. The silence filled up the room. “I’m worried something awful is going on and you’re not telling me.”
Of course she got it spot on. Why should I have expected anything less? Wouldn’t I be acting the same way if things were reversed? If anything I’d be worse than this.
“I feel sick thinking about it. What’s so terrible that you can’t share it with me?”
I had no answer to that. None at all. Not even the start or end of a sentence. “What if I promise to snap out of it? We can do whatever it is that you want to do and I’ll be good, I swear.”
“If it’s something so bad are you sure you can snap out of it so easily?”
“I don’t believe you.”
“I’ll try. I promise. I’ll be good.”
“Which is better, Lex, you lying to me about snapping out of it or you acting like this when everything’s fine?”
I had no answer for that so I just took her hand and squeezed.
She watched me a minute before flinging her arms around my neck and holding me close. Her warm soft familiarity had me shutting my eyes and breathing her in.
“I get to pick what’s on TV,” she said into my hair.
“No way. I’m not watching your lovey-dovey fantasies.”
“You love it really.”
“No I don’t. It’s so stupid.”
“Who brought you your school work?”
“That’s even more reason for me to pick.” The act of acting as though everything was fine worked better than expected and for a few hours at least I felt like myself again. I almost forgot about the imprint and everything that meant for my future.