My love for you is rich and has been cultivated over the years. Therefore, penning this letter does not come easily. I’m at war with my choice to banish you from my life even as I write. Yet the right choice is blatantly clear. You are more to me than a habit that’s difficult to break. You’re an addiction. I feel that I cannot live without you. That’s how I know that I must let you go.
Thank you for the happiness you’ve granted me. You’ve given me reason to get out of bed in the morning. Too often, you are the last thing on my mind as I drift off to sleep at night as I anticipate spending my breakfast with you. I lie in bed, craving the taste of you on my lips, your warmth as I cradle you in my hands.
A mysterious delight courses through my veins at each visit to a coffee shop. A friendly rendezvous at the local Caribou Coffee, a business meeting at Starbucks, the discovery of a quaint small-town coffee shop. My heart rate quickens knowing you reside in each cafe, portraying a unique quality at each location. I’m mesmerized by your complexity. Bitter, bright, exotic, spicy, smooth, hot, cold, sweet, sometimes nutty. Always delectable. I’m greeted by your aroma as I take that first step through the door. The smell of you soaks into my clothes and my hair—a vestige of you that accompanies me through the remainder of the day.
I will always remember how you saw me through trying times, providing me vigor when my newborn woke before dawn, accompanying me through graveyard shifts, comforting me on lonely afternoons. But your solace is deceiving and comes with a price.
Your warmth runs cold, leaving me shivering and wanting for more. But you are never enough for me. The more I drink you in, the harder my heart pounds, the more erratic my thoughts, depriving me of sleep so that the vigor you bequeathed me in the early days of our courtship eludes me. So I avoid you. But you are woven into the fabric of my being, the wiring of my nervous system, the chemical makeup of my blood. In your absence, my head throbs, my stomach feels ill, and my thoughts are sluggish.
I try to escape you, but everywhere I turn, you precede me, tantalizing me with that delicious aroma. I see you in the hands of another and it’s everything I can do to stop myself from reaching out to you. I remind myself that you are an expensive, over-priced date. Yet my mouth waters at the memory of your taste on my tongue and your warmth filling my belly. I warn others of your deceit. I confess how you’ve put my life in danger, altering my blood pressure, depriving me of sleep, and staining my teeth. But my words fall on deaf ears, for they, likewise, are under your spell.
I can’t fool myself into believing I can acquire immunity to your charm. I certainly can’t avoid your flirtations altogether. So, I will learn to coexist in a world with you but separate from you, treasuring the good times we’ve shared. I may frequent coffee shops and fill my cup with decaf or possibly tea. Know that I’ll be settling. You are my first love.
My sister wasn’t dead.
I watched her chest rise…and fall.
Her breathing, although unnatural, assured me that Kelsey was alive. That her heart was still beating. A squiggly line zigzagged across the monitor mounted on the wall, supporting my speculation. The wavy line goes flat when someone dies. I’d seen that in movies.
I lifted my little sister’s hand off the white sheet, cradling it in mine. Her skin was warm and soft, yet another sign of life. I traced my thumb over her delicate fingers being careful not to brush over scrapes and bruises.
Her sparkly pink nail polish was chipped. Her fingernails jagged. My stomach lurched at the sight. How did Kelsey end up in this hospital bed, hooked up to breathing tubes and monitors, when just yesterday she wouldn’t hold still for me to paint her fingernails? “Stop moving,” I’d told her a million times. “I’m trying to make you look like a star.”
“My voice is all that matters,” she’d disputed as she tipped her head back to sip water from her Camelbak. She’d been munching on after-school snacks, and singing along with her iPod, practicing for the Meadowview Elementary School talent show. I’d been more nervous for her debut than she’d been.
I hadn’t needed to be nervous. She was adorable up on that stage. A natural performer. The memory of her young voice belting out the Taylor Swift song, her small hand gripping the microphone, and her skinny legs stepping in time to the music, played like a movie in my mind.
Only twenty-four hours later, I didn’t see even a flicker of movement in her body. Even more chilling, her voice was eerily silent.