I walk back to the living room and hand them each a box. “Come on,” I say, heading toward the stairs. “We’ve got a room to clean.”

We spend the rest of the afternoon cleaning out Les’s room. We box her pictures and anything that meant something to her in one box, then we put all her clothes in boxes to take to Goodwill. I take both notebooks and I wrap them in the pair of jeans that have been on the floor for over a year and I place it all in a box. A box I keep.


After the room is finished, my mother and Sky head downstairs. I stack the boxes in the hallway, then turn to shut the door. Before I close it completely, I look to her bed. I don’t watch her die again. I watch her smile.

Chapter Forty-nine-and-three-quarters

“I thought she said she wasn’t going this weekend,” I say to Sky as we walk through her front door.

“I begged her to go. She’s been stuck to me like glue for days now and I told her if she didn’t go do her flea market thing, I’d run away.”

We make our way to Sky’s bedroom and I close the door behind us. “So does that mean I can get you pregnant tonight?”

She turns around and faces me, then shrugs. “I guess we could practice,” she says, smiling.

And we do. We practice at least three different times before midnight.

We’re lying on her bed, tangled together beneath her sheet. She’s holding up our hands, which are clasped between us, and she’s staring at them. “I remember, you know,” she says softly.

I tilt my head until it meets hers on the pillow. “You remember what?”

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She pulls her fingers away, then she wraps her pinky around mine. “This,” she whispers. “I remember the first time you held my hand like this. And I remember everything you said to me that night.”

I close my eyes and inhale a deep breath.

“Not long after Karen brought me here, she asked me to forget my old name and all the bad that went along with it. So I thought about you . . . and I told her I wanted to be called Sky.”

She lifts up onto her elbow and looks down at me. “You were always there, you know. Even when I couldn’t remember . . . you were always there.”

I push her hair behind her ear and kiss her, then pull back. “I love you so much, Sky.”

“I love you, too, Holder.”

I pull my arm out from under her and roll her onto her back, looking down at her. “Will you do me a favor?”

She nods.

“From now on, I want you to call me Dean.”

Final Chapter


It’s been a while. I came across these letters today after needing boxes to pack for college. I also came across the pair of jeans that sat in your bedroom floor for over a year. I just threw them in the hamper for you. You’re welcome.

So . . . yeah. College. Me. Me going to college. Pretty cool, huh?

It’s still about a month away before I go, but Sky has already been there for a couple of months. She had all her credits from being homeschooled, so right after high school graduation she left to get a head start on me.

She’s so competitive.

But I’m not worried, because I plan on surpassing her once I get there. I have this elaborate evil plan all mapped out. Every time I catch her studying or doing homework, I’ll just whisper something sexy in her ear or flash my dimples. Then she’ll get all flustered and sidetracked and she’ll fall behind on her schoolwork and she’ll fail her classes and I’ll get my degree first and victory will be mine!

Or I’ll just let her win. I sort of like letting her win sometimes.

I miss her like crazy, but we’ll be in the same town again in less than a month.

A town with no parents.

A town with no curfews.

And if I have anything to do with it, she’ll have a closetful of nothing but dresses.

Shit. Now that I look at it, I think we both might end up failing.

A lot has happened since I last wrote to you, but then again nothing has happened. Compared to the first few months following my return from living with Dad in Austin, the rest of the year has been pretty tame. Once Sky found out the truth, Karen eased up on the technology restrictions. I got her an iPhone for her real birthday and she has a laptop now, so we get to see each other every night through Skype.

I love Skype. A lot. Just sayin’.

Mom and Dad are good. Dad didn’t put two and two together when he met Sky, which I didn’t really think he would to begin with. He never really spent a lot of time around her when we were kids because he worked so much. He does love her, though. And Mom? Good lord, Les. Mom can’t get enough of her. It kind of weirds me out how close they’ve become, but it’s also good. It’s good for Mom. I think having Sky as part of the family now has helped relieve some of the grief she still feels from your death.

And yes, we all still feel it. Everyone who loved you still feels it. And while I don’t really relive your death anymore, I still miss you like hell. I miss you so much. Especially when something happens that I know you would think was funny. I catch myself laughing and then all of a sudden I realize I’m the only one laughing and it hits me that I was expecting you to laugh, too. I miss your laugh.

I could go on and on about all the things I miss about you to the point that I start to feel sorry for myself again. But I’ve learned over the past year what it really means to be able to miss someone. In order to miss someone, that means you were privileged enough to have them in your life to begin with.

And while seventeen years doesn’t seem like near enough time to have spent with you over the course of a lifetime, it’s still seventeen more years than the people that never knew you at all. So if I look at it that way . . . I’m pretty damn lucky.

I’m the luckiest brother ever in the whole wide world.

I’m gonna go live my life now, Les. A life I’m actually able to look forward to, and I honestly thought I’d never be able to say that. Then again, I honestly thought I’d always be hopeless, but I find hope every single day.

And sometimes I find her at night, too . . . on Skype.

I love you.


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