I remember looking out the window of my room as Lexie and Papa stepped on the stones that went down the middle of our yard. We put those down when I was about three years old. Lexie and I were so excited. She was grinning from ear to ear, and I remember her shiny braces. But, that was before. I was mad at Lexie now. Mad because she made those horrible decisions. Mad because people tried help her but she wouldn’t let them. And mad mostly because she just couldn’t stop.
I left the window and went to sit on my bed. I picked up Mr. Monkey, the stuffed animal Lexie gave me for my 6th birthday. I looked at the monkey’s tag on his ear, which read: “TO: Cece FROM: Lexie.” I ran downstairs with not a second to lose. I ran out the front door onto the wooden porch. I opened the door of the white picket fence, but I was too late. Papa’s old BMW had just taken the turn off of Huckleberry Street, and Lexie was riding away in it.
The first time I realized that Lexie had a problem was on a normal crowded morning in our shared bathroom. “Move over, you piece of trash!” she said, and pushed me over. It hurt, but not as bad as it felt when I saw the little bottle of pills roll out of her book bag. She looked at me, with daggers in her eyes. Then, she remembered that I needed to be on her good side. Her expression changed into a sweet one. “Look, Cecille. You can’t tell mom and dad. Okay?” I nodded, slammed the door on my way out, ran to my room, and jumped onto my bed. I had to process all of this. Finally, my thoughts were interrupted by Papa yelling from the kitchen: “Lexie! Cece! Time to go to school!”
All of that was nine months ago, back when everyone in town thought we were the perfect family. It wasn’t until Mama and Papa found out about the drugs that our entire act turned upside down. After nine months in rehab, Mama and Papa said that Lexie was better now. The last time I saw her was Christmas, and even then I didn’t really see much progress. I didn’t want to tell my parents my concerns, because ever since Dr. Cornell said Lexie was good enough to come back home, Mama was always cleaning the house, trying her very best to make it look perfect. One time, I told her it wasn’t Gram or Great Aunt Susan that was coming, that it was just Lexie. “It’s not just Lexie. It’s your only sister.”
Today was the day that Lexie was coming back. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to be mad or happy. It was like my emotions were at war with each other, and neither was close to winning. I was listening to some Beyoncé and painting my nails a blood red color. Mama said that Lexie and Papa would be home any minute now, so I trotted down the stairs with my toes up so that the polish wouldn’t get on the carpet. Just as I had made it down the stairs, the doorbell rang. I was definitely excited to see Lexie, and for her to come home, but all of those hurt feelings from a couple months ago were coming back.
For a split second, I considered walking back up those stairs. I wanted to give Lexie the cold shoulder. She deserved it, right? But I couldn’t withstand the urge to run up to my sister. As she walked through the door, she looked healthy. There was no way to know for sure. Her face was clean, with possibly a small bit of makeup. She wore light jeans anda white tee, and her dirty blonde hair was pulled into a messy bun. “Lexie!” I yelled, and ran over to hug her.
“Cece! What’s up?” her voice was cheerier than before, and her smile was huge. My sister looked like her old self again, but she seemed like a stranger
The next week was just like old times. Lexie and I would play Scrabble after dinner. I’d show her my new move I learned in dance, and she would help me with my math homework. Lexie wasn’t allowed to leave the house much, in case it would start up some of her old triggers. She couldn’t hang out with Melissa or Chelsea any more. She couldn’t go to parties or the mall. Mama hovered around Lexie like a helicopter. Mama and Papa even let Lexie take the Master bedroom because it was on the second floor, so she couldn’t sneak out anymore. Slowly, I began to trust my sister again. But, in typical Lexie fashion, she proved me wrong.
I heard her and Mama fighting. “It’s my body!” Lexie yelled. Then, I heard a quick slap. Had Mama hit Lexie, or did Lexie hit Mama? I went downstairs to see what happened. I ran down the stairs quietly, so I wouldn’t alarm either of them. I didn’t see very much, but what I did see changed everything. In Lexie’s hand, there was a white stick, and on the stick, there was a pink +. I knew what that meant. Lexie was pregnant.
I wanted to know what was going on, so I hid behind the kitchen door. “Don’t they check for this at rehab?!” Mama shouted, then lowered her voice, because she didn’t want me to hear. It was too late for that. “Of course they do, Mom! Marian and I swapped urine samples! Besides, it was too early to tell anyway!” Lexie said.
“The same Marian who gave you the heroine in the first place!?” Mama replied.
Lexie shushed her, and I saw Mama’s expression change from frustrated to furious. “Lexie…” Mama said. “Is this why you decided to stop doing drugs in the first place?!” she added.
Lexie was silent.
This was all too much. I started to make my way back to my room before anyone would see me, but Mama saw me and stopped me on my way up the stairs.
“Cece, how much of that did you hear?” she said.
“Enough.” I replied. And I ran the rest of the way to my room.
I grabbed Mr. Monkey and flopped on my bed. I stared into his button eyes. Lexie wasn’t the same anymore. But neither was I. Tears began to well up in my eyes. The door to my room creaked open. I thought it would be Mama, but it was Papa.
“I know you’re scared,” he said.
By now, there were tears streaming down my cheeks. I swallowed and asked him, “What’s going to happen to us? What’s going to happen to the baby?”
Papa put his hand on my shoulder. His warm touch was warm and comforting, but not comforting enough. “I think you need to talk to your sister about this,” he said. And, with that, he left.
I had a lot of questions. I didn’t want to talk to Lexie. But eventually, my curiosity got the best of me, and I got up the courage to waltz over to Lexie’s room.
“Lexie?” I said.
“Yeah?” her voice sounded like it was drowning.
“Can I come in?” I asked.
“Okay,” I heard her whisper from the other side of the door.
I walked in and saw her sitting on the edge of her bed. She had her iPad mini and I saw that she was on a website called, “100 Best Baby Girl Names!”
“So… is it a girl?” I said, trying to break the silence.
“Yup,” she responded with a sliver of a smile.
“What do you want to name her?”
“I’ve already decided,” her voice was sweet now.
“Really? What is it?” I asked.
Dinner was less awkward than I expected. Lexie told Mama and Papa about what she had decided. She’s having the baby, keeping the baby, and raising the baby. I started to get excited. I was going to be an aunt. Maybe our family could be “perfect” again. Or, at least, partially perfect.
Mama and Papa started to let Lexie do more activities again. Of course, there was a lot she couldn’t do, because she was pregnant. She didn’t get out of the house much, only for her support groups and doctor visits. She was in a “Troubled Teens Talk” group, a Teen Mom support group, and a Heroin Support Group. After all that had happened, it had gotten harder for Lexie and I to bond again, but, little by little, we were becoming close again. As she neared thirty weeks, our family was settled again. Well, we were settled. When we went to the grocery store, people would still stare at us. Whisper. Giggle. Run. I knew the drill. It had already been my life for almost a year.
Now, I found myself back at the window. The BMW turning the corner onto Huckleberry Street. Lexie and Papa on the stone steps. Only, Lexie wasn’t walking this time. She was in a wheelchair. Papa was holding Cecilia in his arms. And, just like last time, I had Mr. Monkey in my arms as I ran downstairs.
“Cecilia?” I said.
Lexie and I exchanged a smile, and, even though there were no words, enough had already been said.