Sophie continued looking out the window long after Ronnie drove away and his taillights turned the corner and were gone.
“Can't fool me, Ronnie,” she whispered. “You put up a good front, but I know you're hurting. It wouldn't bother me so much except Rachel just isn't worth it. How I wish you could love me as much as you loved her.”
She scowled at the unfairness, then looked up to the clear sky. It was filled with twinkling lights. Her blue eyes widened and it didn't take long for a smile to appear. It was a beautiful sight.
“Maybe Ronnie actually was star gazing,” she said with a slight giggle. She had forgotten how many stars could be seen in Catalpa Valley on a clear night; billions of them! She hardly saw any in Miami, not with all that ambient light around the university and in major cities.
She wondered if she could wish on a billion stars and if it would make the wish that much stronger therefore more likely to come true. Well, why not? Why did it have to be wishing only on the first star you saw?
Although she had probably asked this once for each star in the sky already, she took in a deep breath, closed her eyes and wished for the one and only thing she truly wanted more than anything else in the world. “I wish Ronnie would fall in love with me,” she whispered. She smiled at the stat-filled sky, but her smile quickly faded again. She now knew wishing the same thing she'd wished for nearly ten years was a wasted endeavor, because it might never happen. Rachel, even in death, was standing between them, and would be, she suspected, for a long, long time.
Sophie sighed heavily and closed over the curtains. She removed her clothes, put on comfy Pjs and grabbed her hair brush. She then sat cross-legged on her bed and slowly brushed her long, honey blonde hair, her mind on Ronnie and the prospect of having to face undeniable and rather painful facts. Number one being, Ronnie didn't love her and she now knew why, and number two, he might never love her...especially not how she wanted to be loved.
A solitary tear slipped down her cheek as she tried to find a bright side in all this. Ah, yes, he might one day become her step-brother and they, at least, were friends. He might grow to love her as a sister. As bright spots go, it was duller than mud, but it would have to do for the moment. It was something at least...a minuscule something, but something all the same.
Just then her cell vibrated and she eagerly answered it.
“Hi, Bug,” she said softly, so as not to awaken her mother in the next room.
“Hey, Babe. How's my favorite girl?” he said.
“I've been better,” she said before she could stop herself. She quickly wiped at the wetness on her face and forced a smile. “But it's okay now that I'm talking to you.”
“What's wrong?” he said.
“Same old, same old, you know. I'm going stir crazy in bo-dunk city,” she said. “If it wasn't for performing at Danfords tonight...”
“What! You've gone solo without telling me???” he said in mock indignation.
She giggled. “I did tell you. Remember, I told you I made the huge mistake of going out with Antoine and the only way to get away from him was to literally be on stage.”
“A supreme sacrifice for you, I'm sure,” Bug said.
She giggled again. “No, it wasn't but...Ooh! How was Disneyland? Did you get to go today?”
“Yup, it was the first time for my sister...and my...uh, geeze, I don't really know what Kelly is to me. Nothing really except my sister's mother.”
“Did Fanny have fun? Did she like Disneyland?” Sophie asked, setting down her hair brush and laying back against her pillows.
“You wouldn't believe how much. She was like a little kid in a candy store...well, let's face it, she's like a little kid with most things even if she is more than twenty-five years older than me, but Disney is her very favorite. She knows all the songs in the movies. She's a really good singer, too!”
Sophie laughed, then slapped a hand over her mouth. If she wasn't careful she'd awaken her mother. “Look at that. You got her singing talent.”
“Could be we share it, but we certainly didn't get it from Dad. He doesn't even sound good in the shower!”
She stifled her laughter. “I'm so glad you're having fun with your sister and her mom. How is it between your father and her mother? I imagine it was awkward, huh?”
“Only for about ten minutes. It was...amazing really. They just looked at each other for a few minutes like they didn't know what to say to one another and then... they kinda fell into a time warp or something and everything was like.... like they were never apart.”
“Wow, that must be so nice... for them,” Sophie said. “Um...how does that make you feel? Seeing your dad with another woman...not your mom?”
“I'm okay with it. I mean, Kelly was my father's first girlfriend, his first love, so...it's okay really. Plus I know my mom would want him to be happy. She's the one that found her, you know,” he said.
“I know you told me, but...still...”
“Really, it's good and it's great to know I have a sister. I really don't know why it makes a difference, but it just does.”
Sophie nodded, until she realized he couldn't see her. “That's awesome, Bug. Can we do Facetime? I really miss seeing you.”
“Uh...not right now.”
“I...uh...I changed my look and I want to see your reaction to it in person.”
“Are you kidding me?” she scoffed. “I've seen you at your best and worse, remember? I was there when you were all goth and...”
“Emo actually,” he interjected.
“When you dyed your hair purple, and you shaved half your head and left the other half long and then you cut all of it off and turned your head green or something...."
"It was St. Patrick's Day," he muttered.
" Your hair has been every color of the rainbow and even a complete rainbow once, come to think of it," she said. "Spiked hair, slicked back, feathered and curled, even a 'fro, but the worst, absolute worst was the dreaded dreadlocks,” she said.
"Oh, yeah...the dreadlocks..." he chuckled. "My mom woulda loved that."
“Yeah, well, she was probably the only one, believe me! So, really, Bug, you can NOT surprise me anymore.”
He laughed. “Get your point, but I still want to wait til I see you, okay?”
“Oh, all right,” she said with a sigh. “I really miss you, Bug.”
“I miss you, too,” he said.
“I miss all the guys,” she said, tentatively.
“We had such fun together. Best I ever had."
She waited for more of a reaction, but nothing came. "Will we ever be the same?” she asked, after an extended silence.
“I don't think so, Babe,” he said. “But it could be good, could be better. My mom used to say to me that change was the only constant in life and we either roll with it or get run over by it. Guess we better roll with it, huh?”
“Yeah...I guess. How are you getting along with your dad?” she asked.
“Amazingly well,” he said. “He's really changed since meeting Fanny. Actually, it started since meeting your mom.”
“Yeah, my mom's kinda like that...effects change without knowing she'd done it,” Sophie said.
“Anyway, Dad adores Fanny. It's like they've known each other forever, but... crazy thing is she's known us from the start. How unfair is that, huh? I only just discovered I have a sister but she knew as soon as I was born that I was her brother.”
“Wait, how could she? You only just met her,” she said.
“Because her mother told her. Pictures of my dad and mom have been plastered all over tabloids and on TV since forever and sometimes even my photo got in. My parents tried to protect me and keep me out of the limelight, but when your parents are famous, so are you.”
“Wow, so...like did Fanny have a scrap book with newspaper clipping of you and your dad?”
“Yeah! Can you believe it?”
“Kinda creepy... but in a good way!” she added quickly.
He laughed. “Only you can call this creepy in a good way.”
“Well, it would be creepy if it was somebody you didn't know collecting pictures of you, like a stalker or something, but not if it's your own sister and she is mentally challenged and ...oh, you know what I mean,” she said.
“Yeah, I do. Just teasing,” he said. “So, you haven't mentioned your Stroganoff boyfriend. Did he do us all a huge favor and fall off the face of the earth or something?”
“That's Romanoff! And no, he's still in Catalpa Valley, but I just found out...oh, you don't wanna hear about him,” she said.
“I wouldn't have asked if I didn't. What's he doing now to annoy you? Dating the Swedish Olympic swim team?”
“Not quite,” she said. “His old girlfriend who I didn't even know he liked that much, just recently killed herself and he's blaming himself for somehow not helping her before she spiraled out of control. As if anybody has the power to do that!”
“My God, that's horrible!” Bug said.
“Tell me about it. Worse thing is...even though they broke up a long time ago, I think he's still in love with her. He'll probably always love her. Her killing herself, he might never get over her, too, so... I just don't see... I got no shot with him at all. I might as well just give up,” Sophie said, gloomily sighing.
“Wow, I'm sorry,” he said. “So...are you saying you're finally giving up on him?”
“I guess I should. Got to anyway... if and when my mom marries his dad,” she said.
“But is that really likely? I mean, from what you've said, your mom doesn't seem ready so...”
“I think she's... I dunno, I think she loves Mr. Romanoff, but she's kinda stuck on my father.”
“I thought that about my dad and look at him now. He's … I think he's in love all over again,” Bug said. "Or close to it."
“But my dad didn't die too long ago, not as long as your mom,” Sophie said.
“Which means...if your mom is anything like my dad...”
“Give it a few more months, huh?” she said. “Good thing my mom ain't nothing like your dad!”
“Hmmm, not so sure about that,” he said. “I think that it was being in the same state of widowhood that got them all friendly.”
She sighed. “Maybe.”
“You sound tired. I should let you go to sleep. It's late here so it's even later back home. Call ya tomorrow, okay? And don't let Stroganoff boy get ya down. There must be a zillion guys far better than him, all waiting for a girl as great as you to look their way. You just gotta be willing to give 'em a chance.”
“Don't know if I can...can let it go,” she said so quietly he could barely hear it.
“Try. Night, Babe,” he said and the phone blipped out.
Though she couldn't see it, couldn't see herself falling for any other boy, she knew Bug was right. She had to try.
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