I creep in around midnight, wanting to say goodnight but finding her fast asleep. Her door is creaked open, just the slightest bit, so I carefully open it the rest of the way, just enough to slip through.
Her bed is a mattress set upon a trundle, so I can't sit on it without its wheels shifting it. Instead, I kneel beside her bed and grasp the corner of her blanket, lifting it a little so that it covers her exposed shoulder. The blanket is a quilt our grandmother made us, one with blue paisleys and lavender polka dots. Beneath the quilt, her abdomen rises and falls to the steady rhythm of her breath.
I didn't know her today. I didn't know her yesterday, or the day before that, or the year before that. In truth, it's been years since I've been able to recognize her. She has changed, and with that change has come a rift in our relationship, a rift I don't want to acknowledge, even though it has to be addressed sometime.
Gently, I smooth back her hair and bend over her. After a moment's hesitation, I kiss her hair and whisper, "Goodnight. I love you, always." She does not stir, does not flutter her eyes, does not murmur back to me. She lies there, still and silent, and my gaze lingers for a moment more.
In this quietude, with sleeping breaths standing between us instead of callous, conspicuous lies, I see her. There is something tender in her spirit still, something I can finally give a name to. She is herself, the self caught under the years of false promises and misunderstandings that now taint our sisterhood. There are no lies to blacken her lips, no catty glances to be cast at me, and for this one heartbeated moment, I know her again. She is my sister.