"Is everything okay, Sophie?"
"No. Actually it’s not." I clear my throat, wishing I’d downed a third daiquiri before attempting this awkward conversation. "Colton told me about your past with him."
"Oh." She looks down at the stone patio between her pedicured feet.
"And while he assured me that he doesn’t have any interest in you, I needed to hear you say the same thing." I pause, watching her eyes and focus on breathing calmly. She doesn’t need to know that my heart is beating like a drum.
"At one time, I liked Colton. He’s a smart, charming man. What woman wouldn’t fall for him? But over the years, I’ve accepted that he doesn’t view me that way, Sophie. I can promise you I’m over it."
I nod, still watching her, and unsure of what to say next. Geez, this is awkward. I should have made Becca come over here and have this conversation. Too bad we weren’t really identical and couldn’t pass for each other because otherwise, I totally would have.
Marta leans closer. "Listen, the truth is, I know I can’t compete with you. You’re a gorgeous girl. And Colton loves you. If he hasn’t told you yet, I’m sure he will, because I can see it whenever he looks at you…"
"He’s told me," I admit.
"Oh. Well, like I said, I’m not surprised." She takes a minute, looking down at her polished toes again, before meeting my eyes. "I hope my working for him doesn’t bother you. If it does, I understand, but I love my job, and…"
I hold up a hand, stopping her. "It doesn’t bother me. I trust Colton. I just needed you to know he’s mine now."
"I know," she says quietly. "I know."
I straighten my shoulders, my confidence rising. "Good. I am glad we had this chat. I’m fine with you continuing to work for him, but just know that I won’t tolerate you flirting with what is mine."
"I got it, Sophie," she says, her chin tipped down, as if some of her poise has disappeared.
I walk away from our conversation feeling slightly odd and a little sad. When I relay the specifics to Becca after sinking back down into my lounge chair, she waves me off.
"Do not feel bad. Listen, Marta is flipping gorgeous. She’s a ten. She will have no problem finding a man now that she knows it’s time to let Colton go. You did the right thing talking to her. Now everything’s out in the open and there are no secrets. Plus now that you’re dating a man as utterly attractive as Colton, you better get used to beating the girls off him. That was a good warm up."
I nod in agreement. "Okay, good point." How my sister got so wise, I have no clue.
"I’m happy for you, Soph," she says. "Like really fucking ridiculously happy. No matter what happens, I want you to live every day to its fullest. Laugh. Sing in the shower. Dance naked. Have sex with your man in the kitchen. Have lots of babies."
I gaze over at her, my stomach suddenly tightening into a knot. "What are you talking about? Why are you saying all this?"
She shrugs. "We just never know how much time we have left, that’s all."
This conversation in the bright sunlight with Bob Marley singing Everything’s Gonna Be Alright in the background feels totally wrong and out of place. I hate it.
I swallow down the lump in my throat. "You’re healthy, right?"
She nods. "All I’m saying is that if cancer’s taught me anything, it’s to live every day like it’s your last."
"Jeez. Don’t scare me like that, Becca. We both have plenty of time for babies and everything."
"Of course. It’s just that you’ve been focused on me for so long, now that I’m healthy it’s time for you to focus on you."
"I’ve never minded a single second of being there for you. I would do anything for you."
"I know that. I just don’t want you to have to sacrifice anymore." She smiles weakly.
I hate that she’s right. I’m ashamed to admit that there’ve been times in my life that I resented her. Prom our senior year of high school was the perfect example. I had bought the most beautiful long silver strapless dress and was supposed to go with the captain of our high school’s basketball team, Johnny Knight. Instead Becca took a turn for the worse and our entire family flew to Houston for an emergency surgery. I feel so selfish for even thinking it. I finally threw that silver dress away last year. The tags were still on it. And the guilt didn’t end there. Now I felt bad that I hadn’t donated it, but in a fit of anger, I’d stuffed it into the trash can instead.
"It’s just that you’ve lived in the shadow of me and my illness for so long. This is your time now and I don’t want anything to get in the way of that."
"When’s your next doctor’s visit?" I ask, changing the topic away from my own love life.
"I go in on Monday. But I’m feeling fine." She notices my now sour mood and her smile turns into a frown. "Hey, I’m sorry to get so heavy on you. I just want to know that no matter what happens, you’re going to be okay."
"Of course I am." My life is coming together and Becca is finally getting well. We all have a lot to look forward to.
I lay staring straight up at the sun. Our conversation has left me slightly on edge. Actually the entire day has. Between my parents meeting Colton for the first time, my conversation with Marta and now this strange discussion with Becca…I’ve lost my zen sense of calm. Poof. It’s gone.
My gaze strays to Colton and I see that he’s watching me from across the pool. He’s holding his cell phone in his hand and glances at my beach tote beside my chair and then back at me again. I fish my own cell phone from the bag, wondering if that’s what he’s signaling me to do.
As soon as I pull my phone out, I see a text from him.
You look stressed out.
I gaze up at him, wondering how he can read me so well, how he can possibly be so tuned in to me when he’s entertaining guests. I love him even more in that moment. I type out my reply.
I’m not. Not really.
I glance up at him and smile. I love that he knows me so well.
I’m fine. I promise. 😉
I keep my eyes on the screen, waiting for his reply to come, but when it doesn’t I look up at him again. He’s standing across the pool and I’m struck by the beauty of our idyllic surrounding. There is nothing but blue sky overhead, and the brilliant sun shining down on him makes him look like a bronzed statute of a Greek god. His bare chest and mansion of a home rising up behind him, with only the expanse of sparkling blue water separating us remind me how lucky I am.
Finally he texts me back.
Well I’m not.