Losing Faith

Dedicated to the memory of Katie, October 14, 1997— July 26, 2006.

"She's still not here yet?"

Hope Clarkson stopped her pirouettes and made a face at her friend, "You know Faith, Nats. She's always late."

Natalie Pervez sighed and slid down to the floor, sitting with her legs crossed, and reached for her water bottle. "Jeez, Hope. I swear your sister would be late to her own funeral!"

Hope rolled her eyes with annoyance, silently agreeing with Natalie. Her thirteen months younger sister's hobby was being late. And she was quite good at it, too.

"I bet she's just doing this to be a pain," Hope said bitterly, "She knows how much this recital means to me."

"Aw, come on, Hope!" Natalie reprimanded, "You know Faith's not like that, and she'd never do something like that!"

Hope's shoulders sagged, and she quickly reached down to stretch. "I know, I know. But, it becomes such a big pain in the ass sometimes! I feel like screaming at her and then shaking her senseless…" Hope sighed. She really wished Emma would take some responsibility and act a little more mature.

"Do you think—?" Natalie got cut off as the door to the large studio opened and banged loudly against the wall.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" Faith called out as she came to a stop in front of the two girls.

Natalie smiled slightly, but Hope forced her face to remain expressionless as she stared at Faith's apologetic face that looked more comical than apologetic.

"Do you have any idea what time it is?" Hope asked sternly.

Faith looked down at her wrist and opened her mouth, but Hope cut her off immediately.

"Four thirty, Faith. You were supposed to be here at four thirty. It's nearly five thirty! We only have a little more than a month left, and we have a lot to work on."

Faith bit her lip and remained silent for a few seconds. "I know, and I'm sorry. I promise I'll never do it again." And then she added with a grin, "But look what I've got here!"

Hope stared at the beautiful faded pink ballet slippers that dangled from Faith's fingers and reached out. They were soft and smooth but also firm and sturdy. Dragging her eyes back to her sister's twinkling brown ones, she asked, "Where did you get them from?"

"David," Faith announced with a bright smile and Hope's pulse quickened. "They used to be his great-grandmothers', but Mrs. Sinclair was cleaning out their attic and she came across these and thought of giving them to someone who would use them," she continued, "Now, I know they're not as extravagant as yours, but please, Hope. Please forgive me. I'll be your best friend."

Hope looked into her sister's apologetic eyes and felt her resolve weakening. This was what always ended up happening. Somehow, Faith always managed to worm her way through any mishap and ended up being completely forgiven. She knew, as she continued to stare at Emma's earnest face, that she couldn't stay angry at her for very long. She glanced at Natalie for an ally, but found her best friend grinning fondly at Faith. Of course, everyone loved Faith. Including David Sinclair, Hope's heart constricted at the thought.

Sighing deeply, Hope gave in, "Fine, you're forgiven," and ignoring the squeal of delight and quick hug that Faith gave her, she reprimanded, "But, you have to be on time for the next rehearsal."

"Cross my heart and hope to die," Faith responded solemnly.

Rolling her eyes, Hope gestured them to get started and both girls took their places as Faith took her seat in front of the piano.

Later in the evening just before dinner, Hope was finishing her homework when Faith walked into the room.

"Normal people usually knock on the door before entering someone else's room," she said without looking up.

With a big sigh, Fait flopped down on her bed, "Hope—"

"I'm busy."

Faith started whining, "But, Hope. I'm bored out of my mind here."

"Go do your homework."

Hope could practically see the face Faith made, "Nope, too boring."

There were a few seconds of silence, and Hope could hear her sister walking around the room.

"Can you drive me over to David's house, then?"

The pen in Hope's hand stilled for a moment, and her eyes flickered before she replied, "Ask mom or dad to drive you over."

"They're watching TV, Laura. They'll probably make me do my homework first, which will take forever."

Hope bit her lip and turned to face her sister, "You'll see him tomorrow at school, anyways."

Faith's shoulders sagged and she looked at the books on the bookshelf. "You're right." And then, "Why is your room so neat, Hope? How can you live like this?"

Hope bit back her smile. Trust Faith to switch gears so quickly. Leaning back into her chair, she nodded to the room across from hers. "How can you live like that?" But even as she said it, Hope couldn't help but grin.

The bed was unmade, the pillows askew, and clothes covered most of the floor. There were lingerie and socks hanging out from the open drawers, and papers, and books spread all over the place. But then, that was what made Faith.

Following her gaze, Faith sat back down on the bed and returned her grin. "We're like fire and water, Hope."

Hope raised her eyebrow inquiringly and Faith continued. "Look at us. We're too different to be related! You're tall, blonde haired-blue eyed, graceful… and I'm… short, round and fully packed," she said as she patted her full thighs and wide hips. "You've got the looks, the brains, the talent and I've got"—she picked up a lock of her dark shoulder-length hair—"the dandruff."

In spite of herself, Hope couldn't help but laugh out loud at Faith's offhanded view of them. As true as it all was, Faith sounded the least bit jealous or spiteful about any of it, for which Hope was truly glad. She couldn't remember the last time Faith had been unkind or malicious toward her for any reason, if there was any. And, Hope herself had never really regarded their differences with much importance, because Faith's very personality deterred everyone from her outer appearance.

Like Hope, Faith was still popular among her peers at school, but she also had a real boyfriend, unlike Hope.

"Talent, Faith? You're the one who plays the piano like a pro," Hope said.

Faith rolled her eyes and fingered the stray threads on the coverlet. "But practically everyone in the entire world knows how to play a piano. But, ballet? Now that's something that needs real talent."

Hope exaggerated her scoff and eye-roll, earning another wide grin from Faith. "Right."

"No, I'm serious. I really don't get it sometimes. Take David for example. I mean, he's not blind and he's not stupid and he's even in your grade, but still…" Faith waved her arms around for the effect and gestured to both of them.

Hope bit her tongue and fought the urge to turn away from her sister. Hope had asked herself the same question before, but never got the answer she so desperately wanted to hear. Looking at Faith's genuinely puzzled face, she smiled softly. "David likes you for you, Faith. He's the one person who doesn't care about looks or status, and I think you are truly more than what he deserves. And besides, he knows I'll break him if he breaks your heart."

Faith's face brightened and she laughed, "Of course!"

"Girls! Dinner's ready!"

Sitting at the dinner table a few minutes later, Faith entertained everyone with stories from her day, but Hope half listened to the conversation. Watching her parents laughing and smiling faces, she wished she could make them laugh the way Faith could. She wished she didn't feel so out of sync all the time. Why couldn't she be as easygoing and laidback as her sister?

Hope had already started counting the days until she would go to college. Until she would be on her own and free from her little sister.

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