She used to ask me to sing to her, late at night. "Sing something," she would whisper. To this day, I don't really know what it did for her - whether there was something special about hearing my voice or whether she just needed something to break the silence for a while. I never asked; I just sang in the darkness.
I remember all the nights growing up when I would go to her room and crawl into her bed and we would giggle together in the quiet, or I would pull out the trundle bed and lie beside her so we could tell stories until we fell asleep. I remember sharing secrets and playing dress up and creating whole worlds of make-believe that only the two of us could see. I remember wanting to go everywhere she went and do everything she did. I remember that she was my best friend.
I also remember when it all started to change.
She left me - that was how I saw it. She wanted so badly to escape, and so she did, to a college in Connecticut, three thousand miles away. And just like that, she was gone. How I missed her and everything we'd been. No matter how much I wanted it to be, it was never really the same after that. We were pulled apart by time and space, and when she came home for visits, we could never quite overcome the changes we'd gone through, apart from each other. She resented me for my closeness with the step-family; I resented her for not understanding that I needed them.
My dad's illness brought us together again, but only physically. I was in a fog of shock and depression, much too lost in my own head to notice those around me. She was struggling to compromise the two halves of her life on opposite coasts. I didn't understand her pain, the pain of not being there; she didn't understand mine, the pain of being there every single day. We lived together, worked together, and buried our pain together, but it feels, sometimes, like I never really saw her in all those months.
In the years since, we've both endured our share of struggles. I've wept for her, worrying myself awake in the middle of the night wondering if she were all right. I imagine there have been moments where she's done the same for me. I've had concerns about some of her less-than-stellar life choices, and she's had her concerns with mine. We've gone weeks at a time without speaking - not out of anger, but out of a pure loss of anything to say.
But through it all, she is my sister, a part of my heart I can never lose, a part of my life I could never forget. Only in the last year or so have I really begun to appreciate sisterhood and what it brings to my life. Only recently have we begun sharing secrets again, giggling together in the darkness late at night. The memories of our girlhood are replaying, reshaping themselves into the memories of grown women who love each other fiercely.
And if she asked me now, I would sing for her. I would not even think twice.