We left her standing at the curb. As we drove away, my mother cried and stared at the shrinking shape of my sister in the rear view mirror.
Lunch had been terrible that day. I did everything I could to make Tess feel as guilty as possible for leaving me. New Zealand is on the other side of the world; she couldn’t have gone farther away from us if she tried.
“I know you’re angry and you think I’m leaving you,” Tess said once Mom had left the table to go have a cigarette. “But I promise you, no matter what happens, I’ll be back for your twenty-first birthday.”
“Are you serious? That’s five years!,” I screamed.
People at the surrounding tables glanced over.
“It won’t feel like that. You’ll be in college and time will fly.”
I didn’t believe her.
She was going to miss it all, including my high school graduation. At Tess’s going away party a week earlier, Mom had said, “make sure you say goodbye to your Grandmother. It may be the last time you see her.” That’s when it hit me – she was picking up and running. I’d never felt so stuck in my life.
The first few times she called me from New Zealand, we joked about her disappearance.
“Tess who? I think I had a sister once but…” By Christmas, it wasn’t funny anymore. It also wasn’t funny when Uncle Tommy died, and she could only offer condolences over the phone.
She missed the good stuff too, like Ricky’s wedding reception when he jumped into the water with a beer in his hand and two in the pocket of his tuxedo.
But, as it turns out, in her infinite older-sister-wisdom, she was right. Time did fly.
My twenty-first birthday is in 19 days. She arrives in 18.
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