Page 18 of Hopeful Hearts

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“Are you all staying in town? How long is everyone here for? I have questions, people.” She took her time to study them all, one by one, in the harsh lighting of the hospital room.

Lennon’s hair was cut short to her shoulders, and she’d lost the weight she used to complain about. But her wide smile and big brown eyes were just as Sophia remembered them.

Jayda had clearly given up the straighteners, like Sophia had always tried to convince her to do. Her natural auburn hair framed her face like a wild lion's mane and she’d never looked more beautiful to Sophia. Then there was Paige.

Unchanged. A tight-fitting pencil dress amplifying her womanly curves and her perfect hair freshly highlighted. Those high heels had no place in Lani Bay, but she belonged there with Sophia, no less than any of the others.

All four girls were so authentic that it was impossible not to love them with her whole heart, and aside from Kate; they were all there. If Sophia smiled any harder, it would physically hurt.

“You’re all so beautiful. I’m sorry for not telling you,” She burst out and the tears she’d been holding back began to flow.

Mel squeezed her hand, looking as though she was going to burst into tears any second, too, and Paige pulled a face.

“What are they feeding you in here? That stuff looks like gruel.” Paige pushed the tea trolley next to her away as though it was about to catch fire.

“It’s not the best,” she admitted. “But the food isn’t the worst part.”

“We know. Brodie told us everything. That’s why we’re all here for the week, sister. Didn’t we always say that if one of us goes to hell, we’d drag the rest down with us?”

“Paige,” Jayda’s eyes flew wide open.

“I can’t believe you just said that.” Lennon face-palmed her forehead.

All Sophia could do was dry her tears and chuckle along with Paige.

“Obviously, I didn’t literally mean she’s going to hell, guys. God, sometimes you really don’t get it.” Paige shook her head in despair.

“I think it’s you who doesn’t get it, Paige,” Jayda glared at her.

Jayda was always the sensible one and even though it had been years, their banter never felt more fun to be around than it did, right now.

Of course, it was going to make Sophia’s decision even harder to follow through with. But they’d be gone by then and Brodie would understand. Maybe not at first, but in the long run.

“Are you all staying for the wedding?”

“Well, unless you’re having someone else as your bridesmaids. I mean, pretty sure they won’t look as good as me in blue, but you do you.” Paige swished her hips from side to side and looked to the sky, feigning ambivalence.

“Of course, you’re my bridesmaids. I wasn’t going to have any, but now you’re all here and especially when Paige looks so good in blue as she so humbly points out. I just wish that Kate was here, too.”

Each of them smiled their sunshine smiles and in the room of clinical white walls and floors, Sophia felt surrounded by colour, as though they could be right back in one of the camp meadows, scattered in wild flowers and drenched in the Canadian sun. “Has anyone spoken to Kate?”

“We all have, but you know how she is. Brodie even suggested she bring Daisy with her, but it’s never that easy when you have a little one to think about,” Jayda reasoned.

“Or when you’re Kate,” Paige chipped in.

Even Lennon didn't disagree.

Kate always had some sort of trouble going on. It seemed to follow her around like a naughty puppy, chewing at her ankles and doing its best to tackle her to the ground.

“Even if she could just come out for the wedding, it doesn’t seem right us all being here without her,” Sophia said, not missing Lennon’s soulful stare. Her huge brown eyes were full of all the emotions that she was trying not to show.

“Where are you all going to stay, girls? You know you’re more than welcome at my place,” Mel offered.

“Thanks, Mrs. Randalls, but we’re going to crash at Emmet’s place. At camp, he was always going on about the house he was going to build from the ground up and it sounds plenty big enough for us all,” Paige explained.

“Does Emmet know about this, yet?” Sophia asked, wondering how her brother would react if he did.

“No, but that’s our next stop, and I’m sure Callie can twist his arm. Everyone remembers how he would always do anything for her.” Jayda looked Callie up and down as though disappointed in her.

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