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I Wonder How I'll Sleep At Night (With A Cavity By My Side)

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They’ve all asked each other, “What’s the first thing you want to do after we get rescued?”

Dot, being the provider of the group, decided that she wanted to be her own guiding light, and answered with, “Get a fucking carton of cigs and a hundred percent jump Mateo.”

That’s what happened. The cigarettes were offered to her by those detectives who bribed her into telling them more about Leah and her island theories she must have confided with someone about. So she spilled.

Spilled bullshit. She’s not a rat.

And later on, jumping Mateo only worked for the quick moment that they had a quickie in an airport bathroom for.

Even more later on, she let Fatin jump her. No surprise, it worked for a very long haul.

Fatin answered the same question with something like, “Move to L.A. and fuck around with the fakest influencers so I can get invited to the sickest parties.”

She moved to L.A. with Dot and they both hated those fake ass influencers. So they made their own sick parties. She didn’t fuck a guy with the biggest dick, but she fucked a girl with the finest live in muscle quality. Her mom called regularly, too. After the divorce papers were settled, they pieced together their mother-daughter relationship.

Shelby was more hesitant with the heavy but not so problematic question. She jumped back and forth between, “Gettin’ some goddamn privacy. Toni and I have to hide behind trees and very clear skies,” and, “Or even see my sibling’s again. If… my daddy will let me after this.”

Privacy there was. If you count that same airport but different bathroom as privacy, and then the room Toni and she had to share in Martha’s house because no, her dad did not let her. But that didn’t stop her or her mother. She saw them when the times were fit and right.

Toni had clapped and swore, “Fucking rip open a bag of Takis and eat the shit out of them! I’m sick of eating this waste land crap!”

The vending machine she saw down the hallway of the underground bunker they were in gave her what she wanted. Free of charge, so she ate the shit out of more than just Takis.

Martha was what Fatin and Toni called a “Strong baddie,” which had brought her to giving them the answer, “Join the hunting community, maybe. But hunt just the ones who really deserve it. I’m not a monster.”

She was an angel with a backbone. The hunting community thing probably started when she hunted down her first prey, who really deserved it.

Those assholes who tried to bribe her, too.

But she didn’t kill them, though, she really wasn’t a monster. A part of her wished she had, only natural, of course. She told the full and honest truth to the court, the way she was too unprepared to do before. When she protected the wrong person. With that, she protected herself and the others.

Leah had a cage full of answers. Ones that everyone had to sit and listen to as she went on and on about, “Figure out what the fuck is going on. There’s something we all have to figure out, okay, get the law and authorities involved or whatever. A full on investigation, I mean, not just about the crash, I’m talking about all of this,” she tried not to look at Rachel when she finalized, “That’s if we even leave. Maybe… whoever knows or did this might choose when we get to leave, too.”

The figuring out problem had solutions Leah and everybody else had to fight for more than once. There wasn’t just one court date, one statement given, one interview, one lawsuit, one piece of paperwork, and the list went on until shit got real. Realer than it already was. With therapists, psychiatrists, doctors, lawyers, accountants, banks, their families, all of that were solutions to problems that could never stop.

She figured it out, the island problem. But the cracks it left behind, the truth that they were treated like test results, definitely caused mental problems everyone had to figure out. With outlets. To be happy.

Rachel was the only one who hadn’t answered the question. It wasn’t like she had an answer. She didn’t even know what she wanted to do in the next minute. But she was lucky Leah’s little crazy rant caused tension.

Fatin commented, “Way to kill the mood,” with Toni, who mumbled, “It was just a question, dude, what the hell?” and Dot said, “Not this again, Leah. Can you give it a rest? We’re all a bit..” she eyed Rachel, “under the dumps.”

It was more than just being under the dumps. Way more than just losing her sister and right hand, as a metaphor and actual fucking thing that happened. It fell silent. Rachel knew and felt them thinking about what had happened three weeks prior.

So she got up from sitting around the fire and excused herself by turning and announcing, “I’m spent. I call dibs on the love nest, no joke, you guys need to keep it in your pants,” her voice wasn’t tired. She just needed to get away from the weight of the question her mind ran a mile to think of.

It stopped running when time she didn’t keep up with passed, and she had to share that love nest with Leah.

Her eyes, while closing them and shifting all over her sleeping spot, didn’t get tired even after everyone else had gone to sleep. Her arm swing bandage was uncomfortable, her elbow was bent all the time, so it cramped a lot and it hurt to move.

The impossible act of sleeping could’ve also been because Leah slept close enough that Rachel felt the layer of body heat radiating off of her. It soothed something Rachel passed as just the night cold weather bugging her.

But then Leah spoke after what Rachel assumed was her sleeping. “You didn’t answer the question.”

Her shifting stopped from moving again. Her face landed where Leah was blinking at her from. “So?”

She didn’t want to deal, but Leah was, for whatever reason, talking to her more frequently.

She didn’t mind.

“Nothing. It’s just a thought I had,” Leah responded with.

“You always have those,” Rachel tiredly half-joked. Tired from Leah’s voice. In the way she would get sleepy listening to Nora read before bed.

To Rachel’s pride, Leah laughed. “Once I have one, I have a thunderstorm and no raincoat.”

Rachel been knew that. “Am I supposed to ask if you find them majestic?” She didn’t know, so she asked.

“Florida would not agree if I said yes.”

She frowned. “Why would Florida give a fuck?”

Leah thought it was obvious. “Because of their- never mind. I guess it’s just tragic, more than beautiful.”

Rachel had the littlest of smiles, looking at something that was the turnaround of what Leah said. “Yeah, no shit. There’s something clearly bugging you, like, more than usual.”

Rachel knew it wasn’t because of her hand, everyone had the same look they got when it was, and Leah had something different. It was scary and sinister.

“So what is it? Because I feel like it’s a pea I’m sleeping on and I can’t sleep cause of it.”

“Shouldn’t that be me who’s sleeping on the pea?” Leah motioned her eyes to where they slept until her eyes burned into Rachel’s. “Does it bother you that much?” 

Fuck, Rachel shouldn’t have asked. Because then it would’ve seemed like she gave a floating fuck about what Leah was thinking. She had bigger problems, family ones.

But she answered anyway. “I don’t know. Shit, keep it to yourself if you want. No one’s interrogating you,” she yawned. She got tired by the second.

Leah used that to her advantage. Whatever was eating at her, she would not let it eat Rachel, too.

“No one’s interrogating you, either. But can I ask if you… see yourself doing anything after this?” It sounded like the start of a date question. 

Rachel found that funny. “Well, I don’t have my hands full with anything, so no. Why? Do you want to catch a drink with me?” she was sarcastic, but maybe a little serious because it wasn’t a bad idea.

“We’d probably get carded as soon as we entered a bar,” Leah laughed off, “But if in, like, four years, when bars are still funded and around…” she got more genuine, “ask me then?”

The tiredness Rachel felt was warmer than before. She’d do anything to sleep. It got hard after what happened, and Leah made her tired enough that she actually could catch a few z’s.

So she didn’t retaliate. “Sure. I’ll try to remember that,” Rachel promised her, “if you’re still around.”

That thought crossed her mind, even about the others. Fatin was relatable, because Rachel really would miss the shit out of them. Some more than most, but she was too tired to think about the most.

“To be continued,” was what Leah answered with after a long, silent, staring contest.

Rachel had let that be the last thing in their conversation. It sounded right so the tiny smile she had grew more its size, and she felt dreamy and faded looking at Leah’s face, that was sweaty and gross from the fire heat and weather. It wasn’t so bad looking. At all. So she closed her eyes instead of turning away like she would.

She didn’t have an answer to the question, but she had a question she wanted to know the answer to in four years. 

-

The first thing Rachel did after getting rescued was brush her teeth.

In the bunker, after getting checked by a few nurses, her hand getting looked at, the rest of her body too, and was finally given some food and fucking water, she asked for a toothbrush.

Her teeth were past fuzzy and her tongue was dryer than ever. It felt like sweet relief when she was in her bathroom that was thankfully out of view from a camera in her room and she tasted fresh mint. She scrubbed in circles, rinsed with cool water, spat in gross blobs, rinsed again, and technically brushed her teeth more than once to get the island off of her.

She felt happy because of it.

She felt devastated when Leah’s thunderstorm of thoughts were true, and it rained on her like she was in fucking Florida. 

-

The first thing Rachel did when she got back home was go into Nora’s room.

Everything about it was the same. But someone who was missing made it different. So it wasn’t entirely the same to her. She had bitten her bottom lip so hard it bruised. Her tears were out before she even stepped in, because she had cried when she saw her parents, and had their affectionate attention she didn’t want to fight for anymore.

She cried more when she left the others. When she left Leah, who was apologizing about Nora, and what she didn’t tell her about on the island. Rachel got it. She was just trying to protect her and everyone else from the hard truth. But it was hard to swallow.

It was hard to let the girls go, but she had to. New York, Minnesota, and California weren’t going anywhere, none of them were. Except Rachel really hoped they’d all still be around. Selfish enough, she wanted them to go with her. 

She left, Leah left, Dot left, Fatin left, Toni left, Shelby left, Martha left. They all had somebody to go home with.

Rachel didn’t.

The grudge Rachel held for Nora lifted when she cried on Nora’s bed, the spot reserved for her when they’d have sleepovers, then she stared at the spot  Nora should’ve been staring back at her from, and didn’t sleep.

Not after her funeral, also.

-

Her sleeping habits got worse. She stayed up, did nothing, and thought about everything.

Texted and called about it too. So maybe she stayed up too much because she was on the phone a lot. Like a lot, a lot. She found things out she didn’t before.

Rachel didn’t really know Leah.

Or any of the girls. Not on the surface. The only thing the island did was to show what was underneath. The deep and the ugly, everything that was raw and left none of fresh.

On the surface, Rachel didn’t know the basics about everyone. She didn’t know Leah even had a favorite color.

Dark blue, apparently.

Dot liked black, obviously, Fatin liked purple, such a vibe, Martha liked magenta, how fitting, and Toni and Shelby liked yellow, such a fucking pair.

Rachel didn’t have a favorite color.

On the phone, while she texted Leah separately instead of using the group chat they had, she told Leah that. Leah, being such a problem solver, told her to simply find one. Leah told her to do a lot of things, like how Nora would’ve, with school clubs, bullshit events, parties and hangouts because everyone thought she was a g because of her island trauma, finding hobbies to do, and any experimenting Rachel wanted to do but couldn’t because of diving.

She tried yoga, that worked for relaxing. Clubs were a big bust, she wasn’t into it. Parties and hangouts were lame, she wished the girls were there like the time on the island when they threw their own parties, and she wished Leah was there for the experimenting.

She had no more distractions to keep her distracted.

She had Leah, and Leah was already a big fucking distraction. The girls were distracting her in the most lovable way possible. Leah was higher than that.

Rachel enjoyed talking to Leah, was fine calling her every day after school, looked forward to her random fucking memes that were sent at any hour of the day, the FaceTime calls they had that would help Rachel sleep, the questions Leah had because she noticed she didn’t know Rachel either, and the videos and photos Leah sent her so she didn’t forget what she looked like.

Blue eyes filled her photo album, and Rachel had a favorite color.

Dark blue, apparently.

She talked to the others too. It wasn’t like she was being greedy by keeping Leah to herself. Although she didn’t hate that being true. The way Rachel felt and acted when it came to Leah was fulfilling, and it made her happy.

It made her smile.

“Whose got you smiling like that?” Rachel’s mom cooed from her opened doorway.

“No one,” Rachel flattened.

Her thumb that was cramping from texting, her laughs that she didn’t know were loud, the multiple positions she had throughout being on her phone, and the way she was just kicking her feet up and down in a scissoring motion while laying on her stomach, all proved her answer wrong.

“Mm-Hm,” her mom hummed okay, not convinced.

“Tell Leah Goodnight, you have school in the morning.” Her mom pointed to her clock, and Rachel totally had blanked that she didn’t know it was past midnight.

Rachel continued to text Leah, anyway. “Sorry, long day.” Her eyes didn’t leave her screen. “I’m not that tried.”

Her mom smugly smiled from behind her daughter’s busy head. “You seemed tired to me when I came in here two hours ago and you said you were going to bed.” 

So she totally blanked. She didn’t remember that, really. “I’m going right now,” Rachel rushed. She changed her position, so she was under her blanket and her phone was off underneath her pillow.

“Night,” Rachel quickly told her before she closed her eyes.

Her mom stood there for a pause before returning the word and shut off her lights before closing the door behind her.

Like every night, Rachel called Leah to hear her voice.

She fell asleep happy with that.

-

At eighteen, she wasn’t sure of anything.

Things were more than just under the dumps when Rachel had nothing to distract her. Near the end of high school, Leah’s frequency to talk to her kind of decreased, for whatever reason, and then Rachel couldn’t sleep anymore. She’d lie on the edge of a missing imprint.

It was lonely graduating from her senior year of high school without her sister to hover over her. But the girls were there at her graduation. And she was there for theirs.

Looking for colleges that would accept her wasn’t a problem, and neither was paying for tuition. She was an island experiment subject that survived with her left hand only, with a sad ex-athlete story so damaging that universities would want her over any brainiac teenager.

But she still didn’t know what she wanted.

Gap year, she told everyone she was taking a gap year to figure that out. Everyone else had their future plans, hers was put on pause for a little.

Her life was at a pause. It felt like it. Separately, Rachel had to deal with everything she had fought so hard to get back to by herself. And now that she had it, she didn’t see what the appeal was.

Why did she fight so hard to go back to a home that didn’t feel like one?

She thought the girls were her home, so she called it quits with solving that issue. That’s it. She just missed her other family, wanted to be with them, nothing else. No one else.

But why wasn’t she moving along like everybody else?

Wasn’t alcohol, drugs, money, and sex the gateway to happiness? Outlets to plug into?

Seemingly, it was to others. 

In the summer, everyone spent it in Los Angeles on vine street. And Rachel felt at home, but not that something everyone else had.

They’ve all asked each other, “Are you happy now that we’re off the island?”

Martha was the first to gladly appreciate, “I have my people,” she smiled and held Toni’s hand, “and my person.”

Toni held her hand with a squeeze and held Shelby’s thigh. “Same, mad same. I just got an offer from Nike. They want me to just do it, bitches!”

Shelby laughed with everyone, and trailed by Toni’s answer with her own, “My someone is definitely my happiness,” she was cut off by a, “Ew,” and, “Aw,” but continued, “We’re movin’ in together in the fall, privacy and comfort of course.”

Dot and Fatin rotated around their house and yelled, “Love nest in the house! Hello, we’re fucking all about that comfort and privacy shit! We’re doing it better,” they joked, and Dot answered the question again, “Medical school in the fall, no more dicking around,” with Fatin’s follow up answer, “Housewife material! I’m happy with house parties and runway shows. I get delivered limited edition designs!”

Leah talked about her answer, and Rachel was reminded that she still didn’t really know her.

Because she didn’t know that, “I’m with Shelby on the someone part,” and things got quiet. Everyone was confused. Rachel stopped running her hand through Leah’s hair.

Leah didn’t look at her when she told them, “Ian and I… we started dating in the spring, and I’m cool with that,” she sounded cool enough, Rachel hoped, and took her hand down to her side because her bottom lip was being bruised again by her top teeth.

It seemed like a good thing. Leah was happy, had her someone, her person, wasn’t totally off the rails anymore, wasn’t looking at Rachel, but that must be because she was thinking of Ian and she didn’t like to focus on two things at once. Rachel was happy for her.

But her lip bruised.

She was the only one who hadn’t answered the question. Because then Fatin told her, “Girl, do you need a tissue? Your lip is bleeding all over my white sofa.”

So she totally blanked. Her tongue wiped it away, and it was hard to swallow, to talk. “I’m just spent,” she couldn’t breathe right, so she got up from the heavy weight of Leah’s body that was on her lap, “I’ll take the guest room, keep the love nest to yourselves,” she directed it too painfully meaningful.

Her tense body walked away. Leah sat on the sofa with her knees to her chest, and Rachel wasn’t the only one with a bruised bottom lip from wanting to cry.

Rachel knew why she didn’t have her distraction anymore, because somebody else distracted her distraction.

She had questions.

Leah had the same one when she had to share that guest room with her, and whispered sadly in the dark, “Are you happy?”

Rachel was turned away. She couldn’t move when Leah’s body heat was so heavily felt from behind her. “Ask me in twenty years,” she scoffed, and they both knew it wasn’t a joke.

Leah sounded like she swallowed lumps of regret. “Will you be around by then?” 

Again, she didn’t have an answer. So she turned bitter, like how she felt, “I don’t know. Will you?” It wasn’t meant to sound harsh, but it hadn’t even been a year and Leah already felt not around.

Maybe she was just tired by the sound of Leah’s voice.

“There’s a pea under the mattress,” Leah whispered over her shoulder.

“What?” Rachel wanted to laugh like how she stopped doing back home again.

“There’s something you’re not telling me. I can feel it.”

“I’m just tired, I told you that.” Rachel wanted to sleep for the first time in forever. That was half the truth. “So.. shut the fuck up,” she mumbled plainly.

Leah got better at doing things Rachel wanted her to do, even if she didn’t want to do them. Some things didn’t change.

It felt better to sleep next to her than on the phone. Waking up with Leah’s arm warmly wrapped around her torso, with her cheek pressed up against her chest, felt like that something everyone else had.

Too bad it was gone after summer ended.

-

At nineteen, Rachel got accepted into Stanford. It didn’t feel as satisfying as she thought it would be when she was seventeen. But she went for it.

Majoring in science felt right to do, because if Nora couldn’t do it, maybe Rachel could make that right. Even if it so happened to be in California, close to Leah, who went to USF to major in English.

Rachel wanted to know if Leah was happy about her long distance relationship she had with Ian, after he moved to San Diego. But she didn’t ask. She was too distracted to bother with that.

College distracted her, but in the way she wished it hadn’t, so she could’ve had time to ask Leah questions. 

Late at night, because she couldn’t sleep with blood on her tongue and tears in her eyes, she’d answer everyone’s texts she missed throughout the day, Leah first, the rest second.

Leah would always be first.

The first thing she did when she got home during holiday break was peer into Nora’s room. And she left with her souvenirs of old diving wins to pack away in her California apartment.

Leah would visit that apartment, Rachel would let her, and both would end up sharing a bed.

But they just slept, Rachel could sleep.

And that was good enough.

-

Hot water rained on her when she’d feel a thunderstorm of thoughts drip on her whenever she looked back on that photo album filled with blue eyes.

Dark blue, apparently, was still her favorite color.

Hot showers reminded her she had it. She had that warmth the island took from her. There weren’t cold waterfall showers, ocean baths, salt on her skin, and she didn’t have anyone watching her.

Hot water washed off her questions she had for Leah. About things Rachel didn’t know because time changed, people changed too, and she wanted to keep up. Being twenty changed Rachel, so with Leah, that had to be the case as well.

The water got hotter every time she then thought of Leah’s eyes that changed, face older than last year, and the year before, and the year before that. But those eyes loved someone who wasn’t her.

Rachel’s eyes were selfish, picturing that someone being her.

It didn’t make her happy knowing it wouldn’t happen.

-

The first thing Rachel did when she turned twenty-one was visit her family in L.A.

It was four years later, she could ask that question she wanted to know the answer to. Leah was still around, most times, more than usual though, and the pea under the mattress was found when Leah was asked about Ian.

“Still got that someone?” Martha talked over the birthday cake everyone took a slice of in the kitchen.

“Nobody,” Leah either corrected or stated.

Rachel didn’t really know Leah. Because she didn’t know that, “We broke up recently. I’m cool with that.” She sounded cool enough, Rachel knew.

Everyone knew too, and they didn’t press into the bruise, that Rachel wondered why it didn’t leave a mark. Leah seemed cool, but why? Wasn’t their relationship solid? Made her happy? Why was it more beautiful than tragic?

Why did it take Rachel so long to figure out she wasn’t actually happy for Leah?

So, she was selfish. She wanted to ask for too much, wanted to ask for that to happen, for Ian to stop distracting Leah, and for Leah to distract her again.

Things continued when Rachel asked Leah out on Dot and Fatin’s patio, “Hey, if you’re not doing anything after this, and because I definitely don’t have my hands full, do you want to..” she laughed the way she stopped doing back home and finished saying, “catch a drink with me?”

They got carded, and Rachel was told happy birthday by the bartender.

She kept Leah to herself for the night, even if Fatin complained they had to push their club binge drinking to the next day. Rachel didn’t care because she wanted to spend her birthday red faced and warm with Leah ordering them casual drinks.

And then White Russians, because Nora always wanted to try one, and then lemon drops, and then Rachel remembered how Leah got while under the influence.

A slob. “Happy- happy- happy- birthday! Happy- happy- happy- birthday! And, uh, another one for you!” Leah sang to her, and slid her a nice basic shot of tequila.

It made her smile, and Leah’s manic mind jumped on her with questions.

“What’s up? Is it the,” Leah tried to whisper the next part, but failed, “shitty music that’s playing?”

Rachel laughed and took the tequila shot to ignore the bartender’s glare. “Nothing, just a thought I had.”

“Oh,” Leah mused, “is it the drunk kind? Are you going to say something you’ll regret in the morning?”

“I think you’re the one who’s going to have the regrets,” Rachel turned the tables on her. She felt slow and tired with Leah’s voice mixed with drinking. It was like a wake up call she could answer when Leah leaned in her direction too close for comfort.

“I don’t think you look any different from when you were twenty,” Leah monotoned, her eyes searched for a difference on Rachel’s smiling face.

“Try again next year,” Rachel suggested, took the chance to search for differences in Leah’s face too.

“Oh, wait! You got more real and beautiful!” Leah complimented, eyes lazily serious and lips in her mouth from licking them.

Rachel couldn’t stop her laughs, or her chest from aching, and the warmth the island took from her come back in a layer of body heat when Leah held her face with both hands to be caring.

“Can I say something I might regret in the morning?” Leah asked, her thumbs grazed Rachel’s cheekbones.

She nodded and laughed again. “Shoot for the moon, I don’t care.”

Leah seemed sober enough to hold her face more delicately. “The first thing I wanted to do after we got rescued, like actually,” she muttered, “was,” she snorted like it was a joke, “make a love nest with you!” She laughed while Rachel dropped her smile.

Rachel felt her heated skin burn, and Leah’s hands felt something like hot water.

“You-” Rachel caught her shallow breath, and knew she could never know Leah, she would always be a crazy surprise. She was cool with that.

“Why tell me now?” Rachel was expressionless. But felt everything. “Why- but- you were happy with Ian?” It came out as a question.

And Leah answered unashamedly. “Was, maybe, maybe not. God no. Who cares?” She shrugged her shoulders like it was nothing but a thing of the past. “I don’t, do you?”

Rachel didn’t answer. So Leah asked a different question. “Why do you think we broke up?” Her blue eyes were honest and Rachel was reminded how fucking off the rails Leah could be.

“He saw your phone number,” Leah spelled it out for her, like she knew Rachel wouldn’t know the answer. “Your eleven digit phone number without a name that was definitely not filed between my professor and cousin!”

“What does that even mean?” Rachel asked, her eyebrows knitted, and she felt sweaty under Leah’s heat and the drinks in her stomach feeling like acid.

“It means,” Leah almost let their noses touch when she moved forward, “that you’re sacred. You’re not common and I don’t know why,” she breathed in deep, “I ever went out with him- maybe I wanted you to admit it.” She smiled wide but Rachel frowned.

“Admit what?” She took Leah’s left hand off her face and set the other one down on the table.

Leah rolled her eyes and clenched her hands. “See! That- right there. You’re stubborn, Rachel, that’s what.” Leah didn’t want to lean back in her seat. “So just admit it,” she urged. 

Rachel’s eyes fell to Leah’s lips, to her hands that she regretted weren’t on her face anymore.

“Fuck it,” she deeply sighed, got closer to her, and blew in Leah’s face, “You better not regret this in the morning or I swear to god,” she breathed in before taking Leah’s jaw in her left hand to kiss her.

In the morning, waking up naked in the love nest they made in Fatin and Dot’s guest room made Rachel feel what everyone else had.

Happy, without regret.

-

The first thing Rachel and Leah did when they moved in together was brush their teeth in their shared bathroom.

Satisfied sleep, fresh mint, cool water, and Leah’s bed head is what Rachel’s mornings looked like after a year of being together. California love, as Fatin had put it, really was what it sounded like.

Leah was her life.

Her happiness.

-

When they were twenty-four, something good changed them when Leah said yes to marrying Rachel.

And the unsinkable’s hugged them goodbye before they flew to Hawaii for their honeymoon.

They swam in the ocean and were saved by each other.

-

Rachel loved her wife and the girls who they called their family.

Everything changed, they all changed, plans were made, and futures seemed brighter the further they got away from their island years.

Something greater changed Rachel when Leah showed her a positive pregnancy test.

She had a big ass family that she loved.

-

It was like the island all over again when everyone pitched in on helping Rachel and Leah through their pregnancy.

“It takes a village to raise a child,” Rachel’s mom told them during a holiday visit.

She was right. The girls and their parents were the village Leah and Rachel got their help and support from. They were only twenty-seven, they’d need who they loved around for the good parts.

They all had their bets on if they were having a boy or a girl. Literally, Dot had a hat full of money the week before Leah’s due date. Shelby, Toni, and Dot were team boy, Martha and Fatin were on team girl, and Leah and Rachel were on team whatever.

They were happy no matter what the gender was.

Rachel thought of Nora when Leah went into labor while in their backyard pool and bled into the water. Her arm that could feel Nora’s hand holding hers made her believe she was never gone.

-

Rachel promised to throw herself in front of the world for Leah and their baby girl when she was born on the anniversary of their island rescue.

She was what Shelby said was the purest thing she ever saw, what Fatin purred was a lucky charm because she ended up being born a Leo like her, what Dot and Toni chanted was a fucking unsinkable and water baby by default, and what Martha, being the godmother, commented was the most beautiful godchild she ever had.

She was what Rachel and Leah named, ”Nora Rilke.”

They brought home their eighth unsinkable.

-

Twenty years after Rachel was eighteen, Leah asked her at thirty-eight in the dark, “Are you happy?” In their shared bed, where Rachel could peacefully sleep with Leah’s warmth by her side.

There wasn’t a pea underneath the mattress.

She gave Leah a long kiss because, “More than I’ve ever been. I love you and that makes me happy,” with her favorite color, looking at her and saying, “I love that you make me happy too.”

“I’ll always be around,” Leah gently declared, with her hand holding Rachel’s with both of their wedding rings on.

Rachel didn’t doubt that. “Me too.”

They smiled through another kiss on a bed imprinted with their body’s and slept, knowing the first thing they would do together was regret nothing.

Because they were happy after the island, and nothing could change that.