His sister was already in the bathroom, holding the fishbowl gravely. “I think I forgot to feed him,” she whispered when she saw me.

“Sometimes fish just die,” I said, putting my arm around her shoulder.

“Especially when they don’t have food,” Cooper said, and I elbowed him in the ribs. He grunted but then added, “It’s okay, Amelia. I’ll get you a new one.”

“I don’t want a new one.”

“Well, let’s at least give this one a proper end.” Cooper gestured to the toilet. “I think it’s time.”

“We must have a memorial first,” Amelia said. “Think of nice things to say.”

“Okay.” Cooper tapped his lips with his finger. “He was a quiet fish.”

“It’s a girl,” Amelia said. “Lindsay.”

“Your fish’s name was Lindsay?”

“What’s wrong with Lindsay?” I asked.

“That’s a person name. You can’t name animals people names.”

“Says who?”

“I don’t know. It’s just a rule.”

“I think the most common pet name is actually Max. Which makes it not a rule.”

“Yes,” Amelia agreed. “What Abby said. She likes the name Lindsay.”

“I do.”

“Abby likes everyone’s name,” Cooper said.

I barked out a laugh, then quickly covered my mouth. “So untrue.”

“It seemed like the right thing to say.”

“I thought we were saying things about my fish,” Amelia said.

“Right. Your fish.” Cooper thought for a moment. “She was quiet and kept to herself.”

I sucked my lips in to keep from laughing again. I knew Amelia was upset, and I wanted to take this seriously for her. Cooper’s smirk in my direction wasn’t helping.

I added, “She was very bright. The prettiest shade of orange I’ve ever seen.”

Cooper nodded. “And Abby is an artist, so she’s seen a lot of orange.”

Amelia smiled. “She was a pretty color.” She looked into the bowl and her expression darkened. “Now she’s kind of gray.”

“What about you, Mil?” Cooper asked. “What nice things do you have to say about her?”

“When I left for school she would go to the top of the bowl like she was saying good-bye to me. I think she was smart.”

“For sure,” I said.

We stood there for several more moments, waiting for Amelia to say more, but she didn’t.

“Okay, it’s time.” Cooper walked to the toilet and placed his finger on the handle.

Amelia dumped her fish into the toilet bowl slowly and I tried not to cringe when it landed with a plop, splattering some water onto the lid.

“Bye, Lindsay,” Amelia whispered.

Cooper flushed and we all watched until she was gone. Amelia gave me a long hug and I patted her back.

“Oh,” I said. “I have something for you. Meet me in your room.”

Cooper trailed after me as I made my way to the trunk of my car. “What do you have?”

“You’ll see.”

“By the way, I think we just watched a life go out of the world,” he said. “For the list.”

I stopped with a gasp, just short of opening the trunk. “You’re right. We totally did. Nice.” I was smiling and I stopped myself. “I mean, not nice. Not for your sister.”

“It’s okay, Abby. I think she’ll be fine.”

I opened the trunk of my car and pulled back the soft cloth from over the painting.

Before I could lift out the canvas, Cooper stopped my hands. “Did you paint this?”

“Yes. I’m going to give it to your sister.”

“You can’t give this to my sister.”

“You don’t think she’ll like it?”

“I think she’ll love it, but you have to show this to Mr. Wallace. It’s amazing.”

“It’s good. But I can do better. This one is for Amelia.” Mr. Wallace wanted more feelings, but this one felt like too much feeling and not enough technique.

“When did you do this?”

“The other day, after I went to that fish spa.”

“This is what came of that? Now I wish I’d gone.”

“It was pretty awesome.” I picked up the painting.

“You really are just stalling, aren’t you? You don’t think this is good enough because you don’t want to show Mr. Wallace until you think you’ve reached perfection.”

“No, I don’t think it’s good enough because I didn’t feel right when I was painting it.”

“What does that mean?”

“You don’t know what feelings are?” I asked with a smirk.


I held up the painting. “I still have sixteen days until he’s making final decisions. And three more experiences to try. If two more paintings don’t result, I’ll use this one. Don’t worry. I’m going to show him.”

“Good. Because I want this for you.”

“I know. Thank you.”

Cooper nodded and took the painting from me, carrying it the rest of the way into his house.

Amelia loved it and made him hang it on the wall above her bed right that second. “Abby, you are the best. Thank you so much. This will remind me of Lindsay when I see it.”

“Good. I’m glad you like it.”

“She might have to borrow it back in a week to show the museum director for the showcase.”

“Of course,” Amelia said. “I’ll keep it safe in the meantime.”

The three of us stood back and stared at the painting like we were in our own art museum.

Cooper put his arm around my shoulder, still looking at the painting. “My little Abby is growing up.”

I rolled my eyes and pinched his side. “You always know how ruin a moment.”

“And here I thought I always knew how to make a moment even better.”

I sighed, but conceded. “You do.”

We left Amelia in her room with the painting and headed toward the kitchen. “Last night, you and Lacey seemed . . . ,” Cooper started.

“Seemed what?” I asked when he raided the pantry without continuing. He came out with a bag of Cheetos Puffs. “Isn’t it a bit early for that?”

He looked at the clock on the microwave. “It’s eleven. That’s nearly lunch.” He opened the bag. “Chummy.”

“Chummy? You mean cheesy?” I squinted to read the bright-blue print on the bag he held.

“No, you and Lacey seemed chummy.”

“Oh. Right.”

“When did that happen?”

“I don’t know. I like her. We talk a little.”

“I thought you said you weren’t friends with her.”

“Yeah, well, things change,” I said, repeating her line from the night before. I studied his expression—tight around the eyes but trying to play it off as uninterested. I threw my head back with a groan.

“What?” he asked.

“You’re jealous.”

“Yeah, maybe I am. You’re supposed to be my best friend.”

I swiped the bag of Cheetos from him and headed for the front door.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

“To paint. You’ve given me all sorts of emotions to work with.” Frustration being the main one. I had thought the night before that Cooper had been jealous of Elliot. But I was wrong. He was jealous of Lacey. That’s why he’d been acting strange. That was definitely a check in the absolutely nothing has changed box.

P/S: Copyright -->www_Novel12_Com