Illustration by Camille.

Illustration by Camille.


She signed her name on the dotted line. Bonnie Beth Sigrun.

“Sigrun-Hope,” her mother hissed. That was the whole point of this little trip to the lawyer’s office. They were the Sigrun-Hopes now, and they were making it legal. Bonnie stole a glance at Jason. He flipped through the pages of the form lackadaisically, then skipped to the last one. He went to sign the at the bottom and stopped.

“This pen is dead,” he said, and shook it.

Bonnie’s breath caught in her throat. Was he stalling? Was it possible he didn’t want to do this any more than she did? She watched him, waiting for some kind of cue to act. But then the lawyer handed him a new pen, and Jason scrawled his name across the line and handed the pen back. It was done.

Bonnie exhaled quietly, and bent over her form again. -Hope, she added. It was the most dejecting word she’d ever seen.


At night in her bed, Bonnie listened to Jason shuffle around in his room next door. Some nights, she placed one hand on the wall and the other on her face, imagining his fingers on her skin instead of her own. It was stupid to torture herself like this, but stupider, somehow, to try to avoid it. Bonnie had always been a determined person. A person who faced things head-on. It was her greatest quality—perhaps her only great quality—but it didn’t feel great. It felt like, at some point in the formation of her personality, she’d been robbed of the ability to self-deceive, which was also, fundamentally, the ability to be happy.

She’d felt weird around Jason for months, ever since he and Mr. Hope (she was supposed to call him Glen) had moved in. What was this feeling? It was like everything slowed down when he was in the room. At first she thought it was just the strangeness of having men in the house for the first time. She’d watch Jason ambling around the kitchen, and everything he did—drinking Dr. Pepper, opening jars of mayonnaise, picking the phone up when it rang—caused her to focus intensely. She’d never been in love before, which was why it took her so long to realize that’s what it was. But as soon as she did, she faced it, and committed to it. Committed to the misery of it. She was trapped: She wasn’t truly Jason’s sister, but she was as invisible to him as a sister. Bonded to him in a way that guaranteed she’d always be near him, but never close to him in the way she wanted to be.


For months it went on like this, with the four Sigrun-Hopes bumping into each other awkwardly around the house.

“Bonnie, did you know that Jason is taking calligraphy this year?”

Every day, her mother offered up these little tidbits about Jason—the kind of things you say when you introduce two people at a party. “Did you know that Jason is fantastic soccer player? Did you know that Jason loves penguins?” Bonnie presumed these informational sessions were meant to help everyone feel familiar—they were family now, after all—but they had the opposite effect. The more Bonnie learned about her new stepbrother, the more she realized he was basically a stranger, and the more the baffling agony of wanting him drained her body and mind.

She was exhausted all the time. At night, she dreamed of him, often jolting awake with the sheets twisted in a hard knot between her legs. She felt hot and temporarily ecstatic, with so much energy she could’ve easily crushed her fist through the wall that divided her bedroom and his…until she remembered the horrible, impregnable boundaries of her life, and felt the energy seep from her and disappear. Then she’d sink heavily back into sleep and dream of him some more.


Jason went out sometimes on the weekends and came home late. Bonnie heard him through the wall, creeping into his room and collapsing in his bed. Sometimes, she imagined what would happen if he came into hers one night instead. He’d flop into her bed, and wrap his arms around her, and they’d both pretend nothing was happening. But they’d both know, and within minutes, they’d be ignoring the facts that Jason had a girlfriend and Bonnie was a virgin and both their parents—they were stepsiblings!—were sleeping downstairs—or, even worse, not sleeping.

Imagining her mother and Mr. Hope’s sex life made Bonnie shudder. When the Hope men moved in, Bonnie’s mom made her move out of her bedroom downstairs to one upstairs. As grotesque as thinking about what her motivations were, what Bonnie felt most powerfully wasn’t disgust, it was envy. Adults just did whatever they wanted, didn’t they? They got married, they got divorced, they got married again, they shoved their kids together and then abandoned them. They had as much sex as they wanted, arranging everyone’s rooms so they could do it without waking the children.

The worst part was how close it was to being a perversely ideal scenario. What girl wouldn’t love to be unsupervised with the guy she likes and two bedrooms at their disposal? But it wasn’t like that. They were alone together, but somehow not together. They barely spoke, and Jason came and went at odd, unpredictable hours. The wall between their rooms adjoined them, but the way it separated them was all Bonnie could think about.