It was the kind of day where rivulets of sweat course from your scalp down to your shoes, making each step malodorous and slightly squishy.
Todd and I had ventured out for ice cream, because apparently that is what newlyweds do. They go for romantic walks in 100 degree weather. We squished and malodored our way up the two blocks to the corner pizza/ice cream shop, trying not to glare at people who eased by in their cars and waved cheerily from the frosty interiors. And didn't pick us up.
Somehow we outlived the dangers of thermal combustion and shlepped into the restaurant. A couple of paper Coke cups of ice water later, our grey matter flickered back to life and we stepped out in the sweltering air to trek home with the remains of our ice cream cones.
Now, I don't remember what time of day it was, exactly. And I don't remember what I was wearing, because who actually remembers stuff like that. And I don't even recall what kind of ice cream I held, although I'd bet any amount of money it had something to do with chocolate.
But I do remember this: hubby's youngest sister, Kindra, was at that corner shop. She was about fourteen or so, I'd guess. And she was with a friend, and made the polite rounds of introduction.
When she got to me, this is what she said:
"This is Nicki, my sister."
Just like that.
She could have, maybe even should have, said sister-in-law. It was accurate, expected. But while there's nothing at all wrong with that term, something about it connotes distance. Part of the family by technicality.
But she said sister. As in, close to my heart. One who belongs.
And I've loved her ever since.