Her name is a sin. Don't even whisper her name; to say it aloud is to swear, is to pretend nothing's missing when everything's gone. Close your mouth and press your lips firmly together, act as if the name never formed in your mind. It's not even the name itself. It's the slow build-up, the letters that form into syllables, the soft breath of air that comes with her name.

It's everything but the name (don't even mention it; it's simply non-existent). It's each movement of the lips, each breath, each letter. It's not even the name.

But if he's honest, it's because her name isn't special (wasn't special). It's because it's a common name; so many people own the same name. Why hide it? Why be ashamed?

(Her name was Katherine Hummel. Is Katherine Hummel. Her tombstone still exists even if she doesn't.)

He doesn't even remember her. Not much of her, anyway; he was only four when she died. He recalls messy blonde hair, wide brown eyes, pale skin. He got his complexion from her; he knows it's not from his dad.

She had a smile like sunshine. He does remember that - her smile was goofy and lopsided and imperfect, like the grin of a clown that isn't supposed to laugh. She opened her eyes and smiled the moment she got out of bed in the morning and the moment she went to sleep.

She was... perfect. In all her flaws, she was flawless.

He doesn't remember when she died, exactly. He doesn't remember the exact date. He remembers her skin growing paler. He remembers her eyes growing duller. He remembers her smile fading fast.

He remembers a cold white hospital bed and his dad crying (stop crying, stop crying, you're supposed to be strong for me) and his mother closing her eyes.

He doesn't remember when it happened, if it even happened that night. He doesn't remember anything.

She links her arm through his, walking in synchronized movements, each step precise, each word totally in sync. They talk like inverted twins; they know each other more than anyone could ever imagine. More than anyone ever knows.

"Do you remember your mom?" she asks suddenly; her eyes are wide with wonder, her voice genuinely curious. She wants to know; she feels it's important to know this about him. She doesn't know that he hasn't spoken her name in so long; she doesn't know what the name means to the Hummels.

He looks at her. His best friend, his safety blanket. He wishes he could turn straight for her (he would in a heartbeat; she's perfect).

He fakes a smile. It's easy to fake a smile; it's harder to believe it. "Not very much of her. I remember the important things." He hopes that's the end of the conversation. Don't say her name (don't even think about it; it's too hard, it hurts too much).

She cocks her head to the side (she knows, she knows him so well). "Do you remember her name?" She's gentle. She's subtle. She wants to hear it - she wants to let him know it's okay (it's okay, it's okay, you can say her name, my friend, it's okay).

He closes his eyes. He wishes he could say he doesn't remember her name (it's the lie that's easy to say; it's the truth that's harder). He remembers messy blonde hair. He remembers brown eyes, a goofy smile, pale skin. He remembers paler skin. Duller eyes. Less smiles. Cold hospital rooms, white, white sheets, tears in his dad's eyes, no more smiles, no more messy blonde hair, just a name they can't say.

"Katherine." He surprises himself by saying it out loud. His eyes don't open (blondehairbrowneyespaleskin) and his mouth twitches into a smile (so soft, so sad, it must be painful to see). "Katherine Hummel."

"It's a beautiful name." He can hear her smile (soft and sad and understanding) and she wraps her arms tightly around him and he says nothing (doesn't need to at all).

Katherine Hummel.

It seems less frightening to say her name out loud.

(It's a start.)