Faye Medema had started the painful process of getting tattoos removed, including one on her neck that she said a drug dealer had placed there to claim her.
She had been a mess much of her life, dragged down by the same hard-core addiction that had plagued both her parents. She and her fraternal twin sister, Dee, had spent much of their childhoods in group homes and foster care.
At 27, Medema wanted to finally shake that past and had entered a rehabilitation center for drug and alcohol addicts in Houston. She was ready to go back to school and get a job, ready to try to regain custody of her young son after being jailed on child endangerment charges one night when she was high.
"I have a problem with good things happening because I'm so used to the normal things being crazy and the crazy things being normal," she said in a 2013 interview with The Associated Press, as she sat on the bed in her room at the rehab facility.
It was, unfortunately, a hint of things to come, as she eventually fell back into addiction.
"It's a demon that chases you," says Kathryn Griffin, a counselor with the Harris County Sheriff's Department in Houston who has successfully shepherded many women who've left the county jail back into the real world. She also tried to help Medema, but to no avail.
There would be no happy ending. This past June, Medema was shot and killed, leaving her twin to finish the story.
Dee, whose full name is Dolores Medema Garcia, had tried to be her sister's protector. "When I'm in trouble or something," Faye Medema had said, "she kind of senses it."
It wasn't always an easy relationship.
After her sister fell in with a rough crowd in 2012, Garcia distanced herself a bit more. She'd gotten married and had a son. In time, Garcia and her family moved from Houston to Dallas.
Garcia's life was going better, for sure, though sobriety was always a work in progress for her, too.
When news came this past June that Faye had been killed, her father, Dan Medema, now a recovering alcoholic, flew from Michigan to Texas, as Garcia made arrangements to have her sister's remains cremated.
In August, Garcia placed the ashes in an urn painted with flowers and brought them north for two memorial services — first in Illinois, an early childhood home, then in Central Lake, Michigan, at the tiny church Dan Medema attends.
The pair also paid one more tribute on Michigan's Mackinac Island, a place where they'd talked about celebrating the summer birthday all three shared.
On the day Faye would have turned 29, Garcia and her father boarded a ferry to the island, carrying a portion of Faye's ashes in a plastic container. They scattered some off the boat into the Straits of Mackinac and the rest on a rocky beach on the island.
Now Garcia says she's taking a hard look ahead — at her own life and her fragile sobriety and at bitter lessons learned. She says she wants her son, Angel, to know "there is a world of peace and good things."
And though she's had slip-ups, she vows to make it through, for him — and to honor the sister who didn't.
Martha Irvine, an AP national writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at http://twitter.com/irvineap