We told each other our secrets, our dreams. We hid behind the couch when our parents argued and he cheered me up with a smile and a story. He was the rock in our twin dynamic, fixing everything, fighting my battles even if I didn’t want him to. He punched my boyfriend in ninth grade when he cheated on me. When I screwed up my senior project he hacked into some computer system to help me with it. He was my Robin Hood, doing the wrong thing for the right reason.
Of course, no one else saw it that way no matter what I told them. They called him an Opal and other horrible names. He wasn’t like that but they didn’t believe me. I remember the last time I saw him. We were sitting in a guarded room, he was wearing a blue shirt I got him last Christmas.
He ruffled my hair jokingly and said,“Don’t worry sis, I’ll get out of there somehow. They’ll get tired of me and have to throw me out.”
Usually, this would have comforted me but I saw the doubt and fear in his eyes. When they took him away, he moonwalked out of the room and clicked his tongue. A final farewell I suppose.
The lady monitoring looked at me with pity,“Don’t worry sweetie, they always snap at eighteen, without fail. You feel bad now but you wouldn’t feel bad when he poisoned his birthday cake for your family,” she patted me on the back and left the room leaving me to my own devices.
“He wasn’t like that,” I muttered and left the room.
The thing about being a twin is, one of you is always gonna ‘snap’ as they call it. I guess you could say there’s a good twin and an evil twin and on the “bad” one’s eighteenth birthday they snap. It ends in burnt down houses and murdered families.
They decided to block off a section where they sent the bad ones or Opals. Supposedly they’re sent there to be rehabilitated and brought back. They’re not lying, they’re usually brought back in a body bag.
I guess it was my brother’s reckless behavior that brought the Opal label to him. The moment of our seventeenth birthday the police came to our house saying they had gotten a report of an Opal and were there to take them away. I ran up to his room and saw my brother on his computer.
“Hey, come on we have to leave now,” I grabbed his bag and shoved some clothes from his closet into it. As I ran around he looked out the door and sighed.
“Hey come on we gotta hurry or we won’t make the bus,” I grabbed his arm and opened the window ready to dash when he wrapped his arms around me and held on tight.
“Liam what are you doing we’re wasting time, let me go they’re going to find me,” he chuckled into my ear and squeezed tighter.
“They’re not here for you, you know that. Mom and Dad have been thinking about it for a while now. They think it’s me. That’s why they were so nice this morning I suppose,” he shivered and turned me around. I had tears running down my face and I tugged on his arm one more time.
“I’m not letting them take you, Lee. I’ll tell them that I’m the Opal. I’ll show them my mark they’ll have to believe me,” I turned up my sleeve to show him the E on my wrist that appeared with high emotion.
I paused and took a breath,“Or we could leave right now, just you and me. We’ll go to Forknight like we always talked about when we were kids. They have nicer laws when it comes to twins,” I looked into his eyes and searched for something, anything that hinted he was considering it.
He smiled, pulled me close, and sang,“Little Erin, don’t you cry. I’ll see you again in the morning light. Until that time lay your eyes to rest, I’ll watch over you. I’ll watch over you.”
My eyes shattered and time slowed. Millions of fluttering memories passed over me like butterflies until they landed on one.
“Lee why are mom and dad fighting,” I sniffled. They had been arguing for hours about something called Opal, calling me one of them. He smiled and pulled the blanket hiding us behind the couch closer to our bodies.
“Don’t worry Air, you’ll be fine I promise,” he smirked and hugged me close,“I’ll take care of it.” He started to sing a song he made up when we were little when mom and dad made us get separate rooms.
"Little Erin, don’t you cry. I’ll see you again in the morning light. Until that time lay your eyes to rest, I’ll watch over you. I’ll watch over you."
The memory faded away and I was jerked back into the present. The door opened and the cops opened a notebook.
"That's me," he stood up but kept hold of my arm. He was scared I could tell.
"You need to come with us," they gestured to the door. One cop had his hand on his Taser, seemingly ready for a fight.
"Sure, Mr.Officer," he ruffled my hair,"I'll see you at the station later, okay Air Bender?"
"Yeah," I could barely choke it out between the tears.
He smiled again. That smile, it never seemed to disappear. He walked towards the door and turned to our parents.
"Mom, Dad. I say this in the most loving sense, f**k you," he flipped them off with a smirk and turned on his heels, holding his fingers up all the way down the stairs.
One of the cops chuckled at the shocked looks on my parent's faces,"Trust me, that was tame. I've been doing this for twenty years and you get to see what the kids say and do to their parents when they turn them in," The other cop nodded and tipped his hat to us on the way down.
"Have a good afternoon," I heard the door close. I turned to my parents, face stone cold.
"How could you do this, turn your own son into those monsters. You should be ashamed," I stormed past them into in the direction of my room but my father grabbed my arm.
"We did what was best for this family, he could have killed us all if we gave him the chance," my mother interjected.
"They'll bring him back to us sweetie. They'll fix him on the other side and he'll be home again better than ever," she looked at me with a soft look trying to convince herself more than me.
I scoffed,"If you consider dead better than ever," I yanked myself out of my father's grasp and ran to my room.
I called all my friends, told them what happened. I got the classic condolences, "I'm sorry" "It was a matter of time" "At least he can't bother you anymore". I played along, when I got off the phone, fuming at their responses, I realized what I had to do.
I had to go with it. Weave their words with mine and pretend to be one of them. At school I took the sympathy, I didn't bite back like I wanted to. When we got the letter that he "sadly passed away" on the other side, I grieved, but at his funeral, I said what everyone else was saying. it was either him or my family.
I did this for a year. I wormed my way into the narrative and tricked my way out of suspicion. Everyone believed I had finally come to terms with the truth.
Liam had been my anchor. As long as he was around, he would keep me from snapping. We made this promise as children, hiding behind the wall of lies we made for ourselves. We thought maybe we would be the one set of twins that wasn't torn apart. We were wrong. Liam just figured it out before me.
I can hear his voice, telling me to stay strong. I don't have to become another news story. I want to listen but as my eighteenth birthday draws closer the voice gets quieter, it's barely a whisper now.
I wake up and grab the knife from under my bed. It's midnight on, April 29th. Ou- my birthday. I hear the voice again louder than it had been the past couple months. telling me to stop, that I can change the story. I can't. I won't hurt my family, my friends, or anyone that could be collateral damage. I raise the knife high and stab myself in the stomach. It hurts and I almost yell out but I don't. If I see them I'll attack, I can't hurt them.
The voice is screaming at me and I smile. My vision gets blurry and I can him on the other side. Waiting for me.
"Lee," I manage to whisper before I a pass out.