It was the start of spring break. Flowers were budding, the lakes were shimmering and flowing, the air was warm and filled with the sweet smell of the morning dew, of the flowers. The beauty of spring shone bright for everyone to bask in. The parks were filled with children playing, the streets were littered with teenagers, cycling and having fun. Whenever the rain fell, it left behind an earthy smell of nature that further infused the spirit of spring in all. Truly, it was a beautiful season.
The tails of the coats of the two eleven year olds whipped around in the wind as they pedaled hard down their street heading towards a house which looked like every other townhouse on the block. The little brown haired girl rode up the driveway first. She quickly chained her bicycle to the chain link fence at the end of the driveway and ran for the door. At that moment, she turned around and saw her brother still trying to catch up with her. He was about two houses down. They had both made a bet and the winner would be who entered the house first. The little girl pushed the door open before her brother could. As soon as she did, she started waving her hands up and jumping, squealing, “I did it! I did it!”
“What exactly do you think you are doing?” her brother asked her as he threw his backpack on the floor beside the coat rack.
“Uh... What do you think, Eliot? This is my victory dance. I won,” she grinned at him as she too pulled off her backpack but rather than dump it on the floor, she held it in one hand.
Eliot laughed, “Elliana, one, that was a terrible victory dance and two, I don’t agree with you that you won. I lost my balance out there for a few seconds.”
“I don’t care about that. I won the bet fair and square. Enjoy doing my chores for the rest of the day and tomorrow,” Elliana grinned at him
“Ellie!” Eliot protested.
“Really, you should be glad that we did not make the bet for a week,” Elliana chuckled. Eliot rolled his eyes and headed towards the steps. “Oh, Eliot…”
Eliot turned around with a questioning look on his face. Elliana pointed at the backpack that he had dumped on the floor. He shrugged and turned back to the stairs. Elliana shook her head. Eliot could be so frustrating and lazy sometimes. She picked up his backpack and took it up as well.
When she got to the upper floor, she saw that his door was slightly ajar so she pushed it further open and dumped the backpack on his bed.
He grinned at her. “Thank you, Ellie. I planned to go get it soon.”
“No, you didn’t, Eliot. You were hoping that I would bring it up for you.” Eliot grinned sheepishly, the perfect proof that he had been caught and she was right. “Keep at it. One of these days, I will leave it down and mother will see it there and she is going to scold you.”
“Elliana! You wouldn’t do that, would you? We are bounded by the twin code!” Eliot grumbled.
“Hmmph,” Elliana said. She flipped her brown hair over her shoulder and left his room, heading straight to hers.
“It’s not fair, Ellie!” Eliot called after her. She laughed as she ran to her room. Before Eliot could get in, she quickly shut the door. She could still hear him shouting outside that it was not fair.
About thirty minutes later, Elliana walked past her twin’s room. He was plopped down on the bed, his head in his pillow, probably dreaming of the game of ball he had planned with his friends the next day, Elliana thought. She stepped in and used one of his pillows to hit his back till he shot up. There was a frown on Eliot’s face.
“Ellie!” Eliot groaned as he yawned, scratching his head at the same time. “What do you want now?”
“Well… I am starving and…” Elliana rubbed her stomach as she spoke, “I was going to go prepare some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for myself. Wanna come?”
Eliot immediately jumped down from his bed. He followed his sister down to the kitchen. When they got there, he settled into a chair at the breakfast nook.
“I would prefer a tuna sandwich, Elliana.” Elliana turned to stare at him and he quickly added, “Please.”
Elliana gave him a thumb up and turned back to the fridge. A few short minutes later, the two siblings were seated at the breakfast nook, enjoying a light lunch of sandwiches and milk. They were very quiet because they were completely famished. All that could be heard in the brightly lit kitchen with bright yellow walls was the sound of their teeth chomping and munching the sandwiches.
“So, what are you going to do tomorrow, Eliot? It is the start of spring break, you know,” Elliana asked. She sat back in the chair and burped. She felt full. Her brother laughed at her. “Very funny Eliot.”
Still, laughing. Eliot took their plates to the kitchen sink and turned on the faucet. A bet was a bet. He had to do all of his sister’s chores for the rest of the day and the next. As he scrubbed the dishes clean, he said, “I’m going to go to the park. Timmy, Shaw and I have that ball game, remember?”
Elliana let out a frustrated sigh. She walked up to him and heaved herself up on the cabinet’s surface, using a chair as a ladder. “I should rephrase my question. What are you going to do all spring break? Play ball every single day?”
“It won’t be so bad,” Eliot shrugged as he grinned. The boy looked his sister up and down, “What did mother say about us sitting on the cabinet?”
“You are one to talk. You always prance around on it like a horse,” Elliana retorted. Before Eliot could think of an equally smart reply, they heard the door opening. Elliana quickly jumped down from the cabinet, hitting her leg against the cabinet’s door handle in the process.
“Ouch!” She hopped on one foot. Eliot pursed his lips as he tried not to laugh. That was always the pattern with his sister. She was always stubborn and wanted to do whatever he did. At the end of the day, she always got hurt doing it when he would do it several times and get out unscathed. She just was not cut out for rough stuff yet she still insisted.
“Hey kids! I’m home!” their mother’s voice called from the foyer. The two children looked at each other and put on their innocent faces. Eliot quickly rinsed the plates and kept them on the rack to dry. A few seconds later, Mrs. Jameson stepped into the kitchen, her hands overflowing with brown shopping bags. The kids hurried to her and helped her set the bags on the table gently.
“Careful with that one Eliot. There are eggs in there,” she pointed at the one in Eliot’s hands. He nodded and placed it gently on the table. The two siblings got to work unpacking the bags. “No, no. Before you do that, let me kiss my babies.”
Mrs. Jameson grabbed the two of them. She hugged them both and gave them large noisy kisses on their cheeks. Eliot was about to grumble about the affection that their mother was showering on them but the foot his twin placed on his shut him up. Their mother finally let go of them.
“I’ll be right down. I’m going to go freshen up and then… I’ll prepare your favorite,” she grinned and left the room.
“My foot still hurts, Ellie. What was that for?” Eliot frowned at his sister. She rolled her eyes at him and turned back to the unpacking,
“What do you think? Mother was being all affectionate with us and you wanted to make her feel that we are growing up too fast.”
“We are growing up fast, sister,” argued Eliot.
“True, but she still has a few more years with us. Don’t be faster than your shadow. Let her enjoy some more time with us and let us with them. You don’t want to be all grown up and wish you had spent some more time with them, now do you?” Elliana asked him.
“Yeah, you are right. Hmm…When did you grow so wise, little sister?” Eliot teased her.
“It’s four minutes, brother. Fo-our minutes,” Elliana raised her hand up and counted out four fingers.
Eliot shrugged, “Four minutes, four years, it’s all the same, Ellie. I am still your bii-ig brother.”
Elliana shook her head. “You finish up here, big brother. You did lose the bet, didn’t you?”
Taking pleasure in the change in Eliot’s facial expression from a grin to a frown, Elliana headed out of the kitchen snickering evilly.
“Not funny!” Elliot called after her.
“It is too!” she replied.
Tonight just like every other night, the Jameson dinner was filled with laughter. The meal of lasagna was very scrumptious and the Jameson twins could not get enough of it. They kept asking for extra servings.
“I sometimes don’t understand the appetite of you both. You are already done with three helpings when your mother and I are not even finished with one,” their father laughed. Eliot and Elliana just shrugged and turned to their plates.
“With all that lasagna, are you sure there will be space for the apple pie?” Mrs. Jameson asked as she set the platter down on the center of the table.
“Of course, mother. There is enough space for dessert, right Eliot?” Elliana turned to her brother.
“Wait a minute,” Eliot stood up and jumped twice. He sat back down. “Yep. Now, there is definitely space for dessert.”
Mr. and Mrs. Jameson looked at each other and laughed.
“So, kids, remember how tomorrow is your birthday?”
“Uh huh. Is something wrong, mother?” the twins looked at their parents and then back at each other.
“Well… you know how there has been so many problems at father’s lumberyard, this year? Well, you see, I’m sorry but we won’t be able to give you the big party that we promised you last year,” Mrs. Jameson said to them. She looked at her husband who nodded. They both stared at their kids.
“Oh, that’s okay, mother. That was last year. A lot has happened between now and then. One being that I’m no longer a fan of big parties. It really doesn’t matter to me whether the party is big or small or neither. I will be just glad to spend the day with my family,” Elliana smiled up at her parents.
“Elliana is right, mother, father. After my ball game in the morning, we can spend the day indoors, watching TV, we can even go get ice cream or something. No party is okay for me, too,” Eliot agreed with his sister.
“Oh, you guys…” Mr. and Mrs. Jameson hugged each one of them.
“You know, I think I like that idea. What we’ll do is we will go get some ice cream and popcorn and then, we will spend the rest of the night watching TV. Tomorrow is Saturday, I just have to spend the morning at the lumberyard. It is just perfect,” Mr. Jameson said with a large smile. The twins squealed in excitement as their parents looked at them with love brimming in their hearts.
Saturday morning dawned bright and clear. As soon as he was done with breakfast, Eliot ran out of the house and down the street to the park at the end of the block.
“You’re coming, aren’t you, Ellie?” he had asked before he left.
“Eliot, you know that I have no interest in ball,” Eliana grumbled.
“Come on, it would be fun, trust me. It’s our birthday, sis. We should have a fun day and I don’t want you to be bored indoors till we go get ice cream later in the day,” Eliot persisted.
“I am not going to be bored, Eliot. I’m going to read a book,” Elliana persisted as well.
“Perfect, you can read at the park. Come on, let’s go,” Eliot had placed his hands on his sister’s shoulders and tried shepherding her out of the door. Elliana grounded her heels into the ground.
“Okay, okay. I’ll meet you at the park. I just have to go get something,” Elliana told him as she held on to the door frame while he tried to push her forward.
“You promise you will be there?” Eliot asked, refusing to let go of her.
“Yes, yes, bro. Go on ahead. Your friends are waiting for you,” Elliana urged him. He finally let go of her. “But, you are going to have to do something that I like after your ball game.”
“Ellie… I don’t want to have to do some girly stuff.”
“Fine, I’m not going.” Elliana leaned against the door frame and refused to move.
“Alright, I agree, we will go do whatever you like. Now, you promise that you will be there, right?”
“Yes. No problem. Now, shoo, shoo, go away,” Elliana waved him away.
“See you soon, sis.” Eliot ran out of the house.
So there he was, running down the street to meet up with his friends.
Elliana met them up at the park. They were already deeply invested in their game. Eliot waved at her when she got there and she chuckled and waved back. Elliana settled on a double swing and got to work reading her book. She was so caught up in turning the pages and absorbing the fine print on each of the white sheets that she was completely unaware of the fact that the game was over until Eliot cast a shadow over her and blocked her light.
Elliana raised her head and rolled her eyes, “You do know that you can be a pest at times, right?”
“I know.” Eliot plopped down on the second seat on the swing. He grabbed her and ruffled her hair. “But you also cannot help but love me all the same.”
Elliana could not help the giggles that escaped her lips and she quickly jumped down from the swing. “Oh stop it, Eliot. It’s not funny.”
“Yeah… and you were laughing,” Eliot approached her with his fingers stuck out and waved them back and forth. “Tickle fingers, tickle fingers.”
“Eliot!” Elliana ran off into the field and Eliot went after her. They both fell on the field and he started tickling her. They both broke into laughter a few seconds later. Their clothes were all dirty and their hair tangled. They had both ended up rolling around in the dirt.
“We are turning twelve. We really should not be rolling around in the dirt. We are older than that,” Elliana said when they finally stood up, dusting their clothes. “Mother is definitely not going to like this.”
Eliot chuckled and picked her book from the dirt. “You are right about that. We are going to have to change our clothes before we do what you want us to do.”
“Uh huh,” Elliana nodded in agreement. As they walked towards the exit, a ball flew at them and Eliot caught it just before it hit his sister’s head. He turned around and stormed towards the group of children that had thrown it at them. They were a group of colored children who looked a little younger than them.
“What’s wrong with you all? You almost hit my sister’s head!” Eliot shouted at them. His sister’s hand on his shoulder stopped what he wanted to say and he looked down at her. She shook her head slightly. Elliana took the ball from her brother’s hands and walked towards the children. They moved backward as she approached.
Elliana paused in her movement. She stretched the ball out and smiled at the kids.
“Don’t be afraid, I am not going to hurt you, I promise.”
One of them approached her and in a small voice, he said, “I’m so sorry, we are so sorry. We didn’t mean to hurt you or anybody.”
“That’s okay. I’m not mad at you. Accidents do happen and thankfully, no harm was done.” Elliana turned to look at her brother. She motioned for him to move closer to her and he did, though reluctantly. She looked back at the kids and said, “Don’t mind my brother and his attitude. He is really a big, fuzzy bear. He is just really very protective of me.”
The kid walked up to Eliot gingerly and said, “I’m sorry. I honestly did not mean to hurt your sister. I have a sister too.” The boy turned to point at the only black girl in their group of four. “So, I also wouldn’t want her to get hurt.”
Eliot smiled down at the boy and slowly, he placed a hand on his shoulder. “That’s okay. I forgive you. Don’t beat yourself up about it.”
Elliana smiled at the others, “I’m Elliana, my brother is Eliot.”
“I’m Freddie, they are Sharon, Joey and Danny,” the boy pointed at his friends and sister.
“Nice to meet you all. I hope that we would be able to play with you next time. My sister and I have to get going,” Eliot told the kids.
“Yeah, today is actually our birthday so we have a few things to do. You’ll be here tomorrow, right? Don’t worry, Eliot and I are going to bring some sweets for you,” Elliana told them cheerfully. Eliot nodded in agreement with her.
“Really? That’s so cool. Happy birthday, you both,” Freddie said and his friends chorused his wishes.
“Thanks you both,” Elliana said. “See you all tomorrow. Bye, you guys.”
“Bye…” the kids chorused as the twins walked away.
“Why are you quiet, Eliot? Is something wrong?” Elliana asked her brother as they walked down the street.
“I don’t know, sis. What do you think mother and father will say if they know that we are mingling with the coloreds?” Eliot voiced out his thoughts.
“Oh brother, I really wish that you would stop calling them coloreds. They are every bit as human as we are. There is nothing wrong being friends with them. They don’t bite. Okay, we just talked with them. Did they seem bad?” Elliana crossed her arms and stopped walking causing Eliot to stop as well.
“No, they don’t. I guess you are right, Elliana. But still, why then does everyone hate them?”
“Oh brother, the truth about life is that people hate what they do not understand. They hate things that do not conform to the way they want things to be. People look down on what they think is lower than them and I guess in some ways, that is how Freddie and all his friends are. They choose not to conform to what others have chosen to impose on them. They have chosen to fight for their rights and people like us do not like that because they prefer to have Freddie and his friends under their control,” Elliana explained to her brother.
“Wow, look at you sister. You are becoming quite the civil rights activist,” Eliot punched Elliana’s shoulder lightly. She punched him back as well. “But you know what, sis? From today on, I am going to take a page from your book. The blacks have done nothing to us so there really is no reason why we should hate them. They are probably good people like you said so I, my dear sister, I’m going to give them the benefit of doubt.”
“That’s good, brother. That’s a bold and great step to take. No hatred for the blacks, right brother?” Elliana smiled at him.
Eliot nodded and agreed, “No hatred for the blacks, sister.”
“So, my dear munchkins, what flavor do you want? Vanilla? Strawberry? Chocolate?” Mr. Jameson asked the twins as they stood in front of the glass case, drooling as they stared at all the flavors.
“Oh, Father, you know you don’t have to ask, chocolate and vanilla, of course,” Eliot spoke for himself and his sister. Elliana nodded in agreement with his choice. Chocolate and vanilla were always their favorite flavors no matter what goodie they were getting.
“Vanilla and chocolate it is,” Mr. Jameson repeated to the guy that was attending to them in the ice cream shop.
“A tub?” the guy asked.
“Yes, please, a tub,” the twins replied in unison.
“Alright. A tub of chocolate and vanilla ice cream is coming right up.”
Giggling, Elliana skipped ahead to the car swinging the tub of ice cream around.
“I call shotgun!” she squealed. Eliot ran after her and reached for the door handle as she did.
“You two, sit in the back,” their father said as he opened the door on the driver’s side. “You are both kids.”
Elliana rolled her eyes, “Father, we are twelve, you know, not three.”
“I hear you, but I need to keep these bags of goodies beside me, I don’t need you both consuming them all before we get home,” Mr. Jameson informed them as he got into the car. The two kids chuckled as they entered the back of the car. “You know what to do, don’t you?”
“Fasten our seatbelts,” the twins said in unison.
They began the drive down the road at steady speed. Mr. Jameson spent free time volunteering as a traffic attendant so he always ensured to obey traffic laws when he was at the other end. So, there they sat in the car moving at a steady pace. The children were talking excitedly in the back while their father had his eyes focused on the road. Suddenly, there was a bright light. It shone into their car. It came up from their back and smashed into the bumper of their car.
“What the…?” Mr. Jameson shouted. At that moment, the kids had already started screaming. “Hang on, kids.”
Mr. Jameson stepped on the gas but the vehicle at the back came at them again, this time, the impact caused the back window to shatter and glass shards rained on the kids. Mr. Jameson tried to swerve out of the way of the vehicle behind them but the car came at them and hit them off the road. They tumbled into the bush, somersaulting. The screams of the occupants could be heard from miles away.
The funeral was a solemn gathering. There was a large crowd of family and friends and as well wishers. As Eliot stood staring around at all the happenings, he thought, she loved spring. It was her favorite time of the year. When it was time to throw the roses in, he walked gingerly towards the open grave and looked down at the cream colored coffin of his twin. She lay in there, her eyes closed to the world, voiceless, unable to see, to live her life. Her life had been snatched away from her.
Eliot knelt beside the open grave and threw in the flower. He could hear sobs but they seemed a long way away. He felt strong arms taking him away and holding him close. They were probably afraid that he was going to choose to join his sister and jump in. As his head rested against whoever it was, he could hear whispers.
“They say it was a drunk driver who rammed into them with a truck,” one voice whispered.
“But that’s terrible. Drunks are indeed a terror to the roads. Look now, the life of that intelligent, little girl has been cut short. How are her parents, her twin, her family going to deal with the loss? It’s such a tragedy,” another voice came up.
“You wanna know something else? The driver was a colored,” the first voice said.
“What!? Please tell me he is behind bars right now,” another voice joined in the whispered conversation.
“No way. His fate was similar to the little girl. He died as well.”
“That’s a shame. He should have been hung for this pain he has caused. His family should be made to suffer. All coloreds are the same! They are all criminals and evil!”
“You know what else? I heard that her twin has not uttered a word since her death.”
“Can you blame him? Anyone who knows the Jamesons would know how close those two were. It’s so very sad.”
Eliot’s parents tried to pull him away once the funeral was over but he refused. He knelt beside the freshly covered grave and wept. With clouded eyes, he read the inscription,
Loving daughter. The best sister ever. A good friend.
Gone but not forgotten.
Eliot’s parents pulled him but he shook his head. All he wanted was to be alone with his sister. He thought back to one of the last conversations they had had.
“So, can you tell me now what you want to do, sister?” he had asked her when they had changed their clothes and quickly tucked the dirty ones under the pile in the hamper.
“Easy peasy Eliot. I want to go to the lake,” she had told him, her teeth completely exposed as a result of her grin. She knew of course that he was not going to reject her request. It’s not like he had a choice.
“Ah, you want to go swimming,” he had said, stating the obvious.
Elliana had rolled her eyes at him and in a sarcastic tone, she said, “No, Eliot. I want to go count the number of spoonfuls it contains.”
He had had a confused look on his face and she had slapped the side of his head, all the while laughing.
“I want us to go on a picnic and for a swim. I would have liked mother and father to come with us but father is still at the lumberyard and mother is babysitting Mrs. Olson’s granddaughter,” his sister told him.
“Mother sure likes babysitting that little girl. You think she wants to have a baby?”
Elliana chuckled and said, “I would love to have a baby sister.”
“No, no, I think one of you is enough. I would prefer a baby brother.”
“Hey!” Elliana punched his arm. When they had overcome their laughing fits, he had helped her pack up the picnic basket. They had informed mother where they were going to and then headed straight to the lake.
After eating, they had spent so much time playing in the lake and had finally gotten out when they remembered they had to go out with father.
Eliot grabbed the earth and screamed. All he wanted was his sister back. Was that too much to ask? A colored, he was the one who did this and he was not around to pay for his sin.
“I’m sorry, sister. It can’t be like you said. I cannot love them after w
hat one of them has done to me. He took you away from us and he is not alive for us to get justice. The rest of them criminals will just have to pay.”
Just then, a light shower started but rather than run for shelter, Eliot sat there under the rain, beside his sister and let it drench him. She was six feet under, and she was gone.
“My parents and I had to live every day without Elliana because of what one of you did. The death of a child can affect a family in two ways, break it or bind it stronger. We grew apart. But along the line, Claire came. Little by little, we were pulled back together. Claire was our miracle baby. She came to help every one of us and in time, we have gotten closer like before. But the truth still remains that I may have gained a sister, but I also lost one as well. Every day, I always wish I could have gotten real justice for my sister’s death but that bastard died on the spot too. She did not have to die, you know. She had a good heart.”
Eliot stopped talking and everyone’s eyes were clouded with tears. They could all feel the pain that he had felt all the years; they could feel the weight of it all. He did not have to say it but they could understand that he probably could not understand why Elliana had to die instead of him.
Eliot wiped the tears in his eyes away, “But you know something that you have taught me today, Steve? It is that we should keep open hearts and learn to forgive no matter how much we were hurt. You are good people and my sister was right when she chose to defend you all. I too will take on that mantle. I will defend you all as well. Rather than hate, we should forgive.”
“You are very right about that, Eliot. Don’t blame yourself so much. I love Maria and I know how crazy I will get if she was ever hurt. But you are right, it is not an easy thing to do but we have to do it. We have to learn how to open up our hearts and push grudges aside.”
Everyone else sat in silence as they listened to them. They were all touched in one way by all they had just heard.
“No people are bad. The fact that a person among them is bad does not mean that they are all bad,” Rachel suddenly said.
“Exactly,” Steve nodded. “Exactly so.”