Partway down the long staircase, dark spots swam up before Thaddeus’ eyes, the dining room below dipped, turning sideways. Grabbing for the smooth handrail, he swayed. ‘Maybe, I oughta holler for help.’
When, just as if he beckoned her, Eudora appeared, slipping under his arm. Together they sank to the step he had been tottering on. Sheepishly, he gave her a weak, crooked grin and rolling her eyes, she punched him in the arm.
“Still, merci.” He said.
She nodded, punching him once more with a closed-lipped smile.
“I do, too, mean it.”
“Saved you again.”
“Yup. You always show up when I need you.” He leaned his head against her, “do not know how you do it.”
“Ever since the day you fell,” she shrugged her shoulders. “I just know.”
Flashing the grin that displayed the tooth he had chipped on that day, he said, “merci beucoup.” Thinking back, he thought, ‘We must have been eight or nine. All I know is I was not supposed to be in the hay loft. Thought they were treatin’ me like I was a damn bébé. Then hellfire, if’n I did not trip and fall over the edge. Can never forget lying there in pain, so breathless I could not even cry; let alone call for help. Then Dora was there, lookin’ down at me.′
He released a shuddering breath, the room beginning to level out around him. “Boy howdy, this is kind of how my head felt after striking the ladder and stall railing that day. I ain’t ever been able to forget that sickening feelin’ of falling.′ Staring down the staircase they sat on, he shivered, ‘Still do not care much for heights.’
Feeling his tremor, Eudora snuggled closer. Sitting so close, her lime verbena wrapped around him and Thaddeus thought how safe he felt. Inhaling her perfume, he smiled. It was a scent that meant happiness for him. But, recalling what Josephine had said, his smile disappeared. This difficulty with Lafayette upset him. Adding to his worries, his illness had given him too much time to think on.
‘This whole past year, I have been takin’ my final steps into manhood. I should be enjoyin’ this journey. Yet, each time I move further from being considered a garçon, I am also movin’ further away from Eudora. No matter, what I tell myself, I am realizing she is not maturing along with me.′ His eyes slanted her direction, studying her, ‘at least not in what is considered a normal rate. What if my outgrowing her, shatters our special bond?’
She peeked over and caught him staring, “All right grumpy where you headed?”
“To see Lafe.”
“Oh?” She shook her head, “You cannot. He is talkin’ with Father.”
“I need to be there.”
Her eyebrows furrowed questioning his words and quick as a hummingbird her small hand darted forth, sweeping his unruly bangs from his face. With the tip of her finger, she traced the contours of his bone structure, her lips pressing into a firm line.
It tickled, he raised his hand to brush her away, and something in the depths of her eyes froze him. He inhaled, holding it. ‘Is her secret side emerging?’
He had named this side her true self. Although, he had abandoned the notion of trying to make the rest of their family believe another side existed. For some reason, her true self only surfaced for him. Her visits were always brief and they filled him with such hope. He had come to love and loathe her true self all at the same time. It was also this hidden side, which made it so hard for him to admit, she would never grow up as the others said. Her true self seemed mentally the same age as him and when she appeared, it was without the aspects of the giggling child they were all so familiar with.
When her true self found its way out, it was almost like Eudora had awoken from sleep and on waking was confused. Most often, she was confused about him and the changes his body was presenting her. Therefore, when he did pray, he prayed the child would one day be locked away and her true self would be allowed to remain awake.
Licking his lips, he whispered, “Eudora Lorraine?”
Pulling back, she frowned.
Deep lines of concentration appeared on her brow, “what is wrong with you?”
“I have been ill.” He shrugged his shoulders. “I still am.”
“It is more than that.” Her brows scrunched tighter together. “You are different.”
He shrugged, giving her a half smile that brought an immediate softening to his features, making him appear younger.
“Did I hear you say you wished to interrupt Father and Lafe in the study?”
“Not really interrupt, I want—“
She arched an eyebrow at him, “Non, not interrupt, you want to sneak in unobserved.”
Thaddeus tried not to smile.
“As I thought,” She shook her head. “Well, let us get you downstairs first. But, I will not get in trouble with you this time,” she stated shouldering under his arm and as they stood; she took his weight on her. Moving in closer she blew a stray hair out of her eyes, “Lean on me, Taddy, I am stronger than I look.”
“I know you are.” He answered raggedly, around the lump forming in his throat. “Uh Sis, I was startin’ to think this…well, you were a part of my imagination.”
She looked at him sharply.
“I ain’t seen you in a while.”
“Hmm,” was her only reply as they inched down the stairs.
Each time he glanced over, she was staring at him and he wanted to ask her, ‘what are you thinkin?’ But was too fearful of scaring her off to speak.
At the study door, he shifted, leaning against the wall and taking a breath, he asked, “Eudora Lorraine, tell me what is botherin’ you?”
Once more her fingers rose to his face, hesitantly, she traced the prickly, black stubble covering his jaw. “You have changed again.” She said very quietly. A tear reflected in the dim light of the hall as it ran down her face. “Taddy, you are leavin’ me behind.”
Hearing this, he felt his heart would break. Taking her hand, he kissed it. “Stay with me then. Do not go back into hidin’, sendin’ me on alone.”
His obvious pain spooked her and all too rapidly, the Eudora everyone knew returned, smiling at him so hugely he could see all of her gums. For the briefest moment she tilted her head, staring quizzically at his glassy eyes and with a skip and a jump, she scurried away; gone almost as fast as his true twin had wisped back into hiding.
“Fuck!” he whispered to the empty hallway. Blinking back the tears burning his eyes, he trailed a hand across his whiskers, still feeling her touch there. Dropping his chin to his chest, he closed his eyes. Never had he felt so alone.
It had always been the two of them against the world. Siblings were great, but having a twin meant never being alone. However, it was clear they were no longer a matched pair. He was almost an adult and she was not. He knew it and worse Eudora Lorraine knew it too.