The class murmurs uneasily and glances around to find the twins with such peculiar names.
“Everyone calls me Ley,” my sister speaks up boldly as the teacher finishes calling role. She looks to me expectantly, so I clear my throat and do the same.
“And everyone calls me Eve.”
The teacher makes note of this with tiny quotes beside our names in the role book as every other teacher for the past eleven years has done.
Ley has already thrown her focus elsewhere, onto the girl behind her who has stood inseparably by her side every day we’ve lived in Charleston. Melanie laughs at something Ley has said, and the two continue on as usual- attracting the attention of the entire class.
It’s not that we’re new to the area- not even close, actually- but each year as the teachers call role, Ley and I always get the strangest of looks. Maybe it’s because names like ‘Legend’ and ‘Revenge’ are hard to stomach to the average ‘Nick’ or ‘Tiffany’; more likely the reaction comes from ‘Tribeca’. Everyone knows the story of the Tribeca siblings with the institutionalized mother and the constantly disappearing father. Vinny, my older brother, figured that was enough of an excuse to get out of this godforsaken town, and I know Ley soon plans to follow in his footsteps. With my luck, I doubt I’ll ever escape this place and its constantly prying eyes.
Ms. Mansfield begins pouring over every word of the syllabus everyone but me seems to have grabbed before walking in the classroom. Luckily, I pull out last hour’s typed calendar so she doesn’t already realize I’m slacking. Of course, written in big, bold letters on the dry erase board, Ms. Mansfield has written ‘Grab a syllabus off my desk’. It seems this year isn’t going to be any different than the last.
The class draws on and on and on until I am sure my ears are bleeding from hearing the same nonsense rephrased back to back for the past seven hours. Bring a notebook, a pencil, a pen… obviously. They should have just sent out an email and let us have one more day of summer. Just a little bit longer, and we can finally go home. Already, I can tell this is going to be the longest school year of my life.
Around half way through the hour, Ms. Mansfield sits down with an exasperated sigh. It’s only the first day, and already no one is listening. We seem to be thinking the same thing now. She’s not going to enjoy teaching this course any more than I’m going to enjoy taking it.
Ley meets my eyes and gestures for me to come over. Now that half the class has noticed, I have no choice but to leave the solitude of my own desk to sit atop of hers. The small talk is honestly painful. The countless ’how was your summer’s grate against my nerves, because people only ask so they can tell their own stories, so they can throw the spotlight on themselves.
As usual, Ley is the shining center of the group. She’s always been able to draw people closer with the same ease I repel them away. We’re polar opposites; it’s plain enough just to see. I’ve got dark eyes, brunette curls, olive skin, and a face jammed full of dark freckles when compared to her silver stare, blonde waves, and pale complexion, all accompanied by the perfect smatter of freckles over her nose.
She looks just like Vinny and Walter- the older cousin we’ve lived with since Mom went off the deep end eleven years ago. If we didn’t have witnesses, I’d say we weren’t even related, much less twins. Maybe the whole ‘switched at birth’ thing happened to us. I’d be relieved to know I’ve got a normal family out there somewhere. It’d be a blessing to know crazy doesn’t run in my blood.
“Eve.” Ley snaps her fingers before my eyes. Everyone is getting up to leave; I didn’t even hear the bell. Ley grins as Melanie calls for her to hurry up. “I’ll meet you by the car in ten,” my sister calls over her shoulder, and then I am alone, gathering up my things while Ms. Mansfield waits for me to get out. Good. I didn’t want Ley following me around anyways. The last thing I need is the suffocating crowd she drags along with her.
The main building is clearing out as I hurry through the hallways before the teachers lock their doors. Janitors busy themselves waxing tiles that are immediately subject to the scuffling of a thousand teenagers stampeding to leave. It is Friday, after all; everyone wants to get home if even a few minutes early.
Mason is waiting by the vending machines as soon as I slip out the side doors in the English wing. He pushes off of the wall and slings his bag over his shoulder with a wave. Oliver stands beside him, looking less than enthused to see that Ley has not joined me. Surprisingly, though, he is not the one to comment on it.
“Ley ditched you again?” Mason assumes with a laugh, though the corners of his lips turn down just the slightest. I’m used to the expression but never from Mason before.
“She ran off with Melanie,” I inform the two with my eyes on Ley’s boyfriend.
Oliver nods as if this kind of thing is normal, which it certainly is. “In that case,” he exclaims, “I guess I’ll head back to the field house. See you guys at the game tonight?”
Mason and I assure him we’ll be there. Of course, Ley will join us. She hasn’t missed a football game in all four years we’ve been at Charleston High. We watch as he walks off almost angrily, his shoulders tight and ready for an argument. I’ve known for a while that he and Ley weren’t doing great this year, but they seem to be about nearing the end now.
“That doesn’t sound very good,” Mason remarks after a moment.
I shrug. Ley’s life is already perfect; she’ll find another guy soon enough. It’s not like there isn’t a long line of admirers already. “I’ve only got a few minutes,” I speak up rather than comment. “We’re going home to change. Ley and Melanie are face painting or whatever.” I wrinkle my nose at the thought, but Mason only laughs.
“You’re coming, though, right?” It’s not like I’ve got that may other options. The last thing I want to do is stay home with Walter all night watching awful movies while he works.
“Of course,” I say instead. “Unless they paint something stupid on my face.”
We start off slowly around the edge of the building now that we’ve got a few minutes to waste. Mason bumps my shoulder and smiles over at me like he always does. Only recently did it start making my chest flutter, and even I’m not quite sure why. We’ve known each other just as long as Ley and Melanie; I should be used to him by now.
The cheerleader’s chants mix with the dance team’s as both squeeze in last minute practices for the game that starts as soon as the sun goes down. Sometimes, I miss cheering, but it never lasts long. They only harassed me when Ley quit to dance her junior year. She was the best flyer we had, they would tell me; you’re her sister, tell her to come back. Ley this, Ley that. Of course, I’ve learned enough to expect that.
The silence between Mason and me is only comfortable because we’ve had years of practice. He moves his bag from one shoulder to the other and sighs. “It’s only the second day, and I’m already ready to graduate.” I can understand that completely.
“It’s going to be a long year,” I agree while fingering the end of my braid, “On the bright side, it’s also going to be our last year.”
The reminder clearly makes Mason anxious, but he grins anyways. “Leave it to you, Eve, to find a positive side to everything.”
I flip my hair over my shoulder and scoff. “It’s one of my many talents, you know.”
He laughs and bumps my shoulder again, but this time because he loses his step in a crack on the sidewalk. “Who knows?” Mason decides with a look back at the crack that exists as one deep hole among the many splintering breaks, “This place might fall to pieces before we even get to walk across the stage.” We’ve wondered about that since freshman year. Consisting mostly of portables and a central ninety-year-old brick building, Charleston High is crumbling piece by piece. Someday soon, I bet the town will realize they’re dumping too much money into a school that just simply cannot be fixed.
“I can’t decide whether or not that would be a good thing,” I confess just before we round the corner to the commons, where the majority of the straggling students have gathered to wait until the parking lot traffic lessens.
Ley catches my eye and waves brightly, gesturing me over once more. I wonder if I’ll ever have the nerve to tell her I hate being around her, that I’ve lived in her shadow long enough as it is.
The picnic table she sits on top of is surrounded by the small group of girls Ley hangs out with that aren’t on any kind of team. Beside me, Mason hesitates as we approach. I assume it’s because he’s the only guy in a group of overly snobbish girls until I catch the way Ley glances towards him uneasily. They force tiny smiles before looking away from one another. Melanie catches my eye, but I know just as much as she does. Did something happen between them? The very idea makes me furious.
“Ready, Eve?” Even though she says my name, it takes a moment to process that Ley is speaking to me. She grabs her keys, stuffs her phone in her back pocket, and jumps off the edge of the table. Her eyes never look to Mason; she continues walking without waiting for my answer, Melanie hurrying in her wake.
“What was that?” I round on Mason immediately. There isn’t much time left.
He shrugs innocently enough, but I know that can’t be the truth. A hand runs through his nearly black hair, only messing his bangs further. “You’re going to get left if you don’t hurry,” he cautions me instead, his eyes anywhere but mine, “We can talk at the game if you want, but you know just as well as I do that Ley will leave you, and I’ve got conditioning today.”
That’s the most pathetic excuse I’ve ever heard, and I tell him so before spinning on my heel and starting after my sister. If he won’t tell me, at least she will. Ley will tell me anything as long as she never figures out just how much I hate her.