Ali’s eyes crossed as Mr. Newman told the class, yet again, that their projects were due by Friday. She glanced at the clock above the door, found that it had only been three minutes and twenty-seven seconds since she last looked, and dropped her head onto her desk with a thud. Gretchen, her best friend, snorted and giggled in the seat next to her.
“Alice Hawk and Gretchen Smith, would you two care to share your funny thoughts with the entire class?” Mr. Newman asked in his stern voice. Ali lifted her head off her desk and blew a piece of blonde bang out of her eyes. She shook her head. When Mr. Newman turned toward the old blackboard again, Ali reached over and punched Gretchen in the shoulder. Gretchen only erupted in more silent giggles. Sarah Dowery, who sat in front of Gretchen, with her perfectly placed short skirt and flowered tank-top, chestnut hair and delicately painted nails, twisted in her chair and narrowed her eyes at the two friends, then turned back again and gave her full attention to Mr. Newman. Ali stuck her tongue out at the cheerleader’s head and flashed her middle finger. Gretchen made a choking motion behind Sarah’s neck. Brian, Ali’s brother and other best friend, chuckled from two seats back.
Ali Hawk, full name Alice Francis Marie Hawk, was a normal high school senior. Trying to make it the rest of the school year with decent grades, maintaining her two best friends, and doing everything she could to keep to herself and not get sucked into the vortex that was the rich, superficial, robotic bubble she lived in, Ali was not popular at Highlands High. With her pure blonde curly hair that fell to her waist and muscular gymnast body, Ali had the makings of being one of the high school’s star cheerleaders. But because of Ali’s hot, Irish temper and choosing to wear baggy sweatshirts instead of short skirts and watching movies in her room Friday nights instead of partying, she was thrown out of the inner circle of popularity. That’s when Ali found Gretchen.
Gretchen was tall, 5′7, with short, straight red hair, the color of a fire truck. She dyed it every month. She was beanpole skinny, but shoveled junk into her mouth constantly. Even now, with ten minutes left of class, Gretchen was nibbling on a cosmic brownie, picking off the colorful chocolate bits first and popping them into her mouth.
“This is a classic novel, class.” Mr. Newman brought Ali’s attention back to the front of the room. “Alice in Wonderland forever changed the children’s book genre, so please try and not butcher your presentations on it.” The class murmured unintelligible agreements right as the bell rang. Ali stuffed her copy of Alice in Wonderland into her backpack and stood, swinging the heavy bag onto her shoulders. Gretchen and Brian came to stand next to her and they were just about to leave when they heard the ominous clicking of stilleto heels getting closer. Ali turned and rolled her eyes as Sarah Dowery stopped before her.
“I don’t appreciate you guys disrupting Mr. Newman’s class like you did.” She said in her falsely sweet voice.
“Save it, Sarah, please.” Ali said, yanking her long hair out of the backpack strap.
“Don’t talk to your student body president like that, Alice. This isn’t your own little ‘wonderland’ where you can just talk to me with such disrespect.” Sarah clipped. Gretchen, Brian and Ali just stared at her before Gretchen sucked in a dramatic breath.
“OOOO….good one…” Gretchen said, sarcasm dripping from every word.
“Did you come up with that one all by yourself.” Ali retorted, tossing her hair out of her face and stalking out of the class. Brian and Gretchen followed.
“I believe that’s little sis one, big slut zeroooo!” Brian said, slinging his arm around Ali and Gretchen’s shoulders. Ali rolled her eyes but let a small smile touch her lips.
“Brian, it’s immature to keep score like that…and we’re both 18.”
“Ah yes but I am technically 3 minutes older.” Brian dramatically shook a dirty blonde lock away from his face. At first glance, anyone could tell immediately that Ali and Brian were twins. Both had intense, bright green eyes and high cheekbones. Brian got his muscular, 6′4" frame from their father; while Ali’s more petite body was their mother’s. Both of their parents had dirty blonde, almost brown hair, which Brian inherited. But none of them knew where Ali got her shock white blonde, wildly curly hair from. Brian was in a surfer/rock dude phase, growing his hair down to his shoulders and letting it do what it wanted. He was a bit of a ladies’ man but always treated women with respect.
“On a more important note, we’re still going to Vinyl tonight, right?” Gretchen asked, tossing the last bit of cosmic brownie into her mouth.
“Of course, we are. I need to go dancing.” Ali exclaimed.
“Uh, Ali, could you possibly spring for gas money? I kinda spent all my money on that iPod dock…” Brian said. Ali rolled her eyes.
“I don’t know why you bought that thing; our birthday is in like three weeks.” Ali replied.
“Ah come on you know me; I need instant gratification.” Brian replied, waggling his eyebrows with a huge grin on his face.
“Ew.” Ali said, hitting her brother in the stomach. “Yes, I’ll spring for gas, just please don’t say that around me again.
“Yes!” Brian said triumphantly, pumping his fist.
“So, we’ll pick you up at eight, sound good?” Ali asked Gretchen, ignoring her brother.
“Sounds like a plan, Stan.” Gretchen replied.
Brian and Ali said goodbye to Gretchen as the three parted ways toward their different cars. The twins’ car was a vintage, 1970 hippie van, complete with a paint job of somewhere between psychedelic and brown, with blue shag carpeting decorating the interior. Ali loved this car. For her, it was a refreshing change from the BMW’s, Mustangs, and Lexus’ that filled the rest of the parking lot, although most people would call the van an ugly eye-sore. Many of the rich high school students around her cringe whenever they came close to the van. Ali chuckled a little as she opened the passenger door, a deafening screech filling the air as the car protested and seeing two guys in a midnight blue BMW cover their ears.
During the ten-minute drive home, Ali put her feet up on the dash and stared out of the open window, the cool spring air feeling marvelous on her face. Brian was fiddling with the very expensive sound system that was his Christmas present last year.
“So, did you invite Ryan to Vinyl tonight?” Brian asked, finally finding a station that he was happy with. Ali snorted in response. “You two are fighting again, aren’t you?” He asked.
“You could say that.” Ali replied, still looking out of the window.
“Same old same old, he wants me to go to CU Boulder with him.”
“Still bent on getting out of this town huh?”
“Getting out of this state, Brian. I don’t belong here. It drives me crazy.”
“You do realize that there will be many Sarah Dowerys no matter where you go, right?”
Ali sighed. “I just…need a change. Besides, I already got accepted to NYU. No way would I pass up that opportunity.” Brian was silent. Ali hung her head. “I’m sorry, I know you don’t like me to bring it up, but it’s going to happen, Brian, we can’t just avoid it because then it’ll hurt all the more when it finally happens. And it’s not like I’m leaving forever.” Brian still didn’t answer.
Ali and Brian were inseparable. So, when Ali found out that she had a full-ride to NYU for Theatre and Brian would be going to an in-state school, he was crushed. Ali was bitter-sweet about it. She would miss her brother more than anything, but NYU had been her dream. She worked so hard, studied for countless months to get the grades and poured over audition pieces to get the scholarship.
“Let’s just drop it for now, please? It’ll spoil my mood for tonight.” Brian said.
“Okay.” Ali replied.
Brian pulled into the driveway of the two-story, average suburban house that the family lived in. The twins entered the house from the garage and into the laundry room. Their puppy, a 6-month-old black and brown speckled Great Dane named Max, bounded into the room and jumped straight up onto Brian, trying to lick his face. Brian laughed and pushed the huge dog away from him.
“Ali? Brian? Is that you guys?” Their mother’s voice rang from the kitchen. The twins moved through the house and pushed open the kitchen door to find their mother moving from the stove to the oven to the multiple counters filled with raw vegetables, cutting boards, and a crock pot. Lilly Hawk was a small woman, with a small waist and prominent curves. Her long, wavey, dirty blonde hair was pulled back into a messy braid and she had an apron tied around her waist over jeans and a colorful striped t-shirt.
“Hey, mom, what’s all this for?” Ali asked, taking over cutting the green onions that Lilly was trying to multitask with putting a roast beef into the crock pot.
“Your father has told his boss that he will host the employee party this weekend, which means I’m cooking.” On the surface, Lilly sounded frustrated, but in truth their mother loved to cook and took any job she could since her plans for her own restaurant fell through. She went to culinary school and had every opportunity to start her own business, but she couldn’t get enough publicity and it never worked. But she had found their father, Graham, shortly after and the two have been doing well for themselves.
“Are you two still going to Vinyl tonight?” Lilly asked.
“Yep.” Brian replied, dipping a piece of broccoli in some ranch and stuffing it in his mouth.
“Please do not stay out too late.” Their mother said, wiping ranch off of his mouth.
“We know mom.” Ali said, chuckling. “We’re picking up Gretchen at eight.”
Just then they heard the garage door open and their father’s footsteps walking toward the kitchen. Max barked excitedly and bounded out of the kitchen. Graham’s booming voice floated to the kitchen, getting closer.
“Max no! Ahh get off, you huge mutt!” Graham yelled and stumbled into the kitchen. “Brian, get your dog off me!” He laughed.
Brian cracked up and grabbed Max by the collar, dragging his drooling mouth away from their father’s three-piece suit. Lilly, Ali, and Brian were doubled over with laughter.
“Oh…that’s great, that’s just great.” Graham said, chuckling and wiping drool off of his coat. He reached over and wiped it on Ali’s cheek. “Yummmmay!” Graham said.
Ali squealed and mopped the drool off her face. “Dad, that was so gross!!” She yelled.
“He’s your dog.” Graham replied.
“Correction: he’s my dog.” Brian said, sitting on the floor and rubbing Max’s upturned belly, the dog’s tongue lolling onto the floor.
“Correction: he’s both of ours dog.” Ali said, wiping Max’s drool off with a towel. Brian laughed and Lilly continued her bustling around the kitchen. Graham wrapped his arms around her and kissed her cheek and whispered thank you in her ear. Ali watched and smiled, thinking how lucky her parents were, that after 23 years, they were still much in love.
Ali was just finishing putting on eyeliner when there was a knock on her bedroom door. “Come in!” She yelled over the music she had turned on. Brian opened the door and came dancing into her room. He had on a black, button down dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows and nice, dark blue jeans with black shoes on. He stood behind Ali and checked his hair in the mirror. “You look like a tool.” Ali said, smiling as she put on lip gloss
“You look like a skank.” Brian replied plopping down onto her bed and retying his shoes.
“I do not, ass.” Ali was wearing jeans, black combat boots, and a black top with silver sequins on it. She put in hoop earrings and fluffed her hair before grabbing her phone and stuffing it in her pocket. “Let’s go!”
The twins thundered down the stairs and into the living room where their parents were sitting on the couch watching House of Cards and drinking wine. Ali and Brian kissed each parent on the cheek and headed out to the hippie van.
Brian had to honk three times before Gretchen opened the door to her house and stepped out. Gretchen and Ali had pretty much everything in common except one thing; Gretchen loved to dress up and tease men. She had on a one-sleeve, black dress that scrunched up around an artfully placed hole in the right side. She walked with the confidence of a woman who knew she was beautiful in spiked, bright red heels with studs lining the heel. Her bright red, freshly dyed hair was softly curled, and her earrings dangled to her thin shoulders. Ali rolled down her window and her and Brian whistled and catcalled as Gretchen smiled wide and walked down to the van. The twins twisted around in their chairs as Gretchen pulled the door closed when she sat down.
“Damn girl, someone’s about to get heartbroken.” Brian said.
“I think you look fabulous.” Ali said, smiling at her best friend.
“Thanks guys.” Gretchen replied. “Now come on, let’s go!”
The drive to Vinyl was about half an hour. Halfway into the drive, the highway turned into a stretch of two-lanes through rolling hills with no lights for miles. One lane of traffic traveled north, while the other traveled south.
“This road creeps me out.” Gretchen said quietly.
“Tell me about it.” Ali replied as a car passed them going the opposite direction. Ali shivered and turned the radio on.
Vinyl was Denver’s most happening dance club. Four floors of glass and loud, bumping music could be seen and heard for miles. The three of them danced and laughed with each other most of the night; Gretchen had turned down multiple men shamelessly. They left the club at a reasonable time with smiles on their faces, a successful night out putting all of them in high spirits.
“I already can’t wait to come back next week!” Gretchen said excitedly. “That was better than usual. Did the atmosphere seem louder and more vibrant to anyone else?”
“Yeah, I felt that too.” Ali replied, smiling as they got into the van.
The drive on the long stretch of dark road didn’t bother the three as much this time. Brian had turned the radio up and they were all talking and laughing.
About halfway down the stretch, a car that was driving in the opposite direction turned on their brights and Brian veered, shielding his eyes. Everything slowed down, and Ali saw how close their van was to the other car. Brian tried to swerve back into their lane, but the other car had twisted that way also. Ali brought her arms up in an instinctive protective pose and shut her eyes before everything went black.