M A X
“I heard you, Mum. Decent potatoes, I heard you.”
“Feel them first, Max, I don’t want any soft ones,” Mum calls, her voice rising to reach me as I follow my sisters to the car. “Stay together!”
I shake my head, sliding into the driver’s seat. I roll my eyes in the rearview mirror at Alex, who breaks eye contact with me immediately. I couldn’t understand it- you’d have thought after everything we had been through, Alex and I would be closer than ever. It couldn’t be further from the truth.
The drive to the supermarket was tedious. Families and couples filled the roads, with nothing better to do but waste time ambling around aisles of food aimlessly. A pang of jealousy pools in my stomach when I spot a couple teasing one another by the bus stop, the man pulling the woman in close for a kiss.
“This isn’t awkward,” Frankie sighs sarcastically from beside me, her face resting on her fist as she gazes out of the window. “Are you two ever going to speak?”
I focus on the road, navigating the car towards the busy car park as I mutter beneath my breath.
“Frankie, please,” I hush her, squeezing my car into a tight gap. “Let’s just get the shit Mum wants and get home. Presley will be home tomorrow and you know how she frets.”
My sisters exchange a glance, and as usual I feel left out. Their twin telepathy was a real thing, and I often feel like I’ve missed part of a conversation when I’m around them.
“I’ll get the trolley,” Alex announces, moving away from the car. I rest against the door, waiting for her to return.
“She thinks you think she is a liar,” Frankie whispers, glancing at me over the roof of the car. I drop my head into my hands, groaning. “Do you?”
“I don’t,” I say stubbornly. “She’s my sister, I believe her.”
I just didn’t understand why Harry and Cain are so certain it wasn’t Andy that took us both. They found me in his house, for crying out loud. Photos of me were everywhere. I shudder, forcing a smile when Alex appears at the rear of the car with a small trolley.
“Who has the list?” I chirp, marching towards the supermarket.
My sisters follow me around the store, adding things into the trolley robotically. None of them speak, and I can’t get out of there fast enough. When we arrive home, Frankie hands the bags to Alex, turning to me.
“Can I have a word?”
Frankie’s eyes tell me this isn’t optional. My eyes sweep towards Alex who pivots on her heel, walking into the house with the carrier bags of food.
“Frankie, it’s not me that’s making this difficult,” I begin, as Frankie shakes her head.
“I know, Max. I don’t know how to say this, but I don’t know if I believe Alex.”
I slump against the car, my eyes widening with disbelief. I feel like Frankie has punched me in the stomach, her kohl-lined eyes closing as she takes a deep breath.
“I know she is my twin, but I can’t help but think she is lying.”
I blink with confusion, turning my head to the side to inhale deeply. This cut deep- first Cain, then Harry. Now Frankie?
“Alex wouldn’t lie, Frank.”
“Wouldn’t she? Listen, I love her. But I love you too, and you can’t remember anything. But it will come, and I don’t want you suffering even more if she is hiding something.”
Frankie scoops my hands into hers, her eyes darting around us as she leans forward.
“Do you really think Andy is capable of something like this?”
My eyes meet hers then, and she flushes beneath my gaze.
“You’ve been talking to him, haven’t you?” I breathe, my mind spinning. “Mum and dad will go fucking ape shit, Frank!” I groan, my stomach twisting with nerves.
“Answer my question, Max,” Frankie presses, her fingers gripping mine. My phone breaks the silence, and I tug out of my shorts.
CAIN: Please speak to me, Max.
Frankie searches my eyes, glancing down at my phone with a sad expression on her face.
“Are you not speaking to him because he believes Andy?” Frankie frowns as I shake my head.
“No, Cain is a good detective. I wouldn’t ever dispute that,” I mumble, locking the screen without replying. “But me and him aren’t right for one another. He slept with someone else when he was trying to convince me we were endgame.”
Frankie groans, tugging me into her arms.
“I went from having two guys on the go, to having one arrested by the other,” I joke, knowing it was only loosely true. Cain seemed to be the only one that had Andy’s back from the word go, which was strange considering how much he detested him. That made me believe that Andy was innocent in all of this. The problem was, Alex maintained that Andy had taken her, making me choose my family or my friends.
It was hard, but I would always choose my family.
“Please don’t tell anyone I’m speaking with Andy,” Frankie begs, and I nod slowly. I want to ask more questions about that, but I warn her to be extra careful.
“Frank, please be careful. I know the police released him on bail-”
“I believe him, Max,” Frankie says, her lips in a grim line. “But I won’t see him until this is all sorted. I promise.”
I’m not sure how to feel, considering only a few weeks ago I was exploring Andy’s mouth with my own. But Alex’s own twin was now sure Andy was innocent. I remain silent, following Frankie up the stairs and into the carnage that is my anxious mother’s house.
“Presley likes pigs in blankets,” Mum trills, her eyes wide. “Did you get them?”
“Yes mum, jeez. It’s hardly Christmas,” Alex flops down onto the sofa, her eyes trained on the television. I sit opposite her, noticing her tense up as I did.
“Married at first sight?” I scoff, pulling my slipper socks on from beside the sofa. Since the accident we had all been staying at my parents’ house, which was a recipe for disaster. Alex and Frankie shared a bed, and I had Frankie’s room. Presley would be back tomorrow, and he would get his own room back.
“Yeah,” says Alex, her voice barely audible.
“How have you been about it all?” I ask, checking no one was going to interrupt us. Dad was in the garden, his haven since having four grown ass women in his home. Mum was frantically chopping vegetables and mumbling about a trifle.
“I recall hardly anything,” Alex mumbles, tucking her legs beneath her defensively. Her hair hung limply by her face, her cheeks hollow. She didn’t look well physically, but the doctor declared her fit to return home. “You know how that is.”
“But my memory will return,” I remind her, my voice gentle. “When it does, I’ll be making a statement, hopefully in Andy’s defense.”
Alex closes her eyes, shaking her head.
“Whatever, Max. The man is a psychopath.”
“Why would he focus on you though, Alex? Way before he met me, hmm?” I focus on the television, noticing her hands tremble. “Seems odd, no?”
“Not really,” Alex swallows, tossing the remote onto the sofa as she stands up abruptly. “I’m going to bed.”
She pushes past my dad, who is stomping the grass from his boots at the foot of the stairs. Mum fusses over him, telling him off as I gaze after my sister. My dad frowns, watching Alex disappear up the stairs.
“What is it with you two?” he heaves a sigh, shaking his head sadly. “I don’t understand why you can’t just get along.”
I slip my phone out of my pocket, scrolling to Harry’s number. My fingers tremble as I type the hardest text out I’ve ever sent.
MAX: I think my sister is lying.
Seconds later, my phone lights up with a reply. My heart is thudding as I open the message, my breath hitching in my throat.
HARRY: So do we.