isn’t it funny how people who never thought to care
decide to rant about why you never told them
when it wasn’t like they ever tried
because they were really the entire problem
When my father walked out the first time, my mother cried—bitterly. As I knelt in front of her bedroom door, not really understanding what had happened, I listened for her muffled sobs. I counted each one as I stared at the second hand of the watch on my hand.
I needed to tell Dad how many times he had to apologize. It wasn’t the first time he had made her cry. Ever so often, a tear would slip down her cheek when we watched TV together. Whenever I asked why she was crying, she would just shake her head and smile.
Dad didn’t come back on those days but when he eventually did he always asked me if he made her cry and in the end he would make it up to her with a gesture so grand it made the news.
The last time, he bought her an island. She had cried for an hour and I counted fifteen-and-a-half sobs.
The day he left for good, only ten islands could make up for it.
I stayed there, my head pressed against her bedroom door, until everything went quiet and I was sure that she was asleep.
That day had been my birthday. I had worn a pretty pink gown that day because Mother said it would make Dad smile and be happy and stay with us forever. She said he wouldn’t spend months at work anymore and we would have dinner together.
He did, smile I mean. He wasn’t happy though, I could tell that much. He also cried when he saw me and pulled me close to his chest while stroking my hair lovingly. He didn’t stay, he left that day. I thought he wouldn’t come back but he did.
A Saturday ten months later, he stood at our door in a rumpled business suit with a bottle of Whiskey in his hand.
I understood now that they had been mourning somebody that I didn’t remember—An older sister I should have had—but they had done so in different ways. While Father ran away from it, Mother tried to give me double her love until she couldn’t anymore. I didn’t know why I didn’t know who she was. My memories stretched to times when I couldn’t yet walk but I couldn’t remember the person I had been named after.
Since Mother said that we were born together, she had to be my twin, the first Olive. She wasn’t here anymore and I knew that it was my fault. It had to be.
I was the reason Mother hated me. I was the reason Dad left. I took their daughter away from them and I can’t even remember why or how.
I wonder what she was like.
Did we look alike?
Now I know that the small dresses in my wardrobe belonged to her. We must have shared the room together. Maybe the reason Mother never entered this room was because she didn’t want to remember Olive. . . Or me.
I knew why she named me—us—Olive.
I remember. . .
She told me when I was younger. She married Dad without loving him, but after she gave birth she decided that she was going to be as good a wife and mother as possible. Having her first child named Olive was the equivalent of extending an olive branch to my Dad and asking for a fresh start.
I was supposed to mean peace but I ruined it.
Something must have happened to my sister before our seventh birthday. It made Mother not want to start over again, and Dad left.
Now she was getting married and she didn’t care what happened to me anymore. She didn’t even want to punish me for what I did—for what I had done.
I knew I deserved it but it hurt to think that she was through with me. After I turned eighteen, she didn’t want to see me again. That enough was clear. What was I going to do? How was I going to live?
I woke up without remembering falling asleep. I knew immediately that I had had a nightmare but what had once been vivid details slipped from my mind the moment I opened my eyes.
I stared into the darkness surrounding me, aware of the softness of a mattress I knew to be mine beneath me.
What am I doing here?
I hurried to get off the bed, not willing to taint it with my sad memories. It was the only thing I had left. I couldn’t ruin it too.
A hand settled on my shoulder and held me in place. My first thought was to struggle but instead my body froze.
I panicked, not able to breathe. No one ever entered my room. Who could have—?
“You are finally awake.”
On hearing my father’s voice, I felt my traitorous muscles relax. I settled myself and turned my head in his direction. “Dad. . . What are you doing here?”
“Your mother left, so I came in to check up on you.”
The lights came on. I raised a hand to shield my eyes from the blinding glare only to stare at the new, cleaner bandages wrapped around it. “Did you?”
I couldn’t imagine why he would bother but he was the only one around to do it.
“You cut yourself on the mirror inn the bathroom. The shards, I mean,” he explained.
“Thank you.” I nodded and stared at him, taking in how his blonde hair looked less slick than how it was when I had seen it last. His talk with Mother seemed to have aged him by at least ten years.
Maybe that was why he left. Defending me all the time must be tiring, especially when he knew that I deserved it. After all, he still left me behind. And the one time he paid attention to me it had only been to pretend—
“Olly,” his quiet voice interrupted my thoughts. “Come home with me.”
I blinked at him, not immediately understanding what he meant. Was he really asking what I thought he was? Finally? Or was it all a trick? Extending a hand only to pull it back last second?
“I mean, I would have to get the paperwork done so it’ll have to be next Saturday,” he amended his statement before I could answer. “But would you like to?”
I looked down at the white bandages wrapped expertly around my fingers. Why was he so good at wrapping hands? How many times hadn’t he been there to hold mine? Why now?
I didn’t know the answer to any of these, so I asked him. “Why?”
Is it just because you don’t want the press to know that I’m going to be on the streets soon or because you have always wanted me and Mother didn’t let you have me?
“What do you mean?” he asked back.
Is it because I’m soon going to be an adult? Is it all so that you can leave me in a house alone? Is it so that Stephanie doesn’t think that you would be a cruel father to her children?
“I heard what you and Mother talked about,” was what left my lips instead. I said it easily as though the trepidation I had experienced while eavesdropping had never existed; as though I had just done it on a whim.
It didn’t matter anyway. It was out there now. Dad wouldn’t tell Mother what I had done and he wouldn’t punish me for it.
I might get answers.
“Which part did you hear?” he asked, hesitation slithering between each syllable.
“Only the part about the firs. . .other Olive,” I answered, not really knowing why I lied. Maybe I didn’t want him to feel like I had heard something private. Maybe I didn’t want him to know that I had heard it all. Maybe I was scared of what his reaction would be so I was trying to minimize the damage.
I didn’t know.
“Oh,” he said, then buried his head in his hands. “That part.”
“Why don’t I remember that I had a twin?”
“Olly, please don’t,” he lifted his head to look at me. His eyes filled with a breed of desperation I had never seen before. “This isn’t the time.”
“I want to know more about her.”
“Another time, Olly.”
“Dad, I just want to know. . .”
He got to his feet. I didn’t wait for whatever he wanted to say. I couldn’t. I had to know.
“Did I . . . kill her?”