Hi reader! Just wanted to write a quick disclaimer before you start reading. This book is written by a British girl with a love for America. Having been there and family living in California I know quite a bit about the country but I'm sure there will be errors that I make.
You may or may not know but us brits love a phrase so I'm sure I'll use one that an American definitely wouldn't say. Same with American spelling. Please leave a comment if I make a mistake and I'll go back and change it.
I love reading your comments and encourage constructive criticism but I don't tolerate nasty comments to another reader. Be warned if I see them I will delete them!
Apart from that I really hope you love this story as much as I do! Enjoy!
I hated the looks of pity on people's faces when they saw me. The harsh whispers behind hands as I walk past, the meaningless I'm sorry for your loss that was like a broken record.
I've always been known as the shy, polite girl. The, I hate being centre of attention girl. The girl that always smiled even if the person on the receiving end didn't deserve it.
But, if there was one positive to this god-awful never-ending nightmare of a day, it was that I wasn't expected to be anything but a devoid of emotion carcass. I had an excuse to avoid talking to everyone here and no one expected me to smile.
A part of me felt bad for letting my Gran do all the greeting. Thanking those that went to the small effort of putting on a black outfit and getting a front seat ticket to the tragic show that had been in all the papers. They wanted to ogle at the girl who lived, more so than remembering those that didn't.
Gran was braver than I was. She had the courage and strength to go up in front of everyone and speak. I could barely utter a word yet she had been able to come up with something beautiful to say.
As she spoke my eyes were focused on what was behind her. I couldn't stop staring at them. The three ugly black coffins. This was wrong, it was all wrong. I felt like I was in a nightmare that I couldn't wake up from.
My attention fell back on Gran as she looked at me with disgust. In fact, as I turned around in my seat, I noticed everyone was focused on me as if I were some kind of murderer.
'You don't belong here.' Gran boomed in an unfamiliar voice.
'Get out! Get out!'
I jolted awake in my seat and took a few deep gulps of breath.
'Ma'am are you ok?' I felt a gentle hand on my arm belonging to a concerned flight attendant. 'Would you like some water?'
I glanced around the cabin and thankfully I hadn't woken anyone else up. I hadn't even realised I'd fallen asleep, the movie I'd mostly had on as background noise was now rolling the credits.
'I'm fine thank you.' I said curtly.
She nodded sympathetically and walked away.
It's been just over three weeks since the funeral. Yes, that's right it wasn't a nightmare. Ok maybe the ending was a bit dramatic, my grandma didn't accuse me of being an imposter at my family's funeral but that's what it felt like. As if I'd somehow cheated death, like I didn't deserve to be there.
When the plane landed a staff member who's name I forgot as soon as she said it escorted me through the airport. This is what it's been like since the accident. Constant supervision, treating me like a child as if they thought I was going to do something stupid. I wanted to roll my eyes, throw a hissy fit and tell them to stop treating me like some kind of precious china doll but there was no use. No one cared what I thought. If they did, I wouldn't be here.
I finally managed to get rid of my escort once I'd collected my bags and was heading through arrivals. After telling her I wasn't incapable of finding a board with my name on it she rolled her eyes and left me.
I walked through the doors and stared out at a sea of people, their eyes pushing past me to connect with their loved ones. A crowd of mixed emotions waiting together behind the metal bars separating them from the arrivals doors. The fluorescent lights and high volume of clashing conversations felt harsh against my jet lagged self. I'd spent 11 hours stuck in a metal tube cruising across the Atlantic Ocean and now my muscles groaned at being rushed through an unfamiliar airport by the people at my back.
I scanned over the bobble heads looking for the one vaguely familiar person that would be waiting for me. I allowed the continuous flow of people behind me to carry me forward, giving me a different view of the awaiting crowd and pulling into view the tall blonde lady who's piecing green eyes connected to my blue ones. Taking a deep breath and plastering on a fake smile that was now a familiar action over the last couple of weeks, I diverted over to where she was standing much to the annoyance of those rushing in the opposite direction.
"Evie, sweetheart!" The lady swept me up in a bone crushing hug then pushed me away holding me at arms length. Her eyes scanned me immediately making me feel self-conscious as even though I haven't looked in a mirror in weeks I couldn't possibly kid myself that I looked good right now.
"Look at you! Gosh I think it's been, what? 5 years since I last saw you. Look how much you've grown! You're gorgeous." Lindsay said in a strong American accent whilst looking me up and down.
I knew she'd been at the funeral; Gran had mentioned it at some point in the day but at that time I hadn't cared to meet her. At that time I didn't want to think about who I was being gifted to. Maybe that's why Lindsay didn't mention it.
"So how was the flight?" With one arm around my shoulders and the other dragging my suitcase along she pulled me away from the crowd and towards the exit.
A wave of warm dusty air washed over me and my dry tired eyes squinted in the bright midday sun. At least I think that's what the time was here. My body clock was currently telling me it's the middle of the night which means nap time. I pulled my sunglasses out of my pocket and instantly felt some relief when I covered my eyes.
"It was long but it was fine. Thanks again for picking me up, I really didn't mind getting a taxi."
"Don't be silly hunny, like I would let you get a cab in an unfamiliar city. Besides I wanted to be here to personally greet you." Giving me a pearly white smile, she squeezed my shoulder and led me to a sleek black Range Rover.
"Come on let's get you home."
The word home flipped my already queasy travel-sick stomach. Home should've been where I'd just come from but being there just brought back too many painful memories. Where I was now seemed everything but the comforting nostalgic place like home. Here was scary, here was unfamiliar but here was my foreseeable future. Or at least that was what the child custody lady said.
You must be confused, flipping back the pages wondering if there's a part missing. Well yes, you're right. I'm being very mysterious but your confusion over my story is giving you insight into how lost I myself feel right now. I suppose I should let you into my downfall though, my tragic catalyst for everything that's going to follow. I don't want you to feel sorry for me though. No, I just want you to know that the wall flower has just been thrown into an exhibition with people crowding around her with a nail and hammer trying to jack open her head. Here we go though. The prologue...
"Yum what are we having?" Distracted by the tv I left my bowl unattended too long allowing a pair of thieving hands to scoop up my breakfast.
"I'm having Cheerios. You can go to the kitchen and get your own piggy." I say whilst trying and failing to get my bowl back.
"No, I'm good, I like eating yours." Nora said snatching the spoon out of my limp hand.
"No fair, give it back." Again, I was unsuccessful and ended up swatting the air.
"What's not fair is that you constantly make food and don't get me anything. I mean we're twins for Christ sake haven't you realised by now that when you're hungry I'm hungry. We're connected that way. You're eating for two."
"Nora you're hungry all the time and that's not how the twin thing works." I say whilst looking at the near mirror image of myself.
"Erm yeah it is, don't you listen in science?' She muffled through a mouth full of food.
"Nice." I say in disgust. "And yes, I do listen which is how I know you're getting us confused with a pregnant lady."
Ignoring me she turned to lay her slender body on the sofa whilst hoovering up the rest of my Cheerios. For someone who eats constantly, Nora was blessed with a strong metabolism or she just puts on weight in the places she wants curves. Nora was beautiful in ways that she knew. Yes, we're twins but I swear she pulls off our features in a way that makes her sparkle amongst others. Whereas I just shrink back and aim to blend in.
She flaunts her figure and I hide mine under jeans and baggy tops.
Before I could argue more the goddess that is our mother floated into the lounge.
"Morning darlings. Did you sleep well?" Anastasia kissed each daughter on the cheek with a waft of her expensive perfume.
"I would've if someone hadn't been on the phone to her boyfriend for half the night." I growl at the bundle of limbs on the sofa.
"Hey! Don't pretend you weren't drawing until the early hours of the morning."
"You two." Anastasia tuts. "I'd love it if for five minutes you wouldn't bicker."
"What can we say it's a twin thing. It shows we love each other." Nora pushed herself up on the sofa and blew me a kiss, which I pretended to dodge. Sticking her tongue out she flopped back down on the sofa.
"Ok so I want you both to promise me you'll be ready and waiting by the front door at 7pm tonight." Anastasia ordered whilst focusing her attention on me.
"You're addressing both of us but why do I feel like that was aimed at me?' I grumbled
"Because you have a history of trying to get out of these events."
"Look I'm just not a fan of these kind of social thingies."
"You're not of fan of social events in general. If you could spend your whole life in your bedroom listening to fall out boy, I think you would." Nora sniggered.
"Just because I'm selective of who I spend my time with doesn't mean I don't socialise."
"Really? Could've fooled me." She said ducking to miss the pillow I threw at her.
"Now now children. Promise me Evelyn that you'll be dressed and ready at 7pm."
"And by dressed she means in normal clothes not your weird hipster outfits."
It was an order; one I knew I couldn't get out off. It was an important night for dad and I would be in big trouble if I wasn't there.
"Fine I promise I'll be ready but that doesn't mean I'm going to be happy about it."
"Thank you darling." Mum said squeezing my hand in support.
She knows I hate these kinds of things. Most girls would love getting dressed up and going to a ball but it was not for me, Nora got all of those girly qualities. Socially awkward is my definition but even that won't get me out of this so I was going to have to grin and bear the whole ordeal.
Unfortunately for me 7pm sprung up quicker on me than a jack in the box.
"You look beautiful girls" Dad said looking lovingly at his daughters. Nora did in fact look stunning in a floor length red dress that complimented her long dark hair and striking blue eyes. I however felt like a child playing dress up. My heels were already killing my feet and I couldn't wait to wash the more than usual makeup off my face.
It's the next sentence that I wish had never come out of my father's mouth. I pray that I could go back to this night and have a childish tantrum that meant we didn't leave the house. Or my dad for some reason deciding against his political obligation and instead we went to the Chinese restaurant down the road that we went to on special occasions. I go back to this moment everyday wishing this had gone differently but no matter how hard I try the same future still pans out.
"Come on then, let's get going."
We all climbed into the car that unusually cold September evening, me burrowing down further into my jacket to keep the cold air off of my skin. Dad sat in the front with his driver and his three girls in the back.
I rarely get a moment by myself anymore but when I do, I think about fate. It's fascinating to think about how life works sometimes. How cruel and unexpected the universe can be. I wonder if for some reason we had been late, delayed by a few minutes would the same fate play out?
I didn't know getting into the car that night that I was experiencing my last moments with my parents, that my soul sister was about to be ripped away from me. I was about to be part of a tragedy that left a 16-year-old girl an orphan and only child....