Luke’s mother set me up a mattress in Luke’s bedroom. Luke held my hand tightly as we both sat beside each other on his bed. She then left us both by ourselves for some peace. I was still quite emotional, and my chest had tightened up a lot. My eyes had puffed up red, as well as my face, and I was sore and sick. I didn’t want to go to trial tomorrow and meet my unknown father and go against both of my parents, even though I always wanted to know the truth from day one. I still didn’t understand how I never knew about Angelica.
“Mildred, do you need eye drops or anything for the swelling?” Luke asked.
“No, I’ll be ... fine,” I mumbled.
“I feel very sorry for you. Did you know anything about Angelica apart from the incident this morning at school?”
“I didn’t know until I met her. Can you not tell I am depressed...? Anxious, sad, and scared?”
“I can see all of those emotions in you, including many more. You’re part of our family until tomorrow when we find out if we can adopt you.”
“You don’t understand. You’re the only one I trust in this world. I don’t want my parents to take me in again. I want to find out why I got separated from Angelica, and when.”
“You will find it all out tomorrow. If you want, I can be your spokesperson tomorrow, so you don’t have to do anything.”
I began crying again. Luke wrapped his arms around me. I felt a tear drop from his face. He was crying too. Why did I have to make everyone else upset? I didn’t mean for Luke to start bawling his eyes out. Mrs Hostile came into the room to find us both crying.
“Are you two all right? Can I get you anything?”
“No, Mum, we’re fine,” Luke said.
“Are you sure? You don’t look fine to me. You both look pale and sick.”
“Okay, you can get us something then,” he answered, wiping his eyes.
“Do you want my warm hearty soup?”
“Okay, as long as it takes away our pains.”
“I’ll do the best I can. Just grab some tissues for Mildred, would you?” she said.
Mrs Hostile left the room, and Luke fetched a box of tissues for me. I didn’t feel like eating soup at this time. However, if Luke was having it, I would too. You never knew, it might take away my pain. I didn’t know if I had ever eaten soup before; I wasn’t sure I knew what it was. My stomach rumbled.
I couldn’t believe Mrs Coulby thought Luke was a troublemaker. I hadn’t seen him do anything troublesome. Mrs Hostile came into the room with the soup. It smelled delicious and looked like watery juice. I took a little taste and licked my lips, smiling. It was a little sweet, and I could taste carrots, tomatoes, potato, celery, and many other vegetables. My tears disappeared in minutes, and my face returned to normal. After I had sipped all the soup up with my spoon, I felt much better, both physically and emotionally. I thanked Mrs Hostile dearly for her wonderful, warm hearty soup as she left the room.
“Luke, your mum’s an excellent cook. I don’t think I have ever eaten soup like this before.”
“Glad you like it. And the good thing is, you’re not crying anymore, so we can go and do something together.”
“Before we do that, I need to tell you something.”
“What do you need to tell me?”
“This might sound quite strange, but I love you. If I don’t get adopted by your family tomorrow, can you promise to be my boyfriend forever?”
“I suppose so. Is that the reason you kissed me earlier today?”
“It was the only reason. I don’t know why people call you a troublemaker at school, because you are one of the nicest guys I have ever met. From day one when you let me sit next to you on the school bus until now. I wouldn’t have survived my first days here if it wasn’t for you.”
Luke blushed a little and thanked me. I couldn’t believe we were going to be together for the rest of our lives. If I didn’t get adopted tomorrow, I could marry him. Otherwise, he was going to become my stepbrother, and I would have to marry someone else. I’d have to stick up for my parents tomorrow, or I’d never be able to marry him. But what if he didn’t want to marry me? If I got adopted, he’d always be related to me. It was all so confusing. Whose side should I take?
The next morning we were all up at six o’clock sharp. I took a shower after Luke and went downstairs for breakfast. I had never been to Luke’s kitchen before, so I was amazed when I saw it. The kitchen was the most magnificent kitchen that I had ever seen. There were pots of flowers and other indoor plants lining the huge glass windows. The tiles on the floor and on the wall sparkled, as if they were just polished. A huge metallic outdoor oven lay in the centre of the room with a huge overlaying of pots and pans hanging above on string and hooks. Shelves were ordered with appliances and food. There was simply nothing out of place.
I sat down at the table as Mrs. Hostile served me some toast. I was so not ready for today. I was fidgety in my seat as I ate as I thought about the trial. I felt like a rock. Or maybe I was as tense as a brick. My face was burning hot when I touched it. I didn’t want to be the centre of attention.
“Are you all right, Mil?” Luke asked next to me.
“Yes. I’m so nervous. Why did it have to be me who lost her sister and had cruel parents?”
“Think on the bright side: you’ll have all of your childhood questions that you ever had answered.”
“But that’s not the point.”
“What is the point then?”
“Who is my father?”
Luke stopped eating his last bits of toast for a while and looked at me. Did he think I was going crazy again? I wasn’t. How could everything be so hard? Why couldn’t people just walk in my shoes for one day and know how I felt.
“Mildred and Luke, we’re going now,” called Mrs Hostile.
I followed the three of them out the door to the car and stopped.
“Mildred, come on,” Luke said, trying to pull me softly to the car as I was hesitant to move.
“I can’t come.”
“What do you mean you can’t come? I’ll pull you into the car.”
Before I could say another word, I was in the car. I had butterflies in my stomach and I was still as tense as I was at breakfast. I felt like crying, but I knew that it wouldn’t make things any better than they were so I didn’t. We drove to the courthouse without a word.
Police commissioners welcomed us when we stepped out of the car. They then led us to the courtroom, which looked like a Parliament building. We sat opposite an unfamiliar man and my mother, a table separating both parties from the middle of the court room. That could be my father as he was sitting next to my mother? He looked drunk and silly as he was dressed in rags and his hair was all over the place. One of the female judges stood up from her chair to start.
“Welcome everyone to the court case discovery of the lost twins Angelica and Mildred Shortstreet. Before I go on, I would like any witnesses in the audience or anyone who had anything to do with one of these twins to come forward and take a seat in the middle.”
Mr Burns, a man, a nurse, and a doctor sat down at the middle table.
“Thank you. Today, we will come together and explain what led to Angelica’s death and the splitting of the two twins. No one will speak unless I tell them to. You are to remain silent and listen. Whoever can come up with the final answers of this trial will take Mildred. Witnesses won’t be included in this part of the case. Mildred will also remain seated at the front and will have the power to tell her side of the story whenever something doesn’t make sense to her. I would now like to pass onto my fellow judge to start the questioning.”
Another judge stood up.
“To begin this case, will Mildred Shortstreet please come forward? If anyone is opposed to this, please stand and say ‘I.’”
No one opposed. Butterflies filled my stomach. Luke gave me a little nudge, and I walked up to the judges and took a seat.
“Could I get someone from the Police Commissioning team to please come forward for the first part of this case to ask Mildred questions?”
A tall policeman came up towards me and sat down opposite me.
“I’m Bob, and I will start by asking you: when was the first time you heard about Angelica?”
“A couple of days ago.”
“And how did you find out about her?” he asked.
“Through my conscience.”
“Could someone with evidence to this please come forward?”
“I have a recording, Sir,” Luke shouted, as he stood up.
“What type, young man?” the judge asked.
“It’s my mind-reading machine. A little bit of technology my grandfather helped me make. He was a science genius, but no one ever believed him and his theories. We made it a couple of months before he passed away of cancer.”
“Never heard of such a thing. Sorry for your loss. He must be proud. How does it work?”
“Thanks. You place some things onto a person’s head, and whatever they are thinking turns up onto a screen that is plugged into the machine.”
“Okay, bring it up here, young man.”
Luke brought the recording from the other day.
“Thank you, young man. What is your name, may I ask?”
“Luke Hostile, Sir.”
“Thank you, Luke. Please return to your seat now.”
Luke made his way back down to his seat beside me.
“You will be fine,” he whispered in my ear.
The judge pushed Luke’s recording into the cassette on the bench and pressed play. I couldn’t believe it. The conversation that I had in Luke’s room the other day with Angelica was playing exactly word for word.
The first judge stood up and banged down the gavel again.
“Mr and Mrs Shortstreet, did your daughters ever have something weird about them? This is a new type of science which has never been seen before. How much time did you spend with them?”
“That was John’s job, but he never did it,” snapped Tina.
“Judge, she’s lying. Tina had them, and she did nothing,” John replied.
“So, you are both telling me you never took care of your twins? When did you split up and why?”
“We were sick of each other. We split up last week,” answered my father.
“Anyone opposed to this, please stand.”
I stood up.
“Sir, I never have known my father. I never knew what he looked like.”
“Do you have any evidence of this, Mildred?”
“No, I don’t, but it’s true. I woke up one morning, and I had forgotten everything. I couldn’t remember what happened the day before and how old I was.”
“John and Tina, did you ever give your children drugs when they split to forget everything?”
The room was silent. A countless set of eyes focused on myself, the judge and my parents.
“We had to. They wouldn’t shut up, and they were bound to tell someone,” explained John.
I began crying. I began sinking back into my chair. My parents gave us drugs? It didn’t make any sense.
Just as the judge moved her hand to bang the gavel again, an oldish man in the witness team stood up with a booklet of paper.
“Sir, I am Mr Humble, and I was Angelica and Mildred’s Kindy principal. Mildred probably can’t remember me because she has been brainwashed. In this booklet I bring forward to you today is what Mildred wrote on her first day of Kindy. It talks about the cruelty of her parents and what life was like at home. Those two girls were smarter than tenth graders.”
The trial was postponed for half an hour while the judge read the pages I apparently wrote. I didn’t remember Mr Humble or kindergarten. What was going on? I didn’t understand. Mr Burns also stood up to say a few words. He was also sentenced for six month’s jail after he spoke. The doctor and nurse, Brandon and Natalie, who had looked after Angelica when she was sick, stood up and told the court how she talked crazily every day about her conscience and her father. Then, my father stood up with a book called Consequences for a Little Lost Girl.
“John, will you please reveal your book to the court and explain the significance of why it relates to your child, Angelica?”
“I received this book two days after Angelica and Mildred went to Kindy. I was surprised by what it said. It will tell you all of the answers to why Angelica’s death has taken place. It haunts me to read this to you all, but it should be a lesson to you all.” John paused for a second and then opened the pages of the book.
“On the first day of Kindy, Mildred and Angelica were sent to the naughty corner because Angelica wasn’t feeling well. Without anyone knowing, Angelica stole a book similar to this one I am holding displaying the words ‘Do Not Open’ on the cover. She took it home and returned it the next day after reading the first page, which read ‘Your parents will break up, and you will die at a young age.’ Tina and I split up on the twins’ tenth birthday and took the twins, giving them powerful drugs. Angelica died of pancreatic cancer in Mildred’s arms as they were trying to find each other through their thoughts. This was all Angelica’s fault.”
I stood up and ran outside as I began to bawl. Luke followed me out. How could Angelica not have told me about this book? I could have prevented this if only Angelica had told me the truth. Thanks a lot, Dad and Mum for sending us to Kindy, where Angelica found the book. How could Angelica not have trusted me? I was her twin sister. I wouldn’t have told anyone.
“Mildred, you have to come back inside to finish the trial.”
“No, Luke, it’s over. Can you not tell? I’m not having a funeral for someone who didn’t tell me every little secret she had. This was all a big waste of time. Thanks to her and my parents, I will never be me again. I don’t know whether you understand me or not, but I am sick and tired of all of this. I want to live by myself and hide. I don’t want anything to do with anyone. I would rather die. I’m finished. Please leave me alone.”
Luke was crying too and dragged me back inside.
“This case is now closed. The Hostiles will adopt Mildred. Tina and John Shortstreet, you will be sentenced for life,” the judge called, slamming down the gavel for the final time.
Mr Hostile picked me up and took me to his car. Why did he have to do that? I wasn’t a baby.
“Mildred, are you happy you are part of our family now?” asked Mrs Hostile.
I didn’t answer. I was pissed. As I had said earlier, I wanted to be left alone.
“Are you all right? Is there something you want to tell us?” asked Mrs Hostile.
“Well, then why didn’t you answer me?”
“Look, I cannot answer you. Can I please at least have some privacy when I get out of this car?” I answered with a surprised, but angry voice.
“Sure. At home, you can take the spare room if you are not happy sleeping with your stepbrother. Would you like that?”
“Thinking of brothers and how annoying they can be sometimes, yes, I will take the spare room.”
“Did you need anything from your old house to be put in your new room?”
“I never owned anything,” I said.
The car was silent for the rest of the way home. Luke and I held hands the whole way back. I immediately got out of the car as soon as it stopped and ran up to the spare room Luke had showed me the first day I came to his house. I slammed the door behind me. The empty room had one small window, an enclosed shelf, and a wardrobe. I needed a comfy bed or couch so I could lie down and be comfortable. I opened the closet to see if anything was inside.
“Oh my goodness me!” I screamed.
Inside was the most adorable knee-length blue dress I had ever seen. I took it out and tried it on to see if it fit me. It was a perfect fit and matched me perfectly. Pity there wasn’t a mirror in here to look at myself.
Luke knocked on the door. “Are you all right? I heard you scream.”
Luke opened the door without a second warning. I quickly sat on the floor in the corner of the room and covered myself up.
“What are you wearing?”
“Clothes. What are you wearing?”
“Come on. Stand up and show me.”
“This is my house and you will do what I say.”
“It’s my house too.”
“Oh, you got me that time, Princess.”
“I know I did, Prince Charming. Could you please give me some privacy so I can change? Or I will strip in front of you.”
“I’d like that.”
I whacked Luke with my hand and kicked him out the door. I quickly undressed and hid the dress back in the wardrobe where no one would be able to find it.
“Are you finished?” Luke asked.
He walked back into the room and cocked his head.
“Where’s the dress?” he said.
“The one you were wearing before. It belonged to my sister.”
“Where is your sister now? Wouldn’t she have taken it?”
Luke sighed and sat down beside me on the floor.
“Now we are both even. We have both lost siblings. My sister was your height and passed away when she was six.”
I frowned. “I’m so sorry.”
“You don’t have to be. It wasn’t your fault. You know what? You have reminded me of my little sister ever since I met you.”
Luke showed me a photo of her. I didn’t look like her at all. Luke’s sister was so beautiful and cute wearing the dress I had just taken off. Her hair was in a bob which was thick and fluttery. She was slim like I was and had red, rosy cheeks. For a six year old who was my height now, she could have been classified as a young model as she had inherited the tall gene at a young age with long legs.
“You’re my sister now. I know you don’t look like her, but you act like her.”
“Oh, that’s so sweet.”
A tear ran down his face. I dried it with my fingers. I didn’t want him to feel like how I was feeling at the moment. I mean, I didn’t remember what had happened to me a week ago when my parents split up. They could have stayed together and Angelica would be still alive if she had told me about the blue book. All I wanted to know now was how Luke’s sister died and what her name was.
“What was her name?” I asked.
“Tayla Hostile. I don’t know why she died. One second she was choking, and before we knew it, she was on the floor. My parents tried CPR and everything. When the ambulance came to give her an electric shock, nothing happened. She was perfectly healthy, and there was nothing unusual in her body at all when the hospital did x-rays.”
Luke began to weep softly.
“Luke … I swear you can treat me like your little sister if you want. Pity we can’t marry each other.”
“Would you be able to wear that dress for me again? Our end of year dance is coming up for the grade fives, and I am sure everyone will be jealous,” he replied wiping away his tears.
I smiled. “If you want me to. Are we going to school tomorrow? I could be popular if people find out that I was a twin,” I answered quickly with joy.
“You are not going to be popular, I’ll tell you that.”
“It’s hard to explain. Everyone will soon find out we are brother and sister. They’re going to think we’re strange.”
“How do you know?”
“You’ll find out tomorrow. Wait and see,” he said.
We both stood up as Mr and Mrs Hostile brought a mattress, chair, and small, brown desk into my room.
“Mildred, you will sleep on this mattress until we buy you a bed. Is that all right with you?” asked my new mother.
“I’ll be fine. I’ve probably slept on the floor my whole life.”
“Will you two be fine by yourselves tonight? Make yourselves some tea and get ready for school tomorrow, and no mischief or leaving the house. Your father and I are going to Cathy’s house for dinner.”
“Who’s she?” asked Luke.
“A friend your father and I haven’t seen in a while. She doesn’t have any children, and she hates kids, so it’s best for you both not to come. She has always been a crazy woman. No one has ever understood her.”
We followed our parents down to the kitchen to say goodbye to them. This was the first time they both kissed me on the cheek. I felt loved. I had never experienced this from my biological parents. They never showed any love for me.
“Bye Mr and Mrs Hostile,” I called as they walked out.
“See you later, you two. And remember, no trouble. I don’t want anything to make my two babies depressed.”
“We’ll be fine, Mum. I’m sure Mildred doesn’t have anything on her mind,” Luke said.
As soon as we shut the front door, Luke looked at me.
“What, dude? You’re creeping me out.”
“Little sis, do you have anything on your mind?”
“Maybe. I don’t know. Do you have anything on your mind?”
“Popcorn and movies.”
I blinked and gave Luke an evil and confused stare. “Popcorn? What is that?”
“Popcorn is dried seeds from corn, and when you place them in the microwave, they pop and expand to create popcorn.”
“What silly little science experiment is that?”
He laughed. “It’s not a silly science experiment. You eat popcorn.”
“Well, can I have some then?”
Luke went to make popcorn, while I sat in the lounge room beside it. I smelled butter and salt from the kitchen. A warm and inviting smell that made myself instantly lick my lips and taste the air that had filled the room. I was indulged by this new smell and I knew eating popcorn would be better than smelling it.
When he came back, he showed me all the movies he had.
“Here, take some,” he said, offering me the bowl of popcorn.
I took a handful of popcorn. It was white and hard. I ate one piece. I smiled. It was surprisingly salty and enjoyable, just how it was advertised on the television commercials. I took some more and looked through all the movies.
Pirates of the Caribbean, Annie...
There were so many to choose from in his collection. He then showed me all the scary movies.
“You know what? Watching freaky movies are the best,” he said.
“Why is that? Are you trying to scare me or something?”
“Yes, maybe. Come on, have some fun.”
“But we have school tomorrow. I don’t want to be all tired,” I answered.
“You do have a good point there. Maybe on the weekend we can watch one, and we could go to bed after eating popcorn now.”
“That’s not dinner, that’s a snack,” I answered quickly.
We both ate popcorn and then went to bed. It wasn’t the greatest dinner I ever had, but apparently I used to drink water and share a loaf of bread with Angelica every day, according to the judge.