Twins

We’d never thought much about being twins, any more than we thought about having two legs each; but lately when we looked in the mirror together, we were checking to make sure we were still the same.

We leaned our heads against each other, our hair so much the same colour you couldn’t tell where mine ended and his began. Still the same height. I couldn’t bear to think that he’d be taller than me one day. Like if your legs stopped being the same length. How long could we go on play-fighting as equals, before he had to hold back for fear of hurting me?

We scrutinised our bare chests, breathing in the same rhythm. Still identical. What would we do when mine sprouted breasts and his grew broad and hairy? How long would we be allowed to share a room? To be naked around each other? Would we even still want to? I couldn’t imagine what it would be like when we stopped feeling like one body, when we turned shy and shrank apart into two separate lumps of flesh. The thought was as lonely as death.

‘What’ll we do when we stop looking the same?’ I said, talking to his reflection.

‘We won’t.’ Simple as that.

‘Yes we will.’

‘Viola and Sebastian didn’t.’

I turned from the mirror and looked straight into his eyes – my own eyes, but so much more intense. He thought he could make the world the way he wanted it by pure willpower. I wouldn’t become a woman, and he wouldn’t become a man, because he didn’t want us to. I held his shoulders. ‘That’s just a story,’ I said, sounding like our mother. ‘It’s not really going to be like that. We have to get used to it.’

‘No we don’t. Never.’ He didn’t raise his voice, or tear up, or anything. He just stared at me without blinking.

I had no doubt that he could go on saying never forever. He’d say never when his voice was as deep as our father’s. If he didn’t want to get used to it, he just wouldn’t, ever, no matter how much it hurt.

I’d always thought of him as the strong one. Now it struck me that the difference between him and me was the difference between ice and water. He was so much harder, and so much more breakable.

The older we got, the more I was going to have to be strong for him.

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