The Border Between Us

twinsby Rachael Sterling

We didn’t make it easy on them. We could have cut our hair or pierced our bodies. Even dressing differently would have been enough for most people—for our parents, certainly. But we liked being indistinguishable. Two-of-a-kind. We liked hiding in broad daylight.

One of us cut to the front of the lunch line and Mr. Baker couldn’t be sure which had done it. By the time he decided to confront us, we had moved around one another too quickly for his eyes to follow—the red ball under the magician’s cups—and it was too late. One of us bit Marlene’s finger until it bled, but mother feared her punishment would land on the innocent one—feared the injustice would scar us. She settled on a gentle scolding instead, wrapping Marlene’s finger in gauze. One of us ran naked through old Mr. Carol’s backyard, and whether he saw us or not, he didn’t say a word.

When Mr. Carol dropped dead of a heart attack, we hid in our bedroom and peeked out the window at the coroner’s van that carted his body away. We showed sorrowful faces to our mother, but silently we were giddy. We hoped that it was us—our brazen jaunt, our young, lithe body, that did him in.

When we spied our new neighbor, the one our age, the one with deep-set eyes and the front tooth slightly askew, we held our breath. We gathered our courage and greeted him with our brightest smiles, the wattage doubled and blinding. He was no match for us.

When he asked one of us to the Halloween Carnival we knew we would both go. As the twins from The Shining, we split the date in two, one of us pretending to be the other. But he only kissed one of us. He only took one of us home in his beat up Mazda. And when one of us snuck out that night, climbing out through our bedroom window while the other pretended to be fast asleep—he only slept with one of us.

We were surprised to find that he asked for a password the following night, when the one of us who was thought to be asleep snuck into his bedroom. We were angry. But we were not surprised that we guessed the password correctly. We knew ourselves. We were predictable. If he noticed the brief hesitation before we spoke the word, we knew he’d ignore his suspicion. We knew he’d give in to us. We were irresistible. We relished the feeling of his hands on our body, tangled in our hair.

We waited. We were silent about what we had done. We knew it was only a matter of time. When one of us straddled the other of us in the middle of the night, pinning our arms to our sides, we didn’t struggle. We leaned into the tip of the knife at our cheek. The blade moved slowly, drawing a shallow line from ear to nose. We bit our tongue and felt our mouth fill with blood as the knife cut a border between us.

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