3.10.13 Fiction



NONE OF IT should have ever happened. It was an accident. Accidents happen. There should not have been a funeral, and the day of the funeral should have been a normal day. Bridget knew this early on, she remembers standing next to the freshly dug hole in the ground, chewing on the lace of her dress, and thinking about the fact that everything was wrong.

What happens at the start of a normal day? What is normal?

Bridget is always waking up under a mound of blankets – she likes them so heavy that they almost pin her down – knowing that she’s being watched before she can even open her eyes, knowing that the watching has not just started, that the watching has probably been going on for hours. This is a comforting thought for her. Ryan is stretched out like a cat across the pillows next to her, and he has been guarding her all night. He almost never sleeps. She is his most prized possession. Sometimes she hears him talking to her while she’s waking up, fluttering and pattering back into consciousness, re-entering her limbs, feeling her toes wriggle and twitch awake, her mouth trembling, then slackening. Sometimes, as he eyes her over the crisp line of a pillow, he reaches out and touches her cheek. Whispers the word, “Mine.”

Like many twins do, Bridget and Ryan start out life with a secret language. They teach each other to talk this way, new words bloom just for them every day like flowers bursting to life on their tongues. The language never seems to end – it goes on forever. It’s their own secret path, on a winding journey, rutted and hilly and beautiful awash in tangled whispers and imagination and unfamiliar syllables. They’re supposed to grow out of this, but they don’t.

Rori finds them sleeping together some mornings and yells. “You’re too old for this! Go back to your own beds!” They don’t show up in just Bee’s room. Once in a while it’s Ryan’s or Meghan’s. Sometimes they curl up beside Alex; first at the foot of her crib, then with their feet dragging limply under her toddler bed as she grows. After Michael is born, it’s back to the foot of his crib. Once Rori finds them tangled sleepily under the kitchen table. “There is absolutely no structure in their lives!” Bee and Ryan overhear, “It’s not good for them to go on like this!” Rori is a firm believer in structure and routine – meal time, bed time, clean up time, TV time, sometimes even play time. She spanks them when they talk in their language, presses their noses to the cool wall of the corner, separates them to their own rooms and flies into a temper when she hears whispering through the vents. She is certain that they are utterly impossible.

Robert, however, is sympathetic. He cannot resist them – they’re his golden haired, stormy eyed children, curly and dark and whimsical; they are his spitting image. The rest of the brood belongs to his wife, but these two are his. One set of feet does not pitter-patter without the other. The language is enthralling – they are geniuses, literary wonders. . . He cannot bear to scold them. Instead he tries to delve into their words, and write it all down in his stacks of leather bound bed time stories and heavy dialogue. But every time he seems about to catch on, is able to figure out a word or phrase, they shy away from him, reroute, make up something new. The change is as fluid as water, a whole new stream of syllables.

By then words are only for scary things – this is why he must not know. They are only for promises and comforts. For the storms, and fire, and musty carpet, and shuffling feet. You can say what’s burning up inside of you and no one has to know. Ryan can’t shut his eyes anymore unless Bridget is there. She strokes his back, now she guards him. They take shifts as though they are running. Sometimes Ryan still slips off on his own into the dark, out the front door, padding down the street. He has a duty to report to – “Don’t look. Promise not to watch.” A promise is a promise; Bee squeezes her eyes shut like her life depends on it. Later it’s her turn – Ryan teaches her to see when the dark is as thick and black as tar. When the night comes up to her waist. He sends her forth, and she doesn’t know where to go. She wanders aimlessly like a ghost – past the skeletal playground, the peeking houses, underneath a milky, bloated moon. The stars watch her. They keep their eyes on her. They whisper, “We know, we know,” over and over again in the secret language, and send their voices to her on a breeze.

Robert wakes up early on purpose to carry them back to their own beds before his wife can see. He stops trying to write things down.

After the funeral the words all wither up and die. They are lost forever.

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