((Short Story written by me, Sam, in 2011))
Before everything I was still a child, innocent and happy. We were both happy at one point splashing in the water, the wind blowing salt through our hair. But one day our world shattered as if it were a thin stained-glass globe at the wrong end of a rocket launching. Funny thing is, I can’t quite pin point when it was. It all happened so fast: the drugs, foster care, mom came back, more drugs, dad came back, the violence started, and my sister couldn’t handle it.
I just found my happy place, I tried to take her there but she couldn’t see it. She was always afraid they were coming back to get us. So we left, and every time we left we had to leave where we went because they were still coming. The problem was that they never stopped chasing us. Instead of enhancing our lives, we lived on the run.
It had been a year and they were still after us, our emancipation papers helped us in our travels and were proof that nobody could take away from us. She was still afraid, not all the time but after a while she would go manic and wouldn’t come back for a while.
I was at work, tucked up in the bat cave of the local ten screen tending to the thirty-five millimeter when my radio went off.
“Bella, your sister’s on her way up.”
“Copy that, thanks Greg.” Greg was a nice kid, in college using the theater to pay for his film degree. I couldn’t help but respect him working a management position and going to school full time; he was making his dreams come true.
I watched the door spring open and felt as if I was looking in the mirror as Gia charged in. Our freckles in the same place, eyes from the sea, and hair of sand – mine pulled back loosely and hers messy from what looked like a run in with the cops.
“Everything’s gone wrong, Bell. I need you. Meet me in the woods. We can’t talk here. I can’t be seen.” Gia’s eyes raced around the room jumping at every projector click from one corner to another. The black walls held potential to conceal any stowaway.
“G, what are you talking about?”
“Not here! Anybody could come up and listen and we wouldn’t even know. Outside, in the woods, I’ll wait for you there.”
“I’ll be there as soon as I can. You and me against the world G.” I hated that she couldn’t look me in the eyes and see what she did to me. I couldn’t live without her.
“You and me against the world.” And with that she was gone. Checking my projectors I braced myself for what was coming next.
The woods behind the theater were a common ground for underage drinking and smoking. The ground was always littered with Natural Ice cans; some of them seemed to have little plants growing from their insides. Getting caught going in or out could lead to the wrong kind of attention. Attention we didn’t need.
Eleven o’clock at night, that was my magic hour – the perfect time to sneak past the dumpsters and into the thick foliage. Why my sister picked such odd places to meet I will never know.
“G, you there?” I kept my tone a dense whisper. A flash caught my attention and I found Gia with her duffel bag at the other end. She hovered near some bushes, a man-made lake behind her. She jumped up, leaving her bag half under the bush.
“I can’t stay here anymore, they’re coming after me.” She paced around still refusing to look me in the eyes. Nothing I hadn’t seen before.
“Where are you going to go G?” The last time she went manic we drove three hours out of the county line and she came to her senses, I could do that again.
“The bus leaves in ten minutes, we’ll connect downtown and by Friday we will be in the Big Apple.”
“New York? What’s so important all the way up there?” I knew I couldn’t let her go alone, it’s a twin thing, but I also knew that I needed to at least have a chance at a normal life.
“It’ll be a fresh start. I heard Krist is living there now, I’m sure he’d love to see you.” She always knew how to press my buttons.
“I don’t have anything with me, what about…” I closed my eyes and pictured his daring eyes; they always made me feel invincible. This changed everything.
“I packed your bag, it’s in the car with Joey. He’s gonna give us a thousand dollars cash for the car. We have to go now, Arabella.” I winced at my name; my mother only used it when I was in trouble. I remember thinking about double jeopardy and how the second time you commit the same crime you can walk away with a fresh start. Going to New York could be my double jeopardy – nothing bad could come of it.
“Goodbye sunny weather.” I shook my head, knowing deep down I’d never be able to leave her.
Gia threw herself at me, her trembling arms around my neck. Telepathically, I heard her saying ‘I knew I could count on you’. There’s something about that sisterly bond, you can’t compare it to anything.
“But this is the last time, we can’t keep moving.”
She swore she wouldn’t make us run anymore. She said she could feel it – New York would be our glory days. I began to see our move with rose-colored glasses, envisioning the glitz and glam of the red carpet.
The bus was hot and reminded me of running away from home, Gia asleep in the seat next to me with all our belongings packed around our feet. Looking out the window I counted the headlights on the highway, eighty miles until New York. Eighty miles until the smell of body odor and old French Fries would be behind me. Thirty-six hours on a blue greyhound with America’s finest subjects was exactly how it sounds, terrible.
“Do you hate me?” Her voice startled me.
“I thought you were asleep.”
“Do you hate me?”
“G, how could I ever hate you, you’re my sister.”
“But I keep taking you away with me. You should hate me.” I shook my head gently and rested it on the only family I had.
“You and me against the world.”
“Bell, you’re the best sister ever.” She kissed me on the cheek before going back to sleep; thank God her eyes were closed. Tears trickled down my face. I caught them before she felt their heat. My emotions were all sorts of mixed up; I loved my sister, I wanted what was best for her, but I also hated moving so much, I wanted a real life. I wanted a chance to see what I could do. I wanted to know what it would be like to have real friends and a real job. I couldn’t help but wonder if this was my chance – with Krist.
The city of dreams felt more like the city of grime. Don’t lean on the walls – you could get Hepatitis, don’t touch the handrail – AIDS. Everywhere you went you had to be careful, but the bright lights hid the city’s pain. I learned quickly that everything is not what it seems. It made me crazy! I just wanted to see the ocean and walk barefoot on the beach. I craved the open space, just to get away from this cramped place.
We moved in with Krist first temporarily, then permanently. He lived in this beautiful Upper East Side apartment with more extra space than he knew what to do with. He inherited most of his money when his parents passed, but he still worked harder than anyone I knew. Apparently taking over the family lithography company was quite profitable.
A bathroom twice the size of our old bedroom connected our rooms. The rooms were decorated quite similarly with their sailor blue paint and dark wood furniture. The bathroom had a silver bamboo faucet and ocean blue tiling on the walls.
“It’s beautiful,” Gia breathed as she walked in behind me running her fingers over the shower’s two sliding doors and matching bamboo utilities inside. She looked as if she may never want to leave – I couldn’t hold on to that thought too long.
The stairs down to the entry floor made me feel as if I was in a mystical tree house with its glossy tree branch rails. The downstairs was big and open with an island separating the kitchen and the open living room.
A den section armed with a dartboard on an oak beam and a billiards table with a bar set near the glass patio doors. Krist stood behind the den’s bar mixing three baby blue concoctions. The city skyline was visible through the glass walls; its bright lights were more intoxicating than the Smurf piss we were about to drink.
“I hope you girls are ready to celebrate. I figured we could use a drink before the party starts.”
“What party?” I had come down to find the classifieds. I needed to find a job as soon as possible.
“A party! When?” Gia bounced up to the bar accepting a glass. Krist always had a way of drawing people in, he created such a whirlpool of energy in the room and you just felt as if there was a hand on your back guiding you gently to his side. I wasn’t complaining.
“The guests will be arriving in five hours.” Lifting his glass towards the sky he toasted. “To the return of old friends.” We all lifted our glasses a piercing clink filled the air. The world was spinning; a hand on my back helped me stabilize. Colors had begun to swirl inside my eyelids. I had never had anything this strong in my entire seventeen years.
I opened my eyes, it was the first time I had looked into Krist’s green eyes since ****INSERT MEMORY OF YOUNG LOVE****; he still had the same affect on me. I wonder if things would go back to how they were.
“Are you okay?” Helping me regain my balance, his arm stayed around my waist.
Nodding through my trance I heard Gia giggling into her drink. For once in my life I wished she wasn’t there. I immediately felt guilty for even wishing it.
We went upstairs to get dressed for our first Upper East Side party in dresses that Krist had bought us as welcoming gifts. The bathroom was perfect for getting ready together. Gia’s dress was red with a sheer halter I helped her curl her long hair and she did her make up in a dramatic high fashion manor.
My dress was black in the same style; the bottoms of the dresses came up to our knees in a wavy fashion. Gia helped me straighten my hair and did my make up very dramatically with blue eyes and yellow accents. Gia had always loved doing make up and dressing people up. She said it was like creating her own castle in the sky.
Walking downstairs was like a fantasy, it had been decorated with a particular sophistication. The DJ booth was dark and chic with tea lights lining the black banister encompassing the balcony. There were so many people and they were all dressed up in gorgeous silks and designer dresses. Each dress had to cost at least a thousand dollars, easy. Everybody danced and everybody drank, I had found Krist in the midst of some friends wearing a silk button up under his black jacket. He escaped his friends, took my hand and kissed it.
“You look beautiful.”
“Thank you, you’re looking quite dashing yourself.” I blushed and felt my heart jump into my throat. I let him lead me towards his friends.
“Where’s Gia?” I looked back at the bar and saw her looking around holding two champagnes.
“She’s getting us drinks, here she comes.”
Gia sashayed up and handed me a glass before taking Krist’s other hand. He led us up to his group of friends.
“May I introduce you to the guests of honor, Miss Bella and Gia Ryan, my wonderful friends finally moving to the Big Apple. Cheers!”
“Cheers” were reiterated throughout the group as they raised their glasses. Gia wandered off to do some shots with a wannabe photographer and two NYU guys. I assumed she had a good night when I saw her at breakfast in the morning wearing the remains of last night’s make up. Krist and I stumbled down the stairs in matching under shirts and boxers to find her scrounging through the stainless steel fridge.
“I’m starving! Do you guys want eggs?” We nodded and sat at the island. I was so happy to be with the two of them. I watched Gia cook while tracing the veins on Krist’s arm, which was draped over my shoulder. It was the calm before the storm.
A few days later, while I was searching for a job Gia went out for lunch with the photographer from the party and wound up staying out all night with him. After job-hunting all day and finally finding something on a local film set for a few weeks, I came home to find her empty bed. At three o’clock in the morning I fell asleep after I had waited up for her to come home.
The sun was coming up when I heard her stumble in. She wasn’t expecting to see me as she crossed to her dresser hiding something in her drawer.
“What are you doing?” She jumped around to face me, her eyes were high strung from the night’s adventures and covered in fear.
“Oh Bell, I missed you” She stumbled over and crawled into bed with me, curling in like we used to do with mom and dad. I sat up straight and made her look me in the eyes.
“What’s going on with you?”
“Shh! Keep your voice down, we’re trying to sleep.” She passed out on me before I had a chance to rebuke.
When she fell asleep I slipped out of her grip and searched the drawer for whatever it was she hid. I found a little zip lock baggie with some white powder and a few pills. Not sure exactly what they were, I brought them to Krist.
“What is this?” I demanded as I crawled into his huge master bed. He took the bag and opened it, examining each pill and putting a dash of the powder on his tongue.
“Well the powder is definitely coke. Where’d you get this? You shouldn’t -”
“It’s not mine its G’s, she just got home. What do I do?” Of all things I thought for sure she would stay away from the cause of all our problems.
“You have to confront her.” I closed my eyes, my shoulders sinking down into his body.
He asked me every day for weeks if I had said anything to her, we were both stubborn people and he refused to confront her, said it had to be me. I begged him every time to do it for me, I was so afraid. Every day she looked worse, every day her eyes sunk deeper into her skull and every day she ate more and got smaller.
I really started to get worried when I looked at my twin and she didn’t look like me anymore. I begged her to see a doctor, go away for a while but she didn’t want to leave. She let me think that she couldn’t stand to be away from me, the truth was I couldn’t stand being away from her.
“G, what’s going on with you? Please just talk to me, I can help.” Laying in bed, sunken eyes, and frail body looking as if it could break at any moment. She could hardly look at me.
“Just lay with me” She reached her small hand out to grab mine, it felt like a child. Not in size but in strength, she was losing everything, slowly deteriorating in front of my eyes. I was too afraid to force her to do anything she didn’t want to do, I felt helpless. If I got on her case about anything I was afraid she would go manic and call me them. I thought if I just stayed with her she would get better and everything would go back the way it was supposed to.
We took a trip to the ocean one day, that morning she told me she was scared and I knew the safest place in the world was where the sand met the sea. That was the magical place where you could leave all your worries and fears and send them out to Davy Jones’ Locker. I was afraid to take her on the Long Island Railroad because of her condition so we rented a car, a black Lincoln took us out of the city’s bright lights and back to where we belonged.
The water was calm for the Atlantic. The jetties lined the beaches, a lifeguard mound stood proudly with its red chair on each beach. It was cold that fall day; we were the only ones on the beach. The empty lifeguard chair was our throne, the sand and the ocean mixed together nicely to give that salty tang to the air. It filled our nostrils as we listened to the waves crash on the rocks.
“I missed this so much, didn’t you?” She was hardly talking to me those days, I felt completely disconnected.
“Gia please, you have to talk to me, I can help if you just talk to me.” The track marks on her arms were more like bruises and she was breaking out in cold sweats.
“No you can’t, you can’t fix everything Bell.” She was so accepting of it already I just broke down. The tears streamed down my face and my eyes went puffy.
“Stop it, don’t talk like that. Let me help, I need you.”
“You don’t need me, look at you. Look at what I’m doing to you. You need to let me go. I love you Arabella.” I don’t know how she knew, but she did. She had known for so long and was trying to help me, to protect me as I had protected her for the past seventeen years.
The HIV clinic was filled with pained faces young and old waiting to have their fate determined for them. I was no different. The virus had taken hold of my sister and I could be next. I had no way of knowing except this test. Sitting in that white room was the most terrifying thing ever, I had no idea I would be feeling this anxious for two more weeks.
I hated Gia for the first few weeks. I couldn’t believe she would keep such a big secret from me. We could have gotten her treatment she could have had a long life. I could have re-written her ending. I don’t think she wanted that though.
I know now that she was ready. I like to think that I carry her soul with me; I never do anything without consulting her. It’s been years since the virus took hold. Krist and I spread her ashes across the ocean on that same beach, one day I’ll see her again. I’ve realized that we didn’t become disconnected; we united as one unstoppable force.