“I gasped, glaring at Mrs. Stuart. My twin, Evelyn, smiled, gave me a thumbs up, and buried her face in her math once more. I took that in a nice way, and looked up at Mrs. Stuart. ‘You can’t say that I’m worse than my sister to my face. That’s just plain horrible.'”
“Miss Robinson, the answer? To number four?”
“Huh?” I said drowsily. “What are you talking about?”
“Miss Robinson! The answer! To number four!” Mrs. Stuart clarified, running her hands through her spiky hair. “When are you going to stop sleeping in my class? I wish you were more like your twin sister.”
I gasped, glaring at Mrs. Stuart. My twin, Evelyn, smiled, gave me a thumbs up, and buried her face in her math once more. I took that in a nice way, and looked up at Mrs. Stuart. “You can’t say that I’m worse than my sister to my face. That’s just plain horrible.”
Mrs. Stuart gaped at me, shook her head, then said, “I’ll deal with this later.” Then, she marched up to her “throne.” No, really — it looks like a real throne, one with a big armchair and a billion pillows with intricate design. It took up, like, a fourth of the small room. Mrs. Stuart would be proud of my fraction-math-equation… if she didn’t hate me at the time. I was probably at the verge of getting a C- anytime soon. Not that I wouldn’t without insulting her. I’m sort of a bad student. Oh, well.
Evelyn answered perfectly to the question she was given. Mrs. Stuart seemed to have deleted her bad self when she talked to my sister, but every now and then she shot me a disgusted look in the corner of her eye. Why did she hate me this much? Probably because I hated her as well. Sometimes she told me my homework was wrong, gave me a C, and then told me something had gone askew when she was checking my homework, but it went to my report card, so there was no way to undo it. She was my least favorite teacher, but Evelyn’s favorite. Obviously. Mrs. Stuart was the queen, Evelyn the princess, and I was the piece of mold stuck to the refrigerator door.
“I don’t know why we have to go to PE,” Evelyn whined, pulling her hair into a ponytail. “It’s useless. Not like I’m going to become a baseball player or anything.”
“Well, what if you are going to be a baseball player?”
She gaped at me. “Ugh, I star in physics. How am I going to be a baseball player?”
“Well, ya never know.”
“O-M-G, you are so annoying.”
I grinned. “Well, that’s what twins are for, honestly.”
“Emma, you have to help me. I suck at PE. And you’re amazing at it.”
“Okay… but in return, you have to help me,” I bargained, raising my eyebrows.
“Huh? But Emma, you have it all. You aren’t the favorite of any academic teachers.”
I sighed. “That’s exactly why. I want at least one academic teacher to like me.”
Evelyn laughed. “Wow, ambitious. But deal. Deal?”
“Okay, the first step to soccer… what is the first step to soccer?” Emma said, uncertain.
“Uh, I’ll look it up.” I pulled my phone out of my pocket. “It means — ”
“The first step to soccer is no cell phones!” Emma shouted in my face, grabbing the device and slamming it down on the table. “The next step is kicking the ball… I think.”
I took my foot and swung it on the ball like Hercules’s club being used for attack. “Argh!” I shouted, but then realized my foot managed to barely nip the ball.
“You’re hopeless!” Emma growled, flopping backwards on the couch. “You can’t even kick a ball!”
“You’re hopeless! You can’t teach me how to kick a ball!” I shot back at her.
“Well! Kicking a ball is easier!”
I didn’t know what to say to that. She had too much of a good point. Then, a thought struck me. “Hey! You’d be good at debate class!”
“What in the world are you talking about?” Emma snapped. “Are you trying to insult me?”
“Of course you don’t know what debate class is! You only take the mandatory lessons. Well, debate class is when you’re supposed to argue. They have debate teams, and you have to go on about how your side is better. I’m in the class. We could go on the same team, even. It would be like twin bonding time!” I squealed, hopping in the air. But the truth was, I was sort of uncertain about Emma’s unexpected talent. I didn’t exactly have knack for debating, if that’s what you called being horrible at it.
“Well, this debate class seems fun.” Emma smiled. “Thanks for letting me know about it. I’ll def try it out. But… us? On the same team? We disagree on so many things, so have you lost your mind?”
“No, we don’t disagree! Okay, fine we do.” I rolled my eyes. “So now can you teach me how to kick a ball?”
“It’s so hard, I don’t think you should waste your time doing it,” Emma said sarcastically, popping her gum so loudly I thought it might explode on her face.
“That was a joke! Huh, you didn’t realize that, did you?”
“No, I didn’t, thank you very much. Kicking a ball is actually hard. And don’t judge me.” I glared at Emma, and she stared back at me.
Emma scrunched her face up. “Well, then. What sport do you think you’re good at?”
“Picking up the balls when it’s time to clean up.”
“You’re hopeless. And it’s called shagging the balls.”
“Fine, tennis,” I said reluctantly.
“What? You’re not even good at tennis!”
“You said ‘pick a sport you think you’re good at,’ and now you’re telling me I can’t pick a sport I think I’m good at?”
Emma put her head in her hands. “Never mind. Pick a sport you’re good at.”
“Okay, sure. You’re not bad at running.” Emma sighed.
I hopped up and down. “Great, all I have to do now is run!” I ran out of the apartment door and went down the stairs to the lobby. Emma followed me. Then, I ran out of the building and started jogging next to the river. “Y’know, this isn’t so hard — WOAH!”
I fell flat on my face, and when I looked up, Emma was hooting with laughter.
“It’s not that funny!” I snapped at her. “Is it?”
“Of course it is! You have to look where you’re running. It doesn’t work if you’re running on cement and you trip on an umbrella!”
My cheeks reddened. “That’s what I tripped on?”
“Yes, duh! You thought it was a rock?”
“Um, yeah. I’ll try again.” I started running again, only to trip over my sandals and fall on my face again.
Emma started giggling again. “You forgot to wear sneakers! You need sneakers!”
“Why didn’t you tell me that?” I demanded, walking to where she was standing. “Whatever, I don’t care. I’ll just get my sneakers.”
As I walked up the stairs to our apartment, I heard Emma call, “You can’t go up to the apartment without your keys!” Emma waved the keys above her head.
“Ugh!” I shouted, circling back to the building porch. I jumped up, grabbed Emma by the shoulders for support, and took the keys dangling above her head.
Emma stared at me. “Wow, how’d you do that? You’re a good jumper.”
“Um, I’m a natural?”
“I think you just developed a talent for gymnastics.”
“What?” Evelyn shot at me. “Gymnastics?”
I breathed in and out. Gymnastics was my only weakness. I was not a flexible person. “Yeah, gymnastics.” I winced at the word again.
“You’re kidding,” Evelyn said loudly. “It can’t be.” She shook her head mournfully. “I’ll never be.”
I knew what she was thinking, and I felt bad for her. Seven years ago, Evelyn had gone to a gymnastics meet, her first one ever. She was a complete failure (no offense, but it was true) and hated gymnastics from that moment on. Sort of intense, but that’s what happened. Maybe she developed a skill from devoting her physical life (which wasn’t a lot) to ballet.
I thought this over. “Yes, but you are. Sorry. From doing all that ballet, maybe you became more flexible and jumpy than you wanted to.”
I could sense the horror and uncertainty in Evelyn’s voice, and I could also sense it in mine. Evelyn didn’t know that I was horrible at gymnastics. No one did. What if she asked me to teach her?
“Emma, stop bulging your eyes at me like a pufferfish. Now can you teach me or not?”
I backed away. “Uh, I only know the advanced stuff. Maybe it’s best if you get an actual teacher?”
“Okay.” Evelyn let it off easier than I had expected. Maybe it could be okay to tell her a white lie? Whatever.
“Okay, I gotta practice for debate class,” I told her, running up the stairs to our apartment. “I’m going to tell Mom the reasons why I should have more ice cream than usual.”
I could feel Evelyn smile to the back of my head.
Once I reached the top of the stairs, I pushed my key into the lock, and the door swung open. “Mom? Dad?”
Nothing. Guess I would have to wait for some ice cream.
I started up the stairs to my room (we had a double floor apartment) and pulled out my phone, then started texting Scarlett. Hi Scarlett. What are you doing?
She texted back. Hi Emma. I’m not doing anything.
I texted back. Want to come over?
Is Evelyn with ya?
No. She’s practicing gymnastics
I waited a while for her message. Okay I’ll come. She finally texted.
Or maybe I could come to your house. I countered.
This time the text came fast. No I’ll come over to yours.
I had never seen Scarlett’s house. She probably had, like, annoying brothers. Oh well. Okay, see you in fifteen. I texted her.
In exactly fifteen minutes, the doorbell rang. I rushed down the stairs to meet Scarlett. “Who is it?” I asked the door.
Scarlett’s muffled voice said a quiet, “Scarlett.” So, I pulled open the heavy door and saw my best friend with her long silky orange hair messily topped on her head in a bun. She was wearing a pink and yellow tye-dye top and nice sky blue jeans. It was only noon, but Scarlett had already made a sunset explode in my house.
“Like my nails?” she said, showcasing scarlet fingers.
“Yeah, what color is that?”
“Bloodthirsty Vampire,” she informed me, sending prickles up my spine.
“What?” I shivered.
“Just kidding. It’s actually called Scarlet Girl, so I thought it was perfect for me. Just wanted to see you panic a little.”
“Right.” I nodded, motioning for her to come in.
About fifteen minutes later, Scarlett went to the bathroom. I patiently waited for Scarlett to arrive, when my phone started ringing with Evelyn’s number.
Emma picked up when I rang her. “Hi, Evelyn!”
“Hi, Emma!” I chirped, a bit happier than I meant to be. “I got an instructor! I called Mom, and she got me one!”
“Cool,” Emma told me. I heard crackling in the line. “Oh, I’m breaking up… I gotta go.”
And she hung up, just like that.
Mom shook me. “Honey, your instructor is going to meet you.”
Mom and I walked to the register. “Hi, my daughter is going to be doing gymnastics. It’s her first lesson.”
The woman at the register nodded. “Oh, hello! Phone number, please?”
“Three four seven,” Mom told her.
The woman repeated it, then typed it up.
“Seven one nine,” Mom continued.
The woman said it over, then started typing it on her computer.
Mom said the last four digits.
The woman clarified, going on her computer again. “Now if you will please tell me your daughter’s first and last name.”
“Evelyn Robinson,” Mom and I both said at the same time.
The woman at the desk smiled. “Well then. You’ll be with Rebecca.”
Where had I heard that name before? The name rung a bell, but I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it. Oh well.
Mom didn’t seem to notice, so I thought maybe a new girl in school?
The woman said she’d be back in a sec, after she checked in with Rebecca.
Mom waited until the woman was gone. “Evelyn, are you sure you want to do gymnastics? I mean, do you really want to?”
I glared at her. “Of course I do! Mom, I’ve never made a bad decision.”
Mom seemed unsure of that. “Are you sure?”
“You’re making a bad decision from saying that in that tone, young lady.”
It would have been an amazing time for the woman to come in with Rebecca trailing behind her, but of course it didn’t. Things never work out that way.
We stood in silence for a couple minutes, when Mom said, “Where is the lunatic woman? She’s been missing for five minutes.”
“Maybe Rebecca’s not sure that she has to teach me, and the woman is telling her that she’s supposed to,” I explained. “It’s possible and logical. Actually, I have very good explanations — ”
“Shhhhh,” Mom hissed. “Did you say Rebecca?”
“Because Rebecca is — ”
“The coach from when I was seven,” I finished, when the woman and Rebecca walked right in.
I felt sort of guilty about crushing my fortune cookie wrapper right next to my phone, but I had to because I was busy. No distractions when doing homework! Scarlett and I were drilling each other on math and other academic subjects. If I was going to get my teacher charm on, there was no better way to do it than butter up the teachers with good grades and charmingness.
Surprisingly, Scarlett was really keen on getting to be Mrs. Stuart’s favorite, and I joked that if she were in my class it would be most hard because Evelyn would have taken the princess’s spot and was glued down onto it.
She cocked her head at me, like what are you talking about? And I explained it all.
From the unfairness and the deal and debate class and gymnastics. And she listened. But I didn’t tell Scarlett about being horrible at gymnastics. No one knew, and it was going to stay that way.
But I itched to tell at least someone. But then everyone would know. Word in Manhattan High got around fast, even if I told it to Scarlett. Someone would pick up a clue, start a rumor, and soon there would be lies, buzzing around the entire building. And soon people would make up more things about you, it would get to a teenage reporter, they would put it in a magazine, newspaper or something like that… and kazam! Everyone knows.
Then, completely out of the blue, Scarlett said, “I wish I had a twin.”
I stared at those six words, as if they had popped out of her mouth and were looming above her head like a cloud. Six words that would never go away. Words that were permanent, like a Sharpie on a plastic bottle. Never will be destroyed when you wash them. Will recycle over and over. Hard to cut. I looked at Scarlett again. “Why?”
Scarlett shrugged her shoulders, blushing a bit. “I don’t know, guess I don’t want to be so lonely anymore.”
I could see tears prick at her eyes. She was an only child, and her mom died when she was four. Scarlett’s dad was completely offensive, being rude and cooped up in his office, work, or in his room all the time.
I handed her a glass of water, and she blinked repetitively to make the tears go away. She swatted at her eyes like a gone mad kitten and gulped down the water, patting her lap softly to make her swallow in a more thorough and smooth way.
I elbowed her. “Hey, solve this.” I showed her a problem. “I’ve been stuck on it all day.”
She took the piece of paper from me, biting the tip of her eraser. “Fifty-six thousand, nine hundred forty, four hundred ninety-two.”
“Yes,” Scarlett said. She etched the number onto the paper.
“Okay,” I said submissively, grabbing some more homework. I showed Scarlett the stack. “I’ll work on these. Like I’m editing Little Women.”
Scarlett snickered at that, focusing on her math once more.
I stared at Rebecca in terror, at her ginger cream hair, big round green eyes, pink smile, rosy cheeks, sparkly nails, and long legs. I hoped she didn’t recognize me.
“Why hello, Evelyn!” Rebecca cried, shaking my hand. “You remind me of someone, but I can’t quite put my finger on who.”
I gulped, knowing that I reminded her of me. And reddish brown hair wasn’t exactly common in this world.
“Well, okay then. Come with me.” Rebecca smiled again, and I wanted to punch her face. Not exactly well, though.
“Is it your first time doing gymnastics?” Rebecca asked me, pushing some equipment out of my way.
“Yes,” I lied, walking with her. “It’s my first time.”
“Okay!” Rebecca squealed. “Let’s start with some fun stuff, then.”
Fun stuff? That couldn’t be soooo bad. “Okay.”
Rebecca showed my a pit full of spongy squares. She stood a meter or two away from the edge, facing the gaping space of cushions. “Now, Evelyn, I want you to stand at the edge, and then face me. Then fall back, yelling ‘timber,’ and try not to move like a tree being cut down. Okay?”
She called that fun? I tried not to be a wimp, so I positioned myself where she told me to stand and yelled timber as I started my descend to the square cushions. I flapped my arms around, but my legs stood straight like they were tied together. I sank into the pit and emerged from it to see Rebecca giggling. When she saw me frowning at her, she blushed a bit but then laughed a little more. She kept on laughing until she was flustered and sweat dripped from her eyebrows. “It’s okay, hon. I wasn’t laughing at you, though. I was laughing at a funny dream. But you’re a beginner, so it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
She smiled at me, motioning for me to pull myself out of the big pit. I grabbed the handles and pushed up, swinging my right leg over the edge and then my left one. I pushed up to my feet and then walked after Rebecca, and then I started running after her, because wow, she was a fast walker.
“Okay,” Rebecca said, walking in a swift motion. “How ‘bout we go on the trampoline? We could work on some handstands and cartwheels there.”
Handstands? Cartwheels? Uh… no way. And those words are final. But… I had to. I mean, I didn’t want to be a wimp. So, I trekked over to the swimming pool size trampoline and clambered onto it.
Rebecca gave me instructions to do downward dog, push my feet up and swing them over. She also taught me to run forward towards the mat, in a skippy run.
I gulped, but I went to the start of the trampoline (where the red line was) and stood silently at it.
“Whenever you’re ready,” Rebecca said kindly. “Don’t stress yourself.”
I took a deep breath and started running. I pushed on my hands and lifted up my feet. I could feel my back hit the pink mat.
Then, everything went black.
“I think we’re good,” Scarlett said, all drowsy after the math. “My brain power needs a recharge.”
I passed her a popsicle without saying anything. She didn’t say anything to me, let alone thank you, but I didn’t really care. She just sucked on the delicious fruity frozen stuff.
I didn’t give her more homework yet, because I knew she would groan and moan and smack the homework out of my hand, which I didn’t want happening.
Scarlett took the homework herself, and muttered a little, “Thanks,” and soon her popsicle was ice because she sucked the flavor out of it. I told her I would gladly eat the ice, but she said no thank you.
An hour later, Scarlett and I were done with the homework. She smiled and said, “I’m meeting Abby in the diner. You want to come?”
“Oh, I can’t. Mom would wonder where I am, even if I call her. I don’t want them to panic. Plus I’m going to lunch with Dad.”
Scarlett nodded. “Okay, then. Bye!”
I waved to her, and she jogged out the door.
When Scarlett disappeared, I locked up behind her. I started up the stairs to my room, flopping backwards on my bed. Then, my eyes fluttered closed, and I started to sleep.
I woke up to a key opening the door. I yawned happily, trekking down the stairs after I stretched my arms and legs. Mom stood at the doorway with Evelyn, who was pouting greatly. “Hi Mom! Hi… Evelyn… !” I looked at the both of them. Then I asked Evelyn, “How was your gymnastics?”
“Fine,” Evelyn said. “Apparently I aced it, but sort of got dizzy when I did a handstand on the trampoline. But Rebecca said I did everything right.”
“Rebecca?” I asked. I thought I heard that name before. “Isn’t that…”
Evelyn nodded. “Yeah, she is. But I don’t really care. She doesn’t recognize me, so that’s good, I guess.”
I smiled. “Well, welcome to the house. I finished all my homework today.”
Evelyn jumped up and down. “Yipee! Wonderful! This has got you nice and disciplined.”
Mom puzzled over this. “Wait, what’s this?”
“Nothing,” we both answered. “It’s nothing.”
Mom seemed unsure about this. “Is there something I need to know, girls?”
“No, Mom,” we said, giggling all the way up the stairs.
“Okay, that was close,” I said, giggling again. “Let’s not tell her about the deal, okay?”
“Okay,” Emma agreed submissively, pushing me an ice pop. “Here, take this.”
I smiled. “You’re the best.”
Emma nodded and said, “I know.”
I started licking the popsicle like crazy.
At school, Emma walked up to Mrs. Stuart. “Mrs. Stuart, I was wondering if I could drop off my homework. There’s quite a lot of it, and I was feeling a little pain in my neck from walking around.”
Mrs. Stuart inspected Emma. I was holding my breath. But Emma seemed entirely confident.
My twin pulled her homework out of her bag. “Where should I put this?”
Mrs. Stuart’s eyes bulged out. “Wh-what? How could you finish all that homework?”
“Just some discipline and a million ice pops.”
I could see Emma was hoping for a laugh after she did a little heh-heh, but she didn’t get it. I popped out of the corner I was hiding in and said, “Emma, let’s get you in electives for debate class, shall we?” I pulled Emma by the T-shirt and contributed to Mrs. Stuart by giving her a bright, busy smile.
At the sign-up, I saw that there was an elective for… gymnastics? Maybe it would be worthwhile so Emma wouldn’t know I was horrible at debate.
“Emma, I’ll sign up for gymnastics,” I told her.
“But what about debate?” Emma seemed a little hurt, but I knew I couldn’t tell her. Could I?
Okay. I had to. “Emma… well, debate class is my weakness. I’m horrible at it! Every time I have to get on stage to fight for my opinion, I get this super blast of stage fright. I get so scared of the audience that’s currently staring at me I cut my script short and stutter a lot.”
Emma raised her eyebrows, then started laughing. Like crazy. I stared at her, upset she was cackling at the situation I had never told anyone.
“Evelyn, seriously? You didn’t tell me this before?” Emma said in between on-and-off laughter. She gasped for some more fresh air. “This is so… unexpected! I thought every time you got on stage you threw up and ran off, or something!” She fell to the floor in little high pitched giggles. “I can’t believe you!”
I gaped at Emma. Was she really laughing? “It’s not funny!”
“It totally is. But I have something to tell you.”
I listened in. Emma usually didn’t have anything to tell me.
“I’m terrible at gymnastics.”
I watched in surprise as Emma pushed off the ground. “B-but you told me… you were advanced… !”
Emma apologized, straightening out her denim skirt. “I thought everyone would soon know that I was a fraud.”
I bulged my eyes out at her. “Fraud? No one can be a fraud!”
“I guess you’re right.” Emma said, finishing signing off her name. But when I looked closer, I saw she had written it on the gymnastics sign-up. “C’mon. Let’s go show them.”
And there wouldn’t have been a better place to do that other than walking through the hallway, with my twin sister right next to me.