Author’s note: Okay, I actually started this piece a few months ago, and finally managed to complete it. Looking back, it kind of involves violence, so I’ll have to PG-rate it, perhaps? Say, PG-7? Tee hee.
My sister and I, you will recollect, were twins, and you know
how subtle are the links which bind two souls which are so closely allied.
~Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure of the Speckled Band
I was born a few seconds later than her. Perhaps it was because of these few seconds that made my life a living hell for eternity. Perhaps it was because of these few seconds that stole away all my possible glory. Perhaps it was because of these few seconds that made me a sick and abnormal kid.
Lela and Laiza Silverton, we were the perfect twins. We were identical, from the twitch of that smile to the curve of that toe. Everyone marveled at our birth. Relatives crowded the hospital and friends swarmed into our ward just to catch a glimpse of the cherubic baby twins. Our parents were so proud of us, beaming at all the praises we received.
Being the elder twin, she was the one who learned to do everything first. She was the first one to call out ‘Mama’; the first one to walk without any support; the first one to separate from her pacifier. I was always relegated as the inferior twin, the twin that was always the slower learner, the twin that was always a step behind.
I had never given much thought to our differences when I was younger, but as time gradually passed by, I began to realize that the reason why my aunties and uncles gave her more gifts wasn’t because they couldn’t afford a pair, like what they always said as an excuse. It was because of their favouritism towards her, the better twin. Of course, Mama and Papa didn’t help make things better for me, either. It was always her that they took better care of, gave the bigger bed to, and fed the tastier food to. Even at a very young age of five, I was injected with green envy and jealousy at my sister, however clueless I was at the time. I would always think, ‘Why her?’
Then, one day, a catastrophic calamity happened to me that brought about the biggest and worst change in my life forever.
We were toddlers, my sister and I, walking along the street, kicking up autumn leaves and getting pollen stained on our shoes. Casual conversation was discarded ever since I learned about people’s bias towards her. There was a lasting silence between us, which I had no intention to break. However, the sound of screeching tires sent my wish to the dumps. At that very exact moment, my sister chose to lose her balance and fell against me, which made me fall onto the street, thus meeting the oncoming car first handedly.
I woke up to the whirring noise of machines and the faint chattering of people beside my bed. Slowly and precariously, I opened my eyes. It wasn’t easy for me to accomplish such a minor task. My lids felt as if dozens of dumbbells were tied to it, and there was this moist substance in my eyes that made my lids stick to my eyeballs.
After an enormous effort, I succeeded in opening my both eyes. There was a brief euphoria within me before I noticed something. Something completely wrong.
My left eye couldn’t see a thing.
I blinked several times to make sure there was nothing in the way of my vision. Several notions ran across my mind, each one getting more and more terrifying. Oh, just calm down, you. You’re being your paranoid self again, I tried to calm myself down, but in the end, there was no other explanation for it. The giant truth had hit me already, but it was I who refused to accept it.
My left eye was blind.
The sudden revelation left me in a state of shock. I couldn’t move a muscle or even blink. Then, the waves of panic that were only lapping at me before raised up high and brought me down to the terrifying dark depths below, full of terror and fear.
A shrill scream escaped my lips before I could stop myself. It must be understood that I was never an emotional child. Crying and weeping were merely signs of weakness, I often told myself, and I was pretty much tough as a rock. But the wave of hysteria that had loomed over me was uncontrollable. It manipulated my emotions, controlled my actions, and I couldn’t even do anything to stop it. It was like the Weak Me was presenting itself right now, with the Brave Me hidden behind its façade. My body thrashed about on the bed, producing never ending convulsions of its own accord. Out of my peripheral vision, I saw Mama and Papa, and that wicked sister of mine staring at me worriedly, until I felt a needle stuck into my left forearm, and everything became fuzzy once more. I felt so tired, all the fatigue returning to me until I was completely unconscious again.
From that day on, Lela Silverton lost an eye.
I blamed Laiza for my accident. I blamed her for pushing me onto the road. I blamed her for making us walk home from school. I blamed her for everything. Laiza, like the obedient and non-resistant child she was, accepted all the blames I threw at her meekly. She never denied any of my accusations, even though she was clearly innocent, and that revved up my wrath.
Laiza grew up into a beautiful and chivalrous girl, earning countless praises and commendations from relatives, teachers and friends, whereas I was the rebellious twin, the one with the long face and a pugnacious attitude. It clearly didn’t help to ameliorate my situation that I was blind with one eye. Therefore, it was always “Laiza this…”, “Laiza that…” but never a “Lela, you want an ice-cream?” or “Lela, your drawings are wonderful!” No, it was always, “Lela, why are you walking sideways?” “Lela, get rid of that grit from your face now before I spank you,” or “Lela, why can’t you be like Laiza for once?”
Over the years, my animosity towards Laiza grew exponentially, and I learned to hate everything she liked, and like everything she hated. Her favourite colour was white, mine was black; she had long, honey-blonde curls, I dyed mine black and cut them short; she kept her room tidy, I thrashed all my things around; she smiled whenever she greeted someone, I put on a cantankerous face wherever I go. Soon, she was made President of Student Council at school, with a whole hoard of admirers and peeps always tagging along behind her, buttering her up. Where was I then? I was always lurking behind classrooms or hiding in the library, away from attention and people.
Of course, everyone at school new about the two Witches in school: Laiza Silverton, the Good Witch, and Lela Silverton, the Wicked Witch, a joke that the student body took pleasure in teasing me with. Everyone practically wondered how we could be twins. Sure, we were identical, but we were nothing alike, attitude-wise. They think that I was abnormal where brains were concerned; I say that the universal formation of genes had gotten hay wired when we were born.
Laiza, naïve, innocent Laiza, always stood up for me, despite her friends’ advice that it was useless to defend me. I actually agreed with them, livid that Laiza was embarrassed of having a sister like me and had to fend for weak, hopeless me, even though I knew that wasn’t the truth. However, lies could be so much better sometimes.
Late at night, when I was deep in introspection, I realized that I was, in actual fact, hungry for my parents and sister’s love and attention, even though I keep rejecting them. I knew, that deep down inside my hard core of a heart, I was just a weak and helpless kid, fighting to be heard and seen, however cheesy that may sound to my ears. But I refused to hold on to that thought. I let it pass, like a dried-up autumn leaf, now hanging on a branch, the next falling away, sometimes carried by the wind, sometimes just dropping onto the ground, unacknowledged. It was no use to think comforting thoughts now; nothing can ever change my perspective towards the world ever again.
Sometimes, murderous thoughts claimed me. It would be easy to kill Laiza, no problem, seeing that we live under the same room. It would be easy to simply sneak into a kitchen, grab a knife and slit Laiza’s throat open. All my problems would be gone in that single action. But my naïve teenage conscience wasn’t cruel enough to carry out such an act. So I had to live through every single day, watching Laiza become The Student Role Model, the Queen Bee, the Prom Queen, and finally, the Best Graduate at school. ‘Laiza Silverton’, all her trophies were etched. How I wish I could hurl those shiny, golden cups into the river behind our house.
Laiza went to Yale after graduating, and I had to find a job, because apparently, my parents couldn’t afford my school fees, even though my academic results were satisfactory enough to apply for Yale. So, in the end, I worked as a full-time bartender at a pub just down my street. My parents couldn’t care less where I worked, even if the pub was the main checkpoint for drug dealing and who knows what else?
Laiza became a topnotch attorney, who was renowned for winning several legal cases for her clients, and was constantly consulted by solicitation companies from the whole country, whereas I was still Lela the bartender, with not much cash to fill a pocket and only a tiny, spare room for accommodation, something I could barely afford with my bartending salary after my parents died. I lost contact with my sister ever since, and was not really hoping to see her again. The last I heard, she took up law and started a family somewhere at New York. Weird, how I felt so much more secure, knowing that Laiza was out of Pennsylvania.
Apparently, it was as easy as counting your fingers to find someone in the United States when you’re a famous lawyer in the Big Apple. Laiza turned up at my doorstep one afternoon, after parting for fourteen years. She threw her arms around me, such a sisterly act that I was taken aback. I wasn’t use to having people treat me with such dignity, it was almost touching, but then I realized the person before me was the bane of my existence for the past thirty-one years. All the pain and indignity I had gone through during my childhood and teens, Laiza seemed to have completely forgotten about it, and if she did, she didn’t show it. She was shell-shocked when she found out about my working place and offered me a position as her advisor at New York. It was something I could never dream that Laiza would ask me of. She even added that, were I uninterested to join her by the hip at her company, she could offer me money, as if I was a roadside beggar who couldn’t even earn a pence to survive! I couldn’t believe Laiza even had the nerve to make that offer. Offended, I took it as a jest that she was sneering at my lowly life, and slammed the door in her face as I forced her out.
That night, I cried while watching the stars through my glass window, and thought back to the time when we were innocent teenagers, compared to our lives now. No, Laiza had cost me a lifetime of happiness. I couldn’t possibly live with such disregard, such indignity. Then, my thoughts drifted to the time when I thought about the matter of life and death for my sister. Surely all traces of innocence were gone by now? Evil threads of cruelty started to sprout their branches in my mind. Yes, it was something I could do now.
What the fourteen years of bartending at an illegal pub had taught me wasn’t alcohol, sex or drugs. I was never easily influenced by pleasures. Instead, I learned, through all the hard and arduous times I had been through, that you had to depend on yourself out there, in the hustle of the giant society. Independence was what got me going through all these years. You could never accept help from others, for that would lead to betrayal, deception and fraudulence. Worse, if you couldn’t watch out for your back, who knows what people would do to you, even if they’re your only kin left in the world?
I rang up Laiza and told her about our rendezvous. She sounded elated over the phone, glad that was finally willing to talk to her, although she was clueless about the night’s events. I was already waiting at the dark and secluded lane behind the pub that I worked, a shiny yet lethal object in the left pocket of my coat. Laiza looked unnerved as she entered the deserted alley in her grey attorney suit, but greeted me affably all the same. I forced a grimace as she hugged me once more, and returned the hug, for it was the only dignity I would be able to give her after tonight. We walked for some time, while Laiza told me about the case that she had just sorted, how her client, Winnie, would be asking her family over for dinner tomorrow night.
Well, Winnie, sorry my sister won’t be able to turn up for your dinner after all, I muttered silently to whoever this Winnie was, and stabbed Laiza right in the gut as I flicked my armed hand out of my jacket pocket. “I’m sorry, sis, but we were never meant to be twins. We were never meant to be connected at all. We were two different people, you and I, but apparently fate had joined us together, and I’m ending this bond tonight.” As I said those words, I could feel my tear glands functioning, spilling out tears that slid down both my cheeks. I cursed at myself, wondering how I could be so weak at a time like this.
“Why?” Laiza sputtered as crimson red blood started to ooze out of her wound and onto my hand, still yielding the knife. She was sinking onto the ground below, pain and fear and pity imminent in her eyes. I was a jumble of feelings. Surely I was doing the wrong thing? Surely things could be changed? But even though I tried to comfort myself with these harmless thoughts, I knew that things could never change, now and forever. Memories don’t fade away like autumn leaves do.
I withdrew my hand from the knife handle, and Laiza dropped onto the ground, her blood staining the gravel path now. “You were never a good sister! You were never there for me! I was partially blind, and you, you were the perfect child! How could I live with that?” There it was again, the weak and vulnerable me, who had remained absent ever since that eventful day at the hospital, until now. I was screaming and crying at the same time, something Lela Silverton rarely did. “You were everything I wanted to be, and you stole it from me. All I’m doing is stealing back the next few years for me, alone, which, somehow, would be very little compared to the pain you had cost me for thirty-one years!” Laiza was coughing up blood now, sending red stains splattering on her initially intact grey suit. The sight sent my head turning away, both the blood and my dying sister. “I’m sorry.” I said again and started to hurry away, before anyone saw my mirthless stint.
“Lela,” Laiza’s voice was barely a whisper, but I heard her alright. I dithered, but turned my head around all the same, tears rushing feverishly down my cheeks now. What? I wanted to shout. What? What do you want? What do you still want?
Laiza had a brief convulsion before she finally said those words I’ve been waiting to hear for my whole life.
“I love you, sis. I really do,” And Laiza Silverton closed her eyes, never to open them again.