Familiarity breeds ˑ phantom limb feelings ˑ a silence unbroken
I haven’t thought about when I first met Avery in a while. It’s been about six months. Not long, unless you feel like you’re living on borrowed time. Long enough for me to start getting used to it, wearing into the habits of their home, the job search they’re making me do while I finish up with the few decent clients I actually have.
It’s no mystery why, though. Avery found me stumbling through the darkness, risking my life over the stupidest things possible. And now Cassandra’s stumbled through the dark, back to me.
Back to me.
I didn’t fucking want her to begin with.
You have to understand. You have to be taught how to like your siblings. How to give a shit. That’s your family’s job, right? Teach you to give a shit about other people before they inflict you on the world. That’s the whole deal. But that’s for families who had kids for like, good reasons.
I look down at Cassandra on the floor. I could feel how hurt she was when she first got here – you can’t hide that from a mind-reader, not one like me who can hear the storm in your head without even trying. I wish I had to try, fucking honestly. I don’t like hearing half the crap I do.
I probably should have told her, but she seemed to be fine. Guess not.
Again, you have to be taught how to give a shit. That’s why I don’t immediately pick her up, or anything like that. I just sit down on the carpet next to her, glance at the ankle that was clearly already broken, at the burns she was hiding (badly) under her hoodie. Not hers. Jason’s.
Of course she shows up here wearing his clothes.
“So, how’d you kill ‘em?” I ask quietly. I don’t expect a response, and I don’t get one. She’s asleep, not passed out – although at a certain point they pretty much become the same thing. The only images I’ve pulled from her head are scattered, mixed in with faces I’ve spent a year not thinking about.
It’s funny. Cassandra wishes she could love me better. I just don’t want anything from her at all.
I pick her up, groaning at the dead weight, and get her back onto the couch. Then, I reach into her pockets, find the wallets there that she must think I don’t know about – or maybe she’s smarter than that. She knows she can’t hide fuckall from me.
Our parents’ credit cards. IDs. Library cards. Useless, except that trying to figure out who inherits all their shit is going to be hard enough without checking their credit cards. And –
And tucked into the zippered section of Mother’s wallet, is something else. Two sheets of paper.
I don’t open them. They look old, important. Other documents Cassandra saved from the fire –
-but then I wonder what else could be so bloody important, and I look anyway.
Our birth certificates. Twins. Same day, same hour, and me a whole ten minutes older.
I put them back, and take the wallets with me into my room. They’ll be useful for something or other, I bet.
It doesn’t matter how grateful I am, though, especially since the certificate has a name that never belonged to me on it. I just want her to leave.
I can’t sleep. I keep thinking about, for some reason, the ten minutes between us. They tell you – when you’re in school and around other kids – that those ten minutes matter. That you’re the older sibling, and it’s your job to protect your little sister. First off, whoever thought of that should’ve been lecturing Jason, not me. And secondly… I don’t know. I never thought Cass needed protecting. And it’s not like anybody looked out for me either.
Ten minutes. Might as well have been ten years. Might as well have been ten seconds.
I’m not going to get any sleep, and I mean to read or something, so I get up – but I find myself rubbing the billfold wallet in my hand. Dad’s wallet is black leather, fancy but understated, exuding expense. Mom’s is an emerald green, textured, with – yeah, there’s some old earrings stuck in here, cash which I’m definitely taking, a ticket to something.
I check the ticket, though, and it’s for two months from now, not old at all – and finally, bizarrely, it strikes me that they’re dead, they’re both dead, and I don’t know what on earth I’m supposed to be feeling.