17 Dec

by Sunny Stierwood


“Yeahhhh!” I shout along to the punk rock music blaring from inside my iPod, banging my head and flinging my red dyed hair all over my face.

“You know,” my sister Emily takes out her green earplugs, “every time you do that, you lose four brain cells.”

“Do what?” I say, banging my head viciously to a particularly angry part.

“That!” She rips the headphones out of my ears. “Every time you head bang, you lose four brain cells!”

“Whatever.” I shove the headphones back in my ears and start banging my head again.

Emily rolls her hazel eyes, then goes back to reading her book.

You might think it would be hard for poor Emily to concentrate on peacefully reading a book while her conjoined twin sister head-bangs to a punk rock song, but we often find ourselves in situations like these, and she has long since gotten used to it.

Yeah, that’s right, I said conjoined twin, or what some people might call Siamese twin.

Emily and I were born connected at the shoulder and down to our waists, a connection so big the doctor couldn’t operate to pull us apart. Usually, it’s not too bad being connected to my twin sister, but there are some inconveniences. Like that we can’t sign up for sports together because we are so darn clumsy. Or that neither of us will probably have any romantic moments with a boy, because the other one of us will be staring off into space awkwardly.

Oh, and there’s also the fact that neither of us has any privacy at all. Like in the bathroom, for example. Or sleeping.

We were born stuck together, and unless doctors come up with a miracle way to get us apart, we will always be together – forever.


“Sasha, can you tell me the answer to question 22?” Mrs. Ackerman gave me a hawk-like glare from under her rounded glasses, knowing I wasn’t paying attention. I had my phone under the desk and was busy texting my best friend, Tyler (yes, my best friend is a boy – got a problem with that?), about this cool new singer.

“Um, what page?” I asked.

Mrs. Ackerman scowled. “Try page ‘Pay Attention.’ Emily, what is the answer to question number 22?”

“Two-hundred-twenty-three and one-fourth,” Emily said shyly.

I scowled. “Teacher’s pet,” I mouthed at her.

Emily rolled her eyes. “You could be teacher’s pet, too, if you actually paid attention,” she told me.

“Nah,” I shook my head. Then I went back to texting Tyler.

As I was walking out of class, Mrs. Ackerman walked up to Emily and me and looked me square in the face. “I’ll take that,” she said.

“Take what?” I asked sweetly.

“Your phone,” she snapped. “I’m not stupid. I can tell when a student is texting during class. You can have it when winter break is over.”

“Winter break?!” I exclaimed. “But that’s three months away! And I need my phone to get home from school!”

“Mmmhmm, well then, that’s what you should have been doing instead of playing with it in class. Emily’s still got her phone, doesn’t she?” Her eyes wavered to Emily’s pocket, where a square lump was visible through the denim. “Hand it over.”

I wrenched the phone out of my pocket and slammed it into Mrs. Ackerman’s bony hand. I practically pulled Emily out into the hallway.

“You’ve got an attitude problem, young lady,” called Mrs. Ackerman. “Detention every day next week. And don’t be late!”

“Nice going,” said Emily as we walked into the cool outside air. “Now you’ve dragged me to detention. I’m going to miss math club next week. And I’m president.”

“Oh, boo hoo,” I said. “You’ll still be going to your math club next week.”

“But… you have detention,” said Captain Obvious.

“Duh. But I’m not going.”

Now I could feel Emily getting mad. “Listen. If you skip detention, you get suspended. And if you get suspended, I get suspended. And if I get suspended, I fall behind. I’d appreciate it if you considered my needs, instead of being a selfish brat.”

Anger surged up in me, starting at the pit of my stomach and ending up as words coming out of my mouth. “You’ll fall behind? What about me? You get straight A’s in everything. I get straight D’s. I would appreciate if you understood my life and got your facts straight before you call me a selfish brat. You won’t fall behind in anything, and I won’t either. My plan was to pretend I didn’t hear her because I was storming out and all, and she might have bought it.”

“Yeah, well, she might not. And mom will find out you got suspended and blame it on me for not stopping you. So please just don’t get into any more trouble than you already are.”

“It’s all about you, you, you, isn’t it? I have to be dragged along to all your stupid activities. I’m in advanced math, even though I’m struggling, all because the regular program wasn’t ‘good enough’ for you. You could think about me for a change, but no. It’s all Emily, Emily, Emily!”

“Whatever,” said Emily as we walked on the bus. “I think it would be best if we made up.”


“I’m not talking to you,” Sasha told me angrily.

“You just did.”

“Fine, well, I’m not talking to you starting in ten seconds.”

I snorted. Sasha was so funny when she was mad. Kind of like a four-year-old in a fourteen-year-old body. I knew what would happen next; it always did: competition.

In art, Sasha made a masterpiece self-portrait. In language arts, her summary was one page long and worthy of a Nobel Prize. In music, she sang louder than anyone in the class, surprising our music teacher, Mr. Edgar. On a regular day, Sasha never even opened her mouth, and Mr. Edgar had long since given up trying to make her. I never bothered to tell Sasha what she was doing. I figured it was good for her.

Finally math came around, with her least favorite teacher, Mrs. Ackerman. But the determination in Sasha’s hazel eyes showed that she was going to be good in math today, no matter what Mrs. Ackerman said or did.

“Good afternoon, class,” Mrs. Ackerman said briskly, opening up her teacher math book. She briefly went over the concept we were learning, then told us to open our books to page 47 and do the six problems on it.

Her eyes widened in surprise as, only five minutes later, Sasha raised her hand. “Yes, Sasha?” she said, raising an eyebrow.

“I’m done.”

“What?!” Mrs. Ackerman didn’t even hide her surprise. I had to admit, I was a little surprised too. I had been through the competition thing before, but Sasha being faster than me, especially at my best subject? That was a first.

“Well, let me check it,” Mrs. Ackerman said, controlling her surprise. She walked over to our desk with a red pen. “Right, right, correct…” You could see her jaws working to keep her mouth shut. “Sasha, you got them all right!”

Sasha smiled smugly, shooting me a glance. “I’m pretty good at this unit.”

Sasha was still giving me the cold shoulder, which was surprising because usually she never managed to do it for over 30 minutes. Every time I tried to talk to her, she’d just ignore me and talk to someone, or simply pull out her iPod and listen to music. I thought it was a little ridiculous, because you can’t avoid someone who’s attached to you from your shoulder to your hip.

Finally, I told her, “It’s been a week. Maybe we should just move on and be the sisters we used to be.”

Sasha replied by taking out her book and pretending to read. I rolled my eyes and started flipping through the tattered pages of my own science textbook.

The end-of-school bell rang, shrill and loud. Sasha and I stumbled through the mobs of eager students and clumsily stepped out into the fall air, goose bumps tickling our arms and making us shiver. Well, at least I shivered. Apparently Sasha was too “cool” for that.

As I scanned the street for my mom’s car, my best friend, Ashley, ran up to me. Usually she would acknowledge Sasha, too, but she sensed Sasha’s cold aura and thought (correctly) that she probably shouldn’t mention it.

“Hey, Emily, do you wanna come over today?” she asked. “My parents aren’t home yet, so we can do stuff my parents probably wouldn’t let us do otherwise. Maybe we could have a party.”

“Sorry, Emily can’t go,” Sasha cut in rudely. “I’m going over to Andrew’s house today.”

“Oh, well. Okay.” Ashley walked home, disappointed.

“So, where’s Andrew?” I asked.

“Oh, I dunno. He’s got soccer practice today, actually, I think.” This was the first time she had talked to me in a week.

I folded my arms. “So you told Ashley you were going to Andrew’s just so you could make me not hang out with my friend?”


“I’m telling Mom.”


“She’ll ground you.”

“Fine. If she grounds me, she grounds you, too.”

I groaned. This was the bad thing about having a conjoined twin. If she got in trouble, you got in trouble, too. That’s how Sasha gets away with bullying/annoying me, 24/7.

“So come on,” said Sasha. “Let’s go home; I think Mom’s made brownies.”

Well, I guess she got over her little grudge problem. But I wasn’t about to be all forgiving like Sasha wasn’t. I pulled her onto the cold cement sidewalk and stomped all the way to the bus without a word.


“Hey, what’s your problem?” I finally said to my fuming sister, even though I knew what. We were in the kitchen, eating fresh brownies my mom had just made. Well, at least Emily was. I was trying, but only able to snag one before she took the rest and jammed them all into her mouth at once.

“Oh, nothing,” Emily simpered. “Just making sure you don’t steal the brownies.”

“So I’m stealing the brownies,” I said. “Come on. You’re just mad because I ruined your chances of having a party with your friend. I was only trying to help. If Mom found out about your little party, she’d get you in so much trouble. You’re welcome.”

“So this is the part where I’m supposed to be thanking you? I’m not stupid, Sasha. I know you were only doing that to bully me.” Emily glared at me. At least she was making eye contact.

“But bullying is such a harsh word,” I said, making a pouty face. I knew I was provoking her, but sometimes I just couldn’t help it.

“No, it’s just realistic. Because that’s exactly – what – you – did!” At the last word, she picked up her lemonade glass and threw the contents right into my face.

“My eyes!” I sputtered. “They burn! Emily!” I put my hands over my eyes and pushed on my eyeballs. I blinked a few times and opened my eyes. Blurrily, I looked at Emily – and she was smiling. “You little freak!” I screamed. “Right when I made up with you!” After that was a long string of curse words I really shouldn’t say in polite company (But of course, the last person to call polite at that moment was Emily.)

I was so into this rant that I didn’t even hear Mom’s car pull up in the driveway, or the clicking sounds of a door opening. In fact, I didn’t even notice my mom standing in the hall, appalled, until she yelled, “Sasha!”


“But she threw her lemonade at me and stole all the brownies!” I tried to explain, then cringed, realizing how immature that sounded.

“Right after you chased my friend away just ’cause you wanted to bully me!” Emily screamed.

“Girls!” my mom screamed. “Emily, no books for a week. Sasha, I’m going to take away your iPod… for a month.”

“A month!” I gasped. “But Emily only got her books taken away for a week. And having your books taken away isn’t really a punishment.”

My mom glared at me, her eyes sparking. “Emily wasn’t the one I saw going on an angry cussing spree.”

I made an irritated noise in my throat. “This is so not fair!”

Emily smirked at me.

“Come on,” I grumbled.

I dragged her up to my room and locked the door. We stayed that way until dinner.


“Oh, guess what I got today!” Sasha excitedly told our parents the next evening at dinner, digging a manila envelope out of her denim tote bag.

“A detention slip?” I said eagerly. My parents glared back at me. “Sorry.”

“No,” Sasha rolled her eyes. “My report card!”

I must admit, I was confused. Sasha had never been excited about her report card before. Unless…

Sasha handed over the envelope to my parents, who tore it open like hungry lions. “Read.”

Mom and Dad gasped. “A, A, A-, A+, B-, A-, Sasha this is amazing! We need to celebrate!”

“Well,” Sasha said, pretending to think. “What would really be nice is a new iPhone 4. But I can understand if it’s too much to ask.” She smiled sweetly. “But – you are proud of my grades, right?”

“Of course we are!” my mom said. “We’ll go to the Apple store on Saturday to get you your new phone.”

“Wait!” I yelled, then seeing everyone looking at me, said a little quieter, “What I meant was, I have something to show you, too.”

“Oh, well, what is it, sweetie?” my mom said.

“My own report card. I think these are the best grades I ever got!” I handed my report card to them.

They read it, and after a while my dad’s eyebrows knit in confusion. “But didn’t you get straight A’s last time?”

My smile faded. “Didn’t I get straight A’s this time?”

Dad shook his head, “I see a B…”

“Oh.” My heart fell. “In what?”


I felt like kicking myself. Why had I let myself get a B in art? I am so not an artist, but Mrs. Darwin always gives me A’s for good effort.

“It was better than Sasha’s, but she’s getting an iPhone,” I mumbled.

“You stop that right now or your books will be taken away for another month!” Mom’s voice took me by surprise, and I raised my eyebrows.

“Okay, fine! What did I even do?”

“These are the best grades Sasha has ever gotten; do not try to bring her down,” Dad added in.

Sasha tried to act offended. “Yeah, Emily,” she said softly.

“Stop acting,” I said, glaring.

“I’m not acting!” Sasha screamed. “Every year, we get report cards, and every year it’s the same: Mom and Dad read my report card and get all disappointed, and then they see yours, and immediately they smile and you get something cool. Just once I wanted to be recognized by my parents, and you have to take that away from me, too.”

She pulled me to the kitchen and slammed her plate in the dishwasher. “May I please be excused?”

Our shocked parents nodded. What else could they say?

* * *

The childish laughing enters my mind as a cloud of fog in my eardrums, making it hard to hear at first but then slowly drifting away, leaving it loud and clear as I fall off into a fitful sleep that night. It’s not evil laughter like you hear in zombie movies, but more benign, like regular children sharing a joke and having fun together. An image accompanies it, and I realize it’s the old picture that hangs on our kitchen wall, of 5 year old Sasha and me, smiling as we played in the sandbox at our kindergarten, playfully pouring sand on our heads. The old photo zooms in and suddenly comes to life. Except now, Sasha and I are frowning, like we are disappointed in something. Then I realize… it’s the teenage-us they’re disappointed in. The young Sasha turns to me and says, “We want the old Sasha and Emily back.” Young Emily nods and I wake with a start.

Usually, Sasha and I have different dreams at night. When I have a nightmare, I sit up suddenly and pull Sasha up with me, Sasha grumbling at me for waking her up. But this time, Sasha is breathing just as heavily as me, her eyes wide. “What happened?” I ask.

“I just had the craziest dream…” Sasha starts.

“Wait a minute. Did it include an old photo of us that came to life? And you were talking about how we wanted the old Sasha and Emily back?” I ask.

“Yeah, except instead of me saying we wanted our old selves back, it was you. Hey… how do you know that?

“Sasha,” I whisper. “I think we just had psychic dreams.”

Sasha looks into my hazel eyes, and I look back into her identical ones. Sasha rarely ever shows emotion on her face anymore. But now, when she turns my way, I’m sure she sees the same expression on mine. Fear. I don’t know why I would look scared; the sandbox was a fun memory, after all, not a nightmare. I glance at the big mirror facing our bed, just to be sure. Yup, there’s that look of fear, staring back at me. And that’s when I realize: it’s not fear staring back at me. It’s longing. Longing for us to be friendly, not hostile, towards each other. Longing to be happy with each other. Longing to be sisters.


One Response to “Twin”

  1. Jen January 5, 2012 at 6:16 am #

    Wow! This piece shows mastery of voice and dialogue and captures the subtleties of the sisterly relationship with great wit. Can’t wait to read more!

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