I’m the girl on the PSA posters with the cracked lips and the sunken eyes. My hair is frayed up to the roots, as ragged as my clothes. “Don’t be that girl,” mothers whisper and point as they pass me on the street, clutching their little girls just a tiny bit closer. Maybe it was the late night parties, the string of “bad boys,” or the booze, they’d say. But I don’t think that’s what happened. The big, bad world bit me, and I let myself bleed out. Nineteen and already running on dead battery. That was my story, but I want a different one.
And I have one picked out- my twin sister’s. Life’s harshest dose of reality comes when you’re born with a carbon copy. Well, almost. She lacks my flare for unwitting disaster- which is why Mauve is halfway through Harvard with a beautiful, British beau and a fast pass to a life basking in the Hamptons’ sun.
Mauve looks down at me now with a wrinkled-nose disgust that only makes me laugh. She should be an actress or a lawyer. Her dramatics are wasted in the lab. “Why would I ever do that?” she scoffs. The toe of her shiny, black flat hits against the cement floor inches from where I sit. Digging a hole to China. That’s what I used to call the way her foot starts digging when she got nervous. Every shoe she owns is riddled with scuff marks.
“Because you know how unfair this is!” I shout, feeling the threat that she may not agree with my plan. I even feel like a pity two year old, but I don’t care. “You were the one who let me get picked up at that party. If you’d bothered to grab my arm when your scummy friends called the police, I would have been the valedictorian! Now I don’t even have a diploma. Or a life.”
“So it’s all my fault now, is it? I ruined your life?” She threw her fists down but then started to calm. She looked back up at me. “But why should I have to give up mine?” Her eyes have a wicked fire that burns my clear, blue irises. “I don’t want to hear about it, Mavis.” She starts walking toward the door that sat awkwardly on its hinges, busted through too many times. “I was smart enough to get out.”
Now it’s my turn to pull the daggers.
“I can bring it all down.” My voice is low, animal. I want to prove that my threats aren’t hollow like my bones. The little girl she used to taunt and trick has turned to stone. Mauve stops and pivots, the icicles from my lips finally catching her.
“You’ve forgotten that I have something you can’t take. I’m your identical twin. I have your face, your body. I know you. I was you. And I can be you.” Her head shifts side to side, trying to decide how many brain cells hum in each of my words. When her lip curls, I’m sure I’ve caught her, but there’s one last nail for the coffin. “I have it all, whether you let me or not. Your choice.”
Her footsteps echo in the empty apartment as she charges back toward me. “You wouldn’t dare.”
I relish in my impish grin as I stare up from the floor. “Do I look like someone with anything to lose?”
The leather flats squeeze my toes like a juicer, and I start to wonder if Mauve’s toe digging is less about anxiety and more about her pension for pointy foot prisons. My new extensions brush over my shoulders giving me a copper colored mane to cover my bleached, chin length strings. I smack my lips and shift my new bag from left to right. So this is Harvard.
“Okay, Mavis. I think you’re good to get out of my life now,” Mauve said with a fake cherry-flavored glint in her voice. “I have to buy back the half of my wardrobe that I gave to you, and I’ll have to buy Robert beers till I graduate for not saying anything about our identical fake IDs, but I think you’re good to go. Just don’t get us caught.”
“No problem. I want out of this life as much as you want me gone. Texas awaits with a respectable job and a roommate situation that doesn’t involve cement walls. All thanks to you.” I give her a grateful smile that is less than authentic.
“Should be thanks to me,” I whisper under my breath.
I don’t look back at my reflection as I walk away from the school that rescinded my matching acceptance letter after Mauve dropped me at the party. I walk straight to the bus station and make myself comfortable for the long haul. My skin tingles in anticipation of the choking balminess that the South promises. Maybe the heat will steep out my bad luck.
The fabric of the seat scratches against my cheek as I start to drool my way to dreamland. The world goes dark and then is pierced by the light of cheap strobes, repurposed from Halloween. My orange juice sloshes over the edge of my cup. “Cheers, cheers, cheers!” my drunk boyfriend chants in my ear. Jonah. At least he was really guilty. I flinch as some of his whisky dribbles into my juice.
“Three cheers for Mavis!” Alexandra, my pixie cut wearing best friend, finishes, raising her cup. She lived for lukewarm keg beer. I smile at them even though the hive of swirling eyes turned on me makes me want to melt into the floor. I raise my cup a bit, inciting another round of cheers.
My eyes dart toward the corner where Mauve stands whispering with Sarah and Paul. While her lips move for them, her arrows are mine to take, cut through the chest. She’s the angry tequila shot that sears all the way down.
The group shakes my shoulders, pulling me back into their champagne smiles.
“COPS!” The word shatters the room like thin glass, and I can’t hear anything outside the splintering and thundering feet. It’s like the house is falling down, crumbling in on me basked in a patriotic light show.
I manage to find Mauve in the center of the whole mess, and she’s staring at me over her shoulder as Paul tugs on her arm. He knew this was coming and is saving her ass. All she has to do is reach out her arm and drag me with her up the stairs and everything would have been fine. Instead, Alexandra stumbles over and knocks me down in her effort to run out the back door.
The end of Mauve’s ponytail disappears the by time the cops finally make it inside, cold, metal cuffs at the ready. And what happens to the future valedictorian at the bottom of a pile of drunk kids? She gets a misdemeanor with the rest of them for underaged drinking when she never had a sip of alcohol. And her sister gets to take her place on the first place pedestal.
It’s the nightmare I have every time I close my eyes, but I can’t seem to make it stop when I wake.
The bus lurches to a stop, inches from the wall of the depot. My legs have fallen asleep and I shake them around a bit as I wait for everyone to clear the isle. I make it a point to be the last one off. It’s fitting since I’m dumping a whole person in the rotting bus.
“Here lies Mavis Adams, never to be heard from again,” I whisper as walk down the steps. The heat is as corrosive as Marjory said in her email. Marjory, my boss. I have a boss at a job with a desk that starts at nine and ends at five. It’s not college, but it’s more than I ever imagined a few weeks ago.
New, clean, employed me breaks into a bit of a happy dance. I have a new reputation to live up to, a new person. Mauve Adams the Second has something to prove to the world, and I think she might be able to do it.