We both met Dom at secondary school. No. That's wrong. I met him. Chiara saw him there but didn't even know his name. Not until much later, anyway.
Chiara and I were not in the same class when we changed schools at the age of eleven. This was partly due to the school's policy of separating twins, but mostly because I was in the 'A' stream and she down with the barely literate 'C' streamers. We didn't socialise at break time either. She was too busy chatting inanely with the other boy-mad, makeup-mad girls in her class to spend any more time than she needed to with her swotty twin sister.
I didn't chat with anyone at break. I was usually walking round and round the perimeter of the playground, thinking, while I looked down at my sensible brown school shoes and, of course, counted my steps. I always had to finish with an even number. That was really important. I do the same thing now, when I'm walking round the exercise yard, here.
It was during one of these laps of the playground that I first spoke to Dom. He was in my class, but the girls didn't have much to do with the boys, at that age. I knew his name was Dominic McMahon, and that he was very clever. He was the one who put his hand up for every teacher's question, and always got the answer right. That was like me in every way but one. I knew all the answers but never, ever put my hand up.
He was like me in another way too. He spent each break time on his own. He didn't do the walking thing,though, just sat on the bank, usually reading a textbook or a dictionary. The day I made his acquaintance properly, he was reading ''Fowler's English Usage.''
That was the day I tripped over. I had looked up from my shoes for some reason and didn't notice the stone. I did a very undignified flop, onto the bank, next to Dominic, missing him by inches.
''Whoopsadaisy!'' he said, barely suppressing a giggle. ''Are you all right?''
I felt my cheeks burning, and got up, but he patted the grass next to him.
''Sit down for a bit.'' he said. ''Have a rest.''
I looked into his green eyes, magnified a little by his tortoiseshell glasses. He looked concerned. I was tongue-tied. I always was, with boys. Well,with everyone, really.
I didn't want to stay there. Walking was safer, less threatening, but he seemed harmless, so I made the effort.
''What are you reading?'' I asked, though I knew, because we all had that book.
''Oh, nothing special,'' he said. ''Do you like English?''
I shrugged. ''Do you?'' I asked.
''It's my best subject.'' he said. ''Apart from Art.''
''I'm rubbish at Art.'' I muttered, picking a daisy and starting to pull the petals off.
''Oh. I'm not bad.'' he said. ''I like drawing aeroplanes and cars and stuff like that. I want to be an engineer. Or an author.''
''Well. they're a bit different, aren't they?'' I said.
''Suppose so.'' he said. Then the bell rang, and we went back to our form room. Instead of sitting next to the boy he usually sat with, he came and sat at the empty desk next to me. I was surprised, and didn't really know how to react, but at the same time I was very pleased. I was the only girl in the class who had a boy as a friend. I think that was the day I fell in love with Dom.
He sat next to me, in all our lessons, for the next six years. And we spent all our break times together as well.
Sometimes he would draw pictures for me. Cars, planes, boats, battle scenes. He would tear them out of his sketchbook and hand them to me,and I would put them in my school bag.
One day, during the second year, he said to me, ''There's this really good-looking girl in 2C with the same surname as you. She's gorgeous. Everyone fancies her. ''
I never talked about my home life, and Chiara and I never spoke to each other at school,so there was no reason he would know. I felt a pang of jealousy.
''Do you?'' I asked, dreading the reply.
''Nah.'' he said. ''I only like you, Carmel.'' I smiled. To me, that was his way of telling me that he loved me.
When we left school, he and I went off to different universities, promising to keep in touch. Chiara had left at sixteen and was doing a hairdressing apprenticeship, with day-release to the local technical college to do a fashion and beauty course. Dom and I spoke to each other from time to time on the telephone, during the first year, then gradually lost touch. But I thought about him a lot.
I didn't go home for any of the holidays, preferring to stay in the Hall of Residence. My parents didn't mind. They had always preferred their beautiful Chiara anyway. So it was a shock when they all turned up to my graduation ceremony three years later with Chiara's new boyfriend.
He had glossy dark hair, in a spiky cut. He was slim and well dressed, and no longer wore glasses, But I would have known him anywhere. He had always looked beautiful to me, but now, he was stunning. And Chiara knew it.
''You and Dom were in the same class at school, weren't you?'' she said, looking triumphant.