Ali never knew Ashton- or not that I knew of- so he wasn’t ‘invited’ to her funeral. I told everyone from school to come. No one listened. What really surprised me was that Joscelyne and Maria were up the back, grave expressions painted on their bitchy faces. I felt like yelling at them and telling them that it was all their fault that she was dead and two days earlier, when she first started to change, it was them that I had seen her talking to last.
“Ari, what are you doing out there? Come in….” Ashton glanced at the black attire I was wearing and the tears soaking my skin. “Her funeral… Ari, I know I don’t really know either of you-
“Knew; you never really knew me. Sure it hasn’t been long but I have changed. And Ali isn’t here anymore.” I corrected Ashton. He put his hands in his pocket and looked at the ground.
“Ari….” I fought back the stinging tears.
“No, Ashton, don’t. I know you mean well, and I thought I could come here without someone looking at me with that sympathetic face and telling me that it wasn’t my fault. It was.”
Ashton gestured for me to come inside. I hesitated before following. In the corner of his lounge room there was a drum kit. I stared at it and then sniffed deeply.
“You play drums.” It wasn’t really a question, more of a statement.
“Yeah, I’m in a band. You’ve probably never heard of us. No one ever has.” He walked into his kitchen and poured two glasses of orange juice. He passed one of the glasses to me and I stared at it. He gestured for me to take a sip but I just stared at it and bit my lip.
I looked into his mud-flecked, sincere eyes and felt tears wad up in mine.
“I’m sorry about the orange juice, Ari, but it’s the only thing my sister drinks.”
I blinked and looked away from his eyes. I looked around for some way of telling the time and put my hands on my face. I wiped away the tears that had begun and frantically looked back up at Ashton. He stared at me, worry clear on his face.
“Do you want to go for a walk? Let’s go for a walk.” Ashton turned and led the way to the door. We walked down the street, leaving the untouched glass of orange juice on the table. I followed Ashton. Him leading at a brisk pace, neither of us talking, I crossed my arms as the day began the transition into night. “Look, I’m trying to be nice. I know that you’re mourning and trust me; I know what that’s like. But you don’t have to act like your so above me that you don’t need me- or anyone for that fact- to help you. Everyone needs help, Ari. I’d be the first to admit that I need help. The least you could do would be to let me help you…”
I turned away from him and blinked at the jacaranda trees lining the pavement.
“You don’t know what this is like. You say you do, everyone says that they know, because everyone has lost someone but they’ve never lost a twin. They’ve never lost someone with a soul deep connection to them. I feel dead inside, Ashton. I can’t reach out and feel Ali there anymore.” I choked.
I felt Ashton move closer and I took a step away before I turned around to face him.
“At least you have a sister to drink orange juice with. At lest you still have a sister to talk to and hug and laugh with and-
Ashton’s face turned dark and I stopped talking.
“Ali is dead, Ashton. That’s why I didn’t drink your sisters orange juice. She can drink it when she comes home. You can leave me now and go to your happy life in your new home with your sister and your orange juice and your sister. You have a sister, you have no reason to know what I feel if you have a s-
“Ari,” Ashton said sharply, warning signs flashing. I stopped and stared at him.
“What, Ashton?” I said wearily.
“I have no sister.”
I stared at him some more and let go of the minimal control I had on my tear ducts.
“What.” I asked carefully.
“My sister died two years ago.”
My jaw dropped and I shook my head. I shook my head as hard as I could, dizziness clouding my vision.
“No, no, no, no, no, oh Ashton, no,” I sobbed. I saw that his body had gone rigid and with my hand suddenly on his arm, I seemed to be the only thing holding him up. “Ashton, I didn’t mean what I said, I swear it on my life, I swear it.”
“It’s ok. Really, Ari, I should have told you. I just can’t bear it sometimes and if you knew then you would have been looking at me the way I was looking at you. Just like you, I can’t stand remorse. I know I should have told you instead of acting like she was alive still.”
“You didn’t tell anyone though. But, I guess, you’ve only been here for…. I don’t even know how long… I’m really sorry; I will never be able to make it up to you, Ashton….” I said.
He swallowed and nodded at me in a strange way.
“There is one way that you can make it up to me.” He said. I scrunched my face up in an attempt to stop tears for both our sisters.
“I will do anything.”
“Don’t tell anyone. Don’t mention it at all. And in turn, we don’t have to talk about Ali, if you don’t want-
I shook my head. There was no way that I was not going to talk about Aleira. She was a part of me and I was never going to forget about her.
“If it’s the same to you, I’d love to talk to someone about her.” My bottom lip quivered and Ashton frowned at me. He hesitated before turning down the next street. I glanced in the direction of the church for a moment before following. A few streets and silent moments later, I realised we had stopped outside my house. I looked at Ashton and saw him holding a packet of Kleenex and offering them to me. I took one. Ashton took a peek at me when he thought that I wasn’t looking.
“Do you want me to go?” Ashton asked me. I thought for a minute before shaking my head.
“How do you know where I live?”
He smiled for the first time and shrugged. I was ashamed to admit how cute it was.
“Been here before… Don’t you remember?” He asked me. “But that doesn’t explain how you know where I live.” He smirked.
I was afraid to tell him that I didn’t actually know that he lived until I saw him, so instead I laughed before remembering that I was supposed to be mourning and turned my face back into the permanent frown it had been in for the past few days. Before I knew it, his hand was on my shoulder. “Ali wouldn’t want you to frown your way through year 11. She would have wanted you to have fun.”
Thanks. I thought to myself.
“Plus, you look much better smiling. I mean you still look really pretty frowning, like one of those models who do that pout thing, but when you smile…. You’re beautiful…” I shook my head. He was dead wrong. There was nothing about me that screamed beautiful. Even though my sister and I were identical, she was always the ‘stunning’ one. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.
“You’re wrong. Ali was the beautiful one. She had the long dark brown hair and piercing green eyes. She was the one getting all the modelling calls from agencies. I entered too and because I didn’t have the blonde hair they were after, they didn’t pick me. Is it, like, some rule that says that if you have blue eyes you have to have stupid blonde hair as well-
“My sister had blonde hair and blue eyes and so do I.” Ashton interrupted. I froze again and opened the door to my house. Ashton held it open and as he did, and I saw the picture of Ali and I in the foyer- I ran upstairs into my room; into the very room in which I found my limp, dead sister- Ali. I started crying again. As of Ali’s funeral, I hadn’t eaten all day and the room went dark. There was a pinprick of light and I strained to focus on it. I felt the headache flare up and I took another deep breath, felt someone take me in their arms and let it all go blank.