We were packing. It was almost Christmas Eve. Every Christmas we went on a trip to Sydney. Bondi beach at Christmas time was somewhat packed, but somewhat beautiful. We always stayed till New Year. There was never a time when it wasn’t a happy trip and everyone we met was always so nice. Once we went up to England but that was only because Ali won a competition.
Up until we were about twelve years old, our mother was the one who took us. As soon as we started high school, we only went if we wanted to and mum never came with us anymore. But we always wanted to go.
I had packed almost every single item of my summer clothing though I knew that I would only wear about three items. Ali had sensibly packed only what she needed.
“Have you asked mum if she wants to come this year?” Ali asked me wearily. I nodded.
“Of course, she didn’t even answer me. Can’t we just go together because if she comes, then it won’t be a nice trip, it will be a death trip and anyway, how will we get into the over eighteens New Year’s party?” I asked her. I zipped up my suitcase. I heard the most annoying laugh and the most annoying voice in the entire world. I stared at Ali’s iPod and then turned it off. I sighed in relief. She blinked at me. I smiled sweetly and blinked back.
“What did you do that for?” She yelled at me. She threw a pillow at me and I caught it with my quick reflexes and threw it back in one move.
“Because that TV series is the most annoying series in the world, got it?” I retorted. She gaped at me.
“How can you not love the character Erica? She’s so great.” She swooned.
“Let me tell you, she’s a backstabbing, lying, mean bitch who talks about her friends behind their backs-
“Uh, that’s like the meaning of backstabber-
“Shut up. And she spreads rumours about her friends and then tells everyone that she didn’t-
“Pretty much going back into the lying concept there-
“And she’s mean. And she’s also a big bitch and I just want to go up to her and stab her in the face with a fork and then pull her eyeballs out and feed them to our dog.” I yelled. I scrunched my fists together and Ali stared at me. I gave a small laugh.
“Wow, let the anger out much? Plus, we don’t have a dog. The plane leaves in an hour. We better hurry.” She patted my back as she took her suitcase and walked out of the room. I shook my head, picked up my own suitcase and followed suit.
We were sitting in the plane when I realised that the empty seat next to me was not going to stay empty. Ali had bagged the window seat and I had taken the middle seat. It was very unfair, though I didn’t complain when a group of football players came and sat opposite me, next to me and in front of me. Ali stared at the person sitting next to me. She obviously had some idea of who he was but I didn’t.
“Wow.” She breathed. “Ari, can we swap? He’s one of the football players for….”
I tuned out. I didn’t really care who he was only that he was sitting next to me and not next to Ali. And she wanted the window seat. I smiled smugly and tuned back in.
“….And if you swap with me, I will let you borrow my stuff.”
“Dude, I borrow your stuff anyway.” I retorted. She stopped talking and the footballer turned to us.
“Cool! Twins, you girls coming to our game?” He asked in a deep voice. I shook my head and Ali nodded. He looked confused. That was enough for me to know that he wasn’t going to hear anything I said. I pulled the lever which made my chair go back a little. It was dark outside. We had just taken off and I pulled my jumper into a ball for a pillow. I was given a blanket by one of the flight attendants.
“Well. I’m tired, off to sleep for me.” I yawned, closed my eyes and fell asleep.
Half way there I woke, but I kept my eyes closed. I realised that all the chatter I had been hearing in my dream was actually the footballer and Ali talking. They were talking whilst I was sleeping. I wasn’t jealous. But I actually was. Even if I tried to trick myself into thinking it, I couldn’t.
“So your mother just lets you go? You’re only a good 16 or 17 years old.” The footballer was saying.
“Yeah, don’t get me wrong, I love my sister and all, but-
“You hate her sometimes?” The footballer suggested. Ali laughed. I couldn’t see what she did.
“No, of course not, I was just going to say, that even though I love my sister, and even though she can get annoying….I don’t know what I would do without her.” She patted my forehead and I tried hard not to flinch. I couldn’t help it. I flinched and turned to the side. I yawned and then opened my eyes.
“What’s going on?” I whispered to Ali. She looked outside the window and then at the footballer.
“Nothing much,” They replied at the same time. A couple of his team mates looked at us jealously. I smiled to myself.
“We are landing very soon. Please turn off all electronic devices.”
Ali let out a giggle. The footballer smiled briefly. I frowned because I didn’t know what was going on.
It took another half an hour for us to land. The airport in Sydney was packed so tightly. The footballer came off right after us, and he helped us find our suitcase and then reassembled with his team mates. His team mates gave us all a wave, and though I still didn’t know who they were, everyone else at the airport did.
I overheard a conversation between the footballer and Ali whilst I was standing getting a drink from a café. The footballer was only 19 or 20 at the most and he was holding her shoulders whilst she shook her head.
“Ali, come on, please, just let us swap numbers please.” That was what the footballer was pleading. I listened in closely and Ali shook her head once more.
“Dude, I know who you are, you have a girlfriend. Don’t even think about it.” I knew now what the footballer was asking. Ali continued to shake her head. “Let go of me.” She ordered. He didn’t let go. One of his team mates saw what was going on and walked over to them. I watched in silence from my hiding spot and watched as the team mate who was bigger and buffer than the one holding Ali and forced him to let go. The team mate who I suddenly nick named Buffy was pulling the footballer away. Ali stared at him in disgust.
“Ali, please, I’m not asking for anything but your number.” He pleaded again. Ali stared at him in stony silence. I smiled to myself.
“You know what, Jeremy Coulta?” Ali spat. I blinked. He was one of the most famous footballers of the time. I gasped and blinked a couple more times. “I should go to the papers and tell them about you. And when I said that sometimes my life was so terrible that I feel like ending it all….” She paused and looked around.
She was yelling and there was so many people watching them. There was a moment when a camera flashed and a baby stopped crying.
“You said it was my sister that obviously made my life that way. And then I was silent.”
The footballer glared at Ali. Obviously this was going to be front page news for him. She waited a moment for him to nod his head stiffly.
“Ari is what makes everything alright. And you should know that she is the best person to ever walk this earth, not- as you called her- a bitchy know-it-all mama’s girl- you’re horrible and I believe the world should know that.” I was so, so proud of her and I had a look around at the people. Someone was muttering about how this was going on YouTube.
“You stupid little child,” He was the one to spit the words out now and Ali gave him a smile.
“I would punch you in the face, but you would probably sue me.” She patted his head whilst standing on her tiptoes. He tried to get out of Buffy’s restraining arms and I was grateful that Buffy was there. I knew it was time for me to come out. I stood quietly. I walked, and Ali didn’t see me. But some others saw me. The cameras turned on me and I flinched in the eye of the lights facing me.
Ali turned and in what seemed like slow motion, I started running towards her and she slowly started to smile. I flew into her arms and we hugged. I heard clapping and then the whole airport seemed to be clapping. The world returned to normal speed again and I made sure that I wasn’t looking at any cameras and I made sure that none of the cameras could pick up what I was saying as I whispered into Ali’s ear-
“Ali, I am so proud of you. Thank you for sticking up for me, I promise I will always be there to do the same.” She hugged me tighter and I hugged her tighter. Then I let go and Ali let go and I walked up to Jeremy Coulta. It was only a few steps but it seemed like an eternity. There he was in front of me, staring daggers at both of us.
I crossed my arms and pulled on all of my years of playing sports at school.
“You should be warned that this may hurt. Oh, and sue me if you want but you are getting what you deserve.” I took a step back and cracked my knuckles. He flinched and I smiled in the same way that Ali did. I drew back my leg and kicked him right where it hurts. He fell to the ground and Buffy let go of him. I touched Buffy’s arm and put my leg back onto the floor next to my other leg.
Ali patted me on the back and picked up our luggage.
“What do you want?” Buffy asked me. His voice was deep and rough and it sounded as though his vocal chords may have been injured some years before.
“Thanks for restraining him. I owe you, I really do- but no numbers and no….other stuff.” He smiled and pulled two pieces of rectangular paper out of his back pocket.
“Here.” He handed me the paper and I gingerly took it and opened it. I stared at it. So these were passes to the football. I handed them to Ali. “I know you probably don’t seem like the football type, come and watch?” Jeremy swore and the crowd had long since departed. I checked my watch. Ali asked the Buffy guy to hold them for a second and then she opened her bag. She checked her watch, zipped up her bag and then swore. She grabbed my arm and handed me my bag.
“Sorry, we’ll be late! The waves are the best at this time.” Ali yelled. She pulled me along and I wasn’t able to take the passes. I never really wanted to go anyway. I mouthed sorry at Buffy and followed her. For some reason, Buffy looked really downhearted.
We never really went to the beach. Ali dropped our stuff in our hotel room and then dropped onto her bed.
“Ali, aren’t we going to the beach? I really want some sunshine.” I pointed outside to the really bright sun and I could feel the sun’s rays burning the sand from here. Ali looked at her watch and then sighed.
“It’s raining.” She sighed again. I frowned. I pointed to the sunshine and then dropped my hand.
“Actually it’s sunny.” Ali sat up and I turned my back on the window. She pointed out the window now and looked way too smug for my liking. I turned around. It was raining very hard.
“Well, Scheizer.” I said. I sat on the bed and looked at Ali. “How the hell did you know that it was going to rain?”
“Google Weather.” She said simply. She grabbed the TV remote and turned on the TV. I hadn’t seen the TV yet and I had a look at it. It was almost as big as the wall. I smiled and sat on the bed next to Ali’s. It was a coincidence that half an hour after we turned the TV on, the football game was on. There was Jeremy Coulta with the ball. He was running funny and I liked to think that it was my doing. It was almost half time. He was being interviewed at half time and I bit my lip and crossed my arm. I wanted to see this.
“So, Jeremy Coulta, we heard you had a rather eventful flight here.” The reporter was saying. Jeremy glared at the reporter.
“If that is all you want to talk about then I’m leaving.” He snarled-
The TV went blank. I looked over at Ali and there was a smile playing on her lips. I reached for the remote but she shook her head.
“Why’d you turn it off?” I wailed. I wanted to see that stupid guy made fun of on all of national television. If there was one person who deserved it, it was him. She turned the TV back on with a sigh but changed the channel. Ali gaped. There on every single channel was Ali’s face. And then there was me, kicking Jeremy. Then there was the hug between me and my sister. She changed the channel. The same thing came up.
I licked my lips and went over to a cabinet filled with DVDs. I chose a random classic and attempted to put it in the DVD player. I failed.
“Ali, could you help?” I asked quietly. She shook her head and silently turned up the volume on the TV. I turned my head back to the screen and gulped. The reporter- a new one- was sitting at a desk gravely. She was speaking a different language but there were subtitles. And it was very clear what she was saying according to the video of Ali and I in the background. The reporters facial expressions changed and I saw Ali’s change as well. I looked at her, worried.
“Ari…” She whispered.
“What’s up? Turn this off it’s not worth watching if you’re going to be upset.” I said. Ali shook her head and smiled so brightly I thought the windows would crack.
“We are famous! Dude! Because I badmouthed him and you kicked him- all of his secrets are coming out and he’s going to be jailed for abuse to women.” She stood up and held out her hand which I high fived hesitantly. Ali was dancing around the room and I felt good. I felt better than good. There wasn’t anything holding me back. I started singing We Are the Champions and Ali joined in. her voice was way better than mine, though she decided not to use it as much. There was nothing that I could do though about that. I just had to sing up, sing loud or shut up and sit down.
“This is awesome.” I said to her, puffed and out of breath, “Merry Christmas.”
Ali returned the unofficial toast. I lay down on what was to be my bed and I closed my eyes and thought.
Suddenly I felt myself pull out of my own body and I knew this was Ali’s doing. I saw Ali pull out of her body too. I knew the people here, in the past- us- couldn’t see us.
We watched our past selves lie down on their separate beds and fell asleep. Though it wasn’t that late, they were fast asleep in a few seconds. Dead Ali leant closer to me, still in that white flowing dress. I looked down at myself and smiled. I was in her jeans.
“Ariel, what are you doing here?” Ali asked me sharply. I couldn’t stop smiling. I knew that I could do it now. I could hug her. She was sad for some reason and vulnerable. I held out my arms and I hugged her. I hugged her so damn tightly that neither of us remembered what we were going to say when we let go of each other. “I’m sorry, I’ve just missed you so much and I can’t seem to stop telling you what to do whenever I see you.”
I nodded and stared at our past selves jealously. I saw Ali doing the same.
“You know you made this happen. Ali, you were the epitome of my life. Everything happened because you made it so. Just like when you hung yourself.” Ali gulped and put her head in her hands. I smiled again. It had stopped raining outside and the sun was shining. It seemed to shine just on Ali though, and she was glowing. Like an angel.
Ali closed her eyes and smiled back.
‘I envy them. I was here because this was one of my best moments, one of our best memories obviously. But what I don’t understand is how you are here.” Ali sat down on the bed, weightless, leaving no creases whatsoever.
“What do you mean?” I asked her. I sat next to her and was surprised to see that I was pretty much weightless too. Ali gestured around the room.
“The only people I meet here are the dead and the brain dead or people who are mentally disabled. It is only those people that can manipulate their memories. But why can you?” She asked. She ran a hand along her old suitcase which was open. I looked down. She knew that I thought I knew why.
“You remember that special connection we had? I think that when you died, you took part of me with you and I held onto a part of you. Unless this is all in my head-
“It is! But that doesn’t mean it’s not real.”
“I’m going crazy. I’m sorry Ali; I came to see me and my sister not some ghost of my memories.” I knew I was going to start crying again but I didn’t care. But in some way I did. There was silence for a moment and I wiped away a single tear. “I wanted to see something happy before I leave my house forever.”
“I told you not to kill yourself. But fine- do what you want, I’ll be waiting for you.”
I looked over at her and I could see that she was trying not to cry. She was trying not to let me see that what I had said had got to her.
“Ali, I meant I’m moving. Mum sold the house. Said she couldn’t bear it anymore. And to be honest I couldn’t bear her anymore either.” I licked my lips and she blinked a couple of times.
“I thought everything would change if I went away. But I thought it would change in a good way.”
“Well this is your entire fault. And now I’m moving in with some guy I barely just met and he doesn’t even know it yet and you ruined my best memory with your angel like presence, I think I’ll leave now. See you later.”
I closed my eyes. I opened them and took one long last look at my happy twin and myself. I closed my eyes again and took a deep breath. I tried to wake again in my world, in my present.
I opened my eyes and clutched at my chest.
I looked around me.