Lost & Forgotten Purchase Now
May 15, 1981
“When I grow up I’m going to be beautiful.”
“No you’re not.”
“Yes I am. We’re both going to be beautiful.”
“We’re always going to be ugly.”
“Don’t say that! Momma says ugly is a bad word.”
“Bad or not, it’s still true.”
The two girls began slowing their swings, still in perfect rhythm, forward and back, side-by-side. Without being consciously aware, they dropped their feet at the exact same time and brought the swings to a perfect stop as though part of a choreographed routine.
“But I know we’re going to be beautiful some day.”
“Maybe you will, but I won’t. I’ll always be ugly.”
“No you won’t. When I become beautiful, so will you. It always works like that because we’re identicals.”
“Identicals is not a word.”
“I know, but it’s what Momma always uses. We’re her identicals.”
“It’s a silly word.”
“Sometimes silly is fun.”
The girls fell silent as Becky Farsi appeared out of the school doors and started toward them, her head down, walking fast. Thirty feet from the twins she looked up. Her surprise was brief before she put on her ‘I’m superior and beautiful and you’re not’ look, and cut a wide berth around the playground swings. The twins looked down at their identical shoes until Becky was out of sight.
“Becky made me sad and angry today.”
“Where were you?”
“In the library. Where were you?”
“In my classroom.”
“We were far apart.”
“It’s getting stronger, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. She made fun of our scarves, didn’t she, Marissa.”
Marissa looked at her sister. “I didn’t tell you that. How did you know? Did you actually see it happen in your mind?”
“No. I just felt your sadness and then you got angry and then I knew.”
“Like we had become one.”
“What does that mean?”
Marissa thought for a second. “It’s like our minds merged into one big brain. It’s been happening for a while. Haven’t you felt it? When we were in the math bee, we helped each other.”
“I didn’t give you any answers.”
“No. That’s not what I mean. We were like one very powerful brain that we both could use.”
“Is that why nobody likes us?”
“That, and because we’re ugly.”
“No. That can’t be it.”
“Because we’re different.”
“We’re special. That’s what Momma says.”
“I don’t want to be special anymore.”
“We’re twins. Identicals. We’ll always be special, Marissa.”
“Sometimes I wish you’d go away.”
Melissa looked at her sister in shock. “You don’t mean that!”
Marissa sighed. “No, I guess I don’t. But don’t you sometimes wonder what it’d be like to be by yourself?”
“No. I’ve never thought of that. I can’t imagine ever being without you.”
“Doesn’t it bother you that you can’t be mad alone, that I always know what you’re feeling?”
“I’ve never thought of it as being a bother. It’s nice to share.”
“Pretty soon we’re going to be able to read each other’s minds and then we won’t have any privacy.”
Melissa hopped off her swing and looked at Marissa. “You really don’t want me around anymore, do you!”
“That’s not what I said.”
“Yes you did. You said you wished I would go away. Well, what if I did? Who’d brush your hair? Who’d you talk to just before you fall asleep? Who would you have when Becky Fart-face starts picking on you?”
Marissa giggled. “That’s what we should do. Start calling her Fart-face. Becky Farsi Fart-face.”
“Yeah! That would be funny.”
Marissa stood and together they picked up their identical backpacks and started walking in the direction of home. In the background of the warm May afternoon was the sound of a commercial airliner lifting off the runway two miles away. It was a sound heard often by those in the take-off path, a sound mostly ignored.
“How did you do on the math test?”
“Why do you ask me? I always get them all right, just like you.”
“Just wondering. I figure one of us has to make a mistake eventually.”
“What?” Melissa shouted. The two girls, in identical blouses and identical skirts, turned their identical misshapen faces toward the huge passenger jet. Melissa pulled Marissa to the ground and they covered their heads with their backpacks and cowered against the roar that shook their little bodies.
At barely two miles off the end of the runway, commercial airliners normally have more than sufficient altitude to avoid scaring the daylights out of a couple of ten-year-old girls on a school playground. Above the girls the airliner was at 200 feet and losing altitude, the pilot having already frantically reported to flight control that there was a hydraulic failure. One of the seven people who survived out of the 159 on board—they would become known as the miracle seven—would remember looking out the window and being surprised at seeing the girls lying on the ground, just before realizing that there was something deadly wrong.
Two blocks beyond the girls, the jet slipped below 100 feet. Instead of trying to regain hydraulics, the pilot was unsuccessfully attempting to steer the massive flying machine toward an open field. He felt a shudder on contact with the chimney of one house, thought of his wife and child, and saw a woman run out of the next house and look directly at him and then draw her last surprised breath.
The girls jumped to their feet and watched the tail of the huge plane disappear beyond the oak trees and tops of houses and then heard the explosions and saw the horrendous fireballs in the sky. They took off through the opening in the fence, across the street and down the avenue that ran directly to where they lived. People were coming out of their houses and running in the same direction, toward the flames and smoke shooting high in the air. The girls ran and ran and ran. More and more people were running with them; women were screaming and crying. Two men ran past them, shouting, and there were sirens.
And then they stopped.
They moved no farther than the corner sign marking the cross streets of Berry Lane and West Third Avenue. They were holding hands and staring. Their hearts raced and tears streamed down their misshapen cheeks. It was not the raging fire that stopped them. It was the fact that the house, which they called home since the day they were born, where Momma sang songs and called them her identicals, was gone. They also knew that so was Momma. Today was her day off from work. What they had yet to know was how totally alone they were yet to become.