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by Sonia Kilvington

I knew you before you were born. I felt your heart beating, next to mine, through the liquid darkness. I couldn’t tell where you ended and I began. You were me and I was you, and that’s the way it was.

I have always been in your shadow: I can see that now. I was born six minutes after you, and have spent the rest of my life trying to catch up. I was your sidekick, your play thing, your weaker self. Always the second half of every sentence — Kate and Josie: never Josie and Kate.

That’s why, when you ran screaming into my room that night, covered in blood and desperate for my help, I couldn’t resist taking the blame for you. Just as I’d done all of those other times you’d begged me. It was more serious this time, though: your flammable temper had exploded in frenzied attack on that perfect looking boyfriend of yours, who had cheated on you, behind your back.

It didn’t take much for you to persuade everyone that it had been me. They were all so desperate to believe it. “She stabbed him in a fit of jealous rage,” the prosecutor said. And guess what? I didn’t disagree. He’d told the court that I was psychotically jealous of your boyfriend, who had “taken you away from me.” As we look identical, apart from the odd blemish, everyone bought your story, wholesale. Violence: it’s not like anyone would ever accuse you of that. You’re not the twin with the bad reputation.

“I only stabbed him once, so they’ll be lenient. You have got to do this for me!” you pleaded, your eyes brimming with petrified tears. And in a pathetic blend of warped loyalty and weakness, I had.

But what I learned in prison is that it’s not just me. There are others in here; sad, desperate mothers, daughters and sisters, who have done stupid, crazy things trying to protect the people they loved. Maybe that’s why I finally found somewhere I don’t feel quite so strange. I don’t judge their weaknesses and in return they don’t seem to judge mine. Mostly, they just leave me alone: you see, thanks to all of your plotting and scheming, I have gotten such a bad reputation, and in truth it’s probably the only thing that keeps me safe and sane.

I’ve had a lot of time to think about us, in here. Especially since you never came to visit. But you’d be wrong to imagine that I feel bitter towards you. In a completely skewed way, I feel like I’ve gained more than I’ve lost. I understand that it is down to my own stupidity, that I am the one with bars on my windows, while you are out there, doing whatever you want. But I have finally gained a sense of myself, as an individual, and, in my own mind at least, I’m finally free of you.

Sonia Kilvington is a journalist, short story writer, poet and novelist who is currently living in Cyprus. She is a regular contributor to poetry journals and websites, and has published a couple of noir tales too. Her first poetry collection, Dangerous Love, is in English and Romanian.