by Amanda Saint
Ever since we were tiny everyone said we were like two peas in a pod. On our first day at playschool we’d turned up in the same dungarees. Our hair in bunches with ribbons on the ends. Hard to believe, our mums said when they collected us, checking each other out to see if they were the same too.
We’ve made a thing of it since and it’s worked. If you don’t look too close.
So why didn’t he choose me then?
The first time we saw him he was in the greenhouse. We watched through the kitchen window as he pushed tiny green shoots into pots where they could grow.
“He’s going to help out now I’m on my own,” your mum said.
I didn’t think much of it. He was too old for us and we fancied the Burgess twins. Two of them, two of us. Perfect. But then he started hanging around and you suddenly had so many reasons not to come out. Stopped dressing the same.
“It was OK when we were little,” you said, “but we’re women now.”
I wouldn’t be shrugged off though. I followed behind when he walked you home from school on the last day of our very last term. The day we’d made so many plans for. Spent my summer afternoons in the coffee shop opposite the pub garden, watching you falling in love when we should have been having the adventures we’d spent so long dreaming of.
One night, when I’d been sitting in the dark in the back garden, spying on you both lying on the sofa watching a film, he saw me when he came out for a cigarette.
“I hope you’re enjoying the show, you little freak,” he said.
I fled, my heart racing with rage. What right did he think he had?
The next day he took you on a picnic down by the river. I followed. Hid in the long grass nearby. When he went down to put a bag of beers into the water to keep cold, I watched you lay back and stretch out in the sun. You didn’t look like me at all anymore. When he came back and started to undress you, I squirmed away on my belly through the long grass to the spot where he’d left the beer.
When he came to get it I sprang up behind him, “I am not a freak and she’s mine,” I whispered as I gave him a shove.
Honestly, I didn’t know there were rocks under the water.
By the time you went to look for him he was floating face down, a reed wrapped around his calf holding him tight. The water surrounding him stained red.
“A terrible accident,” everyone said, “he was so young.”
I held your hand at the graveside and the fake emerald on the ring he’d given you cut into my palm. You slumped against me as our identical dresses billowed in the wind.
Amanda Saint is a novelist and short story writer. Her debut novel, As If I Were A River, was selected as a NetGalley Top 10 Book of the Month, longlisted for the Guardian Not the Booker Prize, and featured in a WHSmith Travel promotion. Her short stories have been published in anthologies and literary magazines and appeared on the Fish Flash Fiction and Ink Tears Short Story Competition longlists. When she’s not writing fiction, Amanda works as a freelance journalist writing features for international magazines about environmental sustainability. She also runs her own creative writing business, Retreat West, through which she runs writing retreats, courses and competitions. Find out more on her websites: http://amandasaint.net and http://retreatwest.co.uk. Connect with her on Twitter: @saintlywriter.