They were born Dipper and Polaris, two bodies of starlight adrift in the summer sky, twins. They slept beside one another on that first night, fitful in their incubators, wrapped in blue blankets. Their father had worried when he heard the news: How will I tell the two of them apart? Their bodies were identical: the same birthmark on their foreheads, the same blood type in their tiny veins. They were two squirming, larval people, sexless with their diapers on. But Polaris' eyes were so bright and steady, and Dipper's so shifty and curious, that in the end it wasn't difficult to tell them from each other.
They grew up in matching jackets and footie pajamas, they fulfilled the prophecy in their eyes. Dipper was the one to poke at the childproof locks until they fell apart, Polaris to hug adults' legs and chatter up at them for hours. They had been mistaken for one another a few times: at a distance, from behind, on a foggy day. Their mother, their father, their friends and family never confused them, never treated them like a pair. Dipper grew up knowing he was different from Polaris, but not as different as Polaris suspected she was from Dipper. She could feel something else separating them, something about the haircuts their parents bought them and the colors on the sweater Grandma gave her for her birthday.
Polaris could not put her finger on what exactly was amiss until she was ten years old, visiting Uncle Patrick for Thanksgiving. In her cousin's room she and Dipper read comics, played with legos, stayed out from underfoot as the adults argued over stuffing. Polaris got into her cousin's vanity, her makeup and jewelry. She picked up a glittery purple hairclip and tucked it into her bangs, snapping it closed. There, in the mirror, she saw something in the hairclip, something that was earth-shatteringly right about her reflection. All the little things: the way she felt when Uncle Patrick called her his favorite nephew, the bodily sensation of being only a reflection of oneself distorted on the water, clicked sluggishly into place like the first two pieces of a puzzle the size of a tabletop. When Polaris turned around, posed like an awkward vogue cover, and asked Dipper what he thought he gave her a look. He gave her a look about so many things, though. About talking too loud and covering her arms in stickers, about hugging him in public when no one was looking and jaywalking when the streets were deserted. It was his most approving form of disapproval, and by jove she would take it.
She wore the hairclip to dinner, and Aunt Eleanor said it looked very nice on her. The whole table agreed, Aunt Eleanor's friend Margret most emphatically of all. Dipper shot her another look, clearly jealous of all the attention she was getting, and between turkey and pumpkin pie he snuck off to put a pink butterfly clip in his own hair. The fawning, however, did not suit him the way it suited her. He did not do well being accepted as something he was not, and by the time the pumpkin pie was done for and the pecan had just been wounded, he pulled his clip out. He reached over to put it into her hair, to the opposite side of the purple, and proved Polaris a liar to herself: his exhausted look was not as far as he could come in accepting her. Not by far.
"It looks better on you." He grunted, and Polaris hugged him until he started pinching her sides in a desperate attempt to escape.
Polaris fell asleep, her head lolling onto her younger twin's shoulder, the hairclips her cousin had gifted her hanging from her bangs, on the ride home. The next day she woke up invigorated, leaping out of her top bunk and skipping to the kitchen to make herself a bagel. Dipper came in after her, still drowsy, drawn by the smell of cinnamon, raisins, and butter.
"Morning!" She handed him his half of breakfast. "Got any plans for today?"
"Maybe I'll work on my book report." Dipper mumbled into his bagel.
"Hmm..." Polaris chewed thoughtfully "I think I'm going to find my name today."
She spent the majority of the next three days at the library, neck deep in baby naming books, searching for something already inside her, something she expected to recognize on sight. Polaris was a fine name, at a stretch a girl's name, but it did not fit her skin. It was compatible to her life before Thanksgiving, but not after. She tried to fix it, but Polera sounded too much like cholera. She tried scanning the star charts, but the sky was painfully devoid of good names. Dipper, she supposed, matched her forehead and could work for any gender, but her brother had laid claim to that one already. She needed something true to her, something that looked good in loopy script, pink puff pen on the top of math tests. Finding it, she skipped through the street of their neighborhood, the front door of her house, singing.
"Mabel, Mabel, Bo-Babel, Banana-Fanna Fo-Fabel, Mee-Mi-Mo-Mabel, Mabel!"
When she visited her grandmother for her Saturday knitting lesson she sat on her lap and told her her new name. The elderly woman's face darkened with anxiety.
"Oh dear." She clucked "I wish you had told me that before I finished up the sweater I just knit you. It says "Polaris" right on the front."
"Sorry Gramgram," Mabel shrugged, her smile apologetic "It had to be perfect. But I'll still wear the sweater! I'll just bedazzle a star on it!" The elderly woman merely chuckled, smiling down at her granddaughter.
Dipper complained about this new development. They didn't match anymore, he and his sister. Without a contrasting star his name just sounded like "Dipstick", and he was not pleased. If Polaris got to be Mabel, Dipper wanted to be Tyrone. Their mother tried to explain that it wasn't the same, but he insisted. Mabel, eager to encourage her younger twin, called him Tyrone for a week before he asked her to stop. A new name isn't a new name if only one person uses it. Their father told them there was a chance, just a sliver of a chance, that they would have to change schools when they got back from break. Mabel wondered why. Dipper, far closer to the ground than his twin, thought he knew but had no intention of bringing it up.
As it turned out, they didn't have to change anything. Mabel came back from Thanksgiving vacation to find a shiny new name taped to her desk. "Mabel Pines" it proclaimed in bubble letters. Instead of a little dinosaur sticker next to it there was a flower. Mabel missed her dinosaur bitterly. It had been a pterodactyl, and shimmery too. She told her classmates about her new name, the gender she really was, and her teacher made sure they knew to treat her just the same. A few times a classmate messed it up, called her Polaris or called her 'him'. But they apologized, they improved, the world kept turning. Mabel wrote a letter to their Grunkle Stan about her new name, the haircut she would have when she and Dipper came to visit his store that summer. He wrote back in a rushed, excited hand. According to him, "rubes" trusted little girls way more than little boys. He had all sorts of cons he couldn't wait to try out with her.
By the time Christmas came around her hair hung to her shoulders. She got a new bedazzler set, books about girls and vampires in love, and a stuffed unicorn. Dipper got detective novels, a magnifying glass, and a chemistry kit. As she played with the unicorn, brushing out its rainbow mane, their grandmother brought out two boxes and put them on their laps. Their sweaters. She remembered, like a splinter, the change in her name. It's fine, Mabel told herself. She had a bedazzler, she could wait until next Christmas, she could knit a sweater by herself. She and Dipper opened their presents, and what she saw made her breath catch.
Mabel stared down at the box, then up at the elderly woman's smiling face. Her grandmother had unraveled the other sweater patiently, loop by loop, stitch by stitch. She had rolled the yarn back into a ball and started over, row by row, in a girl's style this time, over the past month. She had taken the time, she had put her love into every flick of her needles. The new sweater was blue, across the front was the name "Mabel" in rainbow bubble letters.
She wore it every day for a month.