There are all types of people in this world, some overlapping and some not. How can anyone be just one thing in a world that has life and death and even life after death? Like jumbled Rubik's cubes, everyone has messes of color running through the soul. How else to explain that dazzling multiplicity?

Lily is the type who puts on jewelry to play cards. Real gems for poker and rummy, glittering bright, distracting; heavy, gleaming paste when the game called for action, something to weigh her hands down like brass knuckles. Vivian never cares what the game is; she just keeps gambling until she wins or loses, content simply to reach the end of the contest.

(They both conveniently forget which of them owes money to the other. Vivian because she feels that they are two halves of a single whole anyway, and Lily because she can't quite forget that her sister had been the one to make her eye patches in every shade of the rainbow, ruining her own sight by making them lovely as carved ivory miniatures, Charlotte's jewels and sequins to sparkle against silk.)

Vivian is the type who reads somewhere that plants respond to happy voices. So she keeps her voice bright and chirpy as she waters them, lavishes them with praise for doing what they were meant to do, putting forth bright flowers and broad leaves. It's Lily who really speaks to them, tells them how much she misses Charlotte, how sure she'd been that she'd seen her little girl between one of the windmill's sweeping blades and the next.

(They both know that the plants are there as a complement to Charlotte's industrious hive of bees, sweetness the end result of both, the whole world tinted green and gold, humming with life, for a bright shining moment.)

Lily is the type to get songs stuck in her head. She hated picking music for their routines, because once she had, the rhythms of her life - the beat of her steps as she walked to the bathroom, the number of seconds it took for the kettle to whistle - everything would conform to that tempo, rearrange themselves to fit. The words, too, would twine around her thoughts like destructive vines, until she could not speak without wondering if her words were truly her own. Vivian is the type to open her throat and lift her voice, to sing with sincerity. The songs hum through her, clean and miraculously new, spilling forth like waterfalls.

(There was no denying that having the songs invade their bodies was handy, given how much the water cut them off from hearing all the small touches that set one melody apart from the others. And the music always did buoy them up in the water, raise them up and allow them to see Charlotte's beaming smile.)


There are all kinds. (It still works.)


Not everything shakes out as a result of fate or a higher power. When they met him, it was clear as a sign on the side of the road, like a trumpet sounded from the sky. Vivian, after all, could not bear to be touched. The closest she came was moving in concert with her sister, precious inches left between their white, dripping limbs as they emerged like alien life forms from the blue coolness of untroubled water. Lily, however, came alive under the press of someone else's skin against body, her own skin taking on a luster like pearls.

(They both came to see it as inevitable, like gravity, like winning a game of chance with all four aces, like love.)

He was more, of course, but the cliché still rang true when they saw him; he was tall, dark, and handsome. For Vivian, the moment of meeting was like her first taste of chlorine, the plunge from a diving board, that journey taken between elements, from air to water, all wrapped in absolute solitude. Her heart began to pound and she could feel her eyes leaking stray tears. For Lily, the first glance was like the feel of sunshine against her wet back, the feathery softness of the ends of her hair loosened from the bathing cap and skimming against the beads of water resting on her shoulder blades.

(It was love. A story old as time found a new home with them.)

They were the Darling Mermaid Darlings, they were best friends, they were sisters. No one would ever be tall enough, dark enough, or even handsome enough to stir up any inklings of trouble, any hidden desires that the world should be other than it was. For Vivian, who shrank from contact, it was exactly enough to smell his cologne clinging to her sister's hair, to see the radiance in her sister's eyes as she tripped up the front steps as lightly as a fawn. And for Lily, the sympathy evident in her sister's shy smiles and those blushing cheeks lent a sweetness to the warm earthiness of his body moving against hers, into hers. Black and red heads still huddled together over sketches for their costumes, and their eyes met without shame or fear or jealousy.

(They had always been together. There could never be a time when they were not.)

Blood spilled down Lily's legs as she pushed the baby out of her body. The air was silent until Vivian reached out unaccustomed hands to hold the child, clear the mucus from the girl's tiny bump of a nose, and breathe life into the little deflated lungs. Lily and Vivian cried once the baby took its first shuddering breaths: relief that the girl was alive, sorrow that she would never have a sister.

(They both gave her life. They both named her Charlotte.)

Charlotte was not a miracle. She was not even a catalyst for change. She was just a girl. But it was wondrous to them that she was alive, and her living broke their binaries, became a third kind of person.