A/N: Proving I mean what I say… However, this chapter is unedited because I'm also crunching out other things. My apologies.
I had never walked the halls of Illyria as a girl, as me, Viola Hastings. Boys gawked as I walked by while the girls took a cooler, more disinterested approach to surveying me. It was obvious I was "Sebastian Hasting's" twin sister. I had the same face, only less hairy and bushy, same gentle eyes, and same goofy walk. However, no one suspected that I was the person they knew as Sebastian.
If only they knew what I was about to do… No one would be acting this into my passing through…
As I was crossing F Hall, the Science hall, I saw Duke, Toby, and Andrew leaning against some lockers, intensely discussing something. Duke was the first one to notice me because he nudged Toby with his shoulder and then nodded his head at me, causing Andrew to look over too. Duke looked love-struck. Toby and Andrew looked confused, as if "Sebastian" was in drag.
"I didn't know Sebastian had a twin sister," Andrew practically shouted, mystified, to no one in particular.
Duke shook his head slightly, still staring at me with his mouth agape. I had intentionally never told them that tidbit about "Sebastian's" life. I always thought that the less they knew, the better. I knew that "Sebastian" having a twin sister would further complicate my existence at Illyria. I didn't need anyone poking around a Cornwall yearbook or an old Myspace page from junior high to see that I wasn't in fact the Sebastian Hastings they came to know.
I kept walking. I pretended like I didn't know them. I knew that that was probably the last time they would ever think of me as "normal." The realization caused an ice cold hand to take ahold of my stomach and shake it around. I couldn't stand the idea of my friends – guys who I had lovingly come to know as "bros" – despising me and even worse, finding me revolting.
And then I thought about how everyone would think of Olivia, and my fall from grace didn't compare. I would gladly carry the weight of everyone's mockery and disgust and loathing, if only they didn't judge or make fun of or treat Olivia any differently. She didn't deserve it. She had no idea who I was, and, contrary to what all of Illyria may think, Olivia and I never went past kissing. Granted, heavy petting always lurked around the corner, and then past that corner, bigger beasts lurked still. But that was it. And I knew that as soon as I told Headmaster Gold everything, everyone would automatically assume Olivia was in on it the whole time and, what's worse (at least in their gossip-hungry, holier-than-thou minds), that she was a lesbian. She would no longer be Olivia Lennox, the girl everyone wanted to be or wanted, but Olivia Lennox, the dyke.
A wave of nausea ran over my body, along with a heaviness I had never felt before. I almost stopped and leaned against a wall - it was so overpowering. But I wouldn't allow myself to show any sign of weakness. Not because people were watching me (and I couldn't care less what they thought about me at this point), but because I wouldn't allow myself any sort of martyr role in my own mind.
Suck it up, asshole. No one's here to baby you. You did this; now live with the consequences.
Soon, I found myself right in front of the door to the Headmaster's office. I could see Ms. Polly at the front desk, talking on the phone while a few students stood in line, waiting to talk to her. I knew that the bomb I was about to drop was going to make whatever issues they were having in Trigonometry or AP US History quite trivial and mundane in comparison. I stared at those students for a moment longer, wishing I was in their shoes instead, wishing I had never gotten the crazy idea that taking on my brother's identity was a good idea.
But here you are, and there's no going back.
I curtly nodded my head in agreement and opened the door.
It was much more quiet in the office than it was in the hall. The windows provided a buffer between the expected rowdiness of teenagers and the stoic duty of the school's administration. The quiet put me on edge. I realized I would rather have tens of thousands of people yelling at me than deal with the silence of impending humiliation.
Ms. Polly told me that even though I hadn't made an appointment with Headmaster Gold, like I should've (she reminded me of this "oversight" a couple of times throughout our one-minute conversation), she would be able to squeeze me into his "rather busy" schedule if I was willing to wait a few minutes.
So far, I had waited twenty minutes. Most of the students who had been waiting to see a guidance counselor or talk to the Deputy Headmistress Roberts about an infraction of some kind had already come and gone. I found myself fluctuating between biting my nails and loudly huffing over and over and over again. I could tell that Ms. Polly found me annoying and ill-mannered.
You're not alone on that one, sister.
Then Headmaster Gold's door swung open theatrically. He practically ran over to Ms. Polly's desk, smiling apologetically.
"I am so sorry, Ms. Polly. I just had to talk to my brother about the role I auditioned for last night. He's a playwright, you see - a very distinguished one in all of the hush-hush, high-brow, off-Broadway circles. So I had to get his opinion on my characterization." He said, sitting down on Ms. Polly's desk. She looked slightly mortified when he did this, but was able to mask it with a fake smile.
"That's quite smart of you, Headmaster Gold." She replied with the fake smile still plastered on her face. She looked like she might be in some sort of pain. "I'm sure your brother saw eye-to-eye with you."
Headmaster Gold tossed his bald head back and laughed one solid, baritone laugh. "I'm afraid not. He said he wouldn't have let me finish my audition, if it was for one of his plays."
Ms. Polly looked confused on whether she should laugh or not, so she made a weird pant-like sound.
"You said someone was here to see me about Sebastian Hastings?" Headmaster Gold continued, finally getting up from Ms. Polly's desk. Her face became less rigid when he did.
"Yes, this young lady," Ms. Polly pointed at me aloofly.
Headmaster Gold beamed at me. "Well, if I didn't know any better, I'd say you're Sebastian Hastings sister!"
I stood up, feeling slightly doomed, but in an incredibly warm way, as paradoxical as it sounds. I guess it was the Headmaster's joy and inviting attitude that made me less worried.
I avoided saying, 'Yes, I'm Sebastian's sister.' I knew that within five minutes' time, I would be, in fact, proving the fact that I was a liar. Instead, I introduced myself. "I'm Viola Hastings."
"Oh, wow! Did I nail it on the head or what?" He exclaimed.
Ms. Polly forced her horrible fake smile again. "Yeah…"
He began to usher me into his office. "Then, please, Viola. Come on into my office! I'm sure whatever you have to discuss with me about your brother will only further my belief he is the stuff that makes Illyria so special!"
I grimaced, which he took for a humble smile.
"Here," he continued and pointed to his seat behind his desk, "have a sit!"
From the last time I was in his office, I knew that I had to sit in his chair. The Headmaster did this to ensure whomever he was talking to would feel comfortable and accepted by him. I sat down in the cushy black chair. "Thank you."
"Now, Viola, what can I do you for?"
I had rehearsed this moment in my head one hundred times over, but now that it was finally here, I felt myself stumbling over my words.
Headmaster Gold must've taken this as regular nerves – the kind any student would get when talking to an authority. "I don't know what Sebastian's told you about me, but I can guarantee you that I'm a pal of his. So please don't feel like I can't be a pal of yours as well."
I inwardly groaned. He was not going to make this easy for me. I almost wished I was back at Cornwall talking to my Headmistress. She was more traditional when it came to her relationship with the student-body.
I put a few strands of my hair behind my ear and took a deep breath. "Headmaster Gold, I am Sebastian Hastings."
The Headmaster just smiled at me blankly and then laughed. "Good one! Sebastian never told me he had a joker for a sister!"
"No," I went on, "I pretended to be Sebastian this whole time."
Headmaster Gold continued laughing. "Seriously, Viola. If you want to transfer to Illyria so badly, that's all you have to say. I'll start the paperwork today."
My face became hot. I didn't want to get angry, especially since Headmaster Gold was the last person I should be getting upset with, but I could feel my temperament turning that ugly way.
This is not going to be easy.
I opened my mouth, ready to illuminate him when someone knocked on the door.
Ms. Polly opened the door and poked her head through with a perplexed look on her middle-aged face. "Um, Headmaster Gold… There's a young man here, claiming to be Sebastian Hastings."
Within a matter of seconds, I felt like my throat grown a sore lump.
"Ha!" Headmaster Gold loudly burst, walking over to the door. "I see what you kids are doing here! A good, old-fashioned prank on the Headmaster! Ah, it reminds me of my days as a student here at Illyria. You see, my friends and I would –"
"Headmaster Gold," Ms. Polly impatiently cut in, "he's not Sebastian though. He looks like him, but he's not the real Sebastian Hastings."
Headmaster Gold spun around on his foot and clapped his hands together. "A twist is afoot!"
I stared at him with my mouth hanging open. I didn't know what to say. A twist certainly was afoot.
Before I could form a word properly, my twin brother shuffled past Ms. Polly. He looked like he had just taken a red-eye flight back home. His clothes were wrinkled and his hair had a greasy tent to it, at least more so than normal.
"Hi," Sebastian said, coming more fully into the Headmaster's office. "I'm Sebastian Hastings. The 'real' Sebastian Hastings, and I can prove it." Sebastian held up his tattered passport with an air of triumph.
Sebastian, you're a genius!
The texts and phone calls didn't pore in, like I had expected. At least, not right away. It took about half of a day before my phone felt like an out-of-tune music box. I didn't make it more than a minute before I had to just turn my phone off. I didn't want to know anything, and what's more, I didn't want anyone's feigned sympathy.
If they're a real friend, they will know where to find me.
Maria showed up at my parents' house at 2:15 pm. She skipped last block. It was probably the first time Maria had shoved off school since kindergarten. She came with her backpack full of our favorite DVDs, magazines, and random candy bars she must've quickly bought at the school's concession stand.
She didn't ask me anything. "I'm here," she said before hugging me.
I was floored by my best friend's intuitive understanding that questions were the last thing I needed right now.
She stayed the night and we pretended it was just another slumber party from our junior high days. We watched what we called "the Trifecta," which were our three favorite girly movies: Mean Girls, the Devil Wears Prada, and Easy A. It didn't matter what kind of mood we were in, whenever we watched those films in succession, everything seemed better, at least on the surface.
At times, there were scenes that hit a little close to home. My stomach would turn over or my heart would develop a little palpitation, but then Maria would throw candy bar at me or she would make a snarky comment about some situation or another, and I would be one rung up higher than I was a moment before.
We did this two days straight before Maria approached reality with me.
"So when are we going back to school?" She asked, flipping through a week's old gossip magazine.
We were in the kitchen, making pancakes for lunch. I was midway flipping a pancake when she asked this and almost missed catching it. I didn't respond right away. I hadn't really thought about it, even though it sounds ridiculous that I hadn't.
"I'm not sure." I finally replied. "If you want, you can go back. I know you probably miss being in class and learning."
"You make me sound like such a nerd." She said back with a laugh in her voice.
"But you know what I mean. You hate missing class."
I heard a crisp sound of a page turning. "True. But… I'm not going to go back until you do."
I didn't say anything. I felt a bit crowded then, as if Maria was proposing an ultimatum. I knew she meant well, saying that she'd be right there with me when I did decide to go back. But I didn't like that her attendance hinged on mine.
My Mom walked into the kitchen then in her tennis wear. She was red in the face from her game. Sweat dampened her bangs and her pink sleeveless shirt was soaked.
"Hi girls," she said, opening the fridge and getting the filtered water pitcher.
"Hey Mrs. Lennox," Maria responded cheerily.
"Hey Mom," I replied, sliding the pancake on a plate and handing it Maria.
My Mom set the water pitcher down on the counter and went to retrieve a glass. "So what's on the agenda today for you girls?"
Maria and I looked at each other and shrugged.
"Maybe watch some movies," Maria answered. She tossed the magazine over on top of the others and picked up her fork.
"Yeah," I agreed softly.
My Mom nodded her head before taking a long drink of water. "Really? Okay…"
No one said anything for a minute. I had a sneaking suspicion my Mom wanted to know if when we were going to go back to school too.
"Because I was thinking you two can have your one last hurrah here today before you go back to school tomorrow." My Mom didn't say this with exaggerated authority in her voice. In fact, she almost sounded like she was discussing the grocery list with us.
Maria looked at me out of the corner of her eye. She seemed frozen over her pancake.
I knew that they both were right in trying to get me back into the fold of regular life. But I didn't feel ready.
My Mom had been a champion throughout the past few days, letting me disappear and regain my footing. She told me on many occasions that she loved me and that she would always love me. 'You'll never be an embarrassment to me, Olivia. Even if you tried to,' she gently told me when I let her in on everything that had happened. 'Gay, straight, bi, or whatever else is out there. You're my daughter.'
However, the horror of facing hundreds of teenagers in the halls of Illyria and feeling the judgment just ooze out of their pores like one big, ominous pimple frightened me beyond belief.
"Headmaster Gold called me before my tennis match with Beverly Cleary's mom." My Mom went on lightly. "He said that the school missed you and that he hoped to see you back in attendance soon."
Maria must've sensed that she could move again and cut into her untouched pancake.
I didn't say anything. I didn't if there was anything to say. It seemed like I would be going to school tomorrow with or without a reply.
"He didn't sound upset. Not that he's a man that really loses his temper though, is he?"
I stared at the glass of water my mother was holding.
"Liv?" She asked, dipping her head down a little to try and get my attention.
I looked at her blankly for a few pregnant seconds and then nodded.
I got used to the stares by the second day, and even some of the whispering and pointing. What I couldn't get used to was how people treated me like an eye-less, ear-less inanimate object now. I mean, the idea that I was now some sort of lesser-than-human being really got under my skin. A few times, I nearly lashed out at random kids – students I had never seen before – just because they were acting like I was some kind of zoo animal on display for their prodding and bewilderment. But Maria was always there to stop me, either by tossing a biting remark their way or by literally pulling me away down the hall.
I never let them see me cry though. I always saved those for my dorm room. I didn't trust the girls' bathrooms enough to cry. There was always someone in them and I didn't need Sarah "Who-I-Never-Met" Morris telling the whole school she heard me wailing my lungs out in stall three on B Hall.
Very few people actually engaged me in conversation, and when they did, it was usually followed up with a punch-line at my expense. Blaire Ravenport usually followed this approach. She reveled in reminding me that she was the "It" girl of Illyria and I was the weird, lesbian slut.
"Hey, Dykey-Dyke!" She would shoot my way anytime we were ten feet from one another. "How's Munchville?"
I expected nothing more from her.
But one time, after one especially rough day full of "That's her"-s and "How did she not know"-s and "She's totally a lesbo"-s sneered as I walked by, Blaire was, of course, the one that broke my proverbial camel's back.
"Olivia and Viola scissoring in a tree," Blaire's nasally voice started to chime.
Even though I knew I should just keep moving forward and let her have her laugh, I couldn't. I stopped and stared at her. "Say that to my face."
I lunged at her perfect black hair, ready to pull as much of it out of her skull. I knew she wouldn't have enough beats in the song to spell out the whole word – and the idea of actually scissoring someone in a tree was completely farfetched and illogical – but my instinct overrode my own logic… And it told me to kick her ass.
"OMG. She's trying to rape me!" She squealed dramatically, trying to move away from my attack. Her group of cackling friends started shrieking similar things and ran away out of my reach.
Out of nowhere, Duke somehow pulled me away from Blaire and her minions before I could make them really regret opening their mouths to speak to/at/around me.
"C'mon, now!" Duke's voice boomed over the deafening pitch of the girls' screams. "You're coming with me."
I kept trying to lunge toward the girls, but Duke was far too strong for me to break through.
"You're smarter than this," he said to me loudly, finally getting me more than ten feet away from the chaos.
Students who were in the hall, going to about their business, had now stopped and watched the free entertainment provided by yours truly. I looked at each of them with wild, threatening eyes, begging them to say something so I would have a reason to get at them next. None of them said anything. They just stared at me, dumbfounded.
Duke roughly pulled me by my arm into a half-full classroom. It looked like they were setting up a board game. It must've been their scheduled time for their club.
"Out, all of you, get out!" Duke roared before letting go of me.
The nerdy club members looked at Duke in amazement before remembering that he had given them an order. They barely said anything in disagreement as they scurried out of the room.
Duke looked at me with fierce, pointed away. "What the hell are you thinking, Olivia Lennox?"
I felt like pummeling him. It was obvious what I was thinking. I was surprised I hadn't thought of it sooner. And who the fuck was he to even berate me? We never so much as exchanged two words over the past three and half years.
"Teaching those bitches a lesson!"
He rolled his eyes. "I'm not even going to repeat that, it's so stupid."
"Oh yeah?" I snidely replied back.
"Yeah!" He snapped. "You're smarter than that. You're Olivia Lennox - top ten percent of our class."
A sly smile crossed my face. "Thanks, I know who I am and what my GPA is." I started to make my way for the door to leave. I was done with this shit.
Duke stepped in front of me. "No, you're not leaving this classroom until you realize you're better than them."
"I already know that too." I said trying to push around him.
Duke just shook his head too. "Then you're not acting like you know that. Fighting Blaire and her dumbass friends in the hall? Who are you?"
"I thought we already established this."
"Just shut up and listen. Jesus."
I felt like I could extend the smart-ass streak I was on, but the adrenaline of the fight was already starting to wear off. A feeling slightly resembling guilt started to come over me. I didn't say anything. Instead, I just nodded.
"Okay, good…" Duke started. He slid his hands in his pockets and became slightly shy. I guess he was okay talking to Mad Me but not Normal Me. He looked at the floor. "You are better than them. I know it's probably tough dealing with all of this shit, especially since you didn't ask for any of it… But you have to act like it doesn't bother you."
That's easier said than done.
"And I get it. You're pissed off and hurt and have had enough. But you can't let them know they're getting to you, because when you do… It's all over, son." Duke continued softly. His bright eyes looked at me hesitantly to see if he was making any headway.
"I know…" I mumbled back. I didn't say it with any sass or anger.
He just nodded in response.
"I won't let them get to me next time."
Duke laughed a little. "I think they're going to be too afraid to say anything right in front of you now anyway."
I found myself laughing hollowly. "Yeah, they'll probably just reserve their witty lesbian jokes for the rumor mill now."
Duke didn't say anything. I took his silence as a sad agreement.
"I'm cool now," I said, starting to make my way for the door again. He didn't try and stop me this time. When I put my hand on the doorknob, however, I stopped myself from turning the knob. Instead, I turned around. "Have you heard from her at all? Viola?"
Duke looked a little surprise by my question. I guess, he had assumed that I didn't want anything else to do with her… I surprised myself by asking too. He nodded though, after a few seconds.
"Yeah, I have." He responded looking back at the floor. "She's in deep shit obviously."
I hadn't really heard much about her. I blocked out whatever was said about her when I was around. I had gathered that Cornwall had put her on suspension while they considered if they should bring her up on charges of truancy. But any other information about Viola Hastings, I made sure to make myself impervious of.
"But she's doing okay. I mean, she's really apologetic about everything. She came to me crying the day she came ou-" Duke shook his head at the phrasing he had accidentally stumbled upon. "The day she told everyone who she really was. She knows she did everyone wrong."
The soccer team faced an inquiry with the state's sports board over having someone not enrolled at Illyria play on their team. It didn't look good for them. And the fact that much of the team was made up of seniors – seniors hoping to get soccer scholarships – it appeared their last chance to prove themselves was stripped away.
Duke shook his head and looked like he couldn't believe what he was about to say. "But I can't help but be alright with her." Duke admitted with a sense of wonderment. "That girl is seriously the best person I've ever played with. And even if I don't get a full ride to some college because of her little charade… I can honestly say I played a few games with my soccer soulmate, as ridiculous as it sounds, and I'm okay with that."
I was shocked by Duke's take on the whole thing. His future literally hung in the balance of how the state board would view Viola's masquerade, yet here he was, seeing the upside of it all. And here I was, not really affected future-wise quite like he was, and I couldn't help but act like a spectacular victim of it all.
"She really is sorry, you know."
I looked at Duke. I could tell that he wasn't trying to make Viola's case for her, like people's friends tend to do. He was more so stating a fact, one that I didn't really want to hear just yet.
"Yeah, well, that's because she should be." I responded with a shaky voice. For the first time in days, I felt a familiar sting of tears. I shook my head at myself.
Fucking emotions. I'm so over them.
Duke nodded and played the tip of his red tie. "And she'll acknowledge that too."
I nodded my head, not really to communicate anything but just because I needed a bit of momentum to leave the room. "I bet."
I turned back towards the door, opened it, and headed out into the quiet hall. The bell for the school's final block threatened ring, meaning most students were already in their designated classrooms.
You should talk to her.
Even though all of me was on fire at the idea, no little voice in my head responded to the contrary.
Yeah, I guess so…
A/N: I had to build up to Olivia and Viola finally seeing each other… So I hope not too many of you are disappointed that they didn't interact this chapter. But, obviously, they will in the next chapter.
Give me a review, if you'd like! :)