A/N: Look, I gave up a lot of sleep in my already sleepless college lifestyle to write this, so you better like it. ... No, you really don't have to, I'm not a big fan of it either. Go ahead, flame me! See if I care! (By the way, I will. I'll cry. Just so you know.)
ETA: I bumped this down to a T rating. The M was just me erring on the side of caution. Most of the story is PG/T, way tamer than a lot of other things I've written, but if you end reading this and wish you hadn't.... uh. Sorry?
That was Declan's type, in a nutshell.
He'd probably ramble on and on about how particular he is, about how he'll only pursue the hottest and most unavailable girls. Of course, there's truth to that, too. But as it turns out, a lot of hot, unavailable girls are also rather naive. Even the queen bee can be gullible if you play your cards right. ... Or so he tells me.
As for me, I'm not particular about boys. I just want a boy who's moderately attractive, intelligent, and has a good sense of style. I'm not like Declan, I'm not looking for someone to wrap around my finger. I want... an equal relationship. They seem hard to come by when you're part of this world. I see plenty on TV but none in real life. In real life, all I see is my father whipped by my mother, and my brother manipulating girls. Of course I've had boyfriends, but not too many. I seem to have a stamp on my forehead reading "Skeevoids Welcome," and it's been that way for as long as I can remember.
I was an early bloomer. When we were 11, we were living in Singapore at the time, attending an international school with all sorts of... interesting people. One day, we were forced to ride the school bus--not the cheapest mode of transport to get to school, but still, it was generally left to the locals whose parents couldn't drive them, or get them a driver. But still, it wasn't public transport; I didn't feel like I was going to get groped or pickpocketed. These were my schoolmates, after all. Classy people. Intelligentsia. Cosmopolitan.
Instead, a 16 year old boy named Melvin turned around from the seat in front of me and asked me to show him my "tits." He even started reaching for my chest before Declan, across the aisle, noticed what was happening and pounced on him, kicking him in the groin with his black leather Kenneth Coles. The bus never even stopped, the bus driver was too busy singing along to "A Hard Day's Night." Declan just kept pounding into the kid's face with his fist before the kid could even properly fight back. He just flailed his legs around and threw his fists towards Declan's head. And throughout the whole thing, I just sat there, staring at this scene. What I guess I'm not making very clear is that Declan had always been... Declan. He kept quiet in school. He kept to himself. We'd get into our towncar after school and it was like a wave of frustration and agitation pouring out onto me about every boy and girl who had pushed his buttons that day. I'd always just pat him on the shoulder and tell him to ignore them, but after a while, I liked the familiarity. I liked being confided in. We may have always been twins, but we never really told each other our secrets. And now that we were, I expected it to always be like that. For Declan to just seethe and for me to listen. Now, I thought he'd snapped. I thought I'd lost that Declan forever to this new one, angry and violent.
But when it was all over, when our father had given him the proverbial slap on the wrist (by taking away his Blackberry) and the school had given him detention for a week (down from 2 weeks, thanks to my father), nothing changed, and nothing like it ever happened again.
By my 13th birthday, we were living in Geneva. I'll always remember Geneva as the place of our first forays into the opposite sex. Maybe that's a strange way of putting it, but after the incident, I wasn't all that keen on boys in Singapore, so finally get to move made me relax a lot more. At first, I felt like it made Declan relax a little, too. Then I realized it did more than make him relax. Maybe he didn't exactly wake up one day and decide to be some kind of "ladies' man," pursuing girls like it was his job, but it must not have taken more than a month before girls would stop talking when I entered a bathroom or a classroom. Then one would giggle and another would start talking about homework or their new pair of boots or vacations they were going to take over break. A few weeks later, it stopped, after the day I walked into my history classroom, they stopped talking, a girl giggled, and another said, "Please, as if she doesn't know her brother's a regulation hottie."
It didn't help me make any friends, having all the girls I would normally hang out with be into my brother. All that was left were the girls I had no interest in associating with--that's no knock against them. I'm above the Mean Girls politics of high school, but you can't help it that you are a certain way, and that you want to hang out with people who are like you. Yet all the girls who were like me were fawning over Declan nonstop. So I took it as my opportunity to start hanging with cute boys. Some of Declan's new friends, actually. Not to spite him. ... Okay, possibly a little bit to spite him. But not all that much. Because the strangest thing of all was that it should've driven us apart, yet it only seemed to bring us closer.
The conversations in the towncar on our way home from school got more complex. Declan still complained, about idiots in French class who could've even say "de rien" correctly, about boys at lunchtime bragging about sex they'd obviously never had. But then he'd ask about girls. What about Kateryna? What about Lisette? Emilia? Gabrielle? I'd give my honest opinion, just without the part about how I'd heard Kateryna giggling about how she'd slept with Declan already, and the rest of the girls just sat there giggling, too. But I told him about the rumors. I told him I heard Lisette had a strict father, about how Emilia was apparently a big pothead, about how Gabrielle had a long-distance boyfriend. He'd nod for a few seconds and stay quiet, but I didn't think anything of it, and I'd start right into a conversation about how nice all the guys I'd met were. I didn't even think anything of it when Gabrielle started ignoring me extra hard. Or when Declan started disappearing on weekday nights, even after Gabrielle mentioned her boyfriend only visited her on weekends. Or when I overheard that she'd broken up with her boyfriend, this boyfriend of over a year, yet didn't even look so much as remotely sad the whole day.
I didn't bring it up to him. I didn't want to discuss how my brother was suddenly that kind of guy. But it didn't change the fact that he was.
I couldn't explain why it depressed me. I couldn't explain why I couldn't accept that my brother would at times come into my room after nights out, in the early hours of the morning, slightly drunk or slightly stoned, talking about how he almost got punched in the face for hitting on a girl, but it was okay, because he could tell the girl was into him and would only take a little more persuasion to get into her pants. Then he'd usually ask me how my night was, but it was only a formality. I'd say it was fine, even if it was boring. Then he'd slip back out and that would be the end of it. Everything else I knew only came from hearing the girls whisper at school, or guys telling me things inadvertently, assuming I already knew what girl my brother was after that week.
Even when we moved to Paris, it continued. But I stopped patting him on the shoulder. I stopped telling him my real opinions on the girls. He'd continue asking, but I'd just say they seemed nice. I didn't even think he'd caught on to the fact that I wasn't interested, because he'd just keep asking about them and never about me. It was fine. By the time we turned 14, I was used to it. I somehow found a way to turn a blind eye towards the girls he manipulated. Some of them, as it turned out, really were nice girls, nice girls who had every right to know that the boy they thought was so cute, so charming, was just a little boy looking for a rush. But I didn't tell them. At the end of the day, he was my brother.
In Paris, it wasn't as hard to make friends once I'd met Benjamin. Benjamin was a grade higher than us, and every bit the prototypical European dreamboy. He was forward for the soccer team, played the guitar, had a bevy of attractive soccer-playing friends. The day he first approached me, swoon-worthy French accent and all, I finally realized high school didn't have to be miserable for me. I didn't need popularity or a group of girls to follow and be followed by. I just needed Benjamin, and boys like Benjamin, and dates with boys like Benjamin. Strolls through the park, chatting in cafes. With Benjamin, I could finally have the equal relationship I'd been searching for, even if I knew that it couldn't be that serious, since we'd be gone within a year or two. Just a taste of it would keep me happy.
Yet after just two weeks of bliss, he stopped calling, texting. He'd smile and say hello if he saw me in the hallway, but he always had somewhere to be, some invisible place to rush to. I'd always been pretty meek, and I'm not a fan of confrontation. I also had always liked to think I was a strong person, capable of withstanding teenage heartache. But it was different when I didn't even know what it was that I did wrong, and if I had done something wrong, why was he still acknowledging me? I ran through the last moments we'd spent together as if my life depended on it, picking it apart and wondering what I might have said or done that might have offended him. When I came up empty-handed, I only lasted 20 minutes before I knew that I had to know, and that I was going to get the answer straight from the source.
I didn't even have a good plan for it, so when the next time I saw Benjamin come walking across the hall, it didn't matter to me that there were only 2 minutes left until class began, and I had an exam. This just seemed more important. He hesitated after I asked him if we could talk, but nodded, and we walked outside for privacy.
"I don't want to come off rude here, and if this is over, then... it's over, I can accept that and move on," I said without much inflection, looking him straight in the eye. "But I... liked you. And I thought this was going somewhere. I thought you liked me, too..." I trailed off.
"Fiona," he said, shaking his head. "It's not right..."
"What?" I shook my head abruptly, my confusion breaking me out of my sad trance. "What's not right, what do you mean?"
"If you are unhappy with him, you need to tell him, and to end it, and then maybe this can work, I cannot be your 'other man,' it's not right, Fiona..."
"Unhappy with who? End it with what?"
"Your boyfriend?" I stared. "Declan?"
I felt my heart sink into my stomach. I knew, I knew right then what had happened, but I wanted to believe otherwise.
"Oh, no... no, no, no, Declan's not my boyfriend," I said, complete with a nervous laugh. "No, no, we're just.... we're twins, he's my brother. You must have just seen us and assumed..." I kept nodding my head, hoping he would nod his head and tell me it was just a misunderstanding when I knew that it wasn't.
"He's your brother?" he said back, eyes incredulous, still almost doubting. "He told me and all of my friends that he is your boyfriend..."
"He's not." I swallowed down the lump in my throat that made me feel like I was going to cry. I looked down to the wood floor and I couldn't even think of a good thing to say at at time like this. "I need to... I need to go."
I took a taxi home and spent the day in bed, listening to music and trying to forget the whole incident had happened. Everything could be fine, as long as I gave Benjamin a call that night, explained everything, photocopied birth certificates if necessary. But then there was Declan, standing at my door with a smug smile and making some quip about me skipping class and going bed. I didn't move from my spot in the bed, looking up at the ceiling, even when I spit out, "Why did you tell everyone that you're my boyfriend?" Even in periphery, I could see him in the doorway, uncrossing his arms and shifting, but when I finally sat up, his face was surprisingly resolute.
"It's called being a good brother." I laughed out loud.
"Oh, right, good brothers always ruin their sisters' chances not only at having boyfriends, but also at having any friends period," I said, punctuating it with an eyeroll. He just kept standing in the doorway, looking around the room as if it would have the answer.
"Benjamin isn't the amazing guy you think he is."
I stared at him the same way Benjamin stared at me when he found out Declan and I were siblings and not lovers. "You're unbelievable." I actually let out a laugh because I couldn't even understand what was happening. "That's your justification for why you did it? Because Benjamin is such a terrible guy, what with his taking me out on dates and being a perfect gentleman--"
"If telling skeezebags that you're my girlfriend gets them to back off, then what is wrong about that?" he cut me off, for once quickly and for once sounding agitated. "What is the harm?"
He knew full well what the harm was--as if the plan and simple creep-out factor wasn't weird enough. And I wanted to yell at him, tell him how stupid he was being, and how arrogant and irritating he was being towards the person that could expose to our parents all the shady and horrible things he'd done over the past few years. Instead, I just mumbled at him to leave, and he did, leaving me to stare at the ceiling and wonder why I even bothered trying to date.
The only upside to the situation was that by the next day, Benjamin believed me and didn't ask too many questions, and we picked up right where we'd left off. I lived this life I know so many girls fantasized about: experiencing love in Paris, coming into my own. Benjamin let me be myself. He didn't ask much of me, nor did I ask much of him, except the comfort of laying in his arms and the sweet familiarity of his kiss. I still consider Benjamin my first kiss. There might've been boys before him, but he was the first that mattered. He'd brush the hair out of my face and tell me I was beautiful. That was all I really needed then.
But the inevitable day came , some idle rainy Tuesday morning in October, when our father nonchalantly mentioned we were moving to Tokyo within a week. For the first time in my life, I protested. I remember screaming, crying. Paris was my first home, I thought. It was the first place I'd been able to know myself and make friends, find love. But he must've seen the yelling coming, because as soon as I began yelling, he had to leave for work.
There wasn't much ceremony to my telling Benjamin after school ended that day. What could I say, really? Politics were politics. I'd been living like this my entire life. I probably shouldn't have gotten caught up in one city in particular, or one boy in one city in particular. I tried my best to sound like I didn't regret having dated him, but I did. Everything would be easy if I were just a face in the crowd at school, but now I felt like someone, and it was being snatched away from me just as quickly as it was given to me. He pulled me in for one last hug and told me I would be fine.
When I walked away, holding my purse tightly against my side, I was trying to be strong-willed Fiona, Fiona who didn't cry over boys, but the tears started dripping down my cheeks without me so much as blinking. I pulled my scarf close to my face before pulling on the car handle and gently seating myself down into the backseat of the towncar. I saw Declan there next to me but I kept my face turned away from his, staring down at the car floor instead. Neither of us said a word until after the engine roared to life and after he'd pushed the button to make the window go up between the front and backs of the car. As soon as the window clicked into place, he spoke.
"I take it you broke up with him." I pursed my lips and shook my head, but still looked towards the floor. I wasn't in the mood to listen to Declan talk about my breakup as if he knew the first thing about it. This was the boy who thought my relationship would end with Benjamin cheating on him. I didn't even want to speak to him. "I know you liked him... loved him, even." I kept shaking my head, incredulous, even laughing slightly. Every word he spoke just made me more irritated with him, with everything he'd done to me over the past couple years. I visibly winced when I felt his hand on my shoulder. "You'll find someone new. I promise you." Hot tears were just streaming down my face by the time he said this, because I didn't want anyone new, and he knew that full well. I couldn't even see him with my eyes clouded with tears but I turned to him to protest anyway, but as soon as I did, his mouth was against my cheek, right below my eyes, kissing against the tracks of my tears. I felt my heart pounding against my chest, and when he whispered "Fiona" against my cheek, I could feel every hair on my body stand on end. We both kept our eyes closed even when he pressed his wet lips against mine and kept me pinned against the car door with his upper body, with his heart pounding, too. I didn't have time to think coherently, or think about every manner in which this was wrong, so wrong, disgusting, perverted, insane, the very opposite of what two wealthy siblings should be doing as the nouveau riche, the cosmopolitan, the beautiful life on glossy magazine covers. I needed to stop, yell, scream, alert the authorities that my brother, my own twin brother, was a pervert, a sexual deviant who needed to be locked away. But at the end of the day, he was my brother. Even when his short fingernails scraped down my thigh, or when he too roughly grabbed at my sweater and everything seemed to be more pain than pleasure, he was my brother. And even when my hands were just resting at my sides like I was half dead and he didn't seem to mind, he was still my brother. He was in part of me, and I was in part of him.
And no naive high school relationship could ever come between that.