We Are One by Scott Paul Hallam

photo of rainwater droplets on glass

“Rain trails” (image via Flickr user Ben Ketteridge)

I always imagined that when one of our hearts would break, the other’s would shatter too.

While my sister Evette and I have two separate hearts, we share a chest, a torso, and a vulva. We share most other things as well — like this one-bedroom apartment on the East side, Pollack prints covering exposed brick.

But we do not share everything. Her hair is slightly darker than mine. Mine more the color of wheat.

Evette likes to go out to the clubs, to drink and flirt. I’ve had to learn how to dance. I like to read on the sofa by the window so the sun can fall on my skin; the warmth comforts. Evette naps.

When Evette makes love to her boyfriend Lance, I don’t speak. I close my eyes and turn my head.

His sweat and cologne inundate my senses like ocean waves taking me under. His body is heavy. Sometimes he grabs my breast, thinking it belongs to Evette. I pretend not to enjoy his touch. I bite my lip and squelch my cries when we come.

We are two individuals, we are one.

Evette and I had a bad argument once when we were eight. I made my side of our body limp. She had to drag me around for hours. At eleven, Evette broke her arm in gym class, so I did her homework, fed her, and brushed her teeth.

Lance recently brought his friend Christian along for a double date, classic dinner and a movie. Christian, lanky with a bit of a hook nose. He smiled and laughed at my jokes but glanced at his phone every other sentence.

Lance can’t take his eyes off Evette, and her squeaky laughter makes my ears ring. The double date ends with a hasty kiss on the cheek from Christian and a lingering embrace from Lance. I imagine Lance inside me, inside us, as he gets into his gleaming black Mustang, engine roaring and tires squealing as he speeds away.

That night, I wait until Evette starts to snore before I allow myself to cry, softly so as not to wake her.

We are one body, but we are not the same person.

We work at a start-up tech company as programmers. We write lines of code faster than most of the guys on our project team.

On Evette and Lance’s second anniversary, a big bouquet of red roses shows up at the office. Two dozen. A note says that he’ll cook a special dinner tonight at our place.

Evette convinces me to leave work early to get ready. We wear our lace underwear and don our slinky black cocktail dress. We paint our lips the same color of crimson and curl our hair the same way.

We look in the mirror. Evette primps her hair. A smile widens and deepens. I force a grin, lips barely curled.

We are sisters, but we are not the same.

Lance arrives in a cyan dress shirt and dark blazer that makes his blue eyes burn with electricity; his arms full of ingredients for an Italian feast.

The smell of marinara and garlic soon waft through the apartment. He whistles as he prepares Evette’s favorite meal, vegetable lasagna. Candles are lit, and the room dimmed.

He smiles at us both and says that he’ll get us glasses of Riesling from the kitchen. Then we’ll toast.

As he leaves, I can feel Evette quake; she smiles at me and whispers in my ear like she used to do when we were kids.

“Aren’t you just crazy about him? I think I’m in love Erin, I really am.”

He reenters the dining room holding three wine glasses; a ring placed in Evette’s glass. He bends down on one knee and asks her to marry him. Her eyes glisten and say yes.

We all embrace, Lance holding us tight, my arm weakly touching his back then tighter, my face buried into one of his shoulders. I take in his scent, his musky cologne rushes at me as my tears start to wet his blazer.

We finally part and Lance places the ring on Evette’s finger, the diamond throwing off a kaleidoscope of candle light. We drink the bottle of Riesling and eat our meal.

Later, Lance makes love to Evette, our bodies writhing, almost manic in our urgency. My nipple erect, my flesh shivering at his errant touches.

After we finish, Evette and Lance soon fall asleep, their snoring sonorous in the quiet dark.

But I can’t sleep. I listen to the rain patter on the roof and the wind that batters our window.

I want to run from the bed, lock myself in the bathroom, and wail at the top of my lungs.

But I can’t. Never could.

We are sisters, never apart.

I glance over to Evette, the moonlight streaming through the window bathes her face. She seems to smile even in her sleep.

I choke back tears and remain silent, the air cool on my bare skin.

Evette’s heart beats wild and free and full while mine cracks and splinters and withers.

It’s all right.

We are sisters, we are one.

Scott Paul Hallam is a short story author living in Pittsburgh, PA. His work has recently appeared in Night to Dawn magazine. He has his Master’s in English Literature from Duquesne University and first fell in love with the written word when his dad would read him stories by Edgar Allan Poe as a kid. You can follow him on Twitter at @ScottHallam1313.