The twins loved first grade. They came home very excited from their first day, chattering away. The older kids didn’t want to hear about it though.
“Yeah, we know what it’s like,” Presea pointed out, “we went through first grade.”
The twins looked a bit upset so I took them aside and made sure to ask them tons of questions. They were more than happy to answer. There was also a new student, a boy who hadn’t been with them in previous classes but was with them now. Zaid got along real well with him while Lumie did not.
“He’s gross,” she whined. “He said dis yucky song. It was gross.”
“It was funnnyyyy!” Zaid said with a laugh. “Da worms crawl in, da worms crawl out–“
“Noooo!” Lumie covered her ears.
“–dey crawl’n yer ears and out yer mouf!”
“Okay, okay, Zaid–I get the idea!” I didn’t care much about the song but Lumie was squirming, looking very uncomfortable.
“You are yucky!” she snapped, kicking him.”Yucky, gross. Boys are icky!”
“I’m a boy,” I pointed out.
“Nooo! You a Papa. Not a boy. Daddy a Daddy, he not a boy eider. Zaid’s a icky, gross boy. Villy’s gross too. Brudders are gross.”
“Sisters are grosser,” Zaid said, sticking his tongue out. “And daddy not a boy, he a man. Like I be one day.”
“I’m a man too,” I said.
Zaid gave me a look. “Yeah no you not da same, you no have beard.”
I reached over, rubbing his hair and messing it up. “I see your daddy has taught you well.”
“How come you haff no beard, Papa?” Lumie asked, one hand touching my cheek.
“I dunno, I’ve just never been able to grow any face hair.”
“I hope dat no happen to me,” Zaid said, rubbing his own cheeks.
“I’m sure you’ll be just like your daddy,” I said, and Zaid beamed.
We were doing special kid days. Just me and Specter and one kid. Glados had had her few hours with me on our trip to the beach, and after that we drew names from the hat. Villy was first, and he wanted to go rollerblading so Specter took him, just the two of them since no way could I do that.
Then at the beginning of October we drew another name and it was Lumie’s name. She wanted to go to the park. A picnic. So Gretchen and Mr. Fluffy (the second) came in to babysit one Saturday while Specter, Lumie and I went to the park. She chattered happily on the car trip and bounced around as we spread the blanket and food out.
After we ate, we went over to the swings. I sat on one, swinging a little bit, while Specter pushed Lumie in the other. She screeched as she went higher and higher, begging Specter to go even higher. Several of her barrettes flew off, scattering around. One shoe came off, followed by one of the little furry ankle warmers she loved to wear. I went to fetch everything, putting everything back on her after they finished with the swings.
“Dat was soooo fun!” she gasped as the final barrette was put in her hair. “I neffer go so high. Zaid gonna be jealous.” She reached up and began messing with the tiny braid in her hair. “I wonner what Zaid doing now.”
“Probably fighting over the remote,” Specter said.
Lumie and I both giggled. “How come I get my day wifout Zaid?” Lumie then asked, looking between us.
“You don’t like it just being us?” I asked.
“Nono I like it, I do, I just not… ummmm, iz always me an’ Zaid. Not used ta just being me.” She toyed with the braid even more. “Somefing weird happen de odder day at school. Wif me an’ Zaid.”
“Oh? What happened?” Specter asked.
Lumie reached down and patted her knee. “Zaid fell off da slide and hurt his knee?” I nodded, remembering when he had come home with the small scrape. It hadn’t been anything bad… so I thought. Had it been bad? Maybe he was pushed off? But that’s not what Lumie said. She said. “My knee hurt. When he fell. It hurt my knee…”
Specter and I looked at one another then back at Lumie. “You… you felt the pain?” I asked.
She nodded. “Only a lil’ bit. Not much. Is dat weird?”
“That can happen with twins,” Specter explained. “It’s not weird at all. It happens a lot, actually. Usually with identical twins more than like you and Zaid, but it happens with fraternal twins too.”
“Fa-tern-al?” Lumie asked.
“It means you don’t look alike… like Uncle Kay and his sister are fraternal twins,” I said.
Lumie shook her head. “I seen Uncle Kay’s sissy, she looks like’m. Dey are dentical.”
“They do look a lot alike, but one is a girl and one is a boy so they’re not identical,” Specter said. “So even if you and Zaid had the same hair color and the same eye color and looked more alike, you would still be fraternal.”
I wasn’t sure if Lumie was getting all this. She scrunched her face up in thought but then smiled. “So can Uncle Kay an’ his sissy feel da odder’s feelings? Like me an’ Zaid?”
“Errrr, I don’t think they can,” Specter said.
“You can feel–feelings…?” I asked, scratching my head.
“Yeah, like sometimes I can feel dat he is sad, and sometimes he can feel dat I’m sad, and sometimes we feel like happy doughts from da odder.” She then scrunched her face up again, this time even more than before. “He miss me right now. An’ he’s mad at someone. Prolly Villy cause dey always fight, yeah?”
I was staring at Specter and he was looking back at me with a strange look in his eye. The pain thing was one thing but feeling the other’s feelings so… so sharply… that wasn’t really real, was it? It couldn’t be. It was just Lumie making stuff up. That had to be it. Right?
“Okay b-b-buddy, this won’t hurt at all, I p-promise.”
Uncle Kay carefully taped the wires onto Zaid and Zaid just giggled, enjoying this like it was a game which it pretty much was to him. Any time he got to spend time with Uncle Kay was fun for him. Uncle Kay just smiled, finishing the last wire and stepping back so he could send a text to his sister who was one floor down and on the other side of the building. She had Lumie with her, and Specter too (since she still despised me so much over the thingiemabob, the less time spent around me was better).
“Are you c-comfy?” Uncle Kay asked.
“Yep,” Zaid said, swinging his legs happily. “So we gonna do ummm tests, right?”
“Yes th-that’s right,” Uncle Kay said, pulling a chair up. “You and L-Lumie w-will be trying to f-feel what the oth-ther is feeling. Okay? I’ll sh-show you some v-videos, and L-Lumie will guess wh-what you are feeling to start w-with and then the s-same will happen only sh-she will see videos and y-you will guess.”
Zaid frowned but nodded. “Yeah okay. What kinda videos?”
“You’ll s-see when my s-sister is done setting your s-sister up.”
I sat quietly in my chair, hoping this wouldn’t end badly but everyone else seemed to think it was a good idea. It was winter, the end of January. Over the past few months we had been keeping an eye on the twins and we had both noticed that they were really connected with one another. When I mentioned it to Uncle Kay, he seemed very interested in the whole thing. He didn’t say anything to his sister until after we agreed to do these tests on the twins, and Doctor Green-Eyes was even more interested than her brother was. I wasn’t sure why though. But the twins–the older, adult twins–were eager.
Once everything was set up, Uncle Kay showed a video of cute puppies and kittens to Zaid who seemed to really enjoy it. After a few minutes he switched to a video of someone walking in a dark house with tense music playing, and Zaid got real tense and scared though nothing popped out (something Uncle Kay had promised before). Then there was a video of adults talking about the stock market and finally a car chase with cops and robbers, a shoot’em up type of video.
Uncle Kay wrote all of Zaid’s obvious reactions down and then talked to him a bit about things before getting a text. “Okay, n-now what’s going to h-happen is my s-sister is going to show different v-videos to Lumie, and you n-need to let m-me know how she is feeling.”
“Okay,” Zaid said with a smile then after a moment his smile faded. “Lumie’s real sad right now.” He wriggled his body and then sniffled. “I don’t like it.” I wanted to go and hug him but stayed in my seat, relieved when the sadness left his face. “She’s getting real ‘xcited about somefing.” His eyes got wide. “Whatever it is, she’s got real–oh. No. It’s changin’ and now she’s real bored.”
After a moment Uncle Kay got another text. “All r-right that part of th-the test is done now. You r-ready for some more or do you need a break?”
“I’m hungry I want choc’lit.”
“Chocolate s-sounds very good. Let me l-let my sister know.” He sent the message then went to his desk pulling out some candy bars. “I love s-sweet things,” he said and gave me and Zaid each a candy bar.
“Uncle Kay? How comes I got eyes like yours an’ all my sissies have eyes like Papa or Daddy?” Zaid asked, munching on the snack.
“Well, the color of someone’s eyes usually c-comes from their parents,” Uncle Kay said, not stammering very much at all. “But it can also come from other f-family members. The green eyes you got is from a long t-time ago in your family, from your Papa’s side.”
“It was really surprising when your eyes changed from the baby color to the green,” I said and Zaid squinted.
“Nope, not bad at all. I was really excited about it. I was really glad to see Uncle Kay’s eye color in one of my kids.”
Zaid grinned at that. “I like havin’ green eyes and only one of us dat dose. An’ Villy, he’s got white eyes an’ dey glow. Cause he’s a werewolf.” Zaid sucked on the last bit of his candy bar and looked towards me. “He’s ‘dopted, right? Dat means he no have your, uhhh, ummmm, like I has Daddy’s brown hair.”
“Genetics,” I said carefully. “That’s right, another couple had him and we took him in as our little boy.”
“Papa, if’n another couple had me an’ Lumie would you take me in?” he asked. “Cause dat means you wanted Villy and picked him an’ you didn’t get to pick me?”
I sat up straight, really not expecting that sort of question. “Sweetheart, if I could have picked all my kids I would have picked the ones I got. I love all of you. And your daddy loves all of you.”
“But you guys pick Villy… you say dat to him lots. An–OWWWW!” Zaid jumped, grabbing his arm. “Oww! Dat hurrrrt!”
“What happened?!” I dove off my chair and began examining his arm.
“Felt all zappy like when I touch da car, ummm, static lectisity. Only more. Bigger. It hurt.”
Uncle Kay’s phone buzzed and he checked it. “I see my s-sister is continuing the tests even though I told her we were t-taking a short break on our side.”
“What did she do to Lumie?” I demanded angrily.
“Just a l-light zap,” Uncle Kay said quickly, “Specter is th-there.”
I looked at Zaid’s arm, trying to calm down. Specter never would have let her do anything too painful to Lumie but I felt a bit untrustful of it all. “Okay,” I said, not quite sure to believe that it was just a ‘light’ zap.
There were a few more tests and then the doctor wanted to switch out kids, to make double sure that we weren’t doing anything weird on our end with Zaid. So Uncle Kay took Zaid off and brought Lumie back, giving her a candy bar as soon as she sat down. She ate it happily as the wires were fixed onto her body and I asked her if the zappy stuff had hurt her very much.
“Nope, it felt weird like when you touch a car and it gets all zappy, only bit stronger. It’s okay,” she said brightly. “Didn’t hurt lots.”
And then there were some videos. Not quite the same ones as before, and then on the other side Zaid saw videos while Lumie told us how Zaid felt. The older twins recorded down everything, every little bit of information. Then we could go. I took Lumie down the hall and Specter was bringing Zaid down the hall and as soon as the kids saw each other they ran to one another, hugging tightly, talking about their own experiences. They had never spent so much time with the doctor before and they both agreed she was really creepy and weird.
I took Specter’s hand as we left the labs. “Did she tell you anything?” I asked.
Specter shook his head. “Not yet, but she did say something I thought was a bit odd…” He trailed off and then squeezed my hand tightly. “She said… it didn’t surprise her. She said, it is in their blood.”
“Their blood?” I asked, voice dropping.
Specter stopped and turned towards me. “Your mother was psychic. She thinks the twins inherited something of that in them, that connects them.”
“Twins have psychic connections all the time,” I mumbled.
“They do. And it may just be that–LUMIE ZAID YOU WAIT FOR US–but she seems to think it has something to do with your mother. That it… strengthened their psychic bond.” I looked down at the hall at the twins who were standing by the elevator. They were holding hands, whispering at each other and giggling. “The doctor also said if it is the same ability, it will only get stronger after puberty.”
Lumie and Zaid looked at us, both of them grinning and bobbing up and down with excitement for us to join them by the elevators. “Do you think she’s right?”
“I don’t know. I–I really don’t know, and I don’t think we’ll know until the twins are older. What I do think is there are twins with bonds, so there is every chance that that is all it is.” Specter brushed back his bangs and sighed. “What I think is there are very strange things going on. What I think is the past few years, some crazy shit has–“
“DAAADDDYYY! PAAAAPAA! HURRY UUUUP!” Lumie shrieked.
Specter shook his head and held my hand, pulling me towards the elevator. I wanted him to finish his sentence but I knew he wouldn’t with the kids around. I waited for hours, until after the kids were in bed, but he said he couldn’t really remember what it was he was going to say, so that was that I guess.
A few nights after the testing I was getting Lumie ready for bed and she brought up the testing thing, asking some questions about it. She hadn’t before so I wasn’t really sure what brought this one, but I explained to her that the professor and the doctor thought maybe there was a super special bond between her and Zaid. Lumie nodded at that.
“Yeah, dere is,” she agreed. “Is dere a speshil bond atween Uncle Kay and his twin?”
“Not the same as what you and Zaid have,” I said honestly.
“If’n she’s his sissy, and he’s our uncle, does dat make her our aunt? Cuz I asked her dat and she didn’t say noffing.”
“Errr…” I could only imagine the look on the doctor’s face as Lumie had questioning that. It was kinda amusing. The doctor, um, she’s not really the aunt type. So it’s probably best you don’t call her that, ok? Just call her ‘doctor’.”
“Dokker, ok.” She fiddled with her nightgown strings then looked back up at me. “She says dat cause I’m da older girl of da twins dat means it’d my job ta look after Zaid.”
My mouth formed a little ‘o’ in surprise. Doctor Green-Eyes had said that? That… wasn’t something I had ever really expected.”Did she really?”
“Yuh-huh, an’ she says dat I has a very ‘portant… um, ‘role’. Cause I’m da older twin and a girl.” Lumie smiled. “I will po-tect Zaid. Is my duty.” She then paused and frowned. “Even if he is a meanie-butt sometimes.”
“Okay, you have two apples and Lumie has four apples. Lumie gives you one apple. How many apples do you each have?”
“Don’t care. I don’t like apples.”
“Ooookay. Oranges. You have two–“
“Thwee, we have thwee each,” Lumie piped up. “It’s easy.”
Zaid scowled and bent over his notebook even more, scraping his nail at the paper. “Yippeaiay fer you, Lumes.”
Lumie rolled her eyes at me. “Next problem! Papa, wha’s the next one?”
“We done?” Zaid lifted his head. “I wanna go outside an’ play.”
“It’s wet outside,” I said. “And it will rain again. I think.”
“Villy’s outside,” he grumbled, glaring at the window. “Saya is too.”
“And Gladdy is doing her homework, and we need to finish yours,” I said softly. “If it’s not raining by the time we’re done, you can go outside and play.”
“I don’t LIKE math!” Zaid pushed his notebook away and sat back, arms folded. “It’s real stupid. Who cares if four apples an’ two apples make–make three apples. Dunno how dat even works.”
“Cause you have two and I–hold on. Papa, can I have some M&Ms?”
“Um-what? No snacks right now, it is too close to dinner,” I said.
“I just need six,” she said in a knowing voice and I laughed, realizing why. So I went and got six M&Ms and she kept four and gave two to Zaid. “Okay so you has two and I gots four. I take one of mine…” She pushed one of her M&Ms over. “Now we bof have three.”
Zaid looked at the M&Ms then at his sister. Then he scooped the M&Ms up and popped them in his mouth. “Now I’s got none.”
Lumie smacked her forehead with her hand and rolled her eyes at me again. Zaid reached for hers but she grabbed them before he could. “Nope, dese are mine. You ate yours. And I’m not gonna help ya wif your homework.”
“Then I no help you with yours,” he snapped back. “Spell ‘cat’.”
“C’mon, math-girl, spell ‘cat’.”
“That’s enough.” I got up, putting a hand on Lumie’s shoulder. “Zaid, stop teasing your sister. You’re good at some things, and she’s good at others. I’m tired of you two fighting all the time when you’re doing–“
Zaid got up, slamming his hands down. “Lumie stop FEELING dat way about me!” he yelled. “I don’t LIKE IT! Papa, she feels–BAD dat I can’t do things!”
“I do not!”
“E-nough! Go to your rooms.”
“Now.” The twins looked at each other then went up the stairs, complaining the whole time. I rubbed my forehead and sat back down, looking at the homework sheets. Maybe Specter should help, I wasn’t much good with helping homework. Or maybe one of the kids. Villy and Glados were both really smart maybe he could help Zaid and she could help Lumie. Presea wasn’t terrible in school though, and more patient than the other two so maybe she’d be better…
“You okay Papa?”
I looked over at Gladdy who had come down the stairs. “Yeah just worried about the twins.” I waved my hand at the homework.
She came over and looked at everything. “They’re not doing bad. Just need some help here and there…”
“You wanna help?”
She laughed. “No way! But–but maybe you should just maybe have them do their homework not at the same time?” She pushed some of her hair back and shrugged. “I mean, maybe that might things easier for them. Cause Presea hates doing homework with me cause I’m so much smarter than her.”
“And oh so modest,” I said and Glados giggled. “Maybe you’re right, maybe that will make it easier for them. Thanks Gladdy.”
“Anytime,” she said and swept out of the house all pleased with herself.
Separating the twins for homework turned out to be a very brilliant thing. I would work with one of them while the other played, and then switch them around. And I always flipped a coin to decide who would be first so they wouldn’t feel all mad about that. But their homework got done a lot quicker and with a lot less fighting.
Yet, they were hopeless without each other–at least it seemed that way sometimes. If we had one without the other, they would speak of their twin and complain about not having their twin with them. Even on Zaid’s special day. Like Lumie, he asked about his twin. We went to an aquarium which he loved. Especially the sharks which kinda scared me I mean how was I supposed to trust that a little pane of glass was THAT safe?! And don’t even get me started on the tunnel. I clutched Specter the entire time while Zaid jumped around with excitement, naming the fish he could see.
That had been a while ago, and the last of the kid days for that year. It was already spring of the new year and we were starting up a new special day thing and this time Lumie’s name was the first one pulled out of the hat.
“I wanna ride a horse,” she said right away.
I felt my stomach tighten and I took a step back. That was worse than the aquarium. I looked at Specter who was watching me curiously. Horses. Why horses?! “I can take you horseback riding,” Specter said.
“And Papa too?”
“I don’t think your papa… likes to ride horses.”
Lumie looked at me. “How comes?”
“I d-d-don’t know,” I said. “I just don’t. I’m sorry sweetheart…”
“Is okay, I go with Daddy.”
So that weekend Specter took her to some stables while Uncle Kay came in to help me with the kids. I didn’t really need a ton of help but I always liked his company, as did Zaid. I remembered what Lumie had said about what the doctor had told her, and I wondered maybe if Zaid really did have some sort of special connection with Uncle Kay. Certainly out of all the kids, Zaid seemed the most eager when Uncle Kay visited.
Zaid ran over, jumping up and down at Uncle Kay until Uncle Kay bent to give him a hug. “G-good to s-see you, kiddo,” he laughed.
“Uncle Kay! What we gonna do today?” Zaid asked.
Uncle Kay looked at me and I put my hands out. “I dunno, what were you thinking?” I asked Zaid and he shrugged.
“Is Lumie’s day, not mine,” he said a bit sadly.
“That d-doesn’t mean we c-can’t do something all of us t-together,” Uncle Kay said. “What’s L-Lumie doing?”
“Riding a horse,” I said, trying not to sound all annoyed.
Uncle Kay chuckled at that. “I’m sure sh-she’ll be a natural at it.”
“Oh, your–m-mother rode horses,” he said, a bit quietly. Zaid looked at me and I felt a bit angry that Uncle Kay was mentioning this in front of one of my kids. But I saw in Uncle Kay’s face he wasn’t doing it on purpose… it was a side comment, the not thinking type of comment so I tried not to be ag… agg… annoyed.
Especially when Zaid asked, “Gramma rides horses?”
Now Uncle Kay was looking back at me and I bit my lip. “Ahhh, no, a–a different grandma,” I said.
“I has another gramma?”
“Um. Well. Uhhhh… no. I mean–well, no. My–my mom is gone. So is your daddy’s mom. But you have Gramma,” I added quickly since his face was falling.
Zaid tucked some of his hair back and frowned, looking real serious. “One of da kids at school says that–” But then he stopped and shook his head. “Eddie full of–“
“Zaid,” I warned, not sure what word he might say.
Zaid crinkled his nose up. “He said that you’re hiding from da police.”
I reeled back and Uncle Kay hid a smile. “What?! Wh–what?”
“He says cause you ain’t got no family and cause you don’t gots a job. He says dat you’re probably on da run from the police, or else cause you’re a spy.”
“Wh-what do you think?” Uncle Kay asked.
Zaid looked me up and down. “I think spies don’t trip on rugs.”
I blushed bright red while Uncle Kay covered his mouth, giggling. “I’m not a spy,” I said, going even redder. “I’m also not on the run from anyone.”
“How comes you got no family?”
“Uncle Kay is family.”
Zaid looked at him then back at me. “But he’s got name–um, his name. Rosso. And–and Uncle is ummm, the brudder of you or Daddy but you call him Uncle too.”
“Y-you’re a very smart b-boy,” Uncle Kay said and Zaid beamed. “You’re r-right. I’m not technically y-your uncle, or your p-papa’s uncle. I am r-related though. And your papa is definitely n-not on the run.”
Once again I thought about telling the kids. I went over and over in my head if I should tell the kids. About my family. My memories. The ghost thing. I wondered how they would react to me telling them I was once a ghost. I wasn’t really sure it was the right thing to do and finally one night, I woke up sometime a little after midnight. Was it the question in my mind waking me up? I felt there was something else though… Rubbing my eyes I went to check on the kids but everyone was sound asleep. Deciding some hot milk would be nice to get me back to sleep, I headed downstairs to the kitchen area to start warming some up. It was there I saw what woke me up.
A ghost, in the front yard, staring up at my bedroom window.
Looking at the ghost caused a great pain in my head, and then a really dim recollection. I turned off the stove and went outside as the dimness began brightened up as I approached him. I was only barely aware of a second ghost a little bit closer to the driveway. I was too focused on him. My jaw dropped and I stopped about two feet away from him.
“Tis true then,” William said, his glowy eyes fixed on me. “You are alive.”