|A vast abyss of monotony spread out before me. I blink twice, then drop my gaze to the plush carpet. What had been a pure, powdery white when I’d first entered was now a rusty crimson blushing audaciously up at me. I study the spread of my blood with an almost disturbing detachment. Kara steps in and her soft “Oh” echoes in my ear. I continue to watch the floor, but I don’t need to look up to know her expression.
Her ruby lips are slightly agape, long, shiny, toffee-colored pin-curls being sifted through unsure fingers, brushing lightly against a newly clammy palm. She is at a loss, a fact that would be illustrated in the wanton desperation emanating from her brown, doe-y irises. A quiet rage would be lurking in the seemingly innocuous wrinkling of nose, falling muted into the slight baring of her teeth, an unintentional grimace briefly contorting her pretty features. Her sharp brow would be crinkled for a mere few moments longer, before smoothing out, retracting into a pretense of serenely blank flesh. Little by little, the signs of her distress would disappear, swipe themselves away. Expression would melt into the abyss. Then, she’d go get Emily.
Just as I’d predicted, after an approximate of ten seconds had elapsed in tense silence, she left, heels clattering over the expanse of gleaming wood that formed the path between the library and their room. I waited, watching my blood drip, drip, drip, soaking down into the carpet. Soon the floor would probably be ruined….
The clattering started up again, faster this time. Emily always hurried. The door swung open and Emily burst in. As she took in the sight before her, she slowed, green eyes darting. A slender hand came up, first to lightly graze the patch of skin over her heart, then to settle on her slightly swollen abdomen, fingers curving as if in protection.
“Mia.” She spoke, her voice sloping into a worried murmur.
I swallow and continue to examine my mess with baited breath. She sighs softly and takes a tentative step forward.
The sound should be slight, but it seems magnified, resounding through the room, throwing menacing echoes against the wall. Panic rears up inside me and suddenly I’m screaming. My hands press to the sides of my head. I can’t stop. My eyes slide shut, tears slipping out. I fall then, convulsing. The room is flashing when I open my eyes again and I squeeze out the vision. The world takes on a surreal feeling while I thrash, body strewn between soft carpet and hard oak wood. Pain is coursing through me, replacing the stream of blood in my veins with unadulterated agony.
A final cry wrenches from my chest and then the world is still. There is a moment of perfect clarity. Epiphany settles its fragile butterfly wings against my cold flesh and tucks into me. Then everything fades away.
The first sensation to reach me is that of a particular wetness upon my forehead and neck. My lids flutter, attempting to lift. Damp lashes flick with the struggle. Finally, I succeed, rubbing irritably at the offending parts.
The soft padding, heel-to-toe, of bare feet on mahogany catches my attention. Scrutiny is unnecessary. I do not need to turn to know who it is, either. Those are Emily’s footfalls.
They are coming closer. Then:
I do not respond, eyes closing once more. I revel in the recognition of that name.
“Mia?” She asks again. There is am edge of fear in her voice. She speaks gingerly. So, Cecilia had been wreaking havoc again….
“It’s me.” I assure her.
I am unprepared as she flings herself at me. Things had indeed been bad then.
“Does grandfather know I’m up here?” I ask, after she finally releases me, beaming.
Emily brushes back a loose tawny curl and hushes me, eyes darting briefly to the door.
“No, not yet,” she murmurs. “And he won’t for a couple more days. When he’s forgotten all about last week, we’ll pretend to retrieve you from the basement.”
I nod. It was the usual plan, but that never stopped me from asking, nor did it stop Emily’s explanations and precarious procession. A good thing, I supposed, though annoying at times. She tutted, apparently noting something in my complexion or the like that seemed to be less than satisfactory, in, of course, Emily’s insane definition of the word. As per usual.
With all the comfort of a beautiful routine, we had arranged ourselves into position in less than a minute. Emily leaned back against the wall, a single pillow angled into a cushion close to the small of her back. I lay crookedly across the bed, my head against her side and my hair fanned out behind me, locks of ragged chestnut interlocking stubbornly as they are eased into the exact preferred placement by little Miss Perfection. A soothing hand skates through the rippling strands, little by little eradicating tangles of revulsion, mats of fear, and painful knots of resentment, leaving in their wake a silken pool of contentment. She continues her ministrations while I work to find the place in my mind where I know Cecilia to be lurking, absolved in shadows, shrouded in menace.
The contours of my subconscious are foggy white. I trace them, searching. Cecilia should be easy to find. Though there were, of course, many people in one’s mind, one rarely found a doppelganger of oneself. At least, if you weren’t a twin that is.
In a wisp of darkness, I find her. She is glowering, shredding a daisy nimbly between her agile fingers. I grasp her shoulders and shake her as hard as I count, shouting silent obscenities. The words pool at my feet, a river of impossible intention, while my head rattles with the force. She smiles at me, amused, and I feel a force tugging at my terse expression, forcing my lips’ corners upwards. We are one another’s puppets, just as much as we are each other’s masters. She is smiling her smile of condescending glory on my face and I am seeping tears down her puffed up cheeks.
I am winning this battle. The feeling is just barely tangible, sprouting delicately within me, when I am jerked back to life.
The door rattles as it hits the jamb with splintering strength. Kara throws herself onto my bed, its springs cringing under her force, then rebounding vengefully, bouncing us up about an inch. I wince as my aching head slams into Emily’s kneecap.
Emily groans, tossing a half-hearted glare her sister’s way.
“My stomach,” she reminds Kara reproachfully.
“It’s not my fault you’ve got that thing growing inside you. Besides, it’d probably be better if you lost it anyways wouldn’t it?” she snarks. As an afterthought, she stands and jumps back onto the bed, even harder this time.
“Don’t,” Emily whimpers, both hands now arcing protectively over her stomach. She tosses a worried glance in my direction.
A shiver courses up my spine, then another one, then another. I fall back once more, trembling. Cecilia claws her way out. She is nearly there. My eyes are rolling, lashes fluttering, heart thrumming. Abruptly, I become aware of a new presence. A new attitude, a new history... a whole new person.
Cecilia is overcome, but in her place there is now is a less familiar force with which to reckon. One who is very, very angry. One who has a plan. An agenda. One who will stop at nothing. Meet Thea.
I join Cecilia in the hardened shadows and watch the world go dark.