Identical twins switch classes
|I was standing in front of my locker just before 3rd period, when my identical twin sister came rushing over to me. She tossed a crumpled piece of paper into my hands, ‘Je ne sais pas’ it read. “Well?” I asked, eyebrows raised.
“It means ‘I don’t know’ in French. And you had better memorize it too, because I just talked to Bobby and he said both 1st and 2nd period classes had surprise pop quizzes.”
I froze. “No Way! Forget it. The deal is OFF.”
“Yes Way. I won’t forget it and a deal’s a deal,” she said over her shoulder and waltzed off.
“Waaait! Renee!” I scrambled to grab my books from my locker; but, by the time I found my misplaced math homework, she was already gone from sight. I sighed heavily. There was no place else to go but room 213, Renee’s 3rd period French class. How did I ever let Renee talk me into this mess? Not only was I supposed to pretend that I knew how speak French. I had to do it in front of the FRENCH teacher. What the hell was I thinking?
- - - - - -
It was gorgeous a spring morning and the sound of the ear-piercing ring of the alarm jerked me from my Dead-To-The-World-Coma. The blinding bright sun reflected off the dresser mirror into my sleep-filled eyes. As irritating as its brightness was, the sun was a welcomed sight because the past 18 days had been filled with nothing but rain, mud, chilling wind and gray overcast skies. I rolled out of my bed and stumbled towards the bathroom. Renee however, rolled over and slid even further underneath the covers of her bed. How come I always had to shower first?
The radio was as loud as Mom would allow it to be. Renee was much more quiet than usual. Finally, she said, “Let’s switch classes.” She was brushing her hair. “It will be a blast.” I shook my head no. “Oh come on,” she continued. “We’ve talked about this for years.” She said something else but I wasn’t really listening. I was trying to formulate a response why I couldn’t do what she wanted. I was too chicken.
“It will never work,” I protested. “We may look exactly alike but we certainly don’t act alike. I’m so preppy, you’re so…um…racey.”
She was applying make-up, her face stuck to the mirror. “Look, it's our senior year with only 10 weeks to go.” She put down her lipstick and looked me straight in the eye. “I’ve been thinking…I could sit in on your anthropology class while you sit in on my French…”
“French!” I all but screamed. “Are you crazy? I don’t even know how to cuss in French!”
“Breakfast in 5 minutes!” Mom called from downstairs.
“Just hear me out.” She grabbed both my wrists and rattled off all of the pros, none of the cons. She had just taken a major French exam only three days earlier, S.O.P. called for an easy day of lecture and not taking. Also, her good friend Donny would be all too happy to assist with any arising difficulties. Furthermore, it had to be 3rd period because Mr. Slote, my anthropology teacher was the only one of all six of my teachers up for a practical joke.
By now, she was breathless. She tightened her grip on my wrists. Her eyes were wide and sparkling, pleading for me to say yes. I was slowly becoming intoxicated with self-confidence, the eagerness in her voice, the sight of the cloudless blue sky, and the pleasant aroma of cooked bacon that had drifted in from downstairs. Even the radio was playing my favorite ‘get off your butt and dance’ tune. All of these sensations swarmed inside of me. ‘Why not?” I thought, and it was a strange voice that burst through my lips. “We could even switch clothes! I’ve always wanted to wear that low-cut snug fitting black blouse with your black leather jacket…and…maybe…even…your boots?" I knew the boots request was pushing it, but what the heck.
The rest of the morning was a whirlwind of excitement and fast paced chatter, what to wear, how to act, etc. Even though I learned how to pronounce a few key French phrases, I was under strict instructions to keep my mouth shut. Not a problem.
Everything seemed so foolproof this morning. But now, standing several yards away from the French Room Door, it all seemed silly and stupid. I glanced around me; the corridor alive with last minute activity. Locker doors slammed shut. Students shoved past me, not wanting to get caught by the late bell. Frozen with self-doubt, I watched the hallway begin to empty. My anxiety increased with each passing moment. What an idiot I was to be sucked in by hype and impulse.
“C’mon Renee,” a strange male voice whispered in my ear as his hand slapped my back. “You’ll be late for class.” He shuffled on down the hall. Renee? He called me Renee! Hurdle Number One cleared. My steps quickened.
Peeking in the doorway, trying to calm my nerves, I saw all unfamiliar faces save two. Donny Ferguson, fat, embarrassingly effeminate, obnoxiously affectionate and ‘absolutely harmless”. In order to avoid suspicion; I would be forced to actively participate in his annoying little attempts at camaraderie. Natalie Smith was the other familiar face. The proverbial-girl-next-door, she seemed as innocent and naïve as a little girl. However, in reality, she had the observant eye of a well-trained homicide investigator.
A quick glance at the empty teacher’s chair brought a small sigh of relief. At least I had time to collect my thoughts before facing face Mrs. Cooper. Cooper could be tough like day old steak. She expected every drop of effort from all her students. She applied this very same attitude toward her coaching techniques. It was she who had brought the last placed girls tennis team all the way to the State Championships. However, once you earned the ‘Cooper Seal of Approval” you could always count on a compassionate ear. She was fair and humorous; but if you ever crossed the line, then step back.
“Come on IN Raye!” Donny called as he slapped his large hand on the empty desk to the right of his. Donny was the only on who called Renee ‘Raye,” He took my hand as I sat down. “You’re not Raye,” he hissed. “Your hips don’t sway like hers and your breasts are smaller. Only a man would notice these things.” He winked when he said the word ‘man’. As I looked at his pudgy baby face, I wondered how this milktoast could possibly know anything a man would know?
“Wait a minute,” Natalie loudly blurted from the back of the classroom. “You’re not Renee! Her long arm pointing straight at me. She smiled, “That’s Renee’s twin sister ROBIN.” Her announcement was unmistakable and the entire class heard it.
One blabbermouth could spell a swift and harsh verdict, especially if the principal considered this cutting class. A single minute dragged like five. Finally their blank stares transformed into sly smiles. Awed students gathered around to get a closer look. Suddenly, everyone was an authority on Renee, her looks, her behavior, and her mannerisms. The girls doted over my hair, dress, and even make-up, while the guys instructed me on posture and book placement. They were quarrelling amongst themselves, “She doesn’t sit like THAT!" “Poof her hair up a little bit.” With desperate attempts, I tried to follow their contradictory advice.
Mo, a freckled face redhead assigned lookout, reported seeing Mrs. Cooper several doors down. Everyone scurried back to their seats and with nervous fingers flipped through class notes and textbooks. She entered the room bellowing a set of instructions in French. My heart pounded as she called roll but Renee’s name came and went with no suspicion. Then, more French gibberish. Sometimes students quickly responded. Sometimes as a class, sometimes as individuals. And then to me.”????””
The entire room held its breath.
“Je ne sais pas.” I answered, my voice squeaking. She never batted an eye.
I cleared another hurdle but my stomach was still in knots. Renee’s better be in knots too! Although I somehow doubted it. Everything was in French. Instructions, questions, comments. I had no idea what was happening. Couldn’t this woman utter just one word of English? My eyes darted around the room for cues. I followed their leads with only one second in lag time.
Everybody began clearing his or her desks, signaling the arrival of test time. The butterflies really began working overtime. A handful of Rolaids would be graciously welcomed. I eyed Donny from over my glasses and he gently nudged his paper in my direction. Cheat? HA! I hadn’t the guts. And besides, I could probably worm my way out of this one, but add cheating to the charges and I was dead meat.
It wasn’t just the long arm of the principal that had me shaking in my black leather jacket. The wrath of MOM held its own separate fear. Mom’s absolute power could totally wipe out a social calendar like a hurricane destroying a trailer park. And with Prom a few weeks away…Renee would have to settle for an F.
The rest of the class was slow and boring, much like the waiting room at the doctor’s office. At least in the waiting room I could thumb through old magazines and engage in small talk with the fellow patients. Here I was forced to remain silent and pretend understanding. I tapped my pencil eraser on the desktop willing the dismissal bell to ring. When it finally did, I bolted straight for the door. Once out, Renee's classmates surrounded me. I now had "fans" All of whom gave me approving thumbs up gestures or saying things like, “Cooool’ and "Yeeees” “You did it!” Maybe so, but I didn’t share in their enthusiasm.
I slammed down my lunch tray beside Renee’s. French fries jumped like Mexican beans. I shook my finger in her face and told her if she had any more bright ideas she could keep them to herself. “Sweating through a French exam is far from my idea of fun.” Her laughing was anything but amusing to me. “May I remind you,” I said with hand on hip, “that I have just stained your B- record!”
She waved off my concern with the flip of her hand. “Lighten up. Don’t you remember? I warned you there might be a quiz?”
The anger drained from my face only to be replaced with embarrassment. “Yeah, Bobby told you just before 3rd.”
“Correction.” She was giggling. “Mrs. Cooper told us. YESTERDAY.”
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Robin & Renee New Year's Eve 2005