Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The Wrong Twin

Malcolm's wedding was all too rapidly approaching and he found himself inundated with details that held little interest. These were the usual boring, tedious, despicable wedding day details: flowers to order, most of which he could not tell apart nor name nor describe; places he had never heard of that suddenly became of paramount importance; people he had no idea of, had never heard of and were somehow related; seating plans with the complexity of Fermat's Last Theorem; and transport arraignments that made Heathrow Airport look decidedly simple (and potentially with almost as many bags lost). Is it any wonder Malcolm took to daydreaming and reminiscing?

* * *

Oh yes, reminiscing, back to the summer when he was eleven, was it eleven? Something like that, anyway it's not important, just that it was a far simpler time. Such summers of your youth are always bright, sunny and endless, especially the ones remembered with such deep affection. Hence that indisputable fact probably wasn't true. Most likely it was just as cloudy, rainy and dull as the one heralding his wedding and with as few miserable flickers of sunshine.

The tedium of school had collapsed; uniform days were over and somehow he met up with the twins. They were in the year below his and emanated from his dear departed school. They lived, what appeared to be, an epoch away at the very end of a cluster of bungalows. In fact he had since returned to his childhood home and it was only a corner several hundred yards away. But such are the appearance of insurmountable distances when you are young and naive.

The twins were one solid year younger than he. Rebecca and Rosanna were both thin and quietly playful. Rebecca had the slightly more curly hair and suffered terribly with eczema for which she had creams that endlessly needed to be rubbed into her skin. With a few other childhood friends they had escaped conformity and fled out into the streets or fields. For the twins Malcolm headed towards their bungalow and they played in a cramped bedroom. Funny, he did not remember their mother at all or quite why they so frequently played there.

There wasn't much to the room. No mass of toys and gadgets you associate with kids today. It was Spartan and functional with a couple of cramped beds and an old fashioned wooden wardrobe pushed incongruously against the wall. They must have been respectably poor, though such thoughts never entered his mind at the time. It was simply the way things were.

Occasionally they would play the kissing game. Malcolm and one of the twins would squeeze into the slender gap between the wardrobe and the wall. Here, face to face, they would briefly kiss, then escape and giggle. Then the other twin would take her turn and then... and then what? And then the silliness was over.

He would like to say there was something more engaging to this playtime than occurred, something he could boast about today, something that would prove how precocious he was, but alas, to his eternal shame, there wasn't. Looking back it was all so pathetically innocent.

As the summer strode on Malcolm and Rosanna – that's the one without eczema – emerged into being formally boyfriend and girlfriend. This had a mostly symbolic value as he rarely saw the twins apart. And poor Rebecca was never given this monumental news, at least not from him.

This was one of the few instances in his life where Malcolm could boast that he possessed the pretty one. Never again would he be able to make that claim. Among his few girlfriends he had always come off second best with one of his mates grabbing his real desire. Not even with his bride to be and her reprobate sister – so full of delicious vigour. It was the same with that stunning best friend of hers, that one who was to be a bridesmaid and most likely to outshine the bride. Of course his bride was attractive: it was just relativity theory can be so uncompromising.

One day Rosanna secretly confided in him that she hated Rebecca and her eczema. At the time Malcolm took this seriously and sided valiantly with his formal girlfriend. Back then he did not understand that she did not really mean it. It was just the normal petty jealousies of sisters.

Summer holidays expired and uniform days started again. This time Malcolm was removed to the loneliness of a distant secondary school and the twins remained trapped in their previous haven. The kissing games were not so frequent now as they explored new horizons.

The new school was not so pleasant and he felt the loneliness of the summer ending. Trudging home alone he saw one of the twins in the distance. That was Rebecca and her eczema, he could tell. Malcolm felt a desperate need to impress to Rosanna. So he went up to the poor girl and said: “I hate you.”

The shocked girl burst into tears and ran off in the direction of her distant bungalow. Malcolm was left standing there. It was only then he realised he had the wrong twin. Not flaky Rebecca but smooth Rosanna. He shrugged it off, it'll be all right, she'll understand. Such was his desperate innocence.

Summer was stamped closed. Whether it was his ill-judged outburst or simply the dislocation of a new school but the kissing games were discontinued – forgotten like an out of date pop song. The twins faded into his past, the sad memory of an unforgivable lapse.

* * *

Reminiscing over, there was the terror of the wedding to negotiate. Malcolm could face that reality for appearances sake, despite caring little for the ceremony itself. Yes: it was the life he wanted, he did want to live with his comfortable bride, he was sure of that now. Still, he decided, best never let on to her about the skinny twins – would she understand? He doubted it.

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