My family has always been dysfunctional since the day I can remember. My parents didn’t have a happy marriage. Or maybe they did, but I wouldn’t know. So, their solution, other than divorce, was to have children. Because, duh, children obviously solve everything.
They meant to have a child, so when my mom found out that she was having twins, she didn’t tell my dad in fear that he would grow cold feet.
When she surprised him with two girls, fortunately, he didn’t run to get milk. Instead, as my twin and I grew up, my parents staked their claim on one child each. Jia was doted by my mom while I was practically my dad’s pal.
This caused tension between everybody. It could be worst though. After all, no one had the heart to tell me that I was the instigator.
Dad and Mom pretended that they didn’t secretly hate each other. I didn’t even know that it was unconventional for your parents to sleep in separate bedrooms until I went to kindergarten and found out that my peer’s parents had regular .
Jia and Mom conspired to make my life a living hell when Dad wasn’t around. Mom was already cold and apathetic toward me. But with Jia raising the slightest hell whether it’d been taking too long in the shower or leaving a strand of hair that coincidentally fell on her side of the room—Mom came to her defense at the snap of a finger.
Maybe she only had space for Jia in her heart because Dad and I surely didn’t fit in there.
Still, for a while, I foolishly tried and thought the solution was to make my mom proud in other ways. Academics. Sports. See, none of it worked. She always seemed to resent me as much as she resented Dad. I figured that there was no changing that with Dad telling me that he only had me in this world and all.
Dad died shortly after I turned sixteen. He had a heart attack while he was on his way to pick me up from school. That day, we’d gotten into a stupid fight. And I couldn’t even remember the last thing I said to him.
To make it worse, it felt like his death was sort of good riddance to Mom. Jia wasn’t at all close to Dad either, so it felt like I was the only one who truly grieved his death.
Once I graduated, I cut ties with my mom and my twin. It was now me against the world. Alone.
Or so I thought until I found myself standing in front of the emergency ward with the news that my sister has somehow died.
A sister that I haven’t met since I was seventeen. That was close to four years ago. I’m not sure how to react when the surgeon tells me that they couldn’t save her because she’d already shown signs of being brain dead before they operated.
Or how to react when my mom is standing beside me, stoned-faced, her eyes glazed over. It’s been four years since I met her. Is she high? Drunk? Maybe a combination of the two?
The surgeon glances warily between us.
“How’s the baby?” Mom asks.
I pause, and for a second, I think I hallucinated because there’s no way I heard that. “What?”
The surgeon releases a breath before he answers, “we got him out on time. He’s doing okay. The obstetrics surgeon tells me that he’s completely healthy.”
Mom stares at the ground. Meanwhile, I stare at the surgeon, wondering what else I’m missing.
This was a big development from yesterday, a lazy Sunday which consisted of staying in bed all day. So, yeah, it’s an understatement to say that this was beyond me.
My twin sister was pregnant. And now she’s dead. I have no idea how to proceed from this. Do I just leave? I didn’t think it was appropriate of me to attend her funeral, considering that we were never really that close.
“Is the father in the picture?” The surgeon asks.
I glance over at my mom who looks like she’s not processing any of his words. But regardless, she manages, “yes, he’s a very nice boy. That one.”
I purse my lips. She didn’t necessarily answer the question. It was more an equivocation per se.
“Has he been informed?” I ask her. It’s the first words I’ve spoken all evening. Something flashes in her eyes.
“Jia,” she murmurs to herself.
I brace for her touch. She notices my wince and doesn’t go through with it. “I’m not Jia.”
“No, you’re not,” she agrees wistfully, her eyes hardening. There she is. The cold mother I’ve always known. “To answer your question, I have not called him.”
“Maybe you should.”
“You don’t need to tell me that,” she quips. “Hea.” My name sounds foreign coming out of . I never thought I’d hear it again.
Before I’m able to open my mouth, rapid footsteps draw my attention from my mom. Spinning around, I’m not able to really process my next thought when the owner of the footsteps pulls me straight into his chest.
My cheeks press against hard warmth. He smells clean—a mixture of aftershave and soap. My fight or flight response tells me that I’m crazy for not pulling away, but his arms feel good, and I don’t seem to want to.
“Jia,” he breathes out. There’s relief in his voice.
Guilt trickles into my system slowly but surely. . This was wrong. He must have been Jia’s boyfriend. He must be the father.
I try to slow the pace of my heart that feels like it’ll leap out of my throat. I slide my hands over his chest, pushing away.
I get a clear view of him, and all I can do is release a shaky breath. I’m jealous. I’ve never been so jealous of my sister, and this has to be so ing wrong. She’s dead, and here I am shellshocked by the sight of her boyfriend.
I wish I can tell you that he’s ugly.
He has dark, brown hair somewhere between medium and long with several strands of his hair falling down into his eyes. The ends of his hair taper off toward his neck—sort of like a half mullet. But it's fashionable. At least, the way he styled it initially before it’d been forgotten in the storm of chaos.
I couldn’t take my eyes off of his face or stop thinking about how unfair it was for his maker to put all those beautiful, intentional features on one person. Apart from the obvious eye-turners like those dark straight brows or that razor-sharp jaw of his, his eyes drew me in the most. It was like sinking in a vat of ink. There was no destination, and you couldn’t see the bottom.
The way he looked at me with genuine concern and worry for my wellbeing brought a pang to my chest. The last person that looked at me like that was gone, and that thought alone saddens me.
He purses his lips, waiting. There’s a dimple on his left cheek, and I wonder to myself if there’s one on the right side.
I don’t need a reminder to know that none of this is appropriate. Christ. My sister is dead, so why?
Why can’t I just look at him from an objective standpoint? Why does he absolutely shake me to my core?
“I’m not Jia,” I tell him softly.
His lips part as he takes a step back, his hands pulling away like they’ve been splashed with acid. He glances at my mom who shakes her head.
“Then…” He trails off in question.
“Hea. I’m Jia’s sister,” I say.
Mom looks at him with pity.
It takes a second for me to realize that the clock is still ticking, and the surgeon is still standing here, waiting on us for answers.
When he redelivers the news to Jia’s boyfriend, there’s a look of complete stupor etched on his features that lingers even when the surgeon steps away.
This must be the first time he’s experienced death. I’m not sure I have the credentials to make this claim, but something about his slackened posture and his silence tells me that he’s reeling in denial.
I know exactly what that feels like.
And I want to tell him that things will get better.
Except I don’t actually know if it will. Tonight was an avalanche of disasters upon disasters. And it only gets worse.
It’s now that we’re approached by a CPS worker and a police officer.
The police officer tells us that someone else was in the car with Jia, but he’d been mangled so badly because he hadn’t worn a seatbelt which resulted in him being found miles down the road from the accident.
The CPS worker tells us that we have to decide who gets custody which primarily should be the closest family member. Naturally, I’d assumed that their kid goes to him.
Jia’s boyfriend is utterly silent. He’s silent both times when told of what happened, and when the police officer hands him something they found in the car, a watch, his previous blank face jumps from recognition to anger and to grief.
I’m curious what this watch means to him.
When they leave, he tells us he’ll be back. Mom and I resort back to silence as we wait for the next steps.
Eventually, I grow tired of this dreadful silence between us and just walk. Where? I’m not sure. I guess wherever my feet lead me.
I find myself barreling out the automatic doors into the cold, frigid air of January. I hang outside, letting the breeze wake my system up.
I wasn’t exhausted, but it was the numbness that bothered me. I haven’t cried at all in the last hour. I haven’t cried since my dad. After the shock dissipated, I was left desensitized and with a seemingly undeserving heart that continued to beat.
I sit on the concrete, contemplating as I try to let these emotions come to me. It feels like an impossible task. I can’t seem to grasp them. It’s like blindly finding a pebble in a pool of sand. It should be visible, but it’s not.
Resigned, I shimmy a pack of cigarettes from my back pocket, patting it against my palm until a single cigarette peeks out from its buddies.
I realize that I may have cigarettes, but I have nothing to light them with. Which . It feels like a cosmic joke that I wasn’t in on. Everything. Including the big crisis staring me down in the face, and even the minor problems.
Together, they wreck colossal damage.
“I have a lighter,” a voice startles me from behind.
I turn my head to confirm that it’s Jia’s boyfriend. I thought it was him. Somehow, his voice stuck itself inside my head and never left. The timbre of his voice—so rich and deep like warm honey—that it edged on husky. Just slightly whenever it dipped in tone.
He takes the empty spot beside me, sitting himself down on the concrete like I was. How silly. I wonder why he was entertaining me at all.
True to his words, he pulls a metal lighter, brushed in gold, out of his pocket. I hold out the cigarette, and he lights it.
The bitter aroma sifts through the air and muddles everything. Every bit of common sense that I seem to have left back at my apartment.
I take a long drag and hand it to him. He does the same. I don’t realize I’m watching him intently until he does the same, blowing out smoke and letting it curl out between us.
“You’re nothing like her,” he tells me.
“Why do you say?”
The corner of his lips lifts in a barely visible smile. “You look honest.”
“Never heard that one before.”
“In the beginning, I really thought that you were her. Perhaps because I hadn’t known that Jia had a twin sister. Then again, what do I really know about her?" There’s bitterness and maybe some resentment in his words.
I take another drag, releasing a breath before saying, “there’s a lot I don’t know about my sister. We haven’t talked in a while.”
“I feel,” he laments, “like an idiot.”
“You certainly don’t look like one.”
His lips twitch. I wish I can see him smile outright. No restraints at all. At least, I’m helping a little by giving him some amusement even if it’s mediocre. “I think she may have gone behind my back.”
I wince at his confession. “Do you have proof?”
“Not definite proof,” he says. “Circumstantial? Yeah. I think I can make a pretty good case.”
“What've you got, detective?”
“I’m a model,” he explains. “I usually split my time between here and New York. Since that's where most of my projects are. I noticed maybe this last year, she’s been a little flighty. But being flighty isn’t really a reason, so I gave her a benefit of the doubt. Besides, she was pregnant. Fast forward to three months ago, I found men's clothing that wasn’t mine in her hamper.”
I let out a pitiful hiss, offering him the cig in my hand. He takes his time, holding the fumes in for a beat before releasing, as if it'll negate his dread somehow.
“Is the baby yours?” I ask.
He fixates on the ground in front of him. “No.”
“I wanted to believe he was mine, but we haven’t had in ages. Certainly not within the time range for her to have gotten pregnant.”
“You knew she was cheating on you, but you stayed?”
He scoffs, but I got the sense that it wasn’t directed at me, and more so at him. “I stayed in New York. It was easier not to think about it when I wasn’t in the vicinity of the situation.”
I sort of understand him in the gist that I also pretended things didn’t happen if I wasn’t face-to-face with it. But, to be real, that’s probably just my trauma projecting.
“What are you gonna do now?” I ask him.
He stares into the distance. “Not sure. I’m really just trying to not think about it until it happens.”
I laugh, and somehow, in the entirety of the night, this is what brings a semblance of expression to his face. Much like he'd been looking at the face of something completely new and otherworldly—like maybe he was fascinated.
It sends a thrilling pulse all the way into the hollow of my bones. “Okay. Fair enough,” I push on, ignoring the dangerous, tempestuous part of myself that wants him. “Any suspects?”
“Is it terrible of me for wanting to pretend I don't know?”
“Who is it?”
“My brother,” he says easily. In such a strange, sort of distant nonchalant voice like he'd been recalling today's weather. “That watch. It was our father’s. Specially made and the only one of its kind. He passed it to my eldest brother.”
“I can see that age has nothing to do with responsibility,” I peruse.
He meets my eyes. “No,” he says airily, “it doesn’t.”
“And look where it led us,” I say, trying to keep my tone light. “To be fair, this debacle kept me from making another mistake.”
“I was about to hook up with my ex,” I tell him bitterly. “I should know better, but it’s around this time that I get sad and so I have meaningless to feel better about myself.”
He looks amused. “I was right. You are honest.”
“Unlike Jia,” he echoes. “It’s a good trait.”
I scoff. “That’s one positive in a sea of negatives.”
“I don’t see those negatives anywhere.”
I wrinkle my face in response. “I look like your ex-girlfriend, so your opinion is biased.”
He reaches out, lightly brushing my face with the back of his knuckle. I’m not sure how to act when he tells me in that sugary baritone voice of his, “in another life, I hope that I meet you before Jia.”
I see that he’s fixated on the mole under my right eye. It’s the only defining feature that separates me from Jia. That and apart from my hair that I keep short. Because Jia hated having short hair, so she always had long hair as a result.
Maybe this is selfish of me. Insane, even for me. But I wonder what it’s like to be Jia for a second. She’d always been unabashedly selfish, stealing affection like it belonged to her. And likewise, everything in her life was preordained.
Yet, I escaped her fate, and here I am, wondering how his cheekbones would feel under my fingertips, how his rosy lips would feel between mine, or if the ends of his hair were as soft as they looked.
So, I decide to take this one thing from her. Just for a second.
I kiss him. The logical part of my brain is screaming mayday. But my heart sings and soars. It feels right, and I only just met him.
This guy that I don’t know the name of. My sister’s ex-boyfriend. I can’t be sure that he’s telling the truth about any of this messy drama between them, but I want to believe him. That’s for sure.
I pull back. Regretfully. Guiltily.
It wasn’t a spectacular kiss. I barely got to process it above the thought that maybe I want to do it again, this time, linger a couple of seconds longer. But, still, I’ve done enough damage tonight on this irrational train. I was careening further onto the tracks.
I glance up at him and wonder what he’s thinking. Does he want me to apologize? I really should apologize for springing a kiss onto him on the worst day of his life.
I decide that it’s best to apologize and leave, but my mouth barely opens and the apology barely slips out of me before he’s pulling me back.
Once again, toward his chest, a place that I shouldn’t get accustomed to.
Our lips meet roughly, and he tilts his head, tightening his hold against my cheeks. There are about a million emotions that I should be feeling rather than what I’m actually feeling.
The dark, lust-ridden thoughts that fill my brain, crowding out any rationality.
I’m not thinking. It feels too good to let this moment go to waste. I’m not sure if I’ll ever experience this intensity ever again.
The way his mouth familiarizes itself with mine instantaneously, and now, it just feels absolutely sinful. This moment that we’re sharing. That we shouldn’t be sharing.
Just like I shouldn’t absolutely want this. Except I do. Too much for it to be morally sound.
He threads his fingers into my hair, tugging lightly and drawing a gasp from my mouth. All I can say is that I’m so glad I didn’t hook up with my ex.
Eventually, though, we pull apart, and the silence returns to haunt us both, forcing us to reconcile with our terrible, thoughtless decision.
“Sadness makes people do crazy things,” I tell him, trying to make this better somehow. Like we didn’t just up.
He smiles a muted smile. “The only problem is that I’m really not that sad.”
“Me neither,” I mutter, not yet realizing the gravity of our words.
Then, with the truth out there like that, we sit there staring at our hands. Then, somehow, we go from staring at our hands to jumping at each other.
We go from groping one another in front of the hospital entrance to a quiet, intense car ride back to my apartment, then the clothes go off in a hurry.
ing him feels serious. Even when I assume that this was supposed to be casual. Because in what world will we ever be allowed to be serious about this?
Choosing to have on this particular day and ignoring the blaring consequences.
I could easily pass it off as us grieving. But, I'd be lying if I did. The ache that was supposed to be in my heart wasn't there, apart from how he made me feel. And I knew that I would remember this night forever.
Whether it lasted or not.
I’d still remember how his kisses had just a touch of playfulness or how the confident touch of his hands felt on my bare skin or how he sounded when I won our little tussle and he just pulled me down on him—resigned to his fate.
The logical part of me knows I can’t pass this off as meaningless . In the world that we live in, for some reason, he’s the only one I can’t pass off as another instance of hookup culture.
Or maybe I just don’t want to.
[a/n] i didn't choose writing. it chose me. it's like a reward. also, i've been really inspired. not sure how long it's gonna last tho