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Alter Ego at The Wedding
I’m running down a long corridor, the air feels icy and bone-jarring. The lamps on the brown, wooden walls flicker, and I hear someone else running down the same hallway I am. It’s another male, or so I assume from the heavy, echoing footsteps. Am I the chaser, or am I being chased? The lamps go dark and I almost trip over my own feet. In front of me I hear heavy breathing like the person has been running for hours; it’s labored and skipping like a clock. My fingers tighten around the object in my hand on reflex. The lamps flick on suddenly; the object is a knife. My brother stands in front of me with a cut down his arm. He’s wearing a tux, and terror fills his hazel eyes. I raise my knife raises above my head, as if I’m its puppet, and my brother lets out a blood-curdling scream.
I shoot up in bed, my mouth still open in a scream from my dream. I clutch the sheets tightly in my fists, my knuckles turning a ghost white color. My body is drenched in a wave of sweat. I stand up and examine my bed; my sweat has made stains on my sheets…again. I run my hand through my short blonde hair I frustration. Deciding to ignore the bed for now, I turn the shower on, the water spewing out on a calming waterfall with a pitter patter. I step inside after stripping off my plaid boxers, which stuck to my legs from my sweat. It’s gross; I hope I never wake up like this again…but I have been for the past two months. I think about the dream; it always involves my brother, me, and absolute terror. I feel like my dreams are straight from a Ms.Marple mystery. Of course, I’m not an old lady who never got married and seems to spend too much time reading about the latest crimes in the newspaper. Yeah, not my thing.
I push the dream out of my mind like I push my shower door open. I step out and wrap a fluffy white towel around my waist. I walk out of my steamy bathroom into my cool-aired bedroom, which causes goosebumps to rise on my skin. I look at my digital clock, the haunting red numbers telling me I’m late for work.
“AAAGH! Not again! Damn it, Brody…” I say as I check my voicemail.
Brody is my one and only brother. Sadly, my brother always seems to have a stick up his butt and is nothing like me. Except we both share tan skin, slim bodies, tall, and the same facial structure; prominent cheekbones, thin lips and a sort of square nose. Our personalities are totally different though. Brody is always serious, even at his bachelor party! When you hire a man a professional dancer (*cough cough*) he should at least fake enthusiasm. But not Brody! This is a man who focused more on school work and teachers. Then you had me: the class clown, and always focused on what girl I would take on a date that Friday night. My ex-wife and I were high school sweethearts since eleventh grade, when she actually was sweet and innocent. Over the five years we were married, she progressively got worse. It got so bad that I couldn’t even talk on the phone with a female client without her accusing me of cheating. But anyway, this isn’t about my ex-wife. Brody was accepted into a top-notch Ivy-league college and started a business of his own as an architect. Sure, I went to college, the best one in Oklahoma, but it wasn’t Ivy-league. Now, we are working together in that same business he started.
I dial Brody’s number on my EVO and I look in my hallway mirror as I pass. I stop walking, and what I see wants to make me scream. It’s me, but I have splattered all over my face and stained on a tux I am wearing. My cobalt blue eyes are glowing and lips are curved into a smile filled with malice. I raise my hand to touch the reflection, but instead I am met with a gun pointing at me.
“Hello? Matt?!” Brody’s worried voice comes over the phone.
I blink and the reflection is gone. “Hey, sorry man, zoned out for a sec.” I laugh to keep the shakiness from my voice.
“Where the hell are you? You’re over an hour late and we have a meeting!”
“At home. I’m about to leave,” I say as I hop around, putting my sock on, “I had a bad dream again so I woke up sweating. I had to shower.”
Brody sighs, ”Lay off the old Ms.Marple shows would you,” his voice switches to a more serious tone ,”Alright, we have a meeting with the owner of an up-and-coming restaurant in downtown to draw up the plans for the building renovation. After that, we have the rest of the day off to look at tuxes.”
I listen to him with the phone pressed between my ear and shoulder, which is very hard with the size of this phone. I jam my keys into my truck’s ignition and set off down the road quickly.
“Do you always sound like you have a stick up your butt?” I joke.
“Goodbye Matt.” Brody hangs up suddenly.
“Nice talking to you too, brother.”
I sigh and throw the phone into the leather passenger seat. I look at the corner of my dashboard when I reach a stoplight and smile. It’s the picture of me and her…when we first met. Even now that she’s moved on with her life, I still feel the love I felt for her back in college. We still see each other around, but now it’s guarded, distant. And her belonging to another man just makes matters worse.
After a few boring hours of drawing up plans, finding a price range, and blah, blah, blah…Brody and I finally got to Mark and Adams Tuxedo and Formal Attire Store. Why do we need tuxes? Well, Brody is getting married in two months! God bless the woman that puts up with his over-the-top-too-serious-butt for the rest of her life. Never the less, I’m happy for him and I hope they are happy. I’ve been married once, and I didn’t like t. But then again, Brody is always the one succeeding in everything.
I look at Brody from my task of flipping through clothes racks, “Hey, what are the colors your lovely fiancé is looking for?”
“Don’t know, but she should be here soon. She texted me ten minutes ago telling me she was on the way.”
Speak of the devil and the devil shall come, I hear the door to the shop ding merrily. I look up from the table I had moved to and my breath catches in my throat; there she is, the woman I’ve had a secret crush on for months, Katie. Blonde hair, lively green eyes, tan skin with a tattoo on her left wrist, short in height, everything I could ask for…and yet here she is, about to marry my brother. Actually, they wouldn’t have met if it wasn’t for me. Funny how your luck turns out. Mine sucks!
Long story short, we went to college together in Oklahoma and had a financial enterprising class together. I remember it like it was yesterday; she wore a Beatles band t-shirt with her hair pulled into a ponytail and not a trace of makeup. She had her nose stuck in a book, To Kill a Mockingbird, one of her favorites. Her green glasses gave her a nerdy but intelligent look. I sat next to her in that class every day, and we talked as often as we could. Quickly, I fell for her. The night I was going to ask her out on an official date, Brody surprised me by coming into town. In Katie’s eyes, you would think he’s Jesus sometimes. I introduced them, and I guess they hit off. I denied it for as long as I could, but when she moved to Georgia to be closer to him, I couldn’t deny it any longer. Five years later, here they are engaged and almost wed. Perfect fairytale ending right?
Katie waves to me while smiling, and I awkwardly wave back like an idiot; I hope I wasn’t staring at her. Brody struts to her like he is the luckiest guy in the world, and he is. He gives her a big, whopping kiss that looks like it would make your mother cry in agony. Oh yeah, so lucky.
Here it is, the Two Months Later has come, July sixth, twenty-thirteen. I stand in the room where Brody and I are getting ready for the ceremony. The room smells like Febreeze and dust bunnies, like someone tried to cover up the even worse mothball smell. I sip on some champagne while Brody gets his tux on. It’s not strong enough, this drink I’m holding, although it should be. Quite frankly, it’s making me frustrated. Brody is talking to me from the bathroom, but I don’t hear him. I’m lost in my own thoughts, remembering the strange episode I had on the tuxedo store.
Katie approaches me while smiling, “Hey Mattie. How’ve you been doin’?” She chants in her thick accent.
“Just fine little darlin’. How’re you?” I tease.
She smacks my arm in mock anger, “Shut up!”
We laugh merrily together until she looks down and starts fiddling with her shirt. I have noticed that is a nervous habit of hers.
“What’s wrong Katie?”
“I’m just really nervous Mattie. What…what if I’m not good enough and he leaves me for someone else.”
I roll my eyes, “Katie, c’mon, you should know Brody isn’t like that. We’ve talked about this before.”
“I know, but-“
“AND I’M SICK OF IT KATIE! STOP BRINGINGIT UP!” My voice projects loudly.
Katie backs away, obviously hurt by my outburst. I look around and see Brody glaring at me and everyone else in the store staring.
My fist clench and my body tenses up; my stomach feels as if a ball of ice has accumulated there, and a shiver passes through my body as I hear a distant chuckle in the back of my mind. Was this voice happy I burst out in anger at the object of my affection? I don’t like this, not normally. And at Katie? No, not possible.
“Oh my God, I’m so sorry…Jesus I haven’t slept in-“
“Matt, I think you should go.” Brody says coldly.
A hurt expression crosses my face, and I look at Katie. She’s hiding behind Brody and her hand covers her mouth. I couldn’t stand that look; like she’s SCARED of me. I give her a one last glance as I back away to the door. Everyone’s quiet as I leave. I make a decision: I need a drink.
I broke out of the memory and look at Brody. He’s dressed in black jeans with a white button down, black jacket, and a purple tie; the same as me. I feel a sharp pain and something wet in my hand. I look; I’ve crushed the champagne glass. Glass is shattered on the ugly brown carpet and blood drips from my hand. Brody’s eyes look calm, but his face has a worried look.
“I’m sorry…I didn’t mean…” I try to start, but no words come.
I grab a trash can and begin sweeping the diamond-like bits into it.
Brody crouches down to help me, “Where’d you go Matt?” He whispers.
“I was thinking about how I yelled at Katie and how angry I was and, “ I look at the blood, “I don’t know what happened.”
Brody gently puts his hand on my shoulder, “Look at me. It’s ok. Whatever happened, we forgive you. Don’t freak out on my wedding day.”
I nod shakily and take deep breaths to calm myself down.
“Alright then, let’s go get you hand cleaned up so Katie won’t have a heart attack on us. It’s show time Matt.”
I wake up from what seems like a ten year sleep. I look around and take in my surrounding. I’m in a white room, lying in a metal bed. Everything is plain, and the door is barely visible because it’s white too.
“You’re awake! I’m so glad, Matt. How are you feeling?”
I turn my head slowly to the sound of the voice and see a woman. She has dark hair , pale skin, and dark navy blue. She is standing in front of the barely-there door.
“Who’re you?” I say, my voice coming out scratchy and dry.
“I’m Clara, your psychiatrist. You’ve been asleep for about two days under sedation.”
“Why was I under sedation? I was just at my brother’s wedding-“
“Three years ago, Matt.”
I sit up slowly, my head spinning and flooding with memories. Flashes of the ceremony and reception roll through my mind like a Polaroid camera. It’s fast moving and dizzying until it stops at a certain scene. People are leaving the wedding; Brody and I are standing at the top of a grand staircase. I feel angry for some reason and my hands are balled into fists behind my back. Brody looks at me with a confused look and I wonder why he is.
“Why did you pull me away Matt? My guests are leaving, I need to say goodbye.”
“I need to talk to you…” I say quietly and slowly.
“Ok, about what? I need to go.”
He rolls his eyes, “What about Katie?”
“I love her.”
“Matt what the-“
“And I want her back. You took her from me…YOU RUINED EVERYTHING BRODY! SHE WAS SUPPOSED TO LOVE ME!”
He gives me a bewildered look, “Matt, calm down… if she wanted to be with you, she would be. But she’s not. So you can’t you let it go?”
“No…I will not let it go…You took her from me Brody, and that was very selfish,” I stalked towards him and he backed away, ”Your actions will cost you dearly, brother.”
“Matt, look, I love her, and I’m sorry if that hurts you but…”
I grab a candle burning off a small table in the hallway and whack Brody in the head with it. The metal clinks against his skull and his eyes roll back in his head like a puppet. Brody’s body slowly falls back until he makes contact with the stairs and tumbles down. I watch with mirth on my face. His head crunches on the rug, and blood makes a stain as it leaks out from a crack in the skull.
“Now Brody, we are even.”
I pull out of the memory and my breathing increases as I begin to panic.
“No…I couldn’t have…he’s my brother…”
“You have suffered from schizophrenia since you were a child, and that has caused you to fixate on one thing, Katie, and you acted out aggressively. After the incident, your mother registered you here for help. However, this isn’t your first incident. In first grade you attacked a boy, breaking his nose and arm. All that was over a crayon.”
I look up at Clara with wide eyes. I don’t remember that, and I never even suspected I have an alter ego.
“She lives alone I guess. You did widow her.”
“I want to see her!”
“I’m sure you do… But which side of you?”