The world spins as trees become the clouds and the grass becomes the sky. I cannot hear nor see well, only muffled versions of blaring sirens and faded versions of scrambling people. The stench of burning metal mixes with the miasma of sweltering skin and the final product reignites my faltering senses, bringing me to a state of awakened awareness. My seatbelt holds me in place, and from the driver’s seat, my twin sister’s lifeless body dangles upside down, face covered in ash and soot. She sleeps so peacefully I almost feel guilty for awakening her into such madness, but I try anyhow and get no response.
The two of us were a special sort of identical: identical blood types, no birthmarks. Our friends and family didn’t even check because they differentiated us by our personalities, as we have always been so different. I know in this moment that she is gone, that I am alone without my sister.
I black out with the last memory being my sister’s cold hands and wake up in a hospital bed, dressed in the the hospital gown and surrounded by my immediate family –my parents and my older brother– gazing down at me in terror. As soon as my eyes adjust to the light, my mother flings herself over me and sharp pains flood through me. I groan and she quickly shuffle off, realizing the pain she caused.
“Eliza? We were so afraid we would lose you too!” my mother exclaims, practically shaking with excitement. “We always knew you were a strong one. Linda, unfortunately, didn’t fight quite as hard.”
They all scrunch their faces in a mix of mourning and disappointment, while mine morphs into one of surprise. I hadn’t expected that name to be called, and not in such a manner. If they speak about the dead in such a way, how must they have spoken while she was alive?
“I try my best,” is all I can manage to choke out before falling into a coughing fit. As my mother hands me a cup of water, she smiles at me and covers my frail hand with her own. “Sweetie, Eric is in the waiting room. Do you want us to send him in?” she asks me, and though I recognize the name vaguely, I cannot quite remember the details of any extensive relationship.
“Eric is my… friend?”
My father shakes his head and a fleeting smile graces his stubbled jaw for a second.“Darling, your fiance should be your best friend.”
“Okay, then send him in,” I consent.
They all clear out after telling me to feel better and assuring me that as soon as Eric called them back in they would be here for me. I can only plaster a smile on my face and wave lightly to all of them, as I see the tall, handsome man rush in.
“Eliza, you’re okay!” His pace remains the same but a beautiful grin overtakes his face as he looks down at me. “Your burns are already healing nicely,” he complements.
“Didn’t my family tell you anything, that I was okay?” I ask.
“Yeah, but it’s more comforting to see you, you know?”
By now he is hovering over my bed, holding my gaze and leaning inwards, as if to kiss me but I turn my head and begin to talk, not particularly in a snogging mood.
“So, how much more is there to do for the wedding? I mean, since I’m assuming you did something since the accident,” I ask.
He sighed in frustration. “Linda and I were supposed to be planning before you two left, but the lazy girl never showed.”
“Personally, I think it’s amazing you two were supposed to be identical twins. She was always so opposite of you, trying to steal yo–”
“Get out!” I scream at him. When he freezes in muddled confusion, I calm myself and in shaky breaths manage to say, “I want to be alone right now.”
He nods his head slowly and stuffs his hands in his pocket. “You two weren’t that close, so I don’t know why you’re acting like this. When the Eliza I proposed to is back, let me know.”
He trudges his way out of the room and I let the desisted tears fall. I always knew that mother had picked favorites, but it never occurred to me that she may have spread it elsewhere and to others. For me, family problems remained within the walls of home because to anyone else, we were a fighting team. Everyone expected Eliza to have a social life, perform well in school, build her way up in finances, and marry someone of her own type, while they only expected Linda to stay behind and lift Eliza’s train as she walked down the aisle. Linda never really had a chance to live or leave Eliza’s shadow, and though they loved each other, it was this difference that would cause a divide. The divide that remains for me now, however, is one of morality, because I am the only one who knows what happened in that car accident.
I, Linda, watched and realized that Eliza was gone, and I, Linda, am the one who saw hope in her mother’s eyes when she asked for one twin and not the other. I, Linda, had to listen and keep calm as my family spoke about me as if my death were not a casualty but a convenience. So, in the spirit of simplicity I, Linda, instead took the identity of Eliza so I could see how it felt to for once be the better twin.