September 2, 2009
You don’t have to be a clairvoyant to know a birthday will reek of mild embarrassment. It’s a fact of life that permeates through time and space. And it usually wears a sombrero.
That feeling that comes over you when you are dining in a restaurant when, all of a sudden, the room is alive with singing, clapping, felicitations in a different language (depending on the kind of restaurant). Sympathy. That poor person, uneasily, uncomfortably in the middle of the chaos. You feel sympathy, but deep inside you’re glad it’s not you. And if you are the one in the middle of the whirlwind, well, nothing more than the ground swallowing you whole will suit the moment.
When it comes to birthdays, I think of them like I do a tempestuous thunderstorm–I would rather cover my head and wait for it to pass.
* * *
The phone rings at eight o’clock Wednesday morning. My new boss forced me to take the day off; otherwise I would have been at work toiling away on the wounded and battered. In the pie chart of my life, work fills an inordinate part. My family finds that troubling and informs me at every turn. If I know my luck, one of them is probably calling right now–
“Mo dammit! You better not be reading some medical journal or some boring shit like that!”
I sigh heavily. No way I could mistake that voice. And lack of greeting. “Good morning to you, too, hermana.”
On the other end, my twin sister scoffs. “That means you are, aren’t you? Do NOT make me come over there–”
“Danie,” I say with emphasis. “You need to calm down before you burst a blood vessel. I am not doing anything even vaguely concerning work, I promise.”
Pause. “Oh.” A short one. Then: “Oh…” A long, speculative one. “Is Mick there? He’s there isn’t he? Naked I hope.”
I lean on my kitchen counter. “I hate to burst your prurient fantasy of me finally getting laid, but I haven’t seen Mick in a week.”
I can almost hear the heel of Danie’s hand slapping her forehead. “What the fuck, Mo? You are dating the hottest guy on the GPD and you’re telling me you haven’t seen him in a week?!” Before I can say anything, Danie barrels on. “All right. I know I promised you I wouldn’t meddle–”
“And you are about to rescind that promise I’m sure,” I break in wryly.
“It’s your birthday,” Danie protests. “You’re my sister.” I can see her pout in my head. “And it’s my birthday too. I get what I want. And I want to make sure you have a good time. Leave it all to me, hermana!”
And dread descends. Why do I have a bad feeling a good time in my sister’s opinion will involve a stripper?
Better stock up on antacids. And Xanax.
* * *
For a long time, I didn’t exactly recall my first few birthdays. I barely made it to my first; I entered the world with a congenital heart defect that threatened my life several times. My birth mate, on the other end of the spectrum, existed with nary a scratch that lasted any more than a few days. I always envied my twin her good health, even as I grew and flourished.
She dominated the birthdays that ensued as we grew. Danie, with her social graces and beauty. Whenever I visit the past (with my gift, I can travel backwards for brief periods), she rules the festivities. Everyone else, even me, are just satellites. You only exist if she brings you in. And she does–the more, the merrier, right?
Until sixteen. Sixteen was hard year for us both. I watched as my sister dealt with her rape and the subsequent pregancy. I grieved as I witnessed the change in her. And the night in early March 1997 she disappeared–
The dreams. I never told her this…The night she disappeared, I dreamed. No–I saw what happened to her. I didn’t process it until the night I stood gripping her arm over a trembling Chance Copeland, the man who had usurped her twins and left her to die in an alley. I pleaded with her to show him mercy. She burned with fury and intended to burn him as well.
The Firestarter knew how to make a man burn. Literally.
Danie had exacted her revenge despite my protests. Copeland had suffered, screeching as he burned.
Danie wouldn’t admit it, but so had she. Even through her bluster, she couldn’t hide that from me.
* * *
Twelve hours later, I occupy a table at Jessica and Cassandra’s restaurant with family and friends. Jessica wears her chef garb; Cassandra apparently could not extract her from the kitchen. Claudia-Michelle, very lightly pregnant, sips on water while my brother Eric teases her about not being able to have alcohol. Mom admonishes him. Gretchen and Samantha tease Will Channing about his Red Bull habit while Miyori tries to come to his defense. Jamie Cook and Megami chat intimately while Angelia complains to her own twin Aurora, Melanie, and Jennifer about the desperate attempts of photographers to get into the restaurant to snap us.
My gaze shifts and discovers Kaneshi Tsukimori frowning at my twin. He says something in her ear and she shakes her head. My turn to frown.
“I am sure Danie plans to party till the birds are singing,” Eric is saying. “I would expect nothing less.” He jerked a thumb at me. “But I really don’t think that Moira-Selene wants to club hop and get drunk enough to impair her vision.”
“Hey, she could!” Danie exclaims. “What better way to drown your troubles!” She emphasizes this with a gulp of wine. Worry tingles up my spine. She is usually smoother than this.
“I imagine she wants to spend a little time with her boyfriend,” Melanie points out.
Something must have flickered in my eyes because Angelia scrambles to change the subject. However, when one of his sisters is in distress, Eric doesn’t mind stepping on any toes.
“And where is the jackass?” Eric demands. “It’s your birthday dammit!”
“Hey, that’s MY line!” Jessica cries, brandishing a pepper mill.
Claudia-Michelle groans. “Para el amor del Dios, would you both just can it?” Claudia-Michelle looks at me. “You can do whatever you want. It’s your day.”
“Don’t forget it’s my day, too.” Enter that infamous Danie pout.
“Can it, cover girl,” Samantha snaps. “It’s not just about you.” Danie shoots her a glare that will most likely burn if she’s not careful. It did once. And Samantha shattered a glass in reaction. A battle between gifted cousins proves nervewracking for the spectators.
“I do not think quarrelling will help matters.” Being the voice of reason is knee-jerk.
“Would you stop being a bitch to me for once?” Danie asks Samantha. “I didn’t piss on your candles on your birthday.”
This is odd, even from Danie. Samantha’s brow furrows. “What’s up with you?”
As if something dawns on her, Danie pauses. Without a word she rises and quietly leaves the room. I mirror the action.
* * *
Being a twin–or merely possessing a deep connection to someone–is akin to being on a network. If catastrophe hits, it affects the whole network. Her emotions reverberate through me. Heralding trouble.
“What’s wrong, Danie?” I ask.
Predictably Danie twitches a shoulder. “It’s nothing. I’m fine.”
I raise an eyebrow. “It’s difficult to bullshit the one person who entered the world with you.” Danie chokes out a chuckle at my use of bullshit. I examine her closely for a moment. “This is about Chance Copeland, isn’t it?”
Another long silence ensues. Lip trembling, Danie turns to me. “Mo…I…” She shakes her head, unable to find the words.
Then she firms her mouth. “If I could go back, I would do the same damn thing. I would burn that motherfucker alive. I’d do
it twice if I could.”
“But it still hurts,” I remark. “Your life was altered in a way that killing him will never change.” I reach up and touch her head where the scar is. During the struggle of labor and the viciousness of Copeland and his associates, Danie had sustained a gash on her scalp. Danie closes her eyes.
“I could have done so many things with my life,” Danie comments softly. “I could have been a celebrity, my face everywhere…” She smiles sardonically. “Now my face is more likely going to be on America’s Most Wanted.”
“Well,” I begin, “You’ll have a fetching mug shot, if I may say.”
“Damn straight,” Danie retorts. She smirks, a gleam in her eye. “That’s if those Interpol slackers can catch me…”
I sigh. “Daniella…”
And with that, near normalcy descends. We sit on the bench, looking up at the stars. Me and my twin.
* * *
We go back inside, and they figured it would be appropriate for us to reenter with a blazing birthday cake. Feliz Cumpleanos, Daniella y Moira! it reads. Twenty-nine candles.
Danie and I attack them together, hands clasped.
It’s fitting, really.
* * *
After dinner, as we are switching venues, I hear someone shout my name. I glance around and find a familiar face.
I cannot help it; a tiny flame of hope sparks to life. “Mick?”
As the dark-haired man comes forward, I spy someone out of the corner of my eye. I tear my gaze from Mick nearing to see Danie’s impish grin.
“Feliz cumpleanos, hermana,” she murmurs. She pats me on the shoulder. “You’ll thank me later.”
Embarrassment and Pleasure war for precedence inside of me. She sashays away, undoubtedly giving Mick that You’d better take care of my sister or I’ll fricasse your ass look. He rolls his eyes at her.
The group moves away from me. He stops in front of me. Mick is not a man for flowery gestures and gently whispered words;
he drives straight to the point. For a woman like me, it takes some getting used to.
“I screwed up, big time,” Mick admits.
I raise an eyebrow. “Duly noted, Michael.”
He makes a manful attempt not to groan. “Moira, do not go on the offensive–”
I suck in a breath. “Sorry. You’re trying to apologize for being an ass and I am not making it any easier on you.” I exhale. “I figure it must be just as hard having a cop for a boyfriend as it is having a clairvoyant for a girlfriend.”
“A clairvoyant who can do wacky things with time and pop blood vessels in her brain because of it,” Mick points out.
“Fine,” I contend, “so we’re a couple with issues. What do you think we should do?”
Mick shrugs. “I don’t know. But I figure giving up is the last thing I want to do.” He leans in and kisses me on the cheek. “Happy Birthday Moira.”
I thank him and wrap my arms around him. It feels comforting to have him here, right now. I realize then I cannot imagine life without him. Staggering thought that.
“I think Moira-Selene’s done for the night,” I heard Danie say.
I smile at that and lean my head on Mick’s shoulder. Maybe. Or maybe not…