Everyone has dreams, no matter how big and outrageous they may be. Yet some people have dreams that are simple and not as far fetched as some. That’s me and my sister Faith. I want to be the greatest African American female dancer in the states. And my sister; she just wants to publish one of her stories. Faith has always been the one to reach for something that wasn’t as far away from her reach. But I, I wanted things I know I couldn’t have. I had dreams that not even the greatest people dreamt of. I wanted to conquer all. But Faith wasn’t as ambitious as me, despite us being identical twins.
Growing up, we didn’t have a great childhood; well, Faith didn’t have a great childhood. Regardless of us being twins, born on the same day, two hours apart from each other. She was treated like she was an orphan my parents found in an alleyway. I guess it was because, Faith was so different from me, and our older sister, Fatima. She was bowlegged and pigeon toed. Had a stigma in her left eye when she was five and had an awful stutter until she was ten years old. Unlike me, a headstrong loud mouth, Faith was a cautious recluse. And unlike Fatima, a graceful dimwit, Faith was a clumsy genius. Honestly, sometimes when she does muster up the courage to speak anywhere but home, she’ll be shutting people down with her knowledge. And the thing that gets me, is that she does it with a straight face.
Faith had always kept a straight face. She’ll be good at poker if she didn’t look down on gambling. But when she was younger, she was always told her smile was hideous. “Stop smiling you’ll scare away the birds,” our aunt would say. She took us in when our mother had gotten too sick to take care of herself. Faith would ask her why and she’ll bitterly say; “Because those teeth. Those teeth needs fixin’ but ain’t no fixin’ from a billionaire doctor gon work.” Faith would slowly stop smiling, because one, she didn’t want to scare off the birds, and two she didn’t want anyone else to be so cruel to her.
After awhile of only smiling when she was alone, Faith even stopped laughing. She would stare at a comedy with a straight face throughout the whole movie. However, she did cry. She cried passionately at The Notebook when we were twelve and Fatima was seventeen. And our aunt stared at Faith and bitterly said; “Stop that dag on cryin!” We all stopped, but she looked only at Faith? “Why?” Asked Faith. “You so ugly when you cry. Look like a runaway slave.” She said. I looked at Faith, Faith never thought of herself to be pretty, as I do. But the look on her face when those words bit her, it hurt me. She wiped her tears and went into our room. Me and Fatima followed, but she locked herself in there. And she wrote. Wrote away all her pain, in songs with no rhythm or poems that didn’t rhyme. That was her way of running away from our bitter aunt. And she did it often.
What I did, to get away from out bitter aunt was dance. I loved the feeling I gotten when I would show off my moves. Though no one would have enough time to watch me. Not Fatima who worked two jobs to keep food in the fridge, or our aunt, who was too busy in everyone else’s business. But Faith, she always watched me. She’d sit in the corner of the basement as I play our favorite pop song, and dance like I was on stage. She would always bop her head to the beat or sway back and forth. I never saw her actually dance before, she was too shy. But she would watch me intently and sometimes right short poetry dedicated to my dancing.
Me and Faith are close. We had to be if we were going to take on the world. We did everything together, we played, watch movies, walked home from school and did our homework together. Nothing could separate us. Not even our bitterly cold aunt who looked at me as if I was a princess, yet look at my identical twin as if she was a peasant. Though, when we got into high school, everything changed.
We auditioned for an art school, Lotus Art Academy. Faith auditioned for a creative writing course, and I auditioned for a dance. We both got in, since we’re both great at what we do. But while I jumped up and down like I won the lottery, Faith just took her acceptance letter and put it in a folder and went to writing. “Faith, we got in!” I said. She looked up from her writing, her eyes enlarged by those thick square glasses. “I know.” She simple said. “I’m happy.” At this point, I couldn’t tell whether or not she was telling the truth. She keeps the same face at all times. Even when she broke her ankle, her eyebrows furrowed, but the rest of her face was numb.
When we arrived to the ninth grade, we parted ways. Faith stayed to herself and wrote or read at lunch. We had some classes together, but she would never speak, only when she was called on. Which was rare, ever since her teachers saw how smart she is, they already knew she had that answer. Though, I hung out with the dancers, here, they were more popular that the hot cheerleaders. I mainly hung out with a girl named Harriet and my dance partner Alex. My group was a lively group, there was never a dull moment when I was around them. But I couldn’t say the same for my sister. As I would look across the cafeteria to the far corner, I’ll see Faith’s head bowed and her pen scribbling on her page at high speeds. Then she lift her head to take a sip of her juice, then go back down to writing. I knew she was doing what she loved, but it still bothered me. I wanted my sister to smile again, and make friends.
One day, a week before Valentine’s Day, I sat with the dancers, we were all excited because the following day we had a performance. It would be my first performance and I had to say, even though I didn’t show it, I was terrified. I had a duet with Alex, we were dancing to the song "Unchained Melody," Faith’s favorite song from her favorite movie, Ghost, with Patrick Swayze and Whoopi Goldberg. Her two favorite actors. I remember the very first time she heard that song. Her cold eyes warmed, she gazed at the screen as if she had fallen in love with it. Then, she closed her eyes, and swayed from side to side. Watching her lose herself in the magic of the song felt good to me. And I think I even saw a smile spread across her face. But that may have been my imagination. I was excited to be dancing with that song, because maybe, I could see my sister’s smile.
As everyone including myself spoke about the big day. Alex eyes were elsewhere. I’ve noticed him ogling past me for awhile now, but I never bother to ask who he was ogling at. But now I was curious. “Who you starin’ at?” I said. Alex looked at me like I caught him doing something he wasn’t supposed to, he quickly dropped his head and shook it.
“No one.” He said. Alex was a New Yorker who came to Georgia to get out of the hectic city. All the girls go crazy over him when he dances. Alex dances like… an improved Patrick Swayze, and he looks like a young American version of Idris Elba, I was shocked when I was assigned to be his partner. Me, a chubby freshman who practiced dance in her basement. Alex wears the label handsome proudly. But he’s a shy guy.
I looked back to see who he was staring at but couldn’t catch any lingering eyes from any of the girls at the other tables. “You were so starin’ at someone. Who?” Harriet leaned in wanting to know to, since I have never been a quiet girl. “Who you lookin’ at Mister New York.” Harriet said.
Alex caved with a sigh. “Faith.” He said. I was shocked by that response. To be honest, I just knew he was going to say Tammie, a brunette on the soft ball team. Or Jamie the star actress with a wild afro and the best body a eleventh grader could have. But he said Faith! My sister. The most timid and inactive person I know.
“My sister, Faith?” He nodded shyly.
“I think she’s cute. And she’s smart, and the way she walks is adorable to me. Plus she likes the same band as I do.” My sister was a girl who was into music. Period. She listened to smooth Jazz and heavy metal as if they went together; “I don’t discriminate.” She would tell me. But what baffled me, is that he knew what her favorite band was.
“How do you know who’s her favorite band? Not even Franny knows, cause Faith is a loner.”
Alex looked at Harriet like she was weird. “I asked.” He said. I looked back to my sister, who read while sipping orange juice, her long dreads at the sides of her, her glasses gleaming of the light from above her.
“Do you think she’ll go out with me?” Alex asked.
“I don’t know. My sister isn’t a fan of… people.” Only I and Fatima knew why Faith was so to herself. She just didn’t fit in anywhere.
From the moment we could speak, Faith always had unique and creative ideas that would leave our parents thinking about what she just said. She looked at art, and nature as if they were her friends. And when I was down about something, she’ll take me into an open field and lay on the ground. I hated bugs, but Faith called them her her pals. We’ll lay there, on the grass, whether it be hot or cold, and right before my eyes, she’ll paint out a whole world only we could see in the sky. As others passed they could only see the sky, but we, we saw something that was more valuable than any material thing. An imagination that could never die. But what I thought was the best of my sister, others thought was the worst. No one wanted to hear what she had to say. “That’s stupid.” Or “You can’t do that in real life.” And the one that’ll hurt her like a bullet. “You’re too ugly, fat, short, or weird to do that.”
Eventually, Faith took all those words and locked her them away until we were alone, and load her ideas on me. While others couldn’t see the greatness my sister had, I was her only friend. And for awhile, she didn’t mind it. It was only till our father died and our mother got cancer where she started to feel loneliness knocking on her door.
The day my mother had to go into a nursing home, was when Faith began to write. “The paper won’t laugh at me.” She said to me one day when our bitter aunt shot down her confidence even more.
“But I won’t laugh.” I told her. Faith didn’t say anything. She continued to write as if I wasn’t there. And as the days went by, and Faith would hideaway somewhere letting her words flow on paper, I would wonder if she hated me. Why wouldn’t she hate me? We look exactly alike, yet she is the outcast, she is the ugly duckling, she is the one people would rather ignore. Her ideas, opinions and even her feelings don’t matter to anyone because she’s Faith. But I, I am the queen. Even when my parents were alive, they treated me and Fatima better than they treated her. Because she is Faith and I am Franny.
Sometime I would ask her, when she was having one her worst days, if she hated me. She would tell me to stop thinking doltishly. And resume back to reading or writing. Though, if she does hate me, I wouldn’t blame her, it must be difficult to be the twin no one sees, in spite of you standing right there.
I had promised Alex, I would talk him up to Faith, but I wasn’t making any promises. She could be so stubborn at times. Faith was at her locker, putting her books in it when I came to her. “Faith I have a question.”
“What is it.” Her voice was dull as if she didn’t care.
“Do you know Alex Donte?”
“No.” She said.
“He’s in your Biology class.”
“I know, but I don’t know him.” I slouched my shoulders, leave it to Faith to be complicated.
“I get that the two of you aren’t buddies but I was just wondering if you know what he looks like.”
“I do. Why?” She looked at me. Being my twin, she was kind of short, though she looked intimidating as hell.
“I just wanted to know what you thought of him. Don’t you think he’s cute?”
“Half of the girls in the school thinks he’s cute.” She said looking through some papers.
“I understand, but what do you think of him?”
“Why does my opinion matter?” She asked with the same dull tone.
“Can you please just answer the question Faith? Do you think he’s cute?”
“Yeah.” She said it like I was asking her was she going to school tomorrow. The late bell rung. “I gotta go, I have a test.” She said turning and walking away. I sighed, I knew if I was going to hook Alex and my sister up, this wasn’t the way to do it. That same period, I had dance. Obviously, it is my favorite class of the day. I don’t know what it was, but when the music hits me, I lose myself. I’m no longer in a room, full of people, or even in my body. I feel as light as a feather when I dance, and when I dance with Alex, I feel like I’m high into the sky. There are no judges, no rules, nothing crowding me. Nothing shoots me down. I am as free and as spirit that has been liberated from it’s body when I dance. However, dancing isn’t as liberating for some people.
Paula, a dance prodigy. She hates my guts. She hated me from the moment I auditioned. When I stepped on that stage to dance, my size took her by surprise, and she and her other brainless minions laughed at me. However, they shut up when I danced so good the judges gave me a standing novation. Ever since that day, she’s been trying to outshine me. And when I took “her” dance partner, we were sworn enemies. But even if I have a little competition, it won’t stop me, not even for a second. I made a promise to myself that I will not let anything pull me away from my ultimate dream. To be the best African American dancer in the states. If I came this far from just dancing aimlessly in my basement to performing in front of a whole school, then there is no way in hell some skinny blond girl is gonna stop me.
In dance class, we were to practice our parts, the people that were in it. Which was me, Alex, Harriet, and her partner, Marcel. Paula and her partner Kelvin and a group of other people. And since we needed music to practice, Mrs. Thompson sent me, Alex and Harriet and her partner to the gym and to other partners to the auditorium while the dance group stayed in the dance room. Harriet and Marcel practice their swing dance while me and Alex watched. Well while I watched, he daydreamed out the window that rained in yellow light. After watching Marcel step on Harriet’s tiny feet with his big feet, I turned to Alex. “You step on my shoes, I’ll kill ya.” He looked at me and furrowed his eyebrows.
“Violent much?” He said.
“No, not at all. But I just hate it when my shoes are stepped on. It crawls under my skin.” Alex didn’t speak for awhile, because he was daydreaming. “Hey! I’m talkin.” He looked at me.
“Sorry, I just can’t get your sister out my mind.” He said.
“How long have you liked her?” Alex looked at me with this obviously embarrassed look plastered on his face.
“Since I saw her in the meadow in July.” He timidly said. “She had her headphones in, and she was listening to something that sounded like an old classic, and she was writing in her journal. She didn’t see me, but I saw her, and I thought that she was the most beautiful thing I had ever laid eyes on because she looked at peace with everything.” I stared, eyes bigger than the moon.
“July?! It’s February!”
“Don’t you think I know that?” I shook my head. I couldn’t understand why it was so hard for Alex to approach Faith. But then I thought about Faith. And she’s not the easiest person to approach, regardless of her actually being a sweetheart. “Actually when I saw you I got happy, but then I realized you weren’t her.”
“Is it because my hair is in an afro and hers in dreadlocks?”
“No. You guys may be identical, but there are some differences. Besides your hair.”
“Like how there’s a beauty mark on her left cheek, and they way she sits. She sits like she’s in a bubble, You sit normally. And I’ve noticed she’s right handed and your left handed.”
“How could you tell which hand I wrote with if you hadn’t seen me writing?”
“You're more efficient on the left side of your body. Duh.” I shoved him. It must be love if he could tell which one is which. Sometimes, Harriet gets us confused when we stand next to each other. Regardless of the fact my sister wears simple clothes, and I wear the most extravagant clothing I could find.
“Are you going to ask out my sister?” I asked. Alex shrugged.
“I need to know if she likes me or not.”
“You’ll find out if she likes you if you ask her out, Alex. I think she would be flattered to know you’ve been crushin’ on her ever since the summer.” Alex smiled shyly. Harriet and Marcel stopped dancing, she couldn’t understand why she was stuck with such a klutz like Marcel. Harriet was a skilled dancer, and when she had a show ahead, she wanted to do her absolute best. And she couldn’t when her partner had two left feet. Me and Alex went up, I played "Unchained Melody" from my phone on the radio given to us by Mrs. Thompson. We started dancing.
“Does your sister like dancing?” He asked dipping me and bringing me back up smoothly.
“The only dancing she does is a sway, a head bob and maybe the tap of her foot. Maybe.” Alex looked disappointed, yet his moves stayed in tuned with my own. “But she likes watching people dance. When we were younger she would watch me in the basement. When I would finish she would clap happily for me.” Alex smiled.
“That’s cute.” He said. The gym door opened, Faith entered. She paused and stared. Alex let go of my hands like they were acid.
“Faith? What are you doing here?” I asked. She didn’t say anything, but as I stood there I saw he poker face slowly cracking. She turned and left the gym. I followed after her. She sped walked down the hall and into the girl's bathroom. When I went in there, Faith went into a corner, and dropped, bringing her knees to her chest. “Faith, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing. I just want to be alone.” She said.
“Well, that’s too bad.” I sat by her. “What’s wrong?” She sighed, she pulled back her to show me her knuckles. There were bruised and swollen, they looked like she got into a fight with a brick wall.
“I’m tired of people always talking to me like I’m nothing. And the only way for me to not hurt someone is to beat up on an inanimate object.” She said.
“Who’s talking to you like that?” She looked at me like I was stupid.
“We live with one of them.” She said talking about our aunt. I knew that one day something like this would happen, she would go through so much, without there really being a purpose, and never snap. I would always watch my sister’s face when our bitter aunt would down her, make her feel like she was less than what she really was. And there would be times, I would think my sister would take that old hag out in the middle of the night. “I hate people so much. They always ignore me, walk by me like I’m not even there. I would beg for someone to notice me, but when they do, they make fun at the way I dress, or call me awkward. I hate them, they do me no good.”
“Hey, I’m here.” She didn’t say anything, she only covered her knuckles and opened her journal. Faith began to write, and ignore that I was even there. I stared down at the ground then came closer to her.
“Faith, I’m sorry.”
“For what?” She said without taking her eyes off her journal.
“For everything you’re going through.” Faith still didn’t look at me, and she refused to answer me. He face was blank, but her eyes, they said it all. They burned down at the page, and I don’t even think she blinked. “Faith?”
“Go away.” The words were cold. I sat there staring, not believing she said that to me. Usually, she would sit there quietly until I walk away myself. But she has never told me to go away, and I thought she would never say that to me. I am her number one fan, the one that loved her writing, and the one who hoped that one day she would finally smile like she used to when our parents were alive. However, I was her competition. And she was always losing. Faith never caught a break, we were always being compared. But no one will never notice her beauty, her talents, nor her potential. She was always in the shadows, always the one people over looked, while I, her twin, was looked at like some angel that fell from heaven. I looked at her, hoping she would take back what she said. But then again, it took her this long to finally be tired of me.
I stood, and left her. Hoping that when I see her at dismissal, she wouldn’t hate me. When I went back into the gym, Alex was the only one in there. I told him that Faith was angry, but didn’t give him any details. Alex was shy, but when knew someone was upset, he went out of his way to make them happy, and the next period, he had Biology with her.
At dismissal, Faith was at her locker. She put her school books in it and took out her reading books, I never knew what she was reading. When I walked to her, I was waiting for her to say something to me. She didn’t, which was normal, but I need to know that she still loved me. “How was the rest of your day?”
“…I’m going to hang out with Harriet and Alex later on, do you want to join us?”
“No.” She closed the locker and walked right past me. My heart sunk, even though I knew she was going to say no, it still hurt. I called after her. She stopped and looked back at me.
“Are you coming to the show, tomorrow?” I begged for her to say yes in my head.
“Yes.” She turned and left the building.
The rest of the day went by, and Faith spent her time in the meadow. The same meadow Alex first saw her in. She wrote, and she wrote until the sun retired under the horizon. And even after it was late at night, she stayed out, laying on the soft cool grass, staring at the starlit sky. Alone in that meadow, the open sky was a blank canvas. Faith let her imagination run loose in the blacked sky, set the birds in her mind free, so they could sore through the clouds. In this place, during the latest hours, Faith’s face softens. And she could say she feel happy. It is only when she walks into a home—no, a house, is where she can’t feel elated. So she didn’t bother coming home that night. I and Fatima were worried out of our minds when she never came home. But our bitter aunt said, “She out there probably layin’ up next to some boy that’ll sleep with anyone.” Fatima glared at our bitter aunt.
“Why would you say that?” She said, her voice dark.
“That’s what ugly gals do. They sleep with all types of men so they could feel pretty.”
“Is that what you did?” I blurted out. I didn’t mean to say anything, since I never do. It is always Fatima sticking up for Faith. Our bitter aunt, looked at me, stopped dipping the chicken in the all purpose flour and came to me.
“What the hell did you just say to me?” I couldn’t speak, so Fatima spoke for me.
“That’s what you did when you were younger,” she snapped. “No one loved you, no one could love you. You’re so bitter no one cared how pretty you were. People would rather be with an alligator than with you.” Our bitter aunt smacked Fatima, flour streaked across her face. But Fatima didn’t stop there. “I know why you hate Faith so much. I know why you treat her so horribly. Because a girl just like Faith caught the eyes of a man whom you was so crazy about. She was smart, pretty and had a bright future ahead of her. Just like Faith. But you tore Faith down because you was jealous of her future.” I looked at Fatima. How’d she know all that? Fatima clearly hit a nerve because our bitter aunt couldn’t say anything. “My sister hates herself because you don’t know how to love anything.” Fatima wiped the flour away and went to look for Faith. I followed behind her.
It wasn’t difficult to find Faith. She laid in the grass in the meadow. Her face was free from annoyance; until she saw us.
“Faith, come home,” Fatima said.
“No,” she said.
“Why not, we won’t let Aunt Julia say anything to you,” I said. Faith sat up looking at the both of us.
“It doesn’t matter if she would say anything to me or not, because every time she sees me, I could feel how much she hate me. She could be silent all day long, but no matter what I do, there is something to comment on, or something wrong with me. And I’m tired of it.”
“So you’re just gonna stay here for the rest of your life.”
“No, but for tonight I will.”
“Faith, this is crazy,” I said.
“No… going to place where you know you aren’t wanted is crazy. This is sane,” she said laying back down.
“I’m not going to let you lay here all night, Faith. What if something happens to you?”
“Nothing as bad as what I had to put up with all my life.” She sat back up. “Why don’t you two go back home, to a place where you’re clearly wanted and stop bothering me for once in your lives.”
“Faith, please.” I pleaded.
“No! What part of I want to be alone don’t you understand? I don’t want to go home, I don’t want to go with you so please just go away.” Fatima looked at me, then back at Faith and she walked away without saying anything. I stared at her.
“Faith please don’t hate me…” I said before turning to leave.
In the morning, Alex came over to practice, but I couldn’t think straight. It was clear that Faith hated not just me, but everyone. And she still hasn’t come home yet. I was frightened out of my mind, but I didn’t bother going to look for her. What if she told me how she felt about me? Told me that I wished that I was never born, or wished she never knew me. While I danced with Alex I was off my game, stepping on his shoes and messing up the moves.
“Whoa, what has gotten into you, Franny?” I looked at him, I wanted to cry but I just couldn’t.
“My sister hates me,” I said.
“Why would you think that?” Alex or anyone didn’t know about how awful our aunt is. And I didn’t want to start letting people know, so I just shook my head and told him it was just sister drama. I really wanted to tell Alex about how poorly Faith was treated, letting him know that’s why it’s so hard for him to approach her. But what if Faith gets mad at me even further.
Our bitter aunt made everyone breakfast, even Alex. And as we were all eating in utter silence. Faith came walking through the back door. “Where the hell have you been,” our bitter aunt scolded. Faith didn’t respond to her. Her eyes cold as usual spotted Alex, and he quickly looked down at his plate. “I am talking to you!” our bitter aunt hollered. Faith came to where Alex sat.
“I like your dancing, it’s really good,” she said. Alex looked up shocked. That was the most she has ever spoken to a person outside of family.
“Th-thank you.” He said with confusion wrapped in his voice. He was probably wondering why she was ignoring our bitter aunt. Faith nodded and walked away.
“Faith! Don’t you dare walk away from me while I’m talking to you!” Alex rose.
“Maybe I should go.”
“No, stay. I want to see you two dance,” she said politely, then she looked back at Faith who had already gone up the stairs. “Faith! Get back here.” The door to me and Faith’s room slammed. Our bitter aunt looked back at me and Fatima. “What the hell did you two say to her last night?”
“Nothing,” said Fatima. “Maybe she’s finally had enough of your crap.” Fatima stood and left the table, Our bitter aunt watched, then left the room herself. Never in my life, have I been so embarrassed when I had company over. Our bitter aunt never showed her true colors when company was around, but today it was like she didn’t even see Alex sitting there, nervously sitting there eating bad food. I looked at him and apologized for my family.
“Don’t apologize. Every family has their issues,” he said understandingly.
“True, but this family is an issue,” I said. Alex didn’t say anything. For awhile we just sat there and stared down at our uneaten food, until Faith came back down stairs. She poured herself some cereal into a big bowl, and she wore her pajamas. I stared at her in comfortable clothes from head to toe, noting that she did tell me that she was coming to the show today. I lowered my eyes with a sigh.
“What’s wrong?” she said pouring milk into the bowl.
“Nothing,” I said. She looked at me disbelievingly, but she didn’t press me to tell her what was bothering me, that was something I wished she did. Then that way I would know she cared that I was happy or not. But she just sat across the table and ate her cereal, reading a violet colored book. Alex looked at me, you could see the anxiety in his eyes as she sat there across from us.
“Um… are you going to be at the show today, Faith?” She raised her eyes to him.
“Yes,” she said looking down. “I’m only going because my sister is in it.”
“Oh, makes sense,” he said disappointment covering his voice in a thick coat. “Do you like dancing?” He asked.
“I can’t.” She looked at him and saw how afraid he was of her. She didn’t understand why though. So she softened, only a little. “The most I’ll do is rocking back and forth.” She said closing her book. “I like watching people dance, it gives me inspiration.”
“To dance?” he asked.
“No, to write. I write poems about my sister’s dancing all the time.” You could see how happy Alex was that he was actually having a conversation with the most aloof, and stubborn person in the world. The only thing that could make this moment even better for Alex is if she would actually smile at him. But Faith would only allow him to see what she wanted him to see.
“That’s cool. I suck at writing,” he said.
“He does, he’s failing English badly,” I added.
“Really? I can help you with your English grade if you want.” She ate a spoonful of cereal, I found it incredible how she didn’t realize how pleased Alex was at this moment. If only she knew how he truly felt about her, then maybe, she’ll smile.
“No problem, it’ll give me an excuse to get out the house.” She said. I checked the time, all dancers had to be in school an hour earlier today so we can have time to practice. But I didn’t want to end this, Alex waited so long to have a conversation with Faith, and now since they’re talking to each other, I have to end it.
“We have to go,” I said. Alex nodded, and I took his and my plate and dumped the food in the trash.
“When is it good for you to tutor me?” Alex asked.
“Anytime is fine.” She said not looking up from her cereal.
“Okay then, I’ll let you know. Thanks, Faith.” Then, Faith raised her head, and looked at him. She didn’t say anything, but there were no words that could be said for what her eyes alone were saying. She stared as if saying, He thanked me? In her mind. She looked back down at her cereal, and continued to eat. She was nervous, I never saw her get nervous around a guy before. And I couldn’t help but feel excited. This is progress! I thought to myself.
On the way to school, I could tell Alex was daydreaming about Faith. I even caught him smiling shyly at the ground like she was standing right in front of him. I found it cute, and sad at the same time to tell you the truth. It was cute that he liked someone so much he was terrified of saying one word to her because he’s afraid of rejection and looking stupid. Though I find it sad when I think of the person Faith is. She’s been hurt so much by people whom she thought she could trust that she locked her feelings away, even from me. You know how I say she rarely smiles? Well, she never cries, she never gets angry, and she’s never happy. Every day and all day she wears the same expression, a dull face. She has mastered it so well most of the times she could say she’s happy and I nor Fatima wouldn’t know. However, Faith isn’t good at masking her feelings in her voice. Especially sorrow, whenever she feels that life is just too much for her, she doesn't open her mouth, she sits and she writes; but not anything random.
There’s a series of short stories Faith wrote whenever she’s terribly sad. She allowed me to read one, but not all eight. The books are called A Songless Dove, and they are separated by volumes, I read the first. It goes as;
Why am I here? Can someone explain to me why I am here? I am a dove, a beautiful dove. But no one sees my beauty, they by pass me to a dove whom looks exactly like me, praising it. Why? We look a like, we fly alike, we even chirp beautiful songs alike. But they can’t see me, they leave me to flock to my twin, and leave me alone to watch from the shadows.Why do I sit alone? I am surrounded by other doves, but they don’t see me. They fly right by, without even giving me a simple wave. I sit here, day and night, wishing that I will catch the eye of another, but that isn’t a place for me. All the eyes and attention go to my look alike. Not me. Other doves, and even other animals muse at this other dove’s beauty. You’d think its feathers were coated in diamonds. And you’d think I’d hate that other dove. But I don’t.I don’t hate it, I love it. I love it with all my heart. Because out of all the doves that surround us, my twin sees me for my beauty. Sees my significance, and loves me for it. When my twin flies to me, and tells me how valuable I am, not because of my pearly white feathers or beautiful songs, but because of who I truly am. I don’t feel the pain of being a outcast anymore.But when my twin leaves. I’m reminded of how alone I am, my twin has friends, I don’t. My twin is loved by many, I’m not. And as the time goes on, there would be nothing my twin could say to make me feel better about who I am. Who am I anyway? A shadow, something that no one wants, but isn’t brave enough to get rid of?I am nothing, nothing at all. But I can’t cry, or shout, what would my voice do if my presence isn’t worth anyone’s time? So those beautiful songs I sang, became songs filled with sorrow, songs that would break even the strongest heart. My songs would be carried through the wind, through the trees and made its way into the homes of happy families. Though, as soon as their ears tasted my melancholy voice, their hearts was stricken with grief so painful a heart attack would be sweet relief.Towns, cried, sighed and groaned when my songs reached them. Humans, creatures who couldn’t understand my language, cried for me. Like they understood the pain I go through daily. And for a while, it felt nice. But, I didn’t want anyone else to feel as horrible as I do, I didn’t want others, dove or human to suffer isolation like I do. So my songs slowly came to an end. All traces of me, the melancholy shadow of the most beautiful dove, were gone. There was no voice straying away from my pipes, no feathers falling from my wings when I fly. I don’t even sit around the other doves lonely. I am gone… I am a figure with no footprints to be traced, not even a trail of tears to follow. I. Am. Gone.
When I think of that short story, I remembered how hard I cried. Faith told me to stop it, and that she didn’t want me crying on her paper and smudging the ink. But I couldn’t. I felt all of Faith’s hardship, all of the times she was called ugly, or laughed at was because of me. I let out a sigh, Alex looked down on me. “What’s wrong?’ Alex is a vey good friend, and I wanted to tell him everything that was bothering me and Faith. But how do I know that would make Faith actually hate me?
“It’s Faith.” I heard myself say. “She… might not want to date you.” The look on Alex’s face was like I shot him right in the heart.
“There’s someone else?”
“No… its nothing like that…” Right now, I might be risking the fragile relationship my sister and I have by telling him this. But I want her to finally be happy, and if I don’t know anything else, I know Alex would make it his number one priority to give Faith the things she always wanted. “My sister didn’t have a great childhood, she was laughed at, teased and shot down by every and anyone. Even our aunt. And it has gotten to the point where she barely talks to me and my sister, and to a point where she only has one emotion. Nowadays I can’t tell whether or not she’s angry with me anymore. Yesterday, she told me that she punches things so that she won’t hurt anyone else. Alex, you can’t possibly understand how worried I am for my sister. She can never catch a break, and I think one day, if nothing change… she’s gonna snap.” Alex stared his eyes warm with sympathy. But he couldn’t say anything. So we walked to school in silence, with our heads down. Alex feeling sorry for Faith, and I’m scared out of my mind.
Today school didn’t feel the same, it felt colder here. I thought I was going to be excited today, but with Faith not here, and Alex knowing the reason for why she’s the way she is, the show was the last thing on my mind today. I went through classes like, not taking note of what was going on, and lost track of time during the course of the school day. Others in the show were excited, especially Paula. At lunch she spoke of how she was going to be the best performer of the show. “I am going to own the show this afternoon.” She said as me and Alex ate our lunch silently. Paula took note that Alex wasn’t listening to her and then said; “We would both own tonight’s show if we were partners, Alex.” He lifted his head to her, he really wasn’t paying any attention to her, and looked to me for help. When I lowered my head, she said; “We all will do great.” Her face rid of the smug look taped on it then looked to me, who was giggling. “Oh, well I hope your partner doesn’t weigh you down. You have to be light on your feet, and she’s the heaviest thing here.” I raised my head, she looked at my chicken sandwich, yogurt and small bag of chips then added, “If I were you, I would stick to a salad.” After that, the whole table chimed with laughter, I stared down losing my appetite. Paula saw she gotten to me, and didn’t stop there. “How did you even get accepted? Every time you move your whole body jiggles! And you think you look cute in tights? Honey let me tell you that seeing cellulite through your pants isn’t cute.”
“That’s enough,” Alex said, but Paula couldn’t stop herself.
“Watching you attempt to dance is a sad, pathetic joke. You try so hard to fit in, and not be like your loner sister; when in reality, you’ll be better off.” I tried my best to hold back the tears and my fist. But the mockery, and the laughter was peeling its way under my skin. I stood, taking my lunch and throwing it in the trash. When I went to leave, I saw Faith walking in the door. When her eyes met with my own, she stopped me.
“Who did it,” she said.
“Go run to your sister like that’s gonna help Fatty!” Paula said from the table causing the whole lunch to roar in laughter. Faith said nothing, she walked past me straight to the table, her eyes locked tight on Paula. Faith stood at the end of the table, eye as cold at the blizzard storm and her presence, colder that the Artic. By Faith just standing there, the whole table fell silent. Eyes lowered to their plates, movement ceased. For that moment, time had stood still.
“If I catch you bothering my sister again… I will make sure you’ll never dance a day in your pathetic life.” Paula, her minions, Alex: not even a teacher on lunch duty said anything. Faith gave Paula one last chilling glare and left, pulling me with her.
We went to the library, Faith took me to the back at a table she usually reads at and sat me down. She didn’t say anything for awhile, she took out her journal, and started writing, like always. I had so many questions, but I didn’t know if she was going to answer all of them, if she would even answer one.
“Why did you do that?” I asked. She raised her eyes to me and stopped writing.
“You preferred me to sit there and let that punk insult you?”
“No, it's just that I didn’t expect you to do something like that.”
“Why?” It took me awhile to answer her back, mainly because she has been dodging this topic for as long as I could remember.
“Because… we’re so different.” Faith looked at me with narrow eyes.
“What does that have to do with me not wanting some chick to hurt you?” Was she trying to play dumb? She knew what I was talking about, but she was being too damn stubborn to go deeper into it.
“Faith, I’m not talking about that. Why would you help me in any way when people have treated you like that all our lives… but…”
“But you never defended me?” She said. It sorta shocked me when she came out and hit it right on the head.
“Yes, you have been through the worst and I have never been by your side defending you. I let those people say those words to you, I let them bring down. But you never said you hated me, not once have you told me that you never wanted to talk to me.” Faith stared at me, her eyes unreadable.
“I did hate you.” Those words shot through me without warning me. “Trust and believe, I hated everything about you. But not because you didn’t defend me. I despised you because we look just alike yet people treat me like I am some type of alien. Franny, every time I saw you, I wanted to punch you in the face. It was just not fair, what made you so much better to where I had to be your shadow?” I couldn’t speak the words got knotted up and tangled in my throat. “You know there would be times when I would wish I was the only child, just to see if things would change.”
“If you feel this way… why did you defend me?”
“Because I said did.” I looked at her. “Past tense.” She added.
“Franny, I don’t hate you. You did nothing wrong, it wasn’t you who said those things to me, it wasn’t you that turned me this way. When I realized that, I started to love you once more. But I couldn’t show it. With verbal words, so I watched you when you danced, and gave you all my attention, even when I was writing.” I didn’t know what to say, a part of me was still confused and sad, but another part of me wanted to hug Faith. A tear broke free and ran down my cheek, though I left it.
“I haven’t been there for you…” I said weakly. “Maybe if I was, you wouldn’t have to hide your feeling all the time.”
“Don’t blame yourself,” Faith said, her voice softening.
“You were alone…” I continued. “I want to be there for you, Faith. I missed seeing you smile, and hearing you laugh like we did when we were kids. I missed the times when you would paint a whole picture with your imagination in the clouds, and how you freely expressed your ideas to me. I miss you Faith, and I want to do everything in my power to get that Faith back.” Faith breathed in.
“You can’t.” She bleakly said, but that didn’t discourage me.
“I can, and I will.” I protested. “C’mon Faith, don’t you miss your old self?” Faith slightly nodded.
“So, will you please open up to me? Like when we were kids.” Faith didn’t speak, she only slid her journal over to me, that’s when the bell ring.
“You can give it back to me after the show.” She said standing to leave. But I stood there staring at the tan hardcover novel like she handed me ten pounds of gold. Never has my sister just handed me her journal, and so willingly too! This day was starting to look up for me, and I just couldn’t wait to dive into her stories.
I started from the very first page and read onward. For the rest of the day, my head was buried in Faith’s journal. Over the years her writing has improved so much. While reading, I would forget that this was my sister, and not some well-known author. All of her stories were of a girl, or some animal, who was kept hidden. Their beauty, their talent, and their graces were locked away from the world, because people feared for them to spread their wings and take off to the wind. Many of them ending with the protagonist flying high into the sky or freeing themselves from the harsh clutches bitter people had them in. Some weren’t as happy. One ended in the protagonist just giving up, and walking along with their head down for the rest of their life. That one nearly brought me to tears in science class.
However, my favorite work from Faith was the very last one. A Caged Dove’s Song. I had gotten to that one when the show had stated. It was a poem, and I was reading it as Harriet and Marcel danced with chemistry on the stage. It goes as;
From Birth, I have been locked away. Immured in a small cage, padlocked tight. Since birth, my wings only spread but so much. And since birth, my melodic chirps only reached but so far. But I’ve never stopped flapping these pretty white wings Never do I stop singing my sweet melodies. They have locked me away, Bound me to a cage,placed where I can see all the free birds soar. But they can not tame this liberated spirit of mine. They will not strap this longing heart down. One day I’ll fly high. No matter how crammed this cage is. One day I will sing loud. And wake all sleeping towns with my songs. I will be free, free as be. As free as air… Uncaptured and boundless…
My eyes teared up and before I could wipe them away I was startled by applause. Harriet and Marcel were bowing and they came to the back stage. Harriet tapped my shoulder wishing me good luck, but I couldn’t hear anything. All along, my sister has been hiding away masterpieces, that had her heart spilled out into words all over the pages. All this time, she crammed her feeling, her tears, her laughter, her anger into the pages. She couldn’t speak because her pen was doing all the talking. She couldn’t express herself because only words to paper can tell me what was really going on in her head.
I stood there holding the journal in my hands staring blankly out at the open stage. I had to go on next, and Alex was waiting for me to grab his hand. I closed the book and placed anticipation behind me. I wasn’t going to dance for the school, not to show off my skills to Paula, not even to have chemistry with Alex. I was dancing for my sister, and her alone.
As Alex walked with me out on the stage, I saw Faith, sitting in the middle row, her glasses gleaming from the lights. At the moment, everyone disappeared, even Alex. The song played, and as I stared blankly at Alex, my and Faith’s childhood played before my eyes. The good times, times spent laughing and not caring about anything in the world. Those moments when Faith was her true self were the moments I tried so hard not to let go of, but they forcefully broke free from my grasp. Yet, I didn’t chase them down, I let them leave me. We both did. But, right now, as me and Alex danced gracefully to unchained melody, I can feel those sweet feelings of our youth coming back to caress me and Faith. They’ve come back and embrace us once more, and beg for us to not let go. Prayed that we will hold on to them this time.
The song came to and end. All came back to my view, but I paid no attention to them. Faith's and my eyes connected. A single glistening tear showed on her face. Her face was no longer so hard, all the emotions she held back came rushing to her all at once. Faith bit her bottom lip to suppress most of those emotions. I had been so out of it to where I didn’t even realize people were clapping. Everyone in the auditorium stood from their seats clapping and cheering for us. Even Faith. She had the most brightest smile on her face, I almost didn’t recognize her. She was even laughing. Me and Alex bowed and we went back stage, where the other dancers cheered for us.
“OMG!” Said Harriet. “I was in tears!” She gave me the biggest hug, and pulled Alex in to join.
“Thank you,” I said. I looked to where Paula was standing, she was so angry she couldn’t even look at me.
“Miss Paula is fuming over there,” Alex noted with a smile.
“Right?!” We laughed a little bit louder than necessary just to make her even angrier. I and Harriet were still laughing, while Marcel was chuckling at us when Alex suddenly stopped. When I looked, I saw Faith making her way past dancers. Alex stared like she froze him in an enchantment. She came to me, her face straight. For a second I thought she wouldn’t smile for another twenty years, until she beamed brightly at me. It was like we were kids again, she smiled timidly at me.
“You were great out there,” she said.
“Thank you,” I said. I went to where I placed her journal and gave it back to her. “Thanks for opening up to me.” It was weird, but she did let me into the most secret place. Her mind. I have never felt so good about that.
“It feels good,” she said. Faith looked up at the suddenly stiffed Alex then back at me. I pulled her over to the side. “Why every time I come around he gets so nervous?”
“He likes you.” Faith froze, she shyly looked back at him then adjusted her glasses on her face.
“Really?” I nodded. She looked at him, their eyes met. Faith went back to him and looked all the way up at him. She smiled softly then said; “Do you want to hang out sometime?” I swear to God, every last person back stage jaws went through the floor. Not only was Faith speaking, she was asking out one of the best dancers at Lotus High.
“Sure,” Alex nervously said. Faith smiled.
“Maybe it will be good if I put my number in your phone,” she said. Alex robotically reached in his pants pocket and got out his phone. Faith put her number in it then gave it back. “I’ll text you.” Right before my eyes, my dear sister was blossoming into a beautiful flower. I could see it, her wings were spreading. Stretching themselves out ready to take flight, she was almost out of her cage, waiting to finally be unconfined.
Alex walked me and Faith home. When we got into the house, Fatima came to me to congratulate me. Telling me I was the best dancer out there, and that, like Harriet, was in tears. But our bitter aunt didn’t say anything to me. She stared hard at the smile on Faith’s face. “Why you smilin’? You ain’t do anything special.” Faith looked at her, but she didn’t let her smile fall.
“She’s proud of me. That’s why she’s smiling.” I said. Our bitter aunt looked at me like I have lost my mind.
“I wasn’t talking to you.”
“It doesn’t matter,” said Faith. “You always have something bad to say about me. You can’t even tell Franny that she did amazing today because you’re so bent on making me miserable.” Our bitter unt rose.
“Who the hell you think you talkin’ to girl.”
“You! You don’t scare me, you never did. You’re a coward that waited until your sister and brother in law to die to show your true colors.”
“You betta watch your mouth…”
“Or what?” Fatima chimed in. “You’re not gonna do anything, because I’m not going to let you.” Our Bitter Aunt was at lost of words. Faith stepped to her, looking her up and down.
“I have always wondered why you was such a cold heartless hag to me. For as long as I could remember, I didn’t understand why you hated me so much. You even made me hate Franny, and she didn’t even do anything to me. It was only until I saw a picture of you and my mother. You, the popular, pretty girl. And my mother, the four-eyed, geek bowlegged and pigeon toed one. Yet still, I didn’t know why you was such a witch, till I so happen to come across a journal my mother had wrote in years ago.” Our bitter aunt looked at her with narrowed eyebrows. Faith went into her room, and moments later came out with a leather back journal. She flipped to a marked page and read; “I didn’t know what I had did to my sister. One day we were the best of friends, then the next… she hated me. I tried to get her to tell me, but instead of talking to me, she bullied me. How could she be so cruel? I love her, I help her when she needs it, I am always there for her. What did I do to her? I hated myself for not knowing what I did, but it wasn’t me. Jeffery told me how she felt about him. “Julia head over heels for me, Jazzy.” He said. Is that what I did, catch the eye of her crush? That doesn’t matter to me. I broke up with Jeffery that same day, nothing could get in between me and my sister. Could it…. Three entries later: no matter what I do, Julia won’t treat me like I’m her sister… she hates me, I don’t know what to do anymore. But I will not sit here being sad. Jeffery asked me to prom, and I am going, whether she likes it or not.” Faith looked at our Bitter Aunt.
“Where did you get that?” our bitter aunt said. Faith looked at me and Fatima.
“I took it, when Mom died, I went through her things and took it.”
“You little thief!” she hissed at Faith.
“Before she died she told me I can have it. And take any other thing I wanted, but I just wanted this. I never it read it though, until recently. I just kept as a memory of her. But boy am I happy I read every last page of how poorly you treated her on a day to day basis.” Me and Fatima were quiet, Fatima knew why she hated Faith, but she never knew that me and Faith reminded her of our bitter aunt and our sweet mother.
“You had no right to read that. What happened between me and your mother is strictly between me and your mother.” Faith looked at her with narrow eyes.
“I like how you just contradicted yourself.” Faith said, her tone light. “You say it was between the two of you, however you hated me because of what happened between you and my mother,” she said.
“You hated me because I am the spitting image of my mother, nerdy, bowlegged, and four-eyed. And Franny reminded you of yourself. But to prevent the “prettier” sister to not go through what you went through, you made sure you stripped me of my confidence.” Our bitter aunt didn’t speak. Faith shook her head. “Well I’m tired, and I’m going to sleep. And for once, I’m going to sleep happily, but I can’t say the same for you.” Our bitter aunt watched as she turned and went back in the room closing the door. She then looked back at us, but Fatima left the room to disgusted with her. Then, she looked to me.
“She took my true love away,” she said, her voice heavy with tears.
“That’s not our problem.” I went into my room with Faith, who was putting the book away. She didn’t say anything to me, she didn’t have to, I could tell she felt accomplished. She undressed and climbed into her bed telling me to have good sleep. For the first time in like ever, Faith fell right to sleep. She didn’t allow a book to put her out or write till the sun was slowly rising. Before I could take off my shoes she was snoring lightly.
The next day, at lunch Alex, Harriet and I sat with Faith. She was still a bit shy, but she didn’t have Alex or Harriet fearful of her. She laughed and giggled at how goofy Harriet was, occasionally made eye contact with Alex, and smiled timidly. Sitting there I was filling up with sheer happiness, because she was happy for once. My sister was finally normal… no… she was finally free.