"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
She watched the next door twins with the voyeuristic intensity of a lewd man peeping through parted drapes, discovering his neighbor in a state of undress.
She wanted to be them, wanted what they had.
At first, their brazen joy seemed fraudulent. Who had a right to be this glad? After all, their mother had suffered years of Alzheimer’s, until one day the woman strode out into the street, got struck by a garbage truck, spent two months in a coma, and then died or was unplugged.
And yet the girls spoke about their deceased mother as if she were a sleepover friend.
“Hey, Dad, remember how Mom danced on the table in her panties and bra that one night?”
“Bob Marley. ‘No Woman No Pride.’”
“She had such a great ass.”
And the three of them would wail until happy tears flowed.
They were Sara and Elise, sunny-side sisters with dimpled grins and swishing ponytails. They loved bumble bees, sunbathing topless, The Jonas Brothers, spearmint gum. It made them chuckle if they blew a lopsided bubble or if it exploded like a fart dud across their full-bodied lips.
Boys jockeyed for attention, but the girls were not in a hurry. Being twins, they were waiting to find their own pair of identicals.
And, anyway, they had their father to fawn over.
The girl had never seen anything like it. She hadn’t even known her own biological dad, and this new stepfather, well, he was made of dark things. Even her mother seemed to fear him.
The girl gave the twins guitar lessons. They loved the guitar! Wanted to play Jewel songs. They had Jewel posters and big Jewel-sized boobs themselves, though they were never arrogant about anything. They were just always looking for reasons to laugh, to smile.
“Look at these breasts of mine,” Sara would say, “they’re like two sweating toddlers!” And then Elise would chortle, snot shooting from her nose, and the girl would try hard to laugh, too, but her throat would clutch remembering her stepfather’s sharp fingernails pulling her off the swing, away from the kite, into a dark space.
When, one day, the girl asked them why they were so happy all the time, they both blinked. It was a rare sight seeing the twins without a grin.
“Isn’t everyone this way?”
“Sure you are.”
“Have you ever heard me laugh? Even once?”
When neither one answered, the girl left and never returned.
published 13 April 2011